As the 2019 general elections hot up in Plateau State, there are strong indications that the three senators representing the state in the National Assembly are planning to vacate their seats for the youths to succeed them, writes MUSA PAM
The three senators in Plateau State, were all elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2015 general elections.
While Senator Jonah Jang, who represents Plateau North Senatorial District, and Senator Jeremiah Useni, who represents Plateau South Senatorial District, are still members of the opposition PDP, Senator Joshua Dariye, a former governor of the state representing Plateau Central Senatorial District, defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016.
Sunday Telegraph’s investigations from the three senatorial districts indicate that it might be hard for Jang, Useni and Dariye to be reelected to the National Assembly due to their old age and poor representation at the Red Chambers. He also has an on-going fraud cases against him. Reliable sources have it that apart from the Senator Dariye who has managed to sponsor three bills, both Jang and Useni have no bills to their names.
Senator Jang, a former two-term governor of the state from 2007 to 2015, defeated APC candidate, Mrs. Eunice Sambo in the 2015 elections. He has now indicated interest to contest for the Presidency come 2019, in order to leave the senatorial seat for vibrant youths in the northern zone to succeed him.
Already, some energetic aspirants from both the PDP and APC have shown interest and have flooded Jos, the state capital with their posters. Top amongst the contenders are the current Secretary to the Government, Hon. Rufus Bature and the two current House of Representatives members, Hon. Edward Pwajok (SAN) representing Jos South/East and Hon. Istifanus Gyang also a barrister Representing Barkin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency.
Senator Jang, also a retired military officer, had in February, in Jos declared his interest to take over the Presidency in 2019 from President Muhammadu Buhari. He said: “If Nigerians desire effective, positive change and a better country, they should give me the chance to spearhead the affairs of the country. I’m in politics to serve my people. If Nigerians really feel I can be President, why not? But I will have to confide in my creator (God) first.”
However, both Hon. Pwajok and Hon. Gyang, who had their foundations of political growth from Jang, seem to have bright chances.
Hon. Rufus Bature is a former Majority Leader of the State House of Assembly and was Director General during the campaigns, that brought Governor Simon Lalong into office. Although Pwajok had defected to the APC, the current SGS has the upper hand of getting the ticket to the Senate seat, having been a founding member of the party in the state.
Another feeler has it that Hon. Bature has more structures in APC than Pwajok, who recently defected from the PDP to the APC as result of his frosty relationship with his godfather, Senator Jang. Hon. Gyang is also battling to gain the favour of Jang to secure the PDP ticket to the Senate as he couldn’t re-contest his present seat due to the rotational arrangement between Barkin Ladi and Riyom people over the years.
For Senator Joshua Dariye, it would be a tough time for him if he insists on returning for the third time. Sunday Telegraph gathered that the former governor was first elected into the Senate in 2011 on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) and defected to the PDP during the 2015 elections and had in 2016 defected again to the APC, bracing up to seek a third term.
Facts gathered from the zone has maintained it that since the return of democracy in 1999 and apart from the former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Nasir Mantu, who served two terms, all others went in only once and nobody has secured the third term from the five LGCs – Bokkos, Mangu, Pankshin, Kanke and Kanam, that make up the zone.
Already, over 15 aspirants from both APC, PDP and other parties have indicated interest and a former Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mr. David Paradang, is among eight PDP members aspiring to replace Senator Joshua Dariye at the Senate in 2019.
Vice Chairman of PDP in the Central zone, Hon Benedict Shiknugul recently, at a meeting of the party in Pankshin, disclosed that eight persons have so far indicated interest in the ticket to challenge Dariye.
Shiknugul named the aspirants to include Paradang and three former Speakers of the Plateau House of Assembly Prof. Dakum Shown, Emma Goar and Istifanus Mwansat.
Also in the race are Sen. Sati Gogwim, displaced by Dariye in 2011, Mr. Alex Molwus, Dariye’s former Chief of Staff, Mr. Simon Ngwan, former Kanke Local Government Chairman, and Mr. Isaac Wadak, a former Permanent Secretary in the state’s civil service.
While on the APC side, those struggling to unseat Dariye are the former Commissioner of Police in Imo State, Nde Hezekiah Dimka, current APC Chairman Hon Letep Dabang and the former House of Assembly member Hon. Meshak Chindaba. For now, the competition is stiff in the central zone which is also regarded as the home political guru’s.
Meanwhile, Senator Jeremiah Useni had declared his intention to contest the state’s governorship election on the platform of the PDP. Useni, who is a retired General and former FCT Minister, with his declaration is a clear manifestation that he will not go back to the Senate chambers for the second time. While making his declaration at the party’s state secretariat in Jos, Useni said his aim of vying for the governorship seat is to restore peace in the state.
“I want to restore peace and justice to Plateau. I want to restore unity, love, dignity and prosperity to Plateau. I also want to restore the vision of its founding fathers. Plateau belongs to us and our task is to make it a great place; that is what I want to do,” Useni, who is a former military governor of old Bendel State, said.
However, the retired General is said to be grooming one of the youth to succeed him at the Red Chambers. Sunday Telegraph learnt that some of the youths who have indicated interest for the Upper Chamber include the former Special Adviser to former Governor Jonah Jang on Labour Matters Hon. Samuel Kumkur, who is currently the National Legal Adviser of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN).
Others, who are also nursing ambition, are the member representing Langtang North/South Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Beni Lar, Nigeria Labour Congress Chairman of Plateau State, Comrade Jibrin Bancir, Chief of Staff Governors’s Office Jos, Chief John Dafan and the former Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Ignatius Longjan.
Jang ‘s N6.3bn trial
Barely a few weeks after declaring his intention to run for the Presidency, however, Jang was required to account for his management of state funds while serving as governor. Senator Jang was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and arraigned in court on a 12-count charge of allegedly embezzling N6.3 billion while serving as governor.
However, Senator Jang will remain in prison till May 24 pending the hearing of his bail application in a fraud pressed against them by the EFCC, on Wednesday, May 16, 2018.
He was accused of embezzling special funds released to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria, two months to the end of his tenure as governor in 2015. Specifically, Jang allegedly pocketed N2 billion released by the CBN for disbursement to small and medium enterprises in the State under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Funds, just a month before the expiration of his tenure in April 2015.
He was also said to have abused his office as the governor by collecting money to the tune of N4.3 billion from the state coffers through the cashier of the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Yusuf Gyang Pam. Senator Jang was docked alongside Pam, who was also accused of using his office for personal enrichment to the tune of N11.5 million.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge but counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, asked the court to fix a date for hearing and to remand the suspects in prison custody pending trial. However, Robert Clarke, representing the defendants informed the court that, he had a pending bail application for the first and second defendants. But the court turned down his prayers.
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