How contentious zoning arrangement is shaping Plateau politics ahead 2023

Tue May 4th, 2021 - Benue

When the All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was not only in control of the central government, but also in charge of Plateau State. APC went on the displace PDP at the national level.

In Plateau State, APC also got substantial support of voters over allegations that PDP had jettisoned the zoning arrangement. It was also alleged that PDP leadership ensured that a particular tribe in the Northern Zone enjoyed juicy appointments at both the federal and state levels.

But, shortly after APC formed government in Plateau, conflicts of interest in terms of appointments into various positions equally emerged among the different parties that fused into APC to clinch power from PDP.

Unfortunately too, it was claimed that the President favoured mostly his ANPP and CPC loyalists, a development that did not go down well with other parties that formed the coalition.

In Plateau, Governor Simon Bako Lalong used to be a supporter of former governor Joshua Dariye faction of PDP. Lalong, as speaker of the legislature then, fought against Dariye’s impeachment. So, the relationship between the two is cordial and symbiotic.


However, since the party at the national level came on board, it has not held congresses both at the state and national levels, except making appointments and forming caretakers. In Plateau State, since 2015 when Mr. Latep Dabang became state chairman of APC, there has not been ward, local government and state congresses.

The party constitution recommends four years and renewable for another four years and that renewal can only materialize through a congress and convention where new leadership will emerge. But till now, that has not happened.

There are few founding fathers of APC in the state that continue to complain against how the party is administered. It is likely that the party may hit the rocks in 2023 if peaceful and credible convention does not take place before then.

Some supporters are alleging that appointments and running of the party are not democratic but only selective. Another issue to deal with is its inability to conduct elections in four local governments of the Northern Senatorial Zone. These local councils are Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi and Riyom. But government attributed the suspension of the elections to insecurity in the areas.
Some political affairs watchers are of the opinion that if elections are conducted, APC’s chances of winning these councils are very slim.

There are grievances by the electorate of the four excluded councils because they feel denied of democratically elected officials at the grassroots. The 2019 governorship election showed that the margin of victory was about 15,000 votes in favour of APC, which depicts that 2023 may be a herculean task. APC has zoned the next governorship to the Plateau Central based on the zoning agreement.

The Deputy Governor, Professor Sonni Tyoden, who comes from Central, may not get the blessings of the governor because some of the governor’s ardent loyalists are alleging that the deputy is a PDP member who was handpicked by the party to be Lalong’s deputy. They argue that Tyoden was not part of the formation of APC in the state.

The background was that Tyoden and the late G.N.S Pwajok contested the gubernatorial primaries of the PDP in 2015, which he lost to Pwajok. Tyoden is not likely to fight for a slot, which might create a rift between him and the governor because some of the governor’s loyalists are suggesting that the slot in the zone be given to another loyalist of the governor who has come a long way with him when he was a speaker in 2003.

Another likely problem of the party could be the fact that Dariye’s loyalists are still very strong and are working hard to produce a governorship candidate to take over from Lalong as the zoning favours the group. So, there are three camps now the governor’s loyalists, deputy governor’s loyalists and Dariye’s loyalists. These contentious factions may cause a crack in the party by 2023 if not resolved .


Curiously, a staunch member of the party, who pleaded anonymity, said that what “you are seeing as a big problem is part of political gerrymandering, which will be resolved amicably when the time comes. We are aware of the incidents. We are on top of the issues.

“Governor Lalong is just six years as governor. All said and done, APC has come to stay on the Plateau and will fight tooth and nail to retain power.”

On the Plateau, there is the incumbency power, which cannot be brushed aside as the APC government is expected to put it to use. Besides, APC has structures in the local governments both elected and appointed. Also, APC has the majority in the Plateau State House of Assembly. While APC has 15 members, PDP has nine in a House of 24 members.

In the National Assembly, APC has two senators, Prof. Nora Dadu’ut and Mr. Ezekiah Dimka representing Plateau State and Plateau Central respectively, while PDP has Mr. Istifanus Gyang from Plateau North.

In the eight seats of the House of Representatives, it was 50 – 50 initially between the two parties but APC is now left with three representatives following the death of Hon. Haruna Maitala who died in a ghastly motor accident last month. PDP still maintains four members in the House of Representatives.

APC also has one Minister in the person of Dame Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs while all the cabinet members in the state are members of APC.

Jeremiah Useni

For now, PDP has not put its house in order. Senator Jeremiah Useni, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Hon. Damishi Sango belong to one camp while Senator Jonah Jang and the four members of the House of Representatives belong to another camp.

The PDP has also zoned its governorship ticket to Plateau Central. Although no governorship aspirant has come out openly to declare, there are political moves to that effect.

The division in PDP started when there was disagreement between the two generals, Lt. General Jeremiah Useni and Air Commodore Jonah Jang.

It even led to litigation when the PDP conducted its ward and local government congresses, which one of the two factions objected to and a Jos High Court nullified the election for not adhering to the electoral act .

However, in the different congresses held by the two groups, Senator Jonah Jang together with Senator Istifanus Gyang produced Chris Hassan as the chairman of the state PDP while Senator Jeremiah Useni’s faction produced former member of House of Representatives, Bitrus Kaze as chairman.


The governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, was chosen by the National Secretariat of the party to mediate between the two groups.

[FILES] Senator Jonah David Jang

It was resolved that they should withdraw all court cases to ease the resolution by the Ortom committee and the committee fixed a day for the congress after resolving some pending issues.

The Jang group went ahead to conduct their congress, which produced Hassan but the Useni group regarded it as “a sham election.”

The factional congress by Jang group has not been nullified by the National Secretariat, giving it some legal backing. The national secretariat of the party actually brought neutral officers to conduct the election according to the standards laid down.

The issue of zoning in the state has always been a problem. The politicians themselves do not respect the unwritten zoning agreement among the three senatorial districts.

[FILE PHOTO] Joshua Dariye

When the first civilian governor of the state, the late Chief Solomon Lar, contested on the platform of the All People’s Party (APP) from the Southern Zone, the two other zones fielded candidates against him. When the second civilian governor, Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun contested also from the South, other zones equally contested against him.

Similarly, when Chief Joshua Dariye contested the governorship from the Plateau Central despite the said unwritten zoning agreement, other zones opposed him by fielding candidates for the same governorship seat. The same thing happened during Jang and Lalong’s quest for governorship.

Although nobody has came out to declare for the 2023 race, it is reasoned that the incumbent governor, Lalong would want to have a say on who would succeed him.

It could not be established whether Senator Jang has a candidate for 2023. It is believed that having been governor for eight years, he cannot sit back without showing support for a candidate.




source: Guardian