THE LANGTANG MAFIA’S WAR ON THE PLATEAU

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Generals are known for commanding young officers on the battlefield and coming up with strategies where the battle is fierce and hot. Thus, the extent to which the enemy army will be a retreat, depending on the managerial acumen of the General leading the army that is besieged.
There is a war on the Plateau. But it is not a war of armies. It is a war on the political turf and rightly so, since politics has been described as war without bloodshed.
Two Generals of Nigerian Army are at the moment plotting each other’s fall in the battle to represent Plateau South Senatorial District in the Red Chamber. Lieutenant General Jeremiah Useni is contesting senatorial election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while Brigadier General John Shagaya is slugging it out with him for the same position under the banner of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
They were both prominent military leaders during the interregna of General Ibrahim Babangida and the late General Sani Abacha. They were part of the cabal in the military from Langtang in Plateau State christened the “Langtang Generals”. The two local governments in Langtang area, that is, Langtang North and South, stand out as the only communities with the highest number of retired military officers in the country.
General Useni was the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while General Shagaya was the Minister of Internal Affair during the Babangida regime. The two Generals bestrode the Nigerian landscape like a colossus; they were the force to be reckoned with throughout of the period the military held sway, before the sudden death of Abacha.
Unlike some of their contemporaries, who distanced themselves from politics after retirement, the duo havealigned with parties of their choices since the return to civil administration. General Useini was a staunch member of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a party he later dumped to chair a new party, the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), taking with him other members of the progressive wing of the ANPP.
He was one of the pillars of the DPP and its chairmanBoard of Trustees (BoT), before the party went into oblivion and its members dissolved into various political parties, especially to the APC and the PDP.
General Shagaya was from the onset a prominent member of the PDP in the state and contributed in no small measure in giving the party a lifeline in the state, particularly in the Southern part of Plateau state. He was in the Senate between 2007 and 2011.
Having won the tickets of their parties, the Generals are now set to square it up for the senatorial seat of Plateau South. They are known to be dogged fighters and rivals when it comes to politics, in spite of their close affinity and long years of exploit in the military.
This is the first time General Useni is aligning himself with a mainstream party, since the beginning of this dispensation. He had been in the opposition. All his efforts to sell opposition party to the electorate on the Plateau was not successful. In spite of this, he held on strongly to the lever of politics in the two Tarok local governments- Langtang North and South of Plateau South.
But the retired General appears to be cautious because there appears to be no love lost between him and Governor Jonah Jang, the leader of the PDP in the state. Useni lost the senatorial election to his long-time politcal son, Senator Victor Lar in 2011 election, with the support of Governor Jang. He however, remains in firm control of the Langtang axis. DPP is said to have won the last local government election in Lantang North, but the state electoral commission held on to the result, before the state Election Tribunal ruled in favour of the candidate of DPP. Useni is known to oil his machinery very well.
Having realised the acceptability of the PDP in the state and came to terms with the fact that it is always an uphill task for anybody aspiring for political office to realise his aspiration outside the PDP on the Plateau, General Useni shortly, before the primary maneuvered, his way into the PDP.
A source close to the PDP told Nigerian Tribune that General Useni meandered his way into the PDP, using the platform of the DPP as a bargaining power to join the PDP at the national level, instead of approaching the party at the state level.
It will be recalled that his attempt to return to the PDP at the state was rebuffed and nearly frustrated by the leadership of the party in the state until a directive was given from the national Secretariat. It was also learnt that Abuja aided him in getting the primary ticket, despite some disenchantment against his bid by some stalwarts of the party in the state who felt that he had allegedly derided the PDP-led government in the past and therefore should not join the party overnight and suddenly be a beneficiary of the senatorial slot.
General Shagaya’s political trajectory has seen him quit the PDP for the Labour Party and then the APC where he currently is as one of the pillars of the party on the Plateau. The APC relies on his goodwill to penetrate the Southern zone, especially, Langtang North and South axes of the zone.
He got the senatorial ticket of the APC on platter gold, as those who had earlier indicated interest to contest with him, chickened out a few days to the primary election. Shagaya has been traversing every nook and cranny of the zone, soliciting votes from the electorate.
Political watchers had predicted that the Plateau South senatorial election would be toughest of the three senatorial contests in the state. The general impression is that the senatorial election in Plateau North, involving Governor Jang of the PDP, Mrs Ayissa Unice Sambo of APC and others might be a walkover for the PDP, while that of Plateau Central, involving PDP candidate and former governor of the state, Senator Joshua Dariye, who is referred to as the Head boy of Plateau politics and Barrister Satzilang Dashimight also be an easy victory for the former governor.
But the two candidates in the Southern zone are no pusher-overs in the politics of the zone and the state as a whole. They have considerable influence in the zone, having helped their people, especially during the military regime. The death of the first civilian governor of larger Plateau and who was also the pioneer national chairman of the PDP, Chief Solomon Lar, who hailed from the zone, has opened up the flank for the two generals to demonstrate their political prowess.
Senator Shagaya is familiar with the terrain in terms of politicking and having contested for the senatorial seat of the zone in the past and won. But the factors that gave him victory then may no longer be exploited. Analysts believe that the senator has to work hard to convince the electorate in the zone on the reason they must vote for him.
Though the zone is considered as the stronghold of the APC, due to the perceived disenchantment of the people against the PDP for fielding another Northern governorship candidate, the senator, who is one of the pillars of the party in the state and often commended for his frankness in politics might exploit this to gain an upper hand.
General Useni, on the other hand, could be considered as ‘Adedibu of Langtang politics’, hence people refer to him as ‘Baba maituwo’, meaning there is no way you get to him and come out empty handed, and also feeds those who care to visit him. Useni is a big spender when it comes to politics and this gives credence to why he single- handedly financed the DPP for quite sometimes before he joined the PDP. Quite a lot of politicians in the state have been beneficiaries of his philanthropic gesture by way of political sponsorship.
However, some analysts posit that his philanthropic gesture has never translated into electoral victory since his foray in politics. They are quick to make reference to the 2011 election when his political son, Senator Victor Lar, backed by Governor Jang, floored him in senatorial election. According to them, Baba maituwo might get a soft landing this time around with the support of the incumbent governor and alleged directive from above that the party in the state must ensure his victory to the Senate.
Meanwhile, the two Generals are leaving no stone unturned to win the election. While Shagaya is mobilising concerted effort to return to the Senate after four years break, Useni is exploring all avenues to justify his popularity in the zone. Whichever it goes, it is the Generals’ affair.
Source: Tribune

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