By Gyang Bere
For the members of the Peoples Democratic Party, citizens of Plateau State, the journey on the tortuous road from March 18, 2023 can only be imagined. However, following the development, it can be safely concluded that the hand of God was certainly available in turning the tide around for good; not minding how long it took to come into effect.
After some eight months of inordinately intractable litigation battle, the toll of it was certainly felt everywhere in the state; particularly in the division that was palpable in its wake. Plateau State, like never before must have been more divided during this period, no thanks to the outcome of the verdict from the Tribunal, Court of Appeal to indeed the Supreme Court. It remains, in many respects, and if it had subsisted; one of the greatest assaults on the nation’s democracy.
The fact that the parties aggressively followed their cases to their logical conclusion at the Supreme Court gave the indication that Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang and his lawyers were in every sense determined to coast to victory despite the technicalities that had inhibited its dancing songs put together for celebration at the Court of Appeal.
That setback, by all intent and purposes did not deter the lawyers of the camp of Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang nor his party; the line was open for the fight to a finish at the Supreme Court.
So many allegations were peddled by the opposition and group of individuals with vested interest, but the only thing the governor held unto was: The Almighty God who secured the victory for him during the March 18, 2023, was able to deliver him from the hands of those who sought to take away the crown from him through the back door. He insisted, victory was soon coming his way; and when it did, the dance was sweet without regret.
But more than the parties, the discussions and analyses that its people and many other interested parties had engaged themselves in since November when the Court of Appeal quashed Governor Caleb Mutfwang’s election on the ground of lack of structure; an issue long canvassed by the All Progressives Congress were incendiary. The parties were both fired on, nonetheless; knowing that they had a case’ but it was the ‘political bad blood’, that came to an end.
The combustible accounts of those involved had all manners of followers, who didn’t know that law does not survive on the emotions of the canvassers. The ruling of the Supreme Court definitely put paid to the wrangling that had emanated from the verdict he got from the Court of Appeal, that pre-election matters do not have a place at the election tribunal.
It was an official stamp that reversed the vexatious verdict of the Court of Appeal in the governor’s case. But even at that, what became worrisome were the contradictory outcomes of the judgments that the Tribunals and Court of Appeal dished out ostensibly on the same matter ‘outside their respective jurisdiction’. While it was seen as ‘brazen judicial heist’, their judgment was aimed at setting the state on fire, as well as unacceptable and at best malicious.
But above all of what has happened, the hope of the people of Plateau State came back to life, particularly of those who were almost giving up on an arm that is said to be the last hope of the common man. Seen from this angle, for many Nigerians, it was the democratic process that was undergoing a dangerous metamorphosis it portend to Nigeria if left to go at the Apex Court.
It was the general celebration of the verdict that brought hope of redemption; but more importantly that the people of Plateau State were solidly behind their governor. The end of a long travail had finally come for a fractured state; whose development efforts had been literarily distracted on account of the time it took in the course of the intractable litigation. It is indeed a time to settle and implement the seven wonderful but massive policy ideas of the government.
The return of the governor to the state after his victory at the Supreme Court was anything but massive and symptomatic of a people celebrating. It was obvious that once the lead judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, JSC, signaled the beginning of celebrations from Abuja to the streets of the state capital to the local government areas of the state. It was spontaneous, just as it was when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced him as winner of the gubernatorial election in March 2023.
No wonder, the apparent conviviality of the celebration was even more elaborate on Saturday, January 13, 2024; where starting at the Yakubu Gowon Airport, Heipang, and ‘protocol and order’ were broken as supporters had to almost enter the runway to welcome the governor back home after his conquest at the Supreme Court, Abuja.
In the history of the state and the airport, no state governor had received such large number of friends and supporters, who have come from all over the 17 local government areas to be part of the Governor’s ‘triumphant entry’ into Jos from Abuja. He managed to say just a few words before his security men whisked him away into his vehicle.
But if it took time before he left the airport, what awaited the governor and his entourage from Heipang to the venue of the reception and later to his official residence was another spectacle to behold as the motorcade span several kilometers beholden by enthusiastic people who waited at various interceptions to Jos, the state capital. The frenetic party in various parts of the state continued uninhibited, thanks to the fact that freedom has come.
The government soon settled down to organizing a thanksgiving for the victory. The Muslim brethren first had theirs at the Jos Central Mosque, where thanks was offered to Allah for the resounding verdict. While the Christian counterparts held theirs on January 21, 2024 at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium, where again, the power of organization was brought to bear on the service. The sea of heads in and around the stadium resplendent in white and green must have sent jitters to anyone who had questioned the popularity of Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang in the state. it was indeed apparent that the fight his team of lawyers gave a good fight to sway judgment to their side; even though it was going to be hard given what had happened at the Court of Appeal.
Those who were called to speak and or prayed at the occasion were not emotional; they spoke from the bottom of their hearts of God’s mercy to have delivered the victory to the governor in the most dramatic form. It was indeed what the state needed: Return to God while seeking his face for guidance for the task ahead of the government and indeed the people.
Importantly however, knowing the task ahead of him, not only Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang was aware that the battle was God’s to prosecute. To have rent his heart in supplication for the task of governance; and the multi-faceted dimensions of how his success could turn things for the better for Plateau State was all that mattered as he stood before the solemn assembly of the children of God.
As powerful as it was delivered before the state and the world, the truthfulness of seeking the face of God stood as a testament of his resolve to change more things than one from the failure of the immediate past government. That means a lot to his support base, particularly as evidence by the number of men and women from all walks of life in the stadium for the thanksgiving.
Those who didn’t believe in the case the governor was pursuing thought his political star would wane soon, but from all intent and purposes, he is the comeback kid we have always known and admired. Since he would not give up on his case but pursue it to the Apex Court of the land, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) believe in him far more as the leader they have always wanted. He did many things that ordinarily would have sent any leader in his shoes wondering whether to go ahead or hang around, until the case was dispensed of.
He chose to be the people’s hero: Be the workaholic governor by setting up construction sites all over the state. Having met most roads in some parts of the metropolis in a total state of disrepair, he initiated action to take those head on by fixing them almost at the same time. By that singular action, his name would for long remain on the lips of the people of the state; who have always identified with the government that works for them.
It is obvious he wants to build a durable Plateau; no wonder a few days after the victory, the governor mobilized several construction companies to some of the most important projects which were started by former Governor Jonah David Jang but abandoned by Governor Simon Bako Lalong government in 2015.
The lead was instructive: Forge ahead and concentrate of developing the state at all cost, without minding if he had any case in court at all. For starters, he became governor during one of the toughest times in the history of the state. Muscled from all sides by a determined opposition to wrest power from and the genocidal attacks which became more pronounced in his local government of birth, Mangu would have slowed his resolve to be the leader the state needed.
More than any governor in the history of the state, he showed determination by sharing in the misfortunes of his people and became their constant companion in the villages and shelter camps in Mangu, Barkin Ladi and Bokkos. But determined more than ever before, he became a constant visitor to all who mattered and could help bring peace to the beleaguered state; even as the clergy and congregations were always on their knees for God’s intervention in the Plateau attacks.
No one could fault him in this regard, so long as it was established that help indeed came. Yet, it was also established that the form of the attacks if not approached decisively given its nature and colour would obliterate Plateau communities from the map of the state, and by extension, Nigeria. He had read the signs from what took place in the past, and had rightly defined it as genocide against the people of Plateau State.
No doubt, the battle has been won; there is a lot of catching up to do by the Governor Caleb Mutfwang government. The opportunities for development are not lost to him, he has to, as he has being doing; ‘putting behind the obvious animosity of the past eight months, embrace all citizens across the divides of faith and ethnicity; and carry on with the incredible developmental projects he was able to initiate (some of which have been completed) even under the great stress and tension he had to operate’.
*Bere is the Director, Press and Public Affairs to Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang*