APC, PDP clash over COVID-19 palliatives in Plateau State

Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State wears two crowns and bears the twin responsibilities of governing the state and serving as the chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF). The coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world has accentuated the challenges facing the governor on the two positions he occupies.

Apart from being forced by situation and circumstances exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to hold two consecutive virtual meetings with his colleagues from other 18 states, the governor was recently tackled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the way and manner palliatives are being distributed to the people.

In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, John T. Akans, the Plateau State chapter of PDP accused the governor of not only setting up a partisan committee to distribute the palliatives but also ensuring that only APC supporters in the state received the handouts. However, Plateau APC had in a statement chided PDP for trying to revive its comatose political presence in the state by joining issues with the Rescue Administration of Governor Lalong.

The governing party responded to PDP’s allegations, saying: “Apart from trying to pitch the people against the government, which has failed woefully, perhaps the PDP thinks that the palliatives will be administered in the character and style which is shabby, selective, embezzling and corrupt as they did with public resources during their years of infamy. 

“The donations towards COVID-19 have been open and announced on all media platforms. The UBA account where the monies are domiciled is in the public domain even though PDP and all its members have not donated a dime to it. They are rather eager to generate and propagate lies against the government spending fictitious N500 million on decontamination alone.

“Instead of dissipating energy in chasing shadows and attempting a failed misadventure of recuperation using COVID-19, PDP should rather join in supporting the Rescue Administration in finding solutions to the pandemic. If they cannot do anything, they can at least assist in making the citizens, particularly their members in understanding that this pandemic is no respecter of persons whatever their party, religion, tribe, economic status and other affinities.”

It is on record that THE political atmosphere in Jos and other parts of Plateau State became subdued immediately after the Supreme Court upheld the election of Governor Lalong for a second term. But matters took a surprising turn when PDP took exception to what it described as the attempt by the APC government to corner the state’s commonwealth for its members and supporters alone.

In the statement dated April 25 and made available to journalists, the main opposition party called on the state government “to be proactive and inclusive in the fight against this dreaded virus just like other states.”

PDP cited the instance of Bauchi State, where it said the government-appointed traditional and religious leaders and religious associations like Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Jama’tul Nasril Islam (JNI) and political stakeholders in the COVID-19 palliative committee, to ensure holistic disbursement and prudence. 

According to PDP, “Our position is simple. Government should assist Plateau citizens by coming to their aid at this critical time; our emphasis was that APC should not use this COVID-19 as a gateway for its personal profit, which it is known for.

“But to our greatest dismay, even in the face of failing to holistically come to the aid of the citizens with palliatives as promised by them, they still went on issuing an unbundled statement full of fiction and lies, this further shows its unquenchable thirst for power even to the detriment of people’s lives.

“The ruling party must stop claiming monopoly of governance at this critical time that all stakeholders are supposed to come together to fight this unseen killer.”

The party further accused APC of celebrating “mediocrity as its achievements at all times… It is unfortunate that the ruling party has allowed itself to be deluded by sheer desperation to monopolize all aspects of political and professional governance at this critical period that needs all hands on deck.”

Beyond politics
PIQUED by the opposition party’s resort to what it called mischievous blackmail, the governing APC cautioned PDP to mind its words, stressing that the COVID-19 pandemic is a global health challenge that is beyond political grandstanding. While informing PDP that the “coronavirus cannot revive your political irrelevance,” APC noted that not only Plateau State, but the entire “world is on the edge because of the catastrophic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.”

In a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Hon. Chindo S. Dafat, Plateau State APC explained that ever since Nigeria witnessed its index case, Governor Lalong and other patriotic leaders were not resting on their oars to find workable ways of containing the spread of the coronavirus, as well as managing the socio-economic challenges the pandemic has thrown up.

The party regretted that despite the APC-led rescue government’s efforts to tackle the twin challenges, the government “has been inundated by the disgraceful and futile attempt of the moribund PDP to not only distract the governor from focusing on the fight against COVID-19 but also hoping to make cheap political capital from the pandemic.”

While stressing that PDP failed to convince itself on what it meant by the need for “proactive steps” to be taken by the government, APC said the party has a hidden and mischievous agenda by citing examples of other states like Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Oyo, Edo, Cross River and Benue, which it claimed have “adequate” health facilities and personnel for COVID-19.

“No doubt, these are precarious times that have put governments across the world, including Nigeria, on their toes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ensure treatment of those infected as well as find a cure.

“Since the first index case was reported in Nigeria, the APC-led Rescue Administration in Plateau State under the leadership of Lalong took proactive steps to ensure that the disease does not infiltrate the state, and in case of any eventuality, the state is able to respond quickly and robustly to deal with the situation.

“For Governor Lalong, this emergency requires all hands to be on deck, as the virus does not discriminate against its victims irrespective of gender, tribe, religion, ethnicity, economic status, or even political affiliation.

“That is why he has continuously engaged all stakeholders in fighting the pandemic and boosting the state’s preparedness. Typical of his all-inclusive governance style, he has carried all stakeholders along and galvanized the support of all well-meaning citizens of Plateau State in the fight against COVID-19, not minding what divide they belong.”

Even as it maintained that it would have ignored the shenanigans of the collapsed PDP, APC claimed that the opposition party “has been in the intensive care unit ever since the discerning people of Plateau unanimously rejected it in 2015 and 2019. Since then, the party has continued to attempt to re-invent itself through its old tricks of lies, propaganda, and deceit.”

Alluding to the 2019 governorship poll in the state, Plateau APC declared: “Most disgusting is the fact that they have been desperate in trying to use COVID-19, a global health emergency, as their comeback strategy having lost their last bid to gain any relevance as the Supreme Court finally buried their lost ambition by affirming the mandate that Plateau State people entrusted in the rescue governor, Simon Bako Lalong.”

Giving account
APC used the opportunity of the spat with PDP to give an account of steps taken by its Rescue Government. According to the party, “it is inevitable to put the records straight and clear the doubts of the people of Plateau, Nigerians and the international community, “who have followed with admiration the doggedness of Governor Lalong and the Rescue Administration in taming the COVID-19 monster from ravaging the state.”

Describing as concoction the statement credited to PDP’s spokesman, Akans, APC said the opposition party, having “stayed for so long in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and in so much slumber, woke up in hallucination with an incoherent, disjointed, poorly written and empty press statement.

“PDP not only failed to convince itself on what it meant by the need for “proactive steps” to be taken by the government but equally betrayed its hidden agenda by citing states like Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Oyo, Edo, Cross River and Benue which it claimed to have “adequate” health facilities and personnel for COVID-19.

“Quick questions to ask Plateau PDP are: When did they carry out this analysis and come to this conclusion? How did they go about this assessment despite the lockdown in Plateau State and the states they claim to have assessed? What were the criteria for the assessment? Who validated it? Why did they fail to specify the “fantastic” facilities in these states? Why did they not point out what Plateau State lacks for responding to COVID-19?”

Plateau APC’s spokesman, Dafat, stated that APC government has been busy trying to revive the near-dead health facilities across the state since assuming office and it has largely succeeded.

“Governor Lalong has remained undaunted in rebuilding most health facilities and even initiated world-class health projects under the Lalong Legacy Projects located in the three senatorial districts of the state.

“The PDP knows but refuses to acknowledge the fact that apart from taking many strategic decisions, Governor Lalong visited the Plateau Specialist Hospital, Jos University Hospital and Bingham University Teaching Hospital to ensure that the isolation facilities are ready for the fight against COVID-19.”

According to APC, during that visit, Lalong directed the immediate purchase of more ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medicines and other accessories for treatment of COVID-19 cases.

“All these have been delivered,” Dafat declared. “In addition, he directed that health personnel should be trained and retrained on the Coronavirus disease to make them battle-ready.

“As the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum, Governor Lalong led his colleagues in demanding for testing centres in the North, which immediately paid off when NCDC designated the NVRI Vom as a testing centre with capacity for over 1,000 samples in a day. Indeed, the recent index case for Plateau was detected at the centre and more samples are being tested now.”

APC declared that unknown to PDP, the Palliative Committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, had commenced the distribution of palliatives beginning with orphanages, people living with disabilities, orphans and the elderly on Saturday, 25 April as directed by the governor.

“When their hired protesters were intercepted and addressed by the chairman of Jos North Local Government and the commissioner of police, they melted away with apologies, and they are now ready to face the anger of the protesters for deceiving them and taking them on a wild goose chase”.

We maintain our stance
STATE chairman of PDP, Hon. Yakubu Gwot Chocho, told The Guardian over the telephone that the party stands by its stance against the APC administration, stressing that the statement by the publicity secretary was simple and based on facts. Chocho said he knew the law and would not flout it, but contended that since the pandemic was not about APC or PDP or any other party, “I expect our governor, who is a lawyer, to know that consensus is needed for transparency. He should call stakeholders in Plateau State across party lines; whatever committee he wants to set, he should set it up. We expect the governor to, unlike the one headed by his deputy governor, bring CAN, JNI community structures and political parties.

“But we discovered the governor set up the community headed by the deputy governor and the issue of palliatives, whatever food items they are sharing, people are seeing, those that were given were specifically of APC members.

“How will the other parties not complain? This is something that involves the entire state. We respect him; we expect him to invite the stakeholders, party leaders, religious leaders, to see how we can tackle the problem together, adopt equitable sharing method. How would you unilaterally know the poorest of the poor? The virus does not know any party. Everybody has been locked down in the entire state. That is our complaint.”

Chocho maintained that even if PDP did not issue a statement, the same complaints were on the lips of the people, from the markets, the streets and homes.

“That is the way our people feel,” Chocho said. “Election has come and gone; Lalong is the governor of Plateau State. He should see everybody as citizens and not on the basis of what party they belong. Why set up a committee headed by your deputy with only party men? Selective palliative is not good.”

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