Yakubu Wuyep in Jos reports on the dashed public expectations that former Governor Fidelis Tapgum would defect form his party the PDP to the ruling APC whose governorship candidate he openly worked for during the last days before the April 11 polls.
Sir Fidelis Tapgung, the second civilian Governor of Plateau State, former minister of state for industry, former Ambassador of Nigeria to Kenya, an elder statesman, one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has continued to remain an enigma in the state.
Since the emergence of the ruling All Progressives Congress government of Governor Simon Lalong, Plateau citizens had concluded that he would defect to the party considering the fact that he openly worked for the APC along with other party chieftain who were fed up with the antics of former Governor Jonah Jang. In fact, few months after Lalong was declared winner many chieftains of the PDP defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress, particularly those who won elections on the platform of the PDP. But Tapgun remains in the party.
In an interview with journalists in his country home in Jos, recently, he gave reasons for his actions. According to the second civilian Governor of Plateau State the most serious issues now is what will benefit the citizens of the state and not the individual interests of segments and personalities only. Many who though he would certainly defect because he, like many other stakeholders of the PDP worked against the party’s candidate Senate GNS Pwajok are disappointed.
Explaining his stand during the elections, Tapgun dug deep into political history. Immediate past Governor Jonah Jang was literally his creation but took a path that almost plunged the state into sectarian violence that if he had been allowed to continue by proxy, things would have gone from bad to worse and create a stain on his, Tapgun’s conscience.
According to him, President Olusegun Obasanjo had prevailed on him to assist Jang win the race, after the ex-President stopped late Solomon Lar to carry out a rerun of party primaries for the governorship between Jang and Damishi Sango, former Minister of Sports, who was considered the most popular candidate and the people choice in 2007 general elections. But through intense lobbying among party members, Jang won and went on to win the elections.
But sooner had he won than he wanted to do things his own way, which in the long run polarised and divided the people. So as the 2015 election approached, many who did not know this development from the beginning were still skeptical that Tapgun would leave the party after the race for gubernatorial primaries under PDP was marred by irregularities. Tapgun however surprised many when he formed the movement of central and southern youths in the state that teamed up with other forces to restle power from the incumbent PDP to APC.
The movement had within its fold all who is who in Plateau politics. The imperishable impact, which the movement made on the politics of the state is what is being felt as the new APC government of Lalong, whose victory Pwajok is contesting in the tribunal. Recounting that past, he said: “But then out of the nine contestants I am talking about, I am the one who brought governor Jang into power in Plateau State. “I was mandated to come and deliver him in Plateau State which I did and I am sure all the contestant in the election were part of the decision in 2007 to allow Jang emerge governor but he had no structure on ground as a party man.
“So I was to come and deliver him that was the word giving to me go and deliver him to Plateau State for PDP I came and did and it behoove on me throughout the eight years to carry a lot of the burden because people voted for him because I was there so have a lot to do for the people of Plateau State. “It was unfortunate that, those things had happened the way they did under him because even the government and the party that forced him on the people didn’t know that that was his character. They discovered it when it was too late and it was too late for them to do anything. So I think I had more burden than the rest of them to talk about what is happening in Plateau State.
“We knew exactly what transpired so it is not that I am saying I am better than them. Or I am more elderly than them, No it is just that I am among those who helped entrenched Jang in Power in Plateau State. “And so I have the moral burden to tell the people of Plateau State that it wasn’t the correct decision we had taken in the past and it was a big mistake that was made by the party itself. I think they regretted it at the end of the day.”
For Tapgun who had learned the rules of citizen politics under the watch of Plataue emancipator, Lar, this action is a way of paying back to the society the fruits he had enjoyed in the various capacities he had represented the state and through it the country as former governor, Minister and Ambassador. Tapgun who Jos compound always receives regular Muslims and Christians visitors said, “We are united by the reality that colours and all cultures are distinct but are equal just as individuals, we are all held to this earth by the same gravity, we don’t share blood but we share the air that keep us alive.
I will not blind myself in a belief that says I am different from my brother. He always preached unity of Plateau state by calling on politicians in the state to play game according to the rules with great emphasis on peace . “We need to unite to restore hope for our future,” he said, adding that “Nigeria is a country for everyone, from East to West and from North to South . Some cheap blackmailers have accused and blame him for selling bag farm ,JIB (Jos International Breweries ), army engineer and former Benue Plateau Secretariat but he replies his accusers by simply saying “I did not sell government property during my tenure in office .”
Tapgun who introduced free education and qualitative health care delivery during his brief tenure in office, says that a new dawn had been set in Plateau state on may 29th with the swearing in of a new Governor Barr Simon Bako Lalong, expectations are high that his coming will rescue the state from the sectarian violence it had been plunged by the previous administration and bring the expected and desired change.
“Prior to his coming Plateau was in ruins as virtually all the sectors in the state were moribund as nothing seemed with several months of unpaid civil servants salaries, poor sanitary condition, poor relationship among the citizenry, closure of courts and above all the incessant sectarian crisis in the state. On the move by Pwajok to reclaim what he calls he stolen mandate through the tribunal, he said: ‘’Well it is his constitutional right, it is his right to do so, so you know this is our problem here in Nigeria, you fail an election you think you have been rigged out but if the fact are to be made known you will see how massive the PDP rigged the election too.
He however blamed his party, the PDP for losing the election. “The will of the people of Plateau State triumph over the PDP and since the will of the People triumphed we offered wise counsel not to make complaint because wining is wining even if you win with one vote you have won. It is even good that the PDP had gone to complain in the tribunal because the fact will be made know those who rigged and those who did not rigged.
PDP started taking fault step long time before the primaries and we kept talking to them that if we follow this step they are following we are not going to win election and they refused to listen. “If they had listened to us the correct steps could have been taken and PDP could have not lost this election, but they refuse to listen and they decided to do what they want to do and they think people will just accept what they want and go with them.
We also told them that people are wiser now, they are more educated people now, in any case, the case of Plateau State is very unique because people are tired, they are really tired about what Jang has been doing.” But as a loyal party man, his heart is still with the party. “Is not that PDP is bad, PDP is still strong on the ground.
“That is why I refuse to live the PDP because PDP is our baby, PDP we cannot throw our baby away, we cannot build our house and allow some other people to occupy it. It is our house so if the house is leaking we have to look at where is leaking and repair not to run away from the house. If it the widon that is broken we will look for new ones to replace it with, and if it is the door we will also look at it and repair it.
Already we have seen those places that were leaking and I assure you that before the next general election we will amend everything that has gone bad. We will get the house back in shape again for the people of Plateau because PDP is the party they know. At the federal level, that is where everybody will be more interested in. We lost because of indiscipline, indiscipline is what destroyed the PDP in the last 16 years”