Rumblings in Plateau over move to recall Lalong, Dafaan, Venman


Plateau State has been thrown into political panic mode following a subterranean move by Plateau South senatorial zone’s constituents to recall former Gov Simon Lalong (APC-Plateau South) from the Senate.

Also penciled for recall by the aggrieved constituents are Lalong’s former Chief of Staff, John Dafaan (APC-Shendam, Quaan-Pan, Mikang) and Vincent Venman (APC-Langtang North/South) federal constituencies.

Impeccable sources disclosed that within the past week, over 500,000 constituents had already appended their signatures to initiate the recall of the trio from the National Assembly.

It was learned that about a fortnight ago, the forms for the recall of the three lawmakers were distributed across the six local governments that constitute the senatorial zone, which have now been signed by the constituents.

People familiar with the prevailing political intrigues said that any time this week, the signed forms by constituents from all the polling units will be collated and forwarded by the petitioners’ lawyers alongside their petitions to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Thereafter, INEC is expected to send a team of its officials to the senatorial zone and the two federal constituencies for verification of the signatures.

Once the signatures are verified and confirmed in the various polling units that 50 per cent, plus one, of the total registered voters actually signed the recall forms, then INEC will within a statutory time frame, arrange for a referendum to be conducted to recall the lawmakers.

The referendum simply entails a “yes or no” voting by the constituents on whether to recall the lawmakers or not, which outcome is to be determined by a simple majority to declare a lawmaker automatically recalled or to retain his seat.

The sacking of Sen. Napoleon Bali (PDP-Plateau South, June 2023 to October 2023) by the Court of Appeal had paved the way for Lalong, whom he defeated in the 2023 senatorial election with an unprecedented landslide, to subsequently resign as minister of labour and productivity, to occupy the seat.

A source, who preferred not to be named, said that Bali is championing the recall move, although Bali himself could not independently confirm the latest development.

However, it would be recalled that shortly after his sack late last year, Bali had told newsmen that although as of then, he had not gone back to the senatorial zone after the judgement, he had it on good authority that his aggrieved constituents were already collecting signatures to initiate the recall process.

He had also disclosed that his legal team was weighing various options, including going back to the court to explore any window to review or remedy the injustice done to him and other fellow lawmakers.

According to him, being the victim of the brazen judicial gymnastics, he had the constitutional option of initiating a recall process against those who were brought to office by the Appeal Court judgment, or to live with it for the next three years.

The latest move seems to align with the earlier vow of Bali  to unseat Lalong and co, as impeccable sources say plans have reached advanced stage by constituents to recall the embattled lawmakers.

“What the people of Plateau South senatorial district are saying is that they will not allow them.

“I don’t know what they want to do, but I was told reliably that people are already gathering signatures that they must recall them.

“This time around we are going to test INEC and the judiciary that installed them because that is the option we are sure of.

“Like I said, our lawyers are making all efforts to see whether there is a window. I’m not a lawyer; I don’t know how they are going to do it.

“But the one I’m very sure of is that all those who the Appeal Court  collected our mandates and gave to them wrongfully, as concluded by the learned justices of the Supreme Court in Gov Mutfang’s case, we are definitely going to recall them.

“When? I will not tell you because it will just come to them as a rude shock.

“For the specifics, I can tell you that in Plateau South, I know that they have gathered over 300,000 signatures to recall Lalong already.

“That is already in the public domain. He is aware, his party, the APC is aware.

“By the time we get the required number of signatures, which is 50 per cent of the total registered voters, it’ll be a done deal, we’ll do it.

“We have the INEC current register; I will not tell you more than this because we keep that one close to our chest.

“As soon as we get the 50 per cent, we are going to write a petition, and our lawyers will follow it up from there to tell INEC to verify.

“Once that is done, INEC will have no option but to conduct a referendum and we take it up from there,” Bali, a retired Air Vice Marshal and fighter pilot, had assured.

Lalong, Dafaan and Venman were roundly defeated by Bali, Rep Isaac Kwallu and Beni Lar, who won the Plateau South, Shendam, Quaan-Pan, Mikang and Langtang North/South House of Reps seats, respectively, during the 2023  National Assembly polls.

Despite being the sitting governor of Plateau State from 2015 to 2023, and Director General of the 2023 Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation, Lalong was humiliated at the polls by Bali, who trounced him with an unprecedented vote margin of about 60,000.

The former governor was comprehensively defeated by Bali in all the 6 local governments that constitute his senatorial zone, including his own Shendam Local Government Area, except in Wase Local Government.

Dafaan was similarly floored by Kwallu in all the three local governments that constitute Shendam, Quaan-Pan, Mikang federal constituency, and in 31 out of the 32 federal wards in the area, including Dafaan’s Kwalla-Moeda federal ward, with an unprecedented vote margin.

Also, perennial winner and political Amazon, Rep Beni Lar (PDP-Langtang North/South was re-elected in the 2023 polls by her constituents following her landslide victory with a very wide margin against APC’s Venman, who was her closest opponent.

However, all the PDP lawmakers’ victories were controversially annulled by the Court of Appeal, on the technical ground that PDP did not have a legitimate political structure that produced them as candidates, thereby, truncating their tenures.

This was notwithstanding the fact that the case was a pre-election matter, which the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain in the first place.

Not a few observers had described the court’s curious decision as being a predetermined judicial compromise, while the Supreme Court later frowned at it and chided the Appeal Court, describing the decision as an act of judicial rascality.

Apparently miffed by the court’s decision to impose on them those who they rejected at the polls like being compelled to swallow unwanted bitter pills, the lawmakers’ constituents have now turned to the constitutionally sanctioned recall option as a last resort.

Reacting to the bid by constituents to recall Lalong and co, the Plateau State chapter of the APC described the action as a wasted effort that was informed by PDP’s “desperation and frustration to remove the lawmakers from their legitimate seats.”

Confirming the recall initiative, the state chapter of the APC in a statement issued on Saturday and signed by its acting Publicity Secretary, Shittu Bamaiyi, described the recall effort as merely a “PDP orchestrated recall campaign, a wild goose chase, and mission impossible.”

“For quite some time now the PDP in the southern part of Plateau State, has embarked on a wild goose chase, in the name of recall campaign against these members of the National Assembly.

“The party has unrelentingly and agonizingly, been cajoling unsuspecting eligible voters to append their signatures on  worthless sheet of papers, as a means of recalling Senator Simon Lalong and Chief John Dafaan from the Red and Green Chambers, respectively.

“The desperation and frustration of the PDP seem to know no bounds, to the extent that the party is so blinded to the constitutional requirements of initiating, as well as embarking on such a herculean exercise,” the APC stated.

According to the party, the PDP has thrown caution and decorum to the winds by embarking on the recall process against the lawmakers.

“By using all sorts of shenanigans and deceits to cow people into appending their names on papers, under the pretext of making them enjoy some palliatives and loans from the federal government as well as the state governments.

“Though the unsuspecting electorate have been suspicious of the promises, and taking them with the pinch of salt, the hirelings assigned the responsibility of the misadventure, have unblushingly continued to move round all the nooks and cranny of the Southern zone to collect signatures for the futile exercise.

“It is unfortunate that the PDP could condescend to that level of desperation, when viewed from the prism of civility and propriety, as well as considering the fact that, the  legislators in question have hardly spent one year in their respective chambers,” the APC further said.

“Unarguably, a recall exercise is an electoral and constitutional process which can be initiated against wanting or incompetent legislators as the case may be, there must always be overwhelming justification for such a cause.

“Undoubtedly, the narcissistic attitude of the PDP will certainly come to naught, sooner than later, because from all indications, the  legislators are at the moment, enjoying the support of their constituents not withstanding their short stay in the National Assembly.

“In addition, the APC as a  party, and other interest groups, are closely monitoring events as they unfold, with a view to checkmating the misadventure.

“Without any fear of the unknown, the campaign is surely going to be a mission impossible and a disgrace at the end of it all,” Bamaiyi added.

When contacted for comments on the development, Rep. Kwallu, one of the lawmakers sacked by the Court of Appeal and Dafaan’s predecessor, confirmed that the recall move by the constituents was true.

He explained that the recall process is provided for in the Nigerian constitution, which empowers constituents to recall their elected representative at any time, stressing that there is no cause for alarm.

Jimmy Lar, a political gladiator from the senatorial zone, while commenting on the APC’s statement describing the recall process as a desperate move by PDP, justified the ground for the initiative.

He asked rhetorically: “Who is the desperate one between someone who stole what doesn’t belong to him or her and the one who is making all lawful efforts to recover his or her stolen item?

“It’s the right of an owner to go to any length to recover his stolen property.

“When you are robbed, you tell people, approach the lawful authorities and take all necessary measures to recover your stolen items from the robber(s).

“Whether or not you are able to bring the thief to justice is not for the thief to decide, it’s for time to decide,” he said.

Simon Shindai, a lawyer, constituent, and APC member, while confirming that he was fully aware of the recall bid, alleged that some stakeholders, mostly from the state’s ruling PDP, were behind the recall move.

According to him, some PDP chieftains are strategizing, working round the clock, and leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the recall agenda is carried out seamlessly to achieve the desired result within the next six to twelve months, and warned the APC not to treat the issue with kid gloves.

“It is not a joke because it is a serious constitutional matter that is outlined in the 1999 Constitution, so once these processes are met, then INEC will definitely go ahead and conduct a referendum, which outcome could be a big shocker for the lawmakers in question,” he said.

Also commenting on the issue, Alhassan Barde, an APC supporter, said that APC as a political party that knows and has tasted power, and is still in power at the centre and elsewhere, should do more than just mere press statements.

“The party should be strategic in handling critical matters that are pending and have been left unadressed, matters that have emerged (like the one at hand), and those at the horizon with the potential to affect its present structure, and the chances that lie ahead for greater fortunes.

“Remember, your opponent in whatever contest, would employ and deploy all manner of tactics to rattle and weaken your immune system and then launch attacks on your defence mechanisms.

“All that we are doing is a clarion call to APC to wake up now, and do something about it,” he said.

Lalong, while reacting to the recall move by his constituents, through his Legislative aide, Hon. Exodus Pyennap, acknowledged being aware of it but described the initiative as an effort in futility that is baseless and dead on arrival.

He said that the first requirement for a recall process to be considered by INEC is for the constituent petitioners to have a solid ground for the recall, such as failure, misconduct, corruption, non-performance or some sort of official misdemeanor against their representative, which are all unfounded  in the instant case.

“So, the entire hullabaloo is an effort that is baseless and futile, INEC will not even bother to act on it,” Lalong said.

Lar and Dafaan could not immediately be reached for comments on the issue as of the time of filing this report. Dafaan did not answer or return the several phone calls made to him.

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