Features365 Days: Trials of Brother Caleb

365 Days: Trials of Brother Caleb

May 26, (THEWILL)- Many situations have their forebears and forays.

Once Barrister Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang was confirmed and declared by the INEC as winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Plateau State, he transformed immediately to ‘Governor-elect’, with the implication that there was a change of status and the process of transfer of power had begun.

While the transition period subsisted, the Governor-elect was entitled to some privileges, ranging from a chauffeur-driven official vehicle to accommodation and others as the state government took him in as number-one-citizen-designate and commander of the state army.

The outgoing governor then, Simon Bako Lalong, was expectedly and appreciably not a happy man at that. He managed to put up with the tradition of extending transitional paraphernalia of office to the Governor-elect, but with sufficient embellishment of malice and malfeasance, to wit.

In particular, the ash-coloured SUV vehicle that was deployed to dignify, and be used by the Governor-elect and incoming Governor was anything that only edged over the town crier’s jalopy. With a dishevelled body revealing contours, cluttered joints, topsy-turvy and sundry muddled details, even the wind screen was looking higgledy-piggledy, just as the car’s stationary balance suggested remarkably that it was recovered from accident rumple or assembled by some ambitious but unsupervised auto engineers in an unaccredited evening school in downtown India.

But as it turned out, this was what communications students call feed forward – advance information – from Simon Lalong to the then Governor-elect, Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang. What is not part of the story is whether the Governor-elect used it or not during that transitional period. But it is important to observe that the condition of that vehicle was symbolic foretaste, and a cursory precursor to the troubled inheritance and wreath of storms that will confront the incoming Governor beginning May 29, 2023.

One of the first committees inaugurated by Governor Mutfwang was that of assets verification and recovery. The transition period witnessed a thieving bazaar orchestrated by political office holders who were bitter with the outcome of the election and agonising on their way out of power, and some opportunistic civil servants who felt no moral damnation to score from the thieving politician’s assist. From Government House and other offices, vehicles, television sets, decoders, Home theatres, and items pedestrian but as basic as cutlery and door blinds, were carted away.

The bigger trouble certainly had a bigger picture: in the build up to the handover of power, the transition implementation committee set up by the incoming regime was technically frustrated by its counterpart, that is, the transition committee of the departing administration. The former thwarted all arrangements to hold joint meetings, compare notes, and ask and answer questions. Thus, the incoming administration could confirm certain things about the assets and liabilities of the government. For instance, the State’s debt profile was understated; and the emoluments of the State civil servants, who were on strike weeks before the inauguration of the new administration, were well over what incoming administration contemplated.

As the new administration was groaning under a debt burden of over two hundred billion naira and negotiating with the striking workers to return to work, the Governor’s own local government area of origin, Mangu, in central Plateau, came under insurgents’ fire and brigandage, to the effect that security, law, and order temporarily collapsed. The crisis that ensued was of such gravity that those sympathetic to the new administration feared that its will would break and cause a collapse of Government machinery itself. The crisis was a major test of the will and character of an administration that was not more than a sprouting toddler. However, in spite of the lean resources, the new government rallied goodwill and support to bring the attacks that created grave humanitarian problems and refugee upsurge under control.

It was however not too long before a spate of marauders’ attacks brought bloodshed and killings and displacement of natives from their homestead in Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, and Mangu – three adjoining local government areas in Plateau Central district. The Mutwang administration spent a fortune to step up security in these areas, before the most horrendous Christmas Eve coordinated attacks involving the same local government areas left several dead, and prompted the federal government to approve the establishment of a military barracks in Bokkos.

Yet, the worst trial and distraction of the Mutfwang administration was issuing forth from the judiciary, no thanks to a spate of judgements that put 2023 elections in Plateau State on a dedicated and special scale. After the Election Petition Tribunal that sat in Jos confirmed his election as governor in fact and indeed, the APC, boasting that it was sure of victory at the Appeal Court, appealed against the Tribunal verdict at the Court of Appeal.

At the Court of Appeal, the leadership of the Court had applied or used an administrative loop to ambush genuine winners of elections in Plateau. First of all, the Appeal Court decided that all appeals against Tribunal verdicts could only be heard in Lagos for all states in the south of the country; and in Abuja for all states north of the country. As if this was not sufficient as a booby trap, a dedicated panel was devoted to all cases from Plateau State. With a template of “no structure” cast against the Plateau PDP by the dedicated panel, it upturned, or upheld where necessary, judgement against the PDP candidates, including reversing the gubernatorial election tribunal judgement in favour of Mutwang.

Although the gubernatorial petition or appeal does not terminate at the Court of Appeal, palpable tension and anxieties were created with the quashing of the elections of sixteen House of Assembly members, two Senators, and six House of Representatives members. In the ensuing days, trying moments came with tempests and trepidations and troubles for Mutfwang as the Plateau ‘question’ generated national and international debates on the true position of the law and the lack of professionalism that had been demonstrated by the Appeal Court.

Apart from the grim scare and horrific panic of which direction the Supreme Court judgment will go, the rage and sound of a desperate APC propaganda organ in the State had shaken the confidence of even those in the Mutfwang Government to the extent that they betrayed their principal by turning in certain classified information to the APC candidate or his ilks, pledged allegiance to the candidate waiting to be ‘declared’ by the Supreme Court, and sundry sharp practices including short changing Mutfwang in the belief that the boat was sure to hit the Rock and capsize.

On January 12 this year, all the apprehension and fears came to naught. In a judgment in which it frowned at the lack of professionalism of the Appeal Court, The Supreme Court confirmed Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang as the duly elected Governor of Plateau State. It was like a sharp and drastic change of seasons. Plateau people celebrated across the state. From trials and turbulence, Caleb’s Metamorphosis came.

Now cruising and making a lot of positive leadership impact in the State, as at press time, Mutfwang had constructed 47.37 kilometres of urban roads, relaunched and rebranded the State’s transport system, introduced intra-state rail transport services, reduced school fees in the State-owned tertiary institutions, is revamping the agricultural sector through provisions of fertilisers and resettlement of displaced persons in their ancestral homes with security arrangements that will also bring about real time farming and food security.

The Governor’s approval rating is high on the occasion of his one year in office.

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