Gyang Bere, Jos
The controversy trialing the poor outing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State during the 2019 general elections has taken a new dimension.
It has earned the state party chairman, Damishi Sango and his Deputy, Amos Goyol Gombi an indefinite suspension.
The duo is being alleged of diverting the presidential campaign funds meant for the prosecution of the elections.
Sixteen members of the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the party, led by the zonal Vice Chairman Northern, Chris Hassan, passed a vote of no confidence on Sango whom they claimed colluded with Gombi to allegedly divert campaign funds, a situation that led to the party’s poor performance during the governorship election.
Currently, Hassan and Sango are laying claim to the chairmanship position. Hassan claimed that since Sango has been suspended, he has assumed the position in an acting capacity. But Sango is insisting that he remains the authentic and duly elected chairman of the party.
Sango, who is a former minister of Sports, was accused of collecting huge sums of money from the Atiku Abubakar PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation meant for prosecuting the election in the state but couldn’t account for the funds.
The suspension letter which was signed by 16 members of SEC and read by the Publicity Secretary of the party, John Akans, also accused Sango and his Deputy of diverting N5 million IDPs funds and N4.8 million funds meant for the party’s retreat.
It was equally alleged that Sango played double game during the elections as he was alleged to have romanced the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) after he was allegedly induced financially.
“A vote of no confidence has been passed on the party chairman, Damishi Sango and his Deputy, Amos Gombi in a bid to save the party. They have been suspended and stand suspended based on financial allegations.
“That the resources sent to the state for the presidential election was not accounted for by the chairman aided by the deputy chairman. They concealed the amount sent by the presidential campaign committee and created a fraudulent unseen template used as sharing formula unknown to the state party structure.
“The N5 million raised and saved by the party to help Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to help relieve their pains were also not accounted for up till this moment. No mention has been made of the said finds and it is worthy to note that the deputy chairman is the chairman of the committee on IDPs for the party.
“The about N4. 8 million meant for the PDP Plateau state retreat was equally not accounted for by the chairman and the deputy chairman.
“The arbitrary substitution of the legitimate candidate who won his primaries for Wase Federal Constituency by the chairman and his deputy without recourse to the EXCO or SEC due to some financial inducement cost PDP to lose the election into Wase Federal Constituency,” the petitioners said.
Daily Sun gathered that Sango’s alleged inability to map out strategy to save the party from being robbed of the seat of Plateau Central and Plateau South Senatorial seats, House of Representatives seat for Panshin/Kanke/ Kanam; Jos North/Bassa and Shendam/ Quan’pan/Mikang Federal Constituencies was what pitched some members of the party against him.
The sixteen members also dissolved the state PDP Campaign Council and ordered all members including the chairman to return all party properties in their possession with immediate effect and appointed Vice Chairman, Northern Senatorial Zone, Chris Hassan to take over the leadership of the party as acting chairman.
The Legal Adviser of the party, Binchen Jantur said the suspension of the party chairman was in line with the party’s constitution and stressed that the 16 SEC members form the two third majority to suspend the chairman and the deputy.
The state Auditor of the party, Mahli Maton, said for about three years now since they were elected, several attempts have been made to audit the finances of the party but the chairman has been scuttling the effort.
He believed that Sango and Gombi must be investigated on their involvement in running the affairs of the party and its financial expenses.
PDP Vice Chairman, Plateau South, Simon Domle and Vice Chairman Plateau Central, Benedict Shignuhul said a vote of no confidence was passed on the chairman and his deputy for dragging the party to failure during the last elections.
The duo said their action has the blessing of the 17 Local Government party chairmen, elders, critical stakeholders and also enjoys support of the party from each zone who are “bleeding in pains over the attitude and highhandedness of the chairman.”
The acting chairman who contested the state party chairmanship and stepped down for Sango in 2016 said a disciplinary committee would be set up to investigate Sango and Gombi with a view to recovering all party’s funds that were diverted.
He expressed optimism that their action would not plunge the party into crisis as almost all critical stakeholders of the party in the state are not happy with the manner Sango is running the affairs of the party.
Hassan believed that their action was necessary to save the party from total collapse. He said before their action, the party was in the hands of some selfish individuals who are bent on dragging the party far from success. He admonished members to remain calm and assured them that they will pursue the governorship case at the Election Petition Tribunal to victory.
But Sango described his suspension by the 16 SEC members as fraudulent, illegal and a calculated attempt by some misguided elements to scuttle the party’s victory at the Election Petition Tribunal.
Sango believed that the claim by them to save the party from total collapse does not hold water as their action was a “morbid attempt to divide the party and cause disaffection and confusion.”
He claimed that the SEC is made up of 72 officers and only 16 of them constitute the SEC that took such a serious action for the whole party.
Sango also alleged that the resources sent to the state for the presidential election was placed before the state campaign council and a sharing template was discussed and approved by the council.
He argued that the funds were not signed and collected by the party chairman and his deputy as alleged; rather the funds were rightly signed and collected by a team led by the governorship candidate and it was disclosed to the State Campaign Council.
Sango admitted that the deputy chairman, Gombi was Chairman of the committee handling IDPs funds with Chris Hassan, Yakubu Chocho, Aminu Zang, and Benedict Shignuhul as members, while Felix Penswang was the secretary of the committee.
He said N3.1 million was realised from various contributors and the entire money was handed over to Penswang who was made Chairman of sub-committee to purchase items for the IDPs.
Sango said Penswang bought the items together with Mrs. Mary Adar-gar and Aminu Abdullahi, PDP Chairman Jos North and reported to the house but the materials were not distributed to the IDPs.
Sango explained that N2.6 million and other funds of the party were domiciled in Sterling Bank and said the sum was garnished by a court order into PDP account.
He claimed that Hassan who is illegally being touted as the Interim chairman of the party was the chairman of the party’s Retreat Committee and was aware of the funds.
Daily Sun however observed that former governor of the state; Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun did not participate in the state PDP campaign. He resigned as Chairman of the PDP Elders Forum few weeks before the PDP campaign council was constituted but stood firm in canvassing support and votes for the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Tapgun who was made a member of the Campaign Council with former Governor Jonah Jang, who is the Senator representing Plateau North, were mere passive members of the campaign council.
But former Deputy President of the Senate, Ibrahim Mantu to some extent participated in the electioneering.
Also, the Minority Leader of the party in the state House of Assembly, Daniel Dem, who is a critical stakeholder of the party, was not part of the PDP campaign council. His participation in the campaign was just like that of an ordinary party supporter.
But the PDP governorship candidate, Senator Jeremiah Useni, has described the suspension of Sango as fraudulent, claiming it was not in accordance with the party’s constitution.
“When I heard the news that 16 members of the State Executive of the PDP in Plateau State passed a vote of no confidence on the chairman of the party and his deputy, thereby suspending them from the party for diversion of Presidential campaign funds, I laugh.
“I know that it was some of the younger persons who contested the party primaries with me and lost that might be making this plot. But there is a procedure for removing a chairman and any other official of PDP, it is embedded in the constitution and this process was not followed.
“The whole process was laughable and I know some people want to frustrate the governorship election petition at the tribunal, where there is high hope of victory in view of the evidence that have been found. I will not abandon the people of Plateau State and if the tribunal restores my mandate, I will carry everybody along whether they voted for me or not,” Useni said.