Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State who also doubles as the Director General, DG, of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential council has disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari is the Chairman of the organisation working towards the election of Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president in the February, 2023 election.
Lalong, who spoke on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, with journalists at the State House, Abuja, said he was at the seat of government to brief the President as Chairman of APC campaign team about the forthcoming campaign plans of the party.
“The president is Chairman of the campaign council. Therefore, as DG, I will come regularly to brief him on certain things that we are planning.
“You know as DG of the campaign council I have to from time to time see the president who is our Chairman and keep him abreast of events.”
Commenting on reports that he lobbied at a point to be picked as running-mate to the party’s presidential flagbearer, Tinubu, Lalong said it never crossed his mind to serve as APC presidential running mate.
Rather, he said, he was focused on running as Senator, the ticket of which he said he eventually got.
According to him: “I am a member of the APC, I will say a founding member of the APC. I don’t do anti-party activities. Some people said it’s because I was denied VP, and I have said, I did not lobby for VP. Yes, many people were lobbying and writing on my behalf, but what I wanted to be, and I still stand for now, I obtained form for Senate, I won. I have my senatorial ticket that I’m waiting for.
“So, if at any time, some people who wanted to be VP lost out and they’re using religion, they should not use me to help them. We’re very far, we’re talking about leadership, we’re talking about the problems, addressing the problems of Nigeria and all we’re talking about is good leadership, which can come from any religion.”
The governor also dismissed protests against his accepting to serve as DG of APC Campaign Organisation, saying the Pope had not told him it was a wrong idea.
Lalong stated that being an ardent member of the Catholic faith, even the Pope is not angry with his decision to accept the job.
A group, under the aegis of Concern Christians on the Plateau (CCP) recently staged a rally in Abuja, where they called on Lalong to reject the offer to serve as the director general of APC presidential campaign council, threatening that the Plateau Christians would not support him in, ‘the suspicious engagement or assignment.’
The group had also alleged that the APC rejected him for the position of VP based on incompetence, and now turned back to make him to seek for votes for the same party, saying that it was completely out of place.
The governor, who maintained that he respects his faith as a Christian, noted that he was elected governor for people of all faiths and non-believers as well, adding that since politics is about interest, he is a member of the APC and would not engage in anti-party activities.
He said when he returned to Jos upon his appointment as the DG recently, the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), welcomed him.
The governor said he was therefore not sure where those who claimed to be Christians and are opposing his appointment as against their faith came from.
“You said CAN Plateau, it’s not CAN Plateau, I don’t think. A group of people, CAN Plateau did not come out. I came back home and CAN welcomed me at the airport. The next day, I addressed stakeholders of Plateau State and I told them why I’m accepting it and then there was jubilation and all of them accepted.
“So, if you see people talking about me rejecting… I’ve accepted already, is not issue of…. I told them. Some of them are already keying into it. I have accepted already. It’s not an issue.
“I’m a Christian, I said it, and some people are misinterpreting it, that I said I was not a Christian.
“If you see my TVC interview, I said I was born a Catholic. Baptized a Catholic, confirmed a Catholic. I went through missionary schools. Yes, I was taught by mission. I respect my being a Christian. I’ve been given the highest award by the Pope. I still hold that award, the highest Papal award, Knight of St. Gregory’s the Great. I have it. One day, if you want, I’ll wear my uniform and come here,” he added.
On the reported protest against his choice as Campaign Director General, Lalong said “I don’t even know where they are. I Hold a Papa Night and as a Catholic, everything we do, we do it and we send the advice to the Pope. The Pope has not told me that what I’m doing is bad, to accept (to be) Director-General. As a Catholic, we take that direction.
“But generally, as a governor of a state, I said as a governor of the state, I am not responsible to only my faith, I am responsible to other people who belong to other faiths, who are not Muslims or Christians. So that is why I took an oath of office. The purpose of my Oath of Office is to take care of those people.
“When it comes to politics, it’s a matter of choice, a matter of interest. In every political party, you have Christians and Muslims, in every political party, there’s opportunity for you to vote for a Christian or to vote for a Muslim.
“If you don’t want a Muslim, you wait until election when you’ll vote your choice. If you don’t want a Christian, you will go there and go to vote”, he said.
Reacting to fears that the assignment to run the party’s presidential campaign would put governance in Plateau State in disarray, Lalong said besides the fact that he has capable hands within the administration, technology has made leading easier.
“It doesn’t affect it, we’re using technology. What is the distance from here to Plateau? It’s 20 minutes, if you’re going by air. Just as I’m leaving this place, I have a council meeting, I have Plateau Executive Council meeting. I can hold council there, I can hold council…, I’ve capable hands that are taking care of the state. That was why I mentioned that I’ve no fear about my time.
“This is not the first assignment I’m doing. I’ve been handling assignments from federal government, from the party, while sitting as governor of Plateau State, so it will not affect my decision”, he said.
Speaking about the other reason for visiting the President, Lalong said it was to appreciate Mr. President for all what he has done for Plateau State in recent times.