Lar Takes a Bow

At 80, Solomon Lar, first civilian governor of Plateau State and first national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, dies in a United States hospital

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Oct. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

HIS death, no doubt, is a big loss to Nigerian politics. That has been the verdict of those who have been sending condolence messages to the family and people of Plateau State. Solomon Lar, first civilian governor of Plateau State, and pioneer national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, died in a hospital in the United States on Wednesday, October 9, at age of 80. Since his demise, tributes have been pouring in from different parts of the country, especially from the political class.

In a tribute, President Goodluck Jonathan described Lar as ‘a great hero of democracy.’ In a statement by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Jonathan said Lar would always be remembered for the exemplary humility, great vision, wisdom and maturity which he brought to political leadership in Nigeria for more than 50 years as a legislator, executive governor, party leader and highly revered elder statesman.

In the same vein, David Mark, Senate president, described Lar as a rare Nigerian, who propagated the tenets of democracy and lived to see the actualisation of the people’s will. He said the elder statesman would be remembered for fighting for democracy and enthronement of the people’s mandate against all odds. Mark, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Speaker, House of Representatives, and the Northern Governors’ Forum, all mourned Lar, who they described as a bridge builder.

Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, in a similar message, described him as “one of the country’s greatest statesmen.” Abubakar said the late Lar’s “fight for his Middle-Belt region in particular and Nigerians in general, would be remembered by every worthy historian of this era.”

To Tambuwal, Lar would always be remembered as a man of integrity whose forthrightness and wisdom stood him out among his peers. The death of Lar was announced in a statement signed by James Mannok, director of press affairs to Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State on Wednesday 9. Jang, who said he was shocked when he received the news, described the elder statesman as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria. The statement read in part: “It’s with great sadness that the Government of Plateau State received the death of Chief Solomon Daushep Lar, the first civilian governor of the state and the first national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, who passed away in the United States of America.”

Lar was born in Pongaa, Langtang, Plateau State, in April 1933. He was educated at the Sudan United Mission Primary School in Langtang, and then at the Gindiri Teachers College, where he qualified to teach at the primary school, Langtang. After two years, he returned to Gindiri for the senior teachers training programme, earned his Higher Elementary Certificate and started to teach at the senior primary school level.

Lar was elected a councilor to the Langtang Native Authority Council in January 1959. On December 12, 1959, he was elected to the Federal Parliament on the platform of United Middle Belt Congress, UMBC. He was re-elected in 1964, and from then until the coup of January 15, 1966, truncated democratic rule. Before the coup, Lar also served as parliamentary secretary to Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He was also a junior minister in the federal ministry of establishment.

After the end of first democratic rule, Lar attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to earn a law degree and graduated in 1970. He was called to the Nigerian bar in 1971. He went into private legal practice, and was a co-founder and first national secretary of the Nigerian Legal Aid Association. In the Second Republic, Lar was a co-founder of the Nigerian People’s Party. He was nominated as the party’s presidential candidate in 1978, and later won the governorship election in Plateau State and therefore became the first governor on October 1, 1979.

During the Third Republic, Lar joined the Social Democratic Party, SDP. When the process of democracy was again truncated, he was appointed minister of police affairs by the government of the late General Sani Abacha but later resigned when he realised Abacha was not going to restore democracy. In the transition to the Fourth republic, Lar became the first national chairman of the PDP in 1998 until 2002, when he handed over to Barnabas Gemade. In February 2004, he resigned as chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, handing over to Tony Anenih.

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