(NAN) The Plateau Government has announced the death of the first civilian Governor of the State, Chief Solomon Lar.
“The family has confirmed to Gov. Jonah Jang that Chief Solomon Lar is dead,’’ Commissioner for Information, Abraham Yiljap, told the News agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos on Wednesday.
Yiljap said that Lar, aged 80, a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, died in a U. S. hospital on Wednesday.
Lar was born in Pongaa, Langtang, Plateau State in April 1933. His father was a farmer and his mother a pottery maker. He studied 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. He planned to become a clergyman.
Lar was elected as councilor to the Langtang Natives Authority in January 1959. On Dec. 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 15 January 1966, when General Yakubu Gowon took power in a coup, Lar was parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
He was also a Junior Minister in the Federal Ministry of establishments.
After the fall of the democratic government, Lar attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, graduating in 1970 with an LLB and called to bar in 1971.
He established a private legal practice, and was co-founder and first National Secretary of the Nigerian Legal Aid Association.
In 1972, Lar joined the Board of Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria. He became Chairman of the Board of Directors of African Continental Bank, Member of the Nigeria Council of Legal Education and a member of the Constituent Assembly (1977–1978).
He was Vice-Chairman of the panel chaired by Justice Ayo Irikefe that recommended expanding from 12 to 19 states during the regime of Gens. Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo.
Lar was also a Board member of the USA-based World Environmental Movement for Africa.
At the start of 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.
He, however, later won the governorship election in Plateau State as the first Executive Governor on Oct. 1, 1979.His deputy was Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma.
He was active in building infrastructure in the state including hospitals, educational institutions, rural electrification, water supplies, and roads.
He introduced reforms to state employment laws, abolishing the daily pay and contract systems and introducing paid maternity leave for nursing mothers.
After the military coup in Dec. 1983, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari set up military tribunals which tried all former governors. Although Lar was not found guilty of embezzlement or misappropriation, he was sentenced to 88 years in prison, first in Jos and then in Kirikiri in Lagos.
His case was reviewed and he was released by the regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who started another transition to democracy in 1992.
During the third republic, Lar was a supporter of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was appointed Minister of Police Affairs by the government of Gen. Sani Abacha, later resigning when he realised Abacha was not serious about restoring democracy.
In the transition to the Fourth Republic, Lar became the first National Chairman of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998, holding this position until 2002 when he handed over to Chief Barnabas Gemade.
In Feb. 2004, he resigned as Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, handing over to Chief Tony Anenih at a caucus in Abuja.
He remained a power in the PDP until 2005, when he supported Vice President Atiku Abubakar in his falling out with President Olusegun Obasanjo, and later supported Atiku’s bid for the Presidency in 2007.
In April 2006, Lar also welcomed the decision of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida to compete for President in the 2007 elections, saying that in a democracy, anyone was entitled to run.
Lar has been described as an ardent Middle-Belter, an active participant in the Middle Belt Forum.
In February 2010 Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, as he was then, appointed Lar Chairman of the Presidential committee tasked with recommending how to prevent further violence in Jos, the capital of Plateau State.
In early reaction to news of Lar’s death, a former Chairman of PDP (2008-2011), Prince Vincent Ogbulafor said he received the news with great shock.
“He died when his services were needed most to unite the country.’’
He said the Federal Government should immortalise him as the founding chairman of the PDP.
Ogbulafor commiserated with Plateau government and the PDP.