2019: The three-horse battle for Taraba

tarabaTHE battle for who wins the 2019 governorship election in Taraba State has been set, as three major candidates have emerged in different political parties following the conduct of the just-concluded governorship primaries across political parties in the state.

The stage for the contest is now set among the incumbent governor, Darius Ishaku, who won the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former acting governor of Taraba State, Sani Danladi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Jumai Alhasan, popularly known as Mama Taraba, who clinched the ticket of the United Democratic Party (UDP).

 

Taraba and the politics of zones

Taraba State is divided into three administrative zones, namely; the northern zone, the central zone and the southern zone. The first civilian governor of the state, Jolly Nyame, who came from the northern zone, governed the state between 1999 and 2007. He handed over to Danbaba Suntai from the central zone, with the latter also being re-elected for a second term of four years before his government was cut short by a plane accident. The tenure was completed by his deputy, Sani Danladi, in 2015. The incumbent governor of the state, Ishaku, from Taraba South, succeeded Danladi in 2015. He has been given the PDP ticket unopposed to run for a second term in 2019.

With the three zones have occupied the office of governor, the 2019 race cannot be argued based on divisional politics, observers have noted, saying that the race will be more of issues and candidates explaining their programmes to the people of the state. While Governor Ishaku will have to face Tarabans to convince them on what he has been able to achieve in the last three years, the two other major candidates would have to give reasons why they are better-suited to occupy the office.

Already, the candidates in the three-horse race have begun their campaign, with the incumbent governor noting that he had been able to develop the state.

Ishaku, while mentioning some of his achievements in office within the last three years, said the greatest among all was human development and prompt payment of salaries in the face of the economic recession that rocked the country. The Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the governor, Mr. Bala Danhabu, said the governor has done tremendously well and deserve reelection in 2019.

He said: “In the last three years of Governor Ishaku’s leadership in Taraba State, we were able to offset internal debts with the first tranch of the bailout funds from the Federal Government such that the state can have a breath and settle for good governance. After that, we were able to offset all salary arrears. As we speak, Taraba State government does not owe any civil servant both at the state and local government levels.

In the area of infrastructure building, the governor’s aide said: “Of recent, our distinguished elder statesman, General T.Y Danjuma came into the state on several occasions and commissioned many projects in Takum, Wukari and Jalingo; these projects include hospitals, electricity, water and roads.

“Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, also came to Taraba State and commissioned the gigantic Green House, water projects and Jalingo/Kona Road. All of these projects were initiated and completed by the Ishaku administration in the last three years.”

“Again, Governor Darius Ishaku went round the state and commissioned many newly built or renovated school buildings. He distributed tractors and other agricultural machinery as well as start-up equipment worth billions of Naira given free to beneficiaries of the innovative and laudable skills acquisition programmes,” he added.

For the other candidates, the 2019 narrative has been about the Ishaku government not doing enough. For Sani Danladi, for instance, the need to bring development to the state remained the greatest reason he is vying for the post of governor while Alhassan’s grouse with the incumbent governor is that he has been “misruling” the state.

 

Mama Taraba and her travails

Aisha Alhassan, popularly known as Mama Taraba, who recently resigned from President Muhamadu Buhari’s cabinet is from Jalingo Local Government Area in the Northern zone of the Taraba State.

Alhasan almost won the governorship seat in 2015 on the platform of the APC, having come second in the election in which the Election Petition Tribunal ruled Ishaku out of the contest for failing to participate in his party’s primary. Though the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court were to later upturn that judgment, the development helped turn Mama Taraba into a political icon in the state, as she has spread her political tentacles across all the 16 local government areas of the state.

Political observers in the state have maintained that Alhassan will give Ishaku and the PDP a run for their money in the 2019 election despite having recently left the APC following what she described as “unjust treatment by the National Working Committee of APCn” which refused to screen and clear her to contest for the number one seat of the state alongside 10 others that were aspiring for the governorship seat in the party.

Alhassan had swiftly moved to a less popular UDP, which has little or no political relevance in the history of Taraba State, turning the fortune of the party around immediately, as many aspirants who were loyal to her and were vying for positions on the platform of the APC have shifted their support from the APC to the UDP.

Many of Alhassan’s supporters have since bought forms for various positions to contest for elections in the party, with the former minister’s camp receiving a boost with the defection of bigwigs like the former chairman of PDP in Taraba State, Abdulmunini Vaki from APC to UDP as well as the presence of individuals like MB Mustapha, an APC chieftain. Alhassan had earlier told journalists that she have moved from the APC with all executives of the party in the 168 wards of the party in the state to UDP, noting that her ambition would be actualised with her large followers.

Sani Danladi, the man who knocked out nine others

Another candidate expected to give the incumbent governor a good run in the 2019 election is the candidate of the APC, Sani Danladi. A former acting governor of Taraba State, Danladi emerged the candidate of the APC in a direct primary days after the party’s NWC declined to clear Mama Taraba to contest governorship ticket.

Danladi, who was the acting governor from 2014 to 2015 was headed the campaign team that produced the incumbent Governor Ishaku in 2015.

However, the emergence of Sani Danladi as the standard-bearer of the APC has plunged the party into another set of crisis, with the remaining nine other governorship aspirants kicking against the pronouncement by the chairman of the APC electoral committee, Senator Emmanuel Ocheja that Sani scored 60,629 votes to win the primary.

Though the party has gone ahead to submit Sani Danladi’s name as the candidate of the party, political analysts in the state have maintained that all might not be well with the opposition party, especially given the fact that apart from losing Alhassan, some of the nine other aspirants might take the protest beyond mere complaints by working against the party’s interest.

But while briefing journalists in Jalingo, the APC governorship candidate promised to bring all the aggrieved aspirants together to work for the success of the party for coming elections.

“In every election there must be a winner and as you know, this is an in-house affair. I will reconcile with other aspirants. They are all stakeholders in our party and their input is very vital to the success of our party in the 2019 general election.

“Mine is to ensure that we deliver Taraba State from the hands of Ishaku who has not been able to develop the state in the last three and a half year. Security, jobs creation, justice and fairness among all will be my priority when I finally emerge as the governor of Taraba State,” he said.

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The Theophilus Danjuma angle

Ahead of the 2019 election, however, political analysts in the state have maintained that elder statesman, Gen. Theophilus  Danjuma, who has had a hand in who becomes the governor of the state since 1999, should not be ignored.

According to those in this school of thought, Danjuma would still play a big role in deciding the governor of the state in 2019, adding that the former minister’s commitment to Ishaku’s emergence in 2015 would decide the race in the governor’s favour, as he “still appears to be in Danjuma’s good books.”

Apart from General Danjuma, other power brokers in the state who are behind the governor are the Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly, Honourable Peter Abel Diah and a former permanent secretary in the state and a strong stakeholder, Mr. Fidelis Kaigama, who is from the northern zone of the state.

As of the time of filing this report, Ishaku enjoys the support of the 18 PDP members out of the 24 members of the House of Assembly and five members out of the 9 members of the National Assembly.

A political analyst in the state, Buba Usman, in his contribution on the 2019 governorship race in the state maintained that the dynamics of politics in the state had changed compared to 2015, noting that Ishaku might hold the ace in the race.

He said: “In 2015, it was not just a battle between Alhassan and Ishaku in Taraba State; what made the governorship battle tick then were the forces behind both the duo. While Ishaku had the support of Danjuma, Alhassan benefitted from the support of Atiku Abubakar. But Alhassan has now lost Atiku who was very essential to her near victory in 2015, while Ishaku’s relationship with T.Y. Danjuma.

“Apart from that, Ishaku is a sitting governor with commissioners, local government chairmen, members of state House of Assembly and special advisers all over the 16 local government areas while Alhassan has just lost out by leaving a government in power at the centre. Therefore, to me, it is just a matter of time and the election will be won by the incumbent going by what is on ground now.”

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