The stage is set for yet another battle for the exalted seat of governor of Taraba state- which has as its sobriquet, ‘nature’s gift to the nation’. Posters have started to manifest in major streets in Jalingo the capital, campaign outlets run by various youth support groups are springing up while politicians are busy putting up strategies to out-wit one another.
Taraba state became a political ‘flash point’ during the 2015 elections and two candidates got into a battle of supremacy that ran deep into the tenure of the new administration. The elections, re-run elections and legal battles between the PDP candidate- Darius Dickson Ishaku and the APC candidate- Aisha Alhassan, which ended in favour of the former, has created a new precedence in the politics of the state.
By the election figures released in 2015, Ishaku polled 369,318 as against his rival Alhassan who polled 275,966. The difference was 93,352 votes.
There was however, a lot of implications from that election which is very instructive. For the first time, a woman gave a man a good electoral fight in a culturally male dominated society.
Secondly, a Muslim was able to get close to the seat of the governor in a religiously volatile state. Thirdly, experts say, the incumbency factor at both the state level and the centre, might have worked in favour of Darius Ishaku, judging from the way our electoral institutions jettison integrity and embrace loyalty in the political system.
In essence, the 2015 elections and the change of power at the centre has shaped the politics of states who were in the centre and now in the opposition, including Taraba.
For instance, several big wigs of the PDP, who were in league with the incumbent governor or contested with him under the same platform, have decamped to the APC. People like, former acting governor and ousted senator, Sani Abubakar Danladi, former ousted acting governor, Garba Umar(UTC), David Sabo Kente (DSK) and and a dynamic grassroots politician, Joel IKenya, have since left the PDP for the APC.
This formation could perhaps, pose a serious threat to the PDP ahead of 2019 because as it looks, it is a coalition cutting across religious, ethnic and political lines, unlike what the party structure looked like in 2015.
But a major drawback for the APC in the state is the fact that the party is polarised by factional politics. The alleged high handedness of current Minister of Women Affairs and former governorship candidate of the party, Aisha Alhassan, have driven a section of the party to forming a faction called the Integrity Group. It is made up of big players like former Senator, Abubakar Tutare, Garba Umar (UTC), among several others.
It is therefore envisaged that, should APC not able to settle its differences before the 2019 elections, the PDP might as well leverage on that lapse to consolidate on its hold to power in the state.
Meanwhile, our reporter has observed that almost all the posters and billboards that adorn the streets of Jalingo, are those of aspirants under the APC.
Among these aspirants are: gubernatorial candidate of the SDP in 2015, David Sabo Kente (DSK), a labour leader and President, Trade Union Congress (TUC) Bobboi Kaigama, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Taraba state University, Prof. Muhammadu Sani Yahaya, former acting governor, Sani Abubakar Danladi (Contact) and former acting governor, Garba Umar (UTC) among several others.
As a matter of fact, the only aspirant on the PDP, whose poster and billboard appears, happen to be the governor himself, Darius Ishaku.
Our reporter sought to know the reason why members of the PDP are shying away from coming into the race. It was however learnt that the seat of the governor is zoned to the southern senatorial zone where the governor comes from. By the way, only one aspirant- Godwin Nyame, a strong critic of Gov. Ishaku and younger brother of ex -governor Jolly Nyame, showed interest. But it looks like the initial flash of posters gradually fizzled out just like other aspirants in the APC who it seems were merely trying to test their popularity.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Abubakar Bawa, described it this way: “for PDP, up till now, we don’t have any other candidate apart from Gov. Ishaku. There are so many people who would just put their posters all over the city, but in actual sense, they don’t even have the money to buy forms to contest”.
The political aide also disclosed the plan of the party which obviously underpins the intrigues in the state and which might influence the political equation in the state in 2019.
According to him, “All I know is that PDP has its own formula and the formula is that the seat of governor is for Southern Taraba. That is our arrangement and that is our formula. So nobody is going to contest from the central or northern zone. It must come from the southern zone and so far we have only Gov. Ishaku”.
Although Bawa has passively endorsed Gov. Ishaku for 2019, he is of the view that anyone from that zone is free to contest.
But so far, there is this seeming reluctance and lethargy by politicians from the southern zone to challenge the incumbent governor, especially from within his party, the PDP. This then suggests that the party might be forging a united front ahead of 2019.
Also, investigations by our reporter, shows that the central zone and of course the northern zone is careful not to alter the zoning arrangement and may be interested in preserving the present status quo because it would serve their long term interest. This is hinged on the fact that it would be the turn of the northern or central zone after Ishaku’s second term. The calculation therefore is that, voting for a different candidate other than the incumbent governor, be it from APC or PDP, might guarantee such a candidate two terms if he wins.
The question then is, why go for a fresh candidate who might delay them by doing another two terms. The only option then is to support the incumbent who only needed to finish his second term and cede power to them!
These are the intrigues and calculations in the minds of politically conscious Tarabans. If that works, then the incumbent governor may be a force to reckon with come 2019.
They might as well be factors that could shape the politics of the state and determine where the pendulum swings in 2019.