Perched in a relatively quiet Northeast flank of the country, Taraba State has in the last four years earned a disproportionate slice of political intrigues since the air crash that incapacitated its immediate past governor, Danbaba Suntai. The tribunal judgment sacking his successor, Darius Ishaku brings a different dimension to the intrigues.

By John Mkom, Jalingo

FOUR persons emerged as the main aspirants for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP ahead of the 2015 governorship contest.

The quartet included the then acting governor of the state Alhaji Garba Umar popularly known as UTC, former Nigerian ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Amb.   Musa John, a younger brother to the not too recently deceased top police officer, DIG Haruna John.

The others were David Sabo Kente, former director of finance at the National Assembly and a serving minister at that time, Arch Darius Dickson Ishaku.

Umar had become acting governor just two weeks after he became deputy governor following the air crash in October 2012, that turned Governor Danbaba Suntai into a physical wreck.

His emergence as acting governor was viciously opposed by some power mongers in the state and he was also in a no love lost relationship with a number of officials loyal to Suntai who saw him as an intruder.

Power circle

Though he was able to woo several persons, he, however, failed in wooing the chairman of the state chapter of the party, Victor Bala Kona.

Bala Kona opposed Umar till  he was removed in office by Supreme Court in late 2014.

Umar, however, reached beyond Kona to get support from the national headquarters among whom were the then national chairman, Adamu Mu‘azu who was said to be solidly behind his aspiration to become governor.

The power circle around Suntai, however, fell in behind Ishaku and they were said to have also won the support of President Goodluck Jonathan. Among the powerful individuals backing Ishaku was also the state’s most influential personality, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma.

Danjuma and Ishaku are from Jukun tribe in Takum Local Government . Kente, the former director of finance at the National Assembly also enjoyed the blessing of the elders in the state particularly in the southern senatorial zone where Ishaku also comes from.

At a point the southern Taraba elders endorsed Kente, an arrangement that earned the former director high popularity amongst the four contestants in PDP.

John, who is from the Northern senatorial district, meanwhile positioned himself to potentially benefit from the disagreement between the southern gladiators whose zone was the focus of many for power shift. That was against the background that the two preceding substantive governors, Rev. Joylly Nyame and Suntai were respectively from the North and Central senatorial districts.

Smooth succession

However, the path to a smooth succession was marred by allegations of substitution of delegates that emerged from the ward congresses that was to precede the state PDP congress.

Umar was the object of many accusations and that led to a long standoff. Indeed, a former chief whip of the House of Representatives, Ishaka Bawa was allegedly molested at the Taraba Motel Annex, in Jalingo, venue for the collation of the names of the delegates. He was supposedly harassed by agents of Umar who took control of the venue.

The present speaker Taraba State House of Assembly, Peter Abel Diah was also manhandled on the same day by the same youths. The two officials were the first to leak out the information that officials sent by the Mu‘azu led National Working Committee were in cahoots with some other undisclosed personalities in the state in the substitution of delegates.

Diah was himself pointed in accusing Umar of substituting the delegates.

In the midst of the tension, the national secretariat fixed a date for the governorship primaries, but on the said date, the officials sent from Abuja refused to show up at the venue.

And that began the long wait as delegates were camped for days in several hotels waiting for the governorship primaries.

While all other states produced their candidates, the situation remained vague in Taraba. In the midst of the intrigues, Umar himself lost his place of influence when on November 21, 2014, the Supreme Court sacked him as acting governor on the claim that Abubakar Danladi who was impeached two weeks before Suntai’s air crash was wrongly removed from office.

Eventually the list of delegates supposedly submitted by officials despatched from Mu‘azu was cancelled and the national stakeholders settled for a fresh exercise to hold in Abuja. Whatever it was, Ishaku emerged on December 11, a few hours to the deadline for the submission of the official candidates of the parties to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

INEC, according to court documents, claims that it was not privy to the arrangement that led to the emergence of the PDP candidate in Abuja.

Umar was reportedly freely offered the Taraba North Senate ticket as compensation after Ishaku’s emergence as governorship candidate. However, Danladi who at that time had become the new acting governor was said to have muscled his way in to grab the ticket from Umar.

Religious factor

Meanwhile, Senator Aisha Alhassan who had become a darling to many especially in Taraba North had emerged as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC following her defection from the PDP.

She had fallen out with Suntai before the air crash and had won admiration following her triumph in 2010 over the former governor, Nyame in the race to win the PDP Taraba North Senate ticket for the 2011 elections.

Alhassan is a Muslim in the Christian dominated state, a fact that did not suppress her popularity. However, few deny the fact that the religious factor is an issue with some major political players who have now lined up with Ishaku, a Christian in the battle of intrigues.

Among the big wigs in the state that have lined up behind the embattled governor are Senators Dahiru Bako and Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, former Governor Nyame and some former senators including Saleh Danboyi, Anthony Manzo, Danlami Ikenya, and Hon. Ishaka Bawa.

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