Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
In 2015 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Taraba State had an impressive outing but failed to clinch the star prize, which is the governorship seat. Though it was a very close run, many believe that mundane factors such as religion, gender and other sentiments, were largely responsible for the loss rather than issues from within the party itself, as the icon of female politics in the Northeast, late Aisha Alhassan known as Mama Taraba got overwhelming support.
However, the performance of the party in the 2019 elections was sadly not as impressive as one would have expected due more to factors from within the party as a result of internal wrangling than the competing PDP and other external forces.
As the party prepares for the 2023polls, the choice of who will fly its flag and other issues will determine whether the PDP’s 24 years stronghold on Taraba will finally be broken or the APC will have to stay another four years in active opposition in the state and our correspondent examines the issues with the political juggernauts in the state.
“The APC lost a beautiful chance of taking over power in Taraba State in 2019 because we chose the wrong candidate. In fact, the moment Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi picked the ticket of the party through the back door as it were, most of us knew that it was a lost battle.
“Clearly the people of the state are tired of the PDP generally and the abysmal failure of the Darius Ishaku government and we were ready to usher in something new. Unfortunately, instead of presenting a candidate who could give the incumbent the run for his money, the APC presented Danladi.
“I don’t need to remind you that even before the election proper, he was disqualified to contest. That ruling greatly demoralized a lot of persons including himself. So that singular mistake of allowing Sani Danladi to fly the party’s flag cost the APC the election in 2019”, a chieftain of the party said.
When in 2015, the Late Hajia Aisha Alhassan known fondly as Maman Taraba got the ticket of the APC to contest the race against governor Darius Ishaku of the PDP and Chief David Sabo Kente of the SDP, she received overwhelming support from party members and others who were not even members of the APC, and was presumed to have won the governorship election against Governor Darius Ishaku. However, the ensuing legal tussle tilted in favour of the PDP.
This goes a long way to show that the people probably want a breath of fresh air from the over two decades reign of the PDP, if there is a viable alternative.
For the 2023 general elections, several candidates have indicated their interest to contest. So far Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, Chief David Sabo Kente, Alhaji Garba Umar UTC, High Chief Ezekiel Irmiya Afukonyo, Alhaji Saleh Mamman, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, Mr.Danladi Kifasi, among others have also shown interest in the seat.
Sani Abubakar Danladi:
Sani Danladi came to the political limelight when he was chosen as the running mate to the late Governor Danbaba Suntai in the run-up to the 2007 general elections. He was later impeached and went through a rigorous political battle before he was reinstated just a few months before the end of the tenure, as acting governor.
The political intrigues that played out to favour his return also ensured that he would not contest the governorship race against the PDP candidate and now governor Darius Ishaku. The alternative was a ticket to the Senate. However, shortly after the election, Danladi fell out with the governor and soon lost his seat at the Senate as well.
The estranged Danladi swore to unseat Ishaku and gave it his all in the 2019 election. His failure and the judgment of the federal High Court in Taraba which disqualified him from contesting the election over irregularities with his date of birth and the subsequent alleged ban on holding political office as gazetted by the state government has made his chances of making a viable candidate very slim.
Besides, most of the people in the APC helm of affairs are still not happy with how he had manipulated things in2018 to pick the ticket of the party and would most likely not throw their weight behind him.
Danladi’s influence started to wane when he lost his forgery case at the Supreme Court, in which the judgement barred him from contesting or holding any public office till after 10 years.
With this Apex court judgement, the political stamina of Sani Danladi towards his aspiration for the 2023 election and beyond is literally destroyed.
Garba Umar UTC
The Jos-based businessman and son of Karim Lamido Local Government Area of Taraba State, Umar is a former deputy and later acting governor of the state. He became one of the most popular and patronized politicians in the state during his reign. His generosity and amiable nature endeared him to the people naturally.
However, the pervasive insecurity during his time has made people very skeptical in his ability to be saddled with the mantle of leadership of the state again.
Umar failed to secure any political office after the Supreme Court sacked him as the acting governor and has largely remained in political oblivion. His popularity has drastically declined and whether he would have the financial muscle to take up the challenges of a governorship race is what is yet to be ascertained. For many people, Umar has made his mark and should simply retire to the background as an elder states man rather than vie for any elective positions.
However, Umar is a gentleman who has shown maturity especially in the way and manner he handled the situation after the plane crash of late Danbaba Suntai.
Chief David Sabo Kente
Chief David Sabo Kente, a chieftain of the party and member of the North East Development Commission (NEDC), was up to the last minute, the favorite candidate of the PDP and the Southern Elders’ Forum in the build up to the 2015 general elections.
For many people, the Wukari-born administrator, entrepreneur, philanthropist cum detribalised politician was cheated out of the race by the mighty hand of a certain elder statesman from the Southern Taraba who preferred his Takum protege to take over the slot of the zone rather than the favored candidate from Wukari.
Kente then moved to literally start the SDP in the state barely months before the election and was able to pull as much crowd to get everyone wondering what magic he used. In the 2019 election, Kente moved back to join the APC and was once again the favorite candidate but was denied the ticket of the party, leading to the abysmal performance of the party and subsequent loss to the PDP.
Now as the North East representative on the board of the NEDC, Kente stands as one of the most viable options the party can present for the race. He has also upped his politicking to an enviable level now where he is able to make the right alliances to achieve remarkable results and outsmart his opponents largely, if the recent ward and local government congresses in the state are any indications.
Kente also enjoys an all time high sympathy both within and outside the APC and commands fierce loyalty as the most generous philanthropist in the state who has been shortchanged time and again by the political powers that be. His followers cut across all works of life and divide.
The argument against Kente is that he is from the same zone as the incumbent governor. However, like Senator Emmanuel Bwacha is quoted to have said, “the Southern senatorial zone waited patiently for all the other zones to have a taste of the governorship first. Now that all the zones have enjoyed the seat, it is only morally right to allow the patient dog eat the fattest bone by letting the zone kick-start the rotation this time”.
Moreso, the fear of many in the state is that APC is an Islamic party and that is why they always present a Muslim candidate. If a Christian Kente is given the ticket, that argument will no longer hold water and those who have held back for religious purposes will also team up behind the APC to give the PDP a run for their money.
What many consider may be an added advantage to David Sabo Kente is the ban of Sani Abubakar Danladi from contesting and holding public office for 10 years. The judgement has, therefore, opened a wide political gate of success for Chief David Sabo Kente (DSK) whose popularity and influence cut across the length and breath of the state.
Chief Ezekiel Afukonyo
High Chief Ezekiel Afukonyo is aspiring for the office of the governor of Taraba for the fourth time. An astute politician and a grassroots mobiliser, Afukunyo is currently the Chairman of the governing Board of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi.
As a notable and reputable personality from Ibi Local Government Area of the state, Chief Ezekiel Afukonyo, Chairman Open Palm Nigeria Limited and a dogged crusader of change believes that if given the opportunity to lead Taraba, he would change the face of the state in all facets of life. However, Afukonyo has hinted of possible alliance with Kente to make sure that “no outsider breezes into the party at the last minute and takes over what they have worked to build over the years”.
Alhaji Saleh Mamman
Former minister of Power Alhaji Saleh Mamman, is one of the leading contenders of the number one seat of Taraba under the platform of the APC. Mamman has remained in the Progressives platform since the return of democracy in 1999. He has identified himself as a disciple of President Muhammadu Buhari all along.
His followers believe that if he had galvanized the people and carried everyone along during his time as the minister of power, his journey to the Jalingo Government House wouldn’t have been a difficult one.
However, some observers now see Mamman as a sinking ship in the race to clinch the APC gubernatorial ticket. His role during the ward and local government congresses in Taraba leaves much to be desired as to whether Mamman has the muscles to execute the requirements of the process to secure the ticket. Others, however, feel the former minister is financially on ground and therefore could still be a force to reckon with come 2023.
SenatorYusuf Abubakar Yusuf
Senator Yusuf, the Ahmadu Bello University and University of East Anglia, United Kingdom-trained economist worked as a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Maiduguri before taking up appointment as a Planning Officer with the Ministry of Finance.
Yusuf contested for the Taraba Central Senatorial seat in the 2015 elections on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but his opponent, Bashir Marafa of the Peoples Democratic Party was declared the winner of the elections.
After a grueling legal tussle, the court declared Yusuf the winner of the senatorial seat of Taraba Central Senatorial District and was returned elected. Now in his second term in the Senate, Yusuf is regarded by many as a strong aspirant for the governorship seat of Taraba State in 2023 on the platform of the APC.
Not too popular in the service of the state, Yusuf may have it difficult to convince the electorate that he has done much in the provision of empowerment programmes and life-changing projects to secure their trust.
He may however be counting on his connection with the powers that be to be enthroned as the standard bearer of his party. Also as a serving senator, financing the process of his emergence may not be too difficult. Observers however believe that it is one thing having the financial wherewithal and another to have the support of the people.
Born on January 1, 1956, Mr. Kifasi is a trained Accountant and Lawyer who retired as Head of Service of the Federation, after serving as Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministries of Finance and Petroleum. He started his working career with Ahmadu Bello University in the Bursary Department from 1976-1977.
He became Head of the Federal Civil Service under President Goodluck Jonathan and retired on same position under President Muhammadu Buhari.
Kifasi is a quiet politician and experienced technocrat that is capable of moving Taraba forward. It is also believed he has the resources to sail through the turbulent political climate. Other people however question how he has impacted the lives of the people of the state.
From all indications, the APC has a lineup of credible aspirants that would give any other political party including the ruling PDP a run for their money. Coming at a time that some people feel that another political party should be given a chance to showcase what it has, the APC stands a good chance of taking over the reins of power in the state in 2023.
However, their level of popularity, support base and disposition towards politics is what will make them saleable or otherwise for the number one seat in the state as things continue to unfold. A lot will depend on the party presenting the most acceptable candidate and the ability of the national leadership of the party to unite all other aspirants to team up and support whoever secures the ticket in August 2022.
For many Tarabans, the PDP has already provided all the necessary ingredients required for a party to lose an election given the fact that it has allegedly performed below expectations in providing the dividends of democracy to the people of Taraba.
The party that has ruled the state for more than two decades has experienced its worst popularity under Governor Darius Ishaku. Many people within and outside Taraba feel that with the performance of Ishaku, the APC stands a very good chance to present itself as the viable alternative in the 2023 polls.
Whether the APC would be able to put its house in order and concentrate on choosing the right candidate to be its flag bearer for the forthcoming election and supporting such to the very end remains to be seen. However, as a political observer, Mr. Albert Kumom puts it thus: “If the APC fails to secure Taraba come 2023, they should just forget about it because they will never have such a beautiful chance again”.