Following the air crash that involved former governor Danbaba Suntai, there was the emergence of what became known as the Taraba cabal of which was involved in a power tussle; can you tell us about the cabal and what has become of it?
I have heard people talk about the cabal in Taraba I don’t think the cabal is any mysterious group. Initially it had to do with some gladiators or principal actors in Taraba politics who claimed to share a common aspiration, goal or agenda that came together to pursue an interest that was political. I know them by the tip of my fingers because I was once with them. I was a member of the cabal and we were all working together holding meetings in several locations and different times essentially on how to move Taraba forward and galvanize the kind of development that Taraba people expect. Unfortunately personal ambitions took over the fundamental focus of the cabal. Those of us who didn’t agree with the new principle; who felt the cabal was derailing decided to opt out because the focus of the cabal was no longer developmental. I and some other people within the cabal were seen as underdogs and as such businesses were no longer conducted by such people. New members were being admitted without the knowledge of the old ones so we began to sense that the cabal was heading for the rocks. The new entrants came in and attacked old members and the old members kept mute. In a nutshell the cabal eventually disintegrated because the wall got cracked to the extent that lizards could enter.
Many had believed that the cabal was said to be principally protecting the political structures of former governor Danbaba Suntai, especially in the wake of the plane crash but today Suntai appears to be relegated to the background; what do you make of this?
You are very correct. Danbaba was the central focus or the balancer of the cabal. He was an upright person who could look at you straight in the face and tell you when you were wrong and when you were right. He also commended you when you did something commendable and reprimanded you when you did otherwise. When Danbaba had that accident he created a vacuum and it was to fill that vacuum that brought about the ambition of the cabal that we are talking about. If he were there Taraba wouldn’t have gone the way it is today but because he wasn’t there the personal ambition of the cabal members overtook the main agenda. Succession politics became the struggle and in a system like that it behooves on the leadership of the cabal to bring the members together and share information. Unfortunately Danbaba’s situation was shrouded in secrecy; it was only the people in the cabal that knew about it but they were hiding information. Consequently things started nose-diving because if there was proper sharing of information, the situation would have been better managed and the Danbaba’s structures would have been better sustained. As we speak today Danbaba’s case has become history; nobody can tell you the whereabouts of Danbaba today. Those who claimed they were protecting him were only doing so because it was like a hide and seek game. Remember the timeless play “Who is in the Garden”. Pay a kobo; come and see him if you want to do so. People hid the man even though the whole world knew that his situation was critical and irredeemable. It was when the place became too hot that the cabal themselves had to run helter-scelter. As I am talking to you today even the corrupted cabal has lost out in the game because what is happening to them now isn’t their intention. They have no choice than to play along and I can assure you that there are still some intrigues even from within. Even the governor, Darius himself is in for trouble and he had better watch his back because like I earlier told you I was a member of the cabal and I know the kind of things they do.
Where do you think Suntai could possibly be at the moment?
Those who could say are probably his immediate family members because the man has just simply been used by the cabal members and dumped. Today none of the cabal members are even mentioning him; immediately after the election everyone went their separate ways. The all got what they wanted and everybody disappeared.
Are you implying that the cabal simply used his misfortune for personal political gains?
That is simply what happened.
The southern Taraba zone where you come from had agitated for power shift but the way you speak you sound like someone who is not happy with the victory of Darius Ishaku…?
I have no worries with power shifting to the southern part of Taraba. Why we are worried is the way and manner that the power shifted. Everybody wants power to shift but it must be shifted decently and I will not identify with indecency all in the name of politics. Our grouse is even with the institutions, not individuals; it is the rot in the institutions that is challenging the fabrics of democracy. Governor Darius as an individual is a gentleman; a professional. Where we have problems is with the institutions and the people who are manipulating them.
But you were the secretary general of the Garba Umar campaign organization who is not from the zone..
Yes, the confusion and indecency started even before the emergence of Garba Umar. When the obvious was at hand that Danbaba would no longer hold sway the natural thing was for Umar to emerge as governor in line with the provisions of the constitution. They refused him to step in as the substantive governor as it was; rather they went to bring a thing that was moribund. So it was a state of confusion; it was a poison that was cooked and kept. So no sane mind could see that level of corruption and identify with it. Those were the things that made the power shift rather unpalatable; it looked beautiful but not sweet.
After the 2015 general elections a forum called ‘2015 Taraba PDP Aspirants Forum was formed with you as chairman; what were the reasons behind it?
The emergence of the 2015 Taraba PDP Aspirants Forum in Taraba state was as a result of the injustice and impunity that permeated the primary election in the state. Taraba state as you are aware has always been a PDP state. We have all been driving in one political bus that hardly had any opposition since 1999. The failure of internal democracy in 2015 precipitated crises that gave rise to that forum. Essentially you would notice that when a forum of aspirants like this emerges it means something had gone wrong and it is that thing that went wrong that gave rise to the forum. Like I earlier said what went wrong essentially was the failure of the PDP to conduct primaries in Taraba State.
One would have expected your forum to go to court and seek redress over the injustice you talked about but rather it was the APC governorship candidate that challenged the PDP up to the Supreme Court…
That is the perception among the people that the aspirants didn’t go to court. The aspirants went to court severally and individually and even as I am talking to you I have a case pending in court. Immediately when the primary didn’t hold we were to go to court collectively but due to delays here and there some of us went to court individually. I filed a case at the Federal High Court Abuja on December 31, 2015 which was later transferred to Jalingo. Recall that the purported Wadata Plaza primaries of Taraba State was in late November and shortly after it when we realized that it was a sham I headed to the court. Several other aspirants ranging from State Assembly to the National Assembly elections are also in court. Apart from these the delegates who were denied their rights to determine their representatives as sponsored by the party to stand lection are also in courts.
The APC’s case against governor Darius Ishaku went up to the Supreme Court which recently gave its verdict upholding the election; what is your take on the verdict?
The Supreme Court can be likened to a referee in a football match; however the goal was scored even if it was scored with hand since the referee had blown that it is a goal there is nothing one could do about it. They have ruled but there are still many things yet untouched. If the Court ruled that the petitioner did not have the locus because she is not a member of the PDP, some of us are members so let us wait and see in our own cases. Will the court also say we don’t have locus? We bought forms in the PDP and we were to participate in the primary but it never held; rather people were handpicked. I believe by the time our cases come up hot there would be boomerang effect that would be all consuming.
Are you implying that even with the Supreme Court’s verdict the battle is not yet over?
Anybody who thinks that the battle in Taraba is over would be making a great mistake. This is because the coalition of all the aspirants who bought forms are all agitated and angered. They felt that a lot of injustice has come to play. We rose from a meeting recently and resolved that we are not going to leave this matter until justice prevails. You don’t take people’s money under the guise of nomination without conducting the primaries and yet you failed to refund their monies. So the aspirants all resolved that they will not leave any stone unturned until justice prevails. We want an end to impunity and recklessness so that the rule of law would take its course. As far as we are concerned the conduct of the PDP in the purported primaries was tantamount to extortion and we are inviting the EFCC to investigate that extortion. This is because the quantum of money involved is large. It amounts to a financial crime and the EFCC must look into it. We don’t really need to formally write to the EFCC; it is a financial crime which is already in the public domain. But where it becomes necessary for us to write them to look into this grand style of extortion we will not hesitate to do so.