As the 2019 general election gathers momentum, key political parties and actors, especially the trio of Governor Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan of the United Development Party (UDP), are already working hard to sell themselves to the electorate.
This is even as some are also making frantic efforts to render their opponents unelectable.
However, while Ishaku and the PDP seem to be focused on retaining power in the state, Senator Alhassan appears poised to unseat Ishaku.
In the camp of the APC and the former acting governor of the state, Sani Danladi, the battle seem to rage more from within the party itself than from outside, thereby posing a major threat to the party’s chances.
The APC crisis started shortly after a wave of defections from the PDP and other parties in the state. Those who were aggrieved with the Ishaku-led PDP government moved to the APC between 2016 and 2017. Some of the new comers were powerful political forces in the state who were obviously nursing ‘big ambitions that threatened Alhassan’, who was then in control of the party structure in the state.
The newcomers soon realised that their only chance was to unite and fight for a place in the party and this led to the formation of two factional groups known as the Integrity Group and Neutral Group that later formed the Unity Group.
While the PDP was able to conduct a relatively peaceful and transparent party congresses across the state, the APC congresses ended up with the production of two state executives, one loyal to Alhassan and the other loyal to the unity group.
The crisis reached its climax when the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole nullified the inauguration of the Alhassan-led led exco that was inaugurated by his predecessor Mr. John Oyegun and inaugurated the Unity Group- led exco and the subsequent disqualification of Alhassan to contest the governorship of the state on the platform of the party.
Consequently, Alhassan moved out of the party and, along with her, a throng of supporters. Alhassan has been the brain and pillar of the APC in the state since inception and quite a number of the party faithful felt she was mistreated by the party. This lot went along with her to the new UDP, dealing the party a fatal blow to its chances of winning the election in the state in 2019.
The party in the state however saw this as a welcome development, as they see Senator Alhassan as the major dissident voice from the party. They therefore see her sacking as a blessing in disguise. The Unity Group thereafter took full charge of the party.
The governorship primary of the party that produced Danladi as the governorship candidate of the party in the state was somewhat controversial.
Eight out of the ten aspirants at a press conference in Jalingo on the morning after the primaries alleged that the duo of Sani Danladi and Senator Joel Ikenya had hijacked the entire process in collaboration with some officials and manipulated it to their favour.
According to Mr. David Sabo Kente, spokesperson of the forum of aspirants, “the duo of Ikenya and Danladi betrayed the trust of the rest of the aspirants and went against the Memorandum of Understanding that all the aspirants signed a day before the primaries and have gone ahead to manipulate things to their favour with the use of violence and other illegal means”.
Kente further said that the group condemns in totality the entire process and called for a fresh primary to be conducted by a neutral body or that the national working committee of the party should choose anyone from among the eight other aspirants and give him the ticket. As at the time of this report, Danladi remains the party’s candidate.
In Taraba, Northern and Central zones of the state have had their eight years, governing the state. The Southern zone is serving its turn. Governor Darius Ishaku is from the southern zone and he is about to complete his first four years. Therefore, the zone is still expected to produce the governor in 2019. But Danladi is from the central zone.
Majority of the stakeholders believe that altering the zoning arrangement at this point in time may not help political stability in the state.
The major battle for the APC and Danladi in the state now is how to rally the support of the other political gladiators to work for him and the party. Already, most party members feel betrayed by him, and they believe that whatever arrangement they have, he may still betray it once he gets to the office.
However, the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state Mr. Aaron Artimas told Daily Sun that the party was intact and was poised to take over power in the state in 2019.
Artimas insists that religion and ethnicity would be sacrificed on the altar of issues in the political calculation of the state ahead of the 2019. He believes that the alleged abysmal performance of the PDP government over the years would definitely be the basis for the people to vote in the APC.
He further said “those who believe that religion would be used as they did in 2015,
to bring in another era of incompetent and clueless leadership in the state are definitely mistaking. Campaigns this time must focus on issues. It has to be issues based and the abysmal performance of this current administration speaks volumes.
“I can tell you in confidence that the APC in Taraba State is intact. In fact the party is waxing stronger by the day. When Senator Alhassan left the party for the UDP, some party members followed her. Most of them are already returning to the party because it is now clear to them that APC is the only hope. APC has the best chances of forming the next government in the state so why would they leave the party with the surest hope,for the PDP that is now rejected by Taraba or another party without a future in the state or even elsewhere?
“Already the process of full reconciliation is about to start on a full scale and most of the aggrieved members are already in contact with our candidate. The general consensus is that we would all work together to achieve our goal of taking over power in 2019 and providing the people with quality leadership that they deserve. And remember that there is more to it than just governorship. People can be made ministers, chairmen of boards and a whole lot of other positions. For now, I am only aware of one of the aspirants, Mr. Joel Ikenya, who said he is contesting for senate in All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), but I can assure you that he just want the ticket to run. He is in the APC body and soul”.
For a state that has been ruled exclusively by the PDP since the return to democratic rule in 1999, pundits say it will take a most formidable opposition and major crisis within the PDP itself for another party to dislodge it from the state. At the moment, the APC appears to have lost the support of Senator Alhassan and some of her supporters who mostly moved with her to the UDP. However, if the party is able
to reconcile with its aggrieved members before the election, the party would stand a good chance, considering that people are generally disenchanted with the current administration in the state.
According to Mr. Anthony Damburam, a former Commissioner of Information in the current administration, “voting the PDP out is the only way to any meaningful development in the state, as the party is not honest and cannot keep to its word.”
There are others who also believe that ‘federal might’, may be in favour of the APC. According to a political analyst, Mr. Yahaya Sule, he said “It is Taraba State’s turn to vote for the leading party in the country. That is why the PDP consistently won in the state. Now that the APC is at the top, the people may likely vote for the APC in the state. Besides, in the last election that brought Darius Ishaku to power, T.Y. Danjuma played a key role because he was in the good books of both the then President Goodluck Jonathan and the opposition APC and Buhari. He also had the backing of the military and the federal might. Now, all those have shifted. He has fallen out with Buhari who is now at the center. He has lost military backing, and has lost the federal might advantage he had in 2015. So the odds against him have increased exponentially. He may not make it. If he had performed well, his performance would have sold him, but you can see that he is just the worse civilian government the state has ever had”.
Obviously, the chances of APC putting up an impressive outing in the next year’s election seem to rest on the ability of the party leadership to heal the wounds quickly and convince all her members to work together as a team to deliver the state. How this plays out would only be the major determinant of APC’s future in Taraba State.