The Battle For PDP’s Governorship Ticket In Taraba


Not fewer than seven aspirants were cleared to contest for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Taraba State at the zonal office of the party in Bauchi State last Thursday.

However, like most states in the country, the geo-politics surrounding the governorship ticket has remained topical ahead of the primaries billed for later this month.

In Taraba State, PDP governorship slot has been one that is rotational. In 1999, Rev Jolly Nyame, from Zing local government area in the northern part of the state emerged governor.

After his constitution guaranteed eight years, late Governor Danbaba Suntai from Bali local government area in the central senatorial took over the seat in 2007.

Also, eight years later, incumbent Governor Darius Ishaku from Takum local government area in the southern senatorial zone assumed office in 2015.

By 2023, Ishaku would have completed his term which has sparked fresh concerns about where the ticket might go. While some have argued that the ticket must go back to the northern part of the state, others argue that since the ticket has gone round the zones, there ought to be no rotation any more but for the best aspirant to emerge the party candidate.

However, aspirants have continued to engage the process. Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya; Hikiah Buba Joda; Joseph Albasu Kuni; Bar. Demien Dodo; Victor Bala Kona; Jerom Nyame; and Aminu Ayuba Kotolo were the aspirants screened and cleared by the party’s screening committee to tussle for the governorship ticket.

Albasu Kunini is the current Speaker of the state House of Assembly. He is from a minority tribe in the state called Kunini from Lau local government area. He has been at the State Assembly for three terms. He had served as majority leader before being elected as a speaker three years ago.

With a tall political experience especially in PDP, Kunini’s closeness with majority of the members of the State Assembly who are major party stakeholders give him an outstanding chance to woo delegates during the forthcoming governorship primary election in the state.

Sen. Danlami Ikenya, once a councilor and member of Taraba State House of Assembly. He was a member of the House of Representatives and later represented the southern zone of the state at the Senate in 2007. He was also a minister during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. He was cleared to contest the governorship.

Ikenya promised to use his vast knowledge over the years in Taraba politics to get the ticket.

Ikenya, who is from Wukari local government area, was unsuccessful in his governorship bid in the state in 2011. Political pundits said the former minister is relying on the support of the Taraba State governor Darius Ishaku and his kinsmen to get the governorship ticket.

Bar. Demien Dodo, Wukari born vibrant Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who was also cleared by the committee to contest for the governorship primaries has not been conversant with the politics of the state.

Dodo, an Abuja-based lawyer who has not participated in any PDP function in the state, has already flooded the streets of Jalingo, Taraba State capital, with his posters seeking to be known as one of the governorship aspirants under PDP in the state.

Prof. Jerome Nyame is the younger brother of former governor of the state, Jolly Nyame. Although he has availed himself to contest for the race, Nyame, a lecturer with Taraba State University, has neither been a popular politician nor participated actively in the politics of the state.

Some pundits perceive Nyame’s governorship bid as a move to revive the political structure of his elder brother (Jolly) who was jailed for corrupt charges about four years ago but was granted pardon recently.

Some watchers of political events in the state are of the opinion that Prof. Nyame should not necessarily go for governorship of the state but rather seek for a senatorial slot since his immediate brother has tasted the governorship slot before. Perhaps, for those who argue in this light, the notion of a Nyame political dynasty might be quite impressionable in the state.

However, it remains to be seen whether or not his elder brother and former governor has enough political influence in the party to impact the governorship primaries.

Nevertheless, other pundits argue that if Prof Nyame has what it takes to manage the state he can as well contest for the seat since he will be governing on his own terms.

Victor Bala Kona is the immediate past state chairman of the PDP. He has nurtured his governorship ambition for years and has hit the ground running even before he was screened last Thursday.

Kona, considered one of the top runners in the governorship race, had while declaring for the seat told journalists that he would not accept any move by anybody in the party to produce a consensus candidate apart from himself.

Kona stated this in reaction to questions that there was a move by the governor to prevail on other aspirants to step down their ambitions for his preferred candidate.

Kona during the interaction with journalists said he was the most qualified aspirant among the seven of them in the state, having served as the state chairman of PDP for eight years.

“I am the most qualified aspirant among all of us, I will never accept any consensus candidate from anybody, if it is not myself. Kona stated.The Kona’s outburst created some heat which led to a deadlock of the move by the governor to settle for a particular candidate before the screening in Bauchi.

A close ally of Governor Darius Ishaku, who spoke to LEADERSHIP, on condition of anonymity said the governor has already perfected plans to make Aminu Ayuba Kotolo who is from Ardo-Kola Ardo-Kola local government area of the state the party’s flag bearer.

“You know that Kona and Kotolo are all from Ardo-Kola, in the northern part of the state, that Is why the governor and the party are insisting that power must shift from the south to the north,” the source said.

The source further revealed that the governor’s move forced Kona to stage the governorship declaration in Jalingo before moving to Bauchi for screening.

Kotolo who until he purchased the PDP gubernatorial nomination forms was the accountant general of the state. So far, he is rumoured to enjoy blessings of Governor Darius for the race more than any other aspirant.

The source also disclosed that the governor asked Kona to step down his ambition for Kotolo “Oga has instructed Kona to go for senate slot”, a move that was said to have angered Kona who allegedly insisted on prosecuting his governorship ambition to the end.

Bubba Joda, former chairman of the Taraba State Universal Basic Education, who recently served as chairman Taraba State Budget and Planning is also flexing his muscle to wrestle for the seat.

Joda who has since engaged party stakeholders within and beyond the state has made a series of commitments to prove to the party members of his ability to govern the state if nominated during the governorship primaries.

However, the PDP chairman in the state, Col. Agbu Kefas (rtd), in one of his interviews with journalists said the governor and the party are going to provide smooth ground for all aspirants who are in the race irrespective of the zones they came from.

Though Kefas emphasised that both the party hierarchy and the governor suggest a power shift to the north in respect to the party’ earlier agreement, everybody from the three senatorial zones were allowed to participate for the sake of democracy.

“Is undemocratic to stop anybody from contesting an election, but this is our stand, that power should go to the northern part of the state, zoning has always been there.” Kefas stated.

As much as it is critical that the party gets its acts together, the challenge is whether the party will be able to close ranks and get a candidate that all aspirants can rally behind ahead of the polls.