By Chuwang Dungs, Jalingo
Darius Dickson Ishaku, fondly called DDI, is in his sixth year as Governor of Taraba State and all hell seems to have broken loose around him. Myriad of daunting challenges confront him. Face with the challenges of completing multiple gigantic projects, his administration is being accused of series of corruption and embezzlement and the prolonged agitation by retirees protesting against the non payment of pension and gratuity.
So far, DDI has remained resolute in his intentions and appears calm even as his government is buffeted by raging storms. He needs to successfully weather these challenges to be seen as a statesman. Or else, the year ahead may dim his and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chances of winning the 2023 general election in the state.
One fact that no one is willing to challenge with facts in Taraba today is that the present Darius PDP government has failed to deliver on its campaign promises. That has prepared a well-founded ground for the opposition to build on come 2023.
Everyone with a knowledge happenings in the state, irrespective of party affiliation, is a living witness to the abysmally poor performance of DDI in the last six years. The devastation that has befallen the people is simply exceptional. People have listened to sad and shocking comments by staunch PDP supporters and financiers who could not hide their frustrations and regrets.
The Governor was recently in the news for allegely looting the treasury of the state to the tune of N39 billion.
The Taraba Integrity and Accountability Group Jalingo (TIAGJ), petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, claiming that the accounts of the Taraba Government House, in Jalingo, and the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, are channels through which billions of Naira were siphoned from 2015 to 2020
TIAGJ alleged Ishaku’s younger sister, Mrs. Gladys Kande Mamman, a member of the Taraba State Primary Education Board, uses pseudo companies linked to her BVN to launder billions for the governor via hoax contracts.
Since the birth of the state in 1991 under the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Taraba has had three duly elected governors, starting with Jolly Nyame, a generous cosmopolitan politician and master political planner. The other is the late Danbaba Suntai, though his tenure was cut short on October 25, 2012, when he was involved in a plane crash after serving for about 5 years, Danbaba is no doubt the architect of modern day Taraba going by visible evidence that abound in the state. Late Suntai is today rated the best in the state’s democratic experience. Like him or hate him, Suntai’s accomplishments as governor are unshunnable in every area he chose to direct his energy.
Not only did he manage the economy of the state to the best of his own ability, he was able to maintain peace and security during his tenure. It is to his eternal credit that he ensured the speedy extablishment of Taraba State University, Federal polytechnic, Bali among many others.
Suntai consciously raised the bar of governance, leadership and public service to a model plane during his years in office, a feat that endeared him to all Taraba sons and daughters, home and abroad. Teachers, civil servants, retirees, the youth and the elderly now reminisce over the Suntai years and how he positively touched virtually every aspect of every Taraba life.
They speak of his unmatched prudent management of the lean resources of the state with an animated nostalgia. His foray into politics, they say, is totally devoid of personal enrichment in a country where public office is seen as license to loot.
Anyone who worked closely with Suntai during the period he held sway as governor, is a living witness of his many achievements; because they saw them all. For one who has been sufficiently close to the state and the former governors, can competently comment on their individual performances.
DDI was re-elected for a second term of four years in the February 2019 elections, where he beat his closest rival from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in an election that was characterized with ethnic and religious sentiments.
Some political analysts in the state said since he came to power, DDI has not made any impression, no impressionable progress, no tangible infrastructure or achievement seen on ground. Even the economy of the people is not buoyant anymore, everybody is disenchanted. In terms of welfarism and diplomacy his administration is being rated at zero percent.
Auwal Jen, a political analyst, believes 2023 election will be interesting. Mr Jen said the poor welfare, poor performance of the governor in the last six years and public resentment against his administration would ensure “a sweat-less victory’’ for the opposition.
DDI’s greatest headache has been from Sen. Emmanuel Bwacha, representing Taraba south and a member of the PDP.
Bwacha, who also doubles as the Senate deputy minority leader, has regularly criticized the Darius style of leadership. At present Darius has deployed all manner of resources to fight Bwacha.
The unhealthy rivalry between them got to a head recently when Bwacha in a motion at the floor of the senate said 14 people from his constituency were in detention after a quarrel with the brother of the Governor.
Consequently, the state government organized a press conference, warning Bwacha to desist from politics of lies and blackmail.
Addressing the press in Jalingo, the state capital, the state commissioner for Information and re-orientation, Danjuma Adamu, rebuked the deputy senate minority leader for linking the state Governor with the detention of the youths.
Adamu said, “when Senator Emmanuel Bwacha moved a motion in the senate against the arrest and detention of 14 youths, he said the youths attacked a person who is the “younger brother” of the Governor of the state.
“This is wicked and a deliberate attempt by senator Bwacha to drag the Governor into an issue he knows nothing about.
“Clearly, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha is defending the arrest of the “Bwacha Brought Ups”. No wonder, he is trying to defend the indefensible as the law is already taking its course.
“In view of this falsehood, the Taraba State Government is compelled to react and clarify the issue.
“The Governor has always been a promoter of the principles of separation of powers and cannot do anything to interfere in the duties of the police or the judicial arm of government.
“It will therefore be preposterous for the Governor to descend so low to meddle and influence the action of the police.
“If the sponsors of the youth, particularly Senator Emmanuel Bwacha has anything against the action of the police for the arrest and detention of the 14 youths, he should go to the court to seek redress.
“It is wrong for Senator Emmanuel Bwacha or group to link the Governor to the arrest and detention of the youth simply because someone or some people are trying to seek cheap publicity.
“The Governor stands to gain nothing from the arrest and detention of the youth and the Taraba State Government wants to advise those trying to drag the Governor into the issue to look elsewhere.
“Governor Darius Ishaku’s concern at all time is the promotion of security, legality, peace, and progress of Taraba State. This has been his focus since he assumed power in May 2015 and he will continue to do so, by the grace of God.”
Similarly a group known as Concerned Southern Taraba Elders also blasted Bwacha for linking Governor Ishaku to the arrest of the youths in Jalingo.
In a Press briefing by the concern elders in Jalingo, they said Sen. Bwacha is picking up a fight with the governor for no reason.
Leader of the elders, Sale Pimtim who spoke for the group, dissociated the elders from the action of the senator, which he claimed was borne out of malice for the state governor.
He said, “as Stakeholders from Southern Taraba, this is not the time to remain silent when the exalted office of a Governor is being desecrated or painted in negative over issues involving persons reasonably suspected to have committed serious offenses.
“To drag the Governor’s name or his alleged brother’s name in this matter shows the level of malice that Senator Bwacha has developed against the Governor.
“As Elders, we are worried that Senator Bwacha will descend so low to raise a motion on the floor of the Senate to seek to set his political thugs off the hook despite the heinous offenses they are alleged to have committed and are currently facing the full wrath of the law.
“It is common knowledge that Southern Taraba has suffered and is still suffering from the evils of bandits, kidnappers, herdsmen, and other allied criminals which have resulted in the death of over 200 persons in the area; including security men, women and children.
“Yet Senator Bwacha has never raised a motion on the floor of the Senate over these security problems in Southern Taraba, which have claimed many innocent lives.”
“It is therefore strange and surprising that the Senator finds the arrest and detention of 14 youths, who are alleged to have committed serious offenses, more important than the lives of law-abiding citizens and security men that are being killed on daily basis.”
The general view is that the battle between the duo is for the 2023 southern Taraba senatorial election, feelers are of the view that Darius will run for the Senate in 2023 though he has not announced any such intentions. This secrecy may be a strategy given that he is facing serious resentment in the zone and the entire state.
It is therefore expected that while Ishaku will seek to deploy incumbency power to upstage Bwacha, the latter on the other hand will exploit federal might, political experience and grassroot support at his disposal to confront the former.
Our reporter also gathered that while Darius is busy removing civil servants perceived to be Bwacha’s supporters and loyalists from “sensitive and juicy” positions, Bwacha supporters are busy gathering facts against the administration to use it as a strong campaign weapon against him and to possibly sent him to jail after his tenure.
No doubt the rivalry between Darius and Bwacha has resulted to an epic battle between political forces loyal to Darius and those loyal to Bwacha.
The battle, is expected to peak in the 2023 general election when both forces fight for the elective positions.
To the average politician, and politically exposed person in the state, Darius isn’t a very popular politician, perhaps, not as popular as Bwacha, who played a vital role in making him governor in 2015.
In 2015, Darius from the blues, and even without a campaign secretariat or campaign structure became governor, mostly because of the PDP establishment then and the influence of Gen. T.Y Danjuma who provided the much needed resources without hurting the main opponents of the party.
In 2019, despite complaints from the sidelines and scheming to upstage and stop him from having a second term, Darius triumphed again, because the PDP knew the implication of discarding a sitting governor while being confronted by no less a formidable opponent with “federal might” as the APC.
It is obvious the PDP thought it wise and rightly so, not to fight from two fronts: one against a sitting governor, and against the APC, whoever their candidate would be. So, Darius got his second term in an election that was marred with ethnic and religious messages.
The zoning formula helped Darius to rally support across the state, especially, from the Northern Senatorial District, which believes it is their turn to produce governor in 2023, supporters of the zoning formula in the APC even voted for him against the APC Northern candidate.
Sen. Bwacha is a key player in the state political scene, he has been very active in the stage since 1999 and can therefore not be wished away with the wave of the hand, just because a governor and some of his followers and supporters are fighting him.
Insinuations are already making the rounds that Bwacha would likely defect to another political party in the event that PDP leadership decide to take sides, a situation that would no doubt affect the fortune of the party in the state.
It is obvious that majority of those, who are still with Darius are with him for their economic survival rather than convinction.
A supporter of Bwacha from the southern zone, said their boss would not expose the strategy he intends to deploy to fight Darius politically “Our people cannot support a failure and a stingy person. No, that is not the best for our zone. We will work together as a team and as one to defeat him in the event he contest for senate.”
A PDP supporter and Bwacha loyalist, Sule Manga, who described Ishaku as an “accidental governor” said Darius has no “political experience and political credentials to compare himself with Bwacha. He noted that Ishaku tenure in office is the worst that the state has ever had since the return of democratic rule in 1999.
Manga equally described the governor as a legendary failure who is leaving the state worse than it was when he took over in 2015. He said no matter the number of awards the governor keep purchasing, the “lies” he keep propagating and no matter his control of the media to spread propaganda and falsehood, the people know the truth.
Manga said the governor and his ‘herd of clappers’ should understand that the people of Taraba State whose lives have been made miserable by the governor’s misrule will continue to pray that there would be no repeat of the mistake that brought him into power.
He said there are no better indications of the governor’s failure than the dysfunctional educational system, comatose healthcare, gargantuan debt, and several other negatives.
According to him “It is already on record that it is during the tenure of Ishaku that Taraba was ranked as one of the most indebted states and the least fiscally responsible state in Nigeria.
He said PDP needs a man, like Bwacha who is highly acceptable, to maintain power in the Southern zone.
The high point of clash between the political titans would be who would outsmart the other to clinch the party’s nomination ticket.
However, with the power of incumbency at Darius disposal in the state, Bwacha and his political soldiers really need to put on their thinking cap to retain power in 2023. And no doubt the year 2023 will be challenging for Darius to prove his political net worth.
Meanwhile, observers think the state political stakeholders must begin to act now to avoid mounting tension between the governor’s supporters and those of the senator before it snowballs into unimaginable hostilities as undeniably, verbal war is already being deployed by rival camps to canvass superiority over another.