2023 and APC’s quest to take over Taraba

ANDREW OJIH in Jalingo, ahead of the 2023 general elections, looks at the issues that will determine, to a very large extent, the outing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Taraba state

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.
For many, their choice of candidates and lack of coordination was largely responsible for their failure in the 2019 general elections. 
The performance of the party in the 2019 elections was not as impressive as one would have expected, due 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 2023 polls, the choice of who will fly the party’s flag will determine whether the jinx of PDP’s twenty four years stronghold on Taraba will finally be broken or the APC will have to stay another four years in active opposition in the state.

A chieftain of the party once said,”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’re very ready to usher in someone 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.”
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 favor 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, Deputy to late Governor Danbaba Suntai who was impeached and later reinstated by a Supreme Court judgement has shown interest. Danladi who later became the acting governor of the state was the flag bearer of the APC in 2019.
Today, Taraba parades array of politicians aspiring for the position. Garba Umar UTC, Chief David Sabo Kente, Alhaji Garba Umar UTC, High Chief Ezekiel Irmiya Afukonyo, Hon. Saleh Maman, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, among others have also shown interest in the plum seat.

Sani Abubakar Danladi
As stated above, Sani Danladi came to the political limelight when he was chosen as the running mate to the late Governor Danbaba Suntai in the runup 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 in 2018 to pick the ticket of the party and would most likely not throw their weight behind him.
Danladi’s influence started witling down 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 ten years.
With this Apex court judgement, the political stamina of Sani Danladi towards his aspiration for the 2023 election and beyond has been truncated.
Garba Umar UTC
A 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 the most patronised politician 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 statesman 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 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 lost 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.
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. 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 borne by letting the zone kick start the rotation this time”.
More so, 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 banning of Sani Abubakar Danladi from contesting and holding public office for ten years. 
The judgement has therefore, open 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.
DSK,  a household name in the political circle in the state had been a chieftain of the APC since 2015 and has remained a loyal party stalwart even when the party was thrown into a deep crisis after the emergence of Danladi as a flag bearer in a most controversial manner, creating resentments amongst the party ranks in the state.
DSK, a Philanthropist, a detribalised politician and a business tycoon has built a formidable political structure in APC close to a decade across the nooks and crannies of the state which has given him a big advantage to excel above any prospective aspirants under a free and fair atmosphere for contests within the party.
High 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 grassroot mobilizer, Afukunyo is currently the Chairman of the governing Board of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi. 
As notable and reputable Personality from Ibi Local Government Area of the state, Chief Ezekiel Afukonyo, State Governorship aspirant, current Board Chairman of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, 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.
Engr. Saleh Mamman
Former minister of Power Engr. Saleh Mamman, is one of the leading contenders of the number one seat of Taraba. Mamman has remained in the Progressives platform since the return of democracy in 1999. He has identified himself remained a desciple of President Muhammadu Buhari all along. 
His followers believe that if he had galvanized the people and carried everyone along, his journey to the Jalingo Government House wouldn’t have been a difficult one.However, same observers now see Mamman as a sinking ship in the race to clinch the APC gubernatorial ticket. But his role during the ward and local government congresses in Taraba leaves much to 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.
Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf was educated at Ahmadu Bello University where he obtained a Bachelors degree in Economics in 1980 and then the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, where he obtained a Masters in Economics in 1983.
Yusuf A Yusuf 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 was not declared the winner as his opponent Bashir Marafa of the Peoples Democratic Party was declared the winner of the elections.
However, Yusuf dismayed by the outcome of the elections petitioned the Taraba State Election Tribunal, which on completing its investigations and with indicting evidences of election inconsistencies removed Bashir Marafa as the winner of the elections and subsequently declared Yusuf the winner of the senatorial seat of Taraba Central Senatorial District.
Now in his second term in the Senate, Yusuf has indicated interest in running for the governorship of Taraba state in 2023.
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 enthron as the flag bearer of his party.
But as a serving senator financing the process of his emergence may not be too difficult. Observers however believe that it one thing having the financial wherewithal and another to have the support of the people.
Barr. Danladi Kifasi
Born on 1st January, 1956, Mr. Kifasi had his early education and secondary school certificate at Wukari Division Combined Secondary School, Takum, Taraba State. He thereafter attended the Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna where he obtained a Diploma certificate in Accountancy in 1976.He also obtained his ACA (ICAN-NIGERIA) in September,1997 before proceeding to study for ACCA at the London School of Accountancy, West Browich Collage of Technology and Trent Polytechnic (now Trent University),Nottingham, England. Mr Kifasi also attended University of Abuja, Abuja for his Bachelor Degree in Law in 2008 and later, the Nigeria Law School for his Barrister at Law Certificate (BL).
Mr. Kifasi retired as Head of Service of the Federation, but was Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance as well as Ministry of Petroleum. He started his working career with Ahmadu Bello University in the Bursary Department from 1976-1977.
From 1983-1999,he worked with the Jos International Brewery Ltd ,Jos, first as Deputy Manager,(Accounts),and later as Chief Accountant ,BARC, a subsidiary of Jos International Brewery Ltd.
On 21st August, 1990, Mr. Kifasi joined the service of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources as Assistant Director (Accounts) and was posted to the National Livestock Project Division as the Assistant Financial Controller. 
He was later deployed to Federal Ministry of Finance where he was promoted to the rank of a Deputy Director (Accounts).In September, 1999, Mr. Kifasi was further deployed to the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation as Deputy Director (Accounts).In January, 2001 he was promoted Director and posted to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to head the Finance and Accounts Department.
He became Head of the Federal Civil Service under President Goodluck Johnathan and retired on same position under President Muhammadu Buhari.
Kifasi is quite 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 ask what impact he had made on the lives of the people of the state.
These are all credible candidates. However, their level of popularity, support base and disposition towards politics is what will make them saleable or unsalable for the number one seat of power in the state as things continue to unfold.
The only hurdle for the APC to grab the state come 2023 is 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 People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has already provided all the necessary ingredients required for a party to lose an election giving the fact that it has performed abysmally in providing the dividends of democracy to the people of Taraba.
The party that has ruled the state for more than two decades has its worsts performance under Governor Darius Ishaku. Many people within and outside Taraba feel that with the poor performance of Ishaku, that APC stands a very good chance to present itself as the viable alternative in the 2023 polls. 
However, the chances of the APC would be largely subject to its ability to put its house in order and concentrate on choosing the right candidate to be its flag bearer for the forth coming election.