2023: Battle for the soul of Taraba begins

As politicians warm up for the 2023 general elections, ANDREW OJIH writes about the political scenario in Taraba state, particularly, with regards to the governorship race, which is becoming very interesting as a lot of intrigues have already started playing out.
Place of zoning formula 
The scene is tensed up partly because, based on the prevailing zoning arrangement, the three senatorial districts have all had a share of the number one seat.
Therefore the argument as to what should follow is not only intense; but also the build-up to a titanic battle of succession because the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is putting its house in order to wrestle power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP had been at the helm of affairs in the state since the return to democracy in 1999. 
Investigation reveals that as aspirants begin their various preparations on how to succeed Governor Darius Ishaku who is doing his last tenure, political gladiators within the ruling PDP and the main opposition, APC are beginning to make their intention known and their impact felt.
The gladiators

The power intrigues in Taraba state has shown that prominent politicians such as serving Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, business magnet Chief David Sabo Kente, Minister of Power Saleh Mamman, Senator representing the Central zone Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, former PDP state chairman, Chief Victor Bala Kona, Speaker of the State Assembly Dr. Joseph Albasu Kunni, Dr. Anthony Manzo, among others, have indicated their aspirations to lead the state.

Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP)
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha has distinguished himself as the People’s senator and has continued to shower his constituents with loads of gifts that has earned him their love, loyalty and admiration. 
The 57 year old third-term Senator representing Taraba South senatorial district at the National Assembly, hails from Donga Local Government Area of the state. He served as Commissioner for Agriculture during the First-term of ex-governor Jolly Nyame (1999 – 2003), he later represented Donga/Ussa/Takum Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2011 under the PDP platform.

The deputy Minority Leader fell out with the current governor over reasons that are still unclear to many, but may not be unconnected with his rather widespread popularity and acceptability in his zone when the governor’s popularity has continued to suffer remarkable setbacks.
The senator, no doubt is a grassroots politician, Bwacha seems to be on the crossroads now as many see him as a politician without platform. While he still carries the membership card of the PDP, many believe that his soul is with the APC as his running battle with the state governor has adversely affected his standing in the party. Considering the enormous influence state governors usually wield over the party structure in the state, Bwacha’s chances are said to be very slim.
Chief David Sabo Kente (APC)
For many observers of politics in Taraba state, Kente remains the uncrowned governor of Taraba state in the political equation leading up to the 2015 general elections. As a grassroots politician and leading philanthropist, Kente enjoys both the sympathy and admiration of the people across party, ethno-religious and zonal lines and is generally considered to pull a lot of “federal might” to his advantage.
Kente comes from Wukari Local government area of the state and observers argue that what may give him an edge over his contemporaries is that he has touched many lives through his DSK foundation which has provided succour to the less-privileged members of the society across the length and breath of the state. 
As a board member of the North East Development Commission, Kente also remains strategic in touching lives.
Understandably Kente, out of those eyeing Taraba number one seat through the APC, he has consistently being in touch with the party structures across the state. 

Dr. Anthony Manzo (PDP)
Senator Anthony George Manzo is widely regarded as an “energetic, motivated and highly dynamic leader with excellent strategic, leadership and management skills as well as extensive national and international experience coupled with his proven success in providing leadership and developing innovative initiatives in the private and public sectors.” 
The UK trained surgeon who hails from Zing local government area of the state comes from the first zone to have the shot at governorship before power moved to Taraba Central and now Taraba South. With the circle complete, people would naturally expect the circle to begin from the north to his advantage.
Engineer Sale Mamman (APC)
The 63-year old Mamman retired as an Assistant Director in the Taraba state Ministry of Works in 2002. He later became a full-time businessman and politician. In August 2019, Engineer Mamman was appointed Minister of Power by President Muhammadu Buhari, a position he occupies till date.
Mamman, according to many Tarabans, however, is considered one of the most unpopular politicians in the state at the moment. However the way he would be able to muscle his way around the political lockjam to make serious headways remains to be seen.
Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf APC
Prior to the 2015 general elections, little was known about Senator Yusuf A. Yusuf  in Taraba state even in the political landscape. His victory at the court over Marafa Bashir Abba who was initially declared winner of the Central zone senatorial seat took many by surprise. 
However, he proved himself a political weight to reckon with when he beat hoards of other candidates to retain his seat in the 2019 general elections.

Yusuf, 64 is a trained economist, academician and civil servant turned politician who is currently the Senator representing Taraba Central senatorial district at the National Assembly. He assumed office in 2015. Senator Yusuf hails from Nguroje, Sardauna Local Government Area of Taraba state. He is currently the highest ranking elected official under the platform of the APC in the state.
As a first timer to the governorship race arena, Tarabans believe that Yusuf would have to first of all contend with his party members who mostly feel he is not doing enough to support the party in the state.

Rt. Hon. Joseph Albasu Kunini (PDP)
The 53years-old Kunini is an academician and politician who currently serves as Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly. He hails from Kunini, Lau Local Government Area of Taraba state. Prior to his election as Speaker in December 2019, he was the Majority Leader of the State Assembly.
Victor Bala Kona:
Kona is the immediate past Chairman of the PDP in the state and has proven to have the capacity to lead the party to victory consistently.
The zoning arrangement is also to his favour since he is coming from the northern zone that is mostly favoured for the seat at this time.
However, Kona comes from one of the minority tribes in the state that has a rather very insignificant voting population. 
But some Taraba indigenes believe that “his massive acquisition of wealth including vast patches of lands all over the state has made most people see him as a true son who would invest heavily in the state if given the chance, contrary to other leaders whose investments are everywhere else but in Taraba.
From prevalent analysis, more so, despite being from a different zone, Kona is of a minority tribe that affiliates with the tribe of the current governor and his governorship may be considered by many as a continuation of the present administration by proxy. 
So while he may have the support of the current governor and the financial muscle, analysts are of the view that his popularity and acceptability may suffer remarkably once the race takes off properly.

The ultimate battle royale
From all indications, the ultimate and final contest may be between Victor Bala Kona of the PDP and Chief David Sabo Kente of the APC, if the APC wants to spring surprises in Taraba for the first time.
While most of these have not really come out clear to declare that they would be contesting the governorship in the state, their utterances, body language and the kites they have flown bespeak of their ambition. 

However, typical of politics in Taraba, it would not be a surprise if at the end of the day, none of these gladiators would end up in the race as early risers rarely make it to the end in the history of politicking in the state. 
What is most certain and anticipated is the fact that the race for the number one seat in the state promises to be the most intriguing, interesting and unpredictable. As the coming days promises to unfold a series of mind bugling political intrigues worthy of political scholarship.