ANDREW OJIH from Jalingo examines the possibility of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has occupied the Taraba State Government House since the beginning of the Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation in 1999.
As the battle for the number one seat of Taraba state next year hots up, various forms of permutations have continued to trail the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with each intensifying efforts to outsmart the other.
Most certain and anticipated is the fact that the race for the governorship of the state promises to be the most intriguing, interesting and unpredictable in the history of the state as the coming days, a series of mind bugling political strategies worthy of political scholarship would unfold.
To narrow the analysis to the opposition APC in the state, some major party stakeholders across the 16 local government areas spoke and identified what may likely save the party from a repeat of the 2019 defeat.
There is no doubt the party is desirous of a suitable candidate who really could give the PDP a run for their money.
It is obvious that there are many aspirants for the gubernatorial seat in APC such as Sen. Yusuf A. Yusuf, Chief David Sabo Kente (DSK), Sen. Emmanuel Bwacha, Alhaji Umar Garba (UTC), Sani Abubakar Danladi, Prof. Muhammad Sani Yahaya (Contact), among others.
Interestingly, Taraba state is one state that has diverse ethno religious composition, which has every potential to grow and develop faster where the diversities can be utilised to place the state on high socio economic cum political threshold.
Religiously, both the Muslims and Christians occupy a very large population segment of the state, with each having a peculiar advantage at certain geopolitical zones to its advantage, but since it is a democracy, the pendulum could swing either way to produce the best that could entrench the desired development of the state.
It is common knowledge that the state as one of the most local communities with less intellectual endowment and capacity, adopts shrewd ethno-religious sentiments to the advantage of some politicians, unlike other advanced and intellectually endowed communities whose campaigns are issue- based.
One may recall that both 2015 and 2019 governorship elections which were keenly contested would have seen the emergence of an APC governor if politics of religion had not come to play.
While late Senator Aisha Jumai Alhssan was perceived and believed to have been the best candidate, Governor Dirus Dickson Ishaku of PDP used the religious factor to clinch the Taraba number one seat.
In 2019, the same game replayed itself and the PDP retained its position as the government in Taraba.
Before now, there were some misconception in some segments of the state that APC was a muslim party. What has given credence to this assertion was the fact that the two previous candidates, Sen. Aisha Jummai Alhassan (2015) and Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi (2019) that emerged as flag bearers of the party were muslims.
The popular adage that “once beaten, twice shy” accounted for why many on lookers in Taraba politics are of tgr opinion that APC should change the narrative in 2023 by not fielding a Muslim càndidate for governorship in the coming polls. They rather suggest that a Christian candidate should be tried this time around.
A tour of the sixteen local government areas of Taraba state revealed that there are several political heavyweight candidates within the APC.
Although opinions vary as to who they think the cap best fits, many political analysts see some salient qualities in Chief David Sabo Kente that stand him out as the best aspirant that may take the party to victory come 2023.
Aside the views of party chieftains across the 16 local governments, elders and major APC stakeholders from the state also maintained that if the party must achieve any meaningful result that would culminate into victory in 2023, the governorship ticket should be given to Chief David Sabo Kente.
Prof. Dalhatu Sangari, a chieftain of the party and a former governorship aspirant from the southern senatorial zone, is of the opinion that Chief David Sabo Kente was the suitable candidate for the party.
He maintained that Chief Kente would be a better candidate for the party because of his disposition towards Muslims and Christians in the state.
“I am 100 percent optimistic that Kente will defeat PDP and as you can see, he is the only aspirant so far that has won the hearts of both Muslims and Christians across the state.
The voice of Prof. Sangari is not alone. Elder statesman and a chieftain of the party, General Adamu Tobasi Ibrahim (rd.) otherwise known as AT Ibrahim beted that Kente is a man to beat if fielded by the APC.
Ibrahim also a former governorship aspirant of the party holds that APC should not make mistake of giving the ticket to any other aspirant other than Chief David Sabo Kente.
“I believe in what Chief Kente has been doing for the party and I know our party will win the governorship seat if he is given the ticket “
Another chieftain of the party from the Northern senatorial zone of the state, Hon. Abba Akawu Zaga said with Kente, the party would have less work to do in the general elections.
He maintained that with, a detribalised personality who has been carrying party members and everybody along over the years, the party will certainly win the governorship of the state in 2023.
Dr. Umar Dahiru Dorofi, another stalwart in the party from Sardauna local government area said “Kente’s consistency in the APC has showcased his level of discipline, maturity, stability, humility and patience and as well places him as an ideological-based democrat which is not common in our democracy today.
“These attributes no doubt, potray him as a good product to sell for the party, especially, as one of the outstanding member of the party in the state and as well ” he said.
Also Alhaji Muhammed Musa, APC strong supporter from Yorro local government said after the party lost in 2019, Kente remained one of the pillars that ensured that funding of the APC for its survival in the state was continued.
According to Musa, Kente, whose charity work has traversed all the length and breadth of the state is a neutral and detribalized individual hence he is widely accepted by both muslims and Christians.
He added that with some of these attributes, it has become crucial for the APC in the state to apply wisdom by trying a Christian candidate in 2023, having tried Muslims candidates in 2015 and 2019 and lost to PDP.
“My opinion is that Kente, alias DSK as one of the unifying stalwarts of the party has qualified in all spheres to fly the flag of the party come 2023.” He said.
For many observers of the intrigues in the APC, Kente remains the uncrowned governor of Taraba state in the political equation leading to the 2015 general elections. As a grassroot 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 pool a lot of “federal might” to his advantage.
Dr. Bakari Muhammadu said “what may give David Sabo Kente edge over his contemporaries is that he has touched many lives through his DSK Foundation which has provided succour to the less priJalingo, of the society across the length and breadth of Taraba, irrespective of religion, ethnicity and political affiliation.
Another major reason Kente is considered by many as the most ideal candidate of the party is the fact that he has remained consistent in the party. Muhammadu revealed that after the party lost in 2019, he has been one of the pillars that ensured funding of the party to remain afloat in the state.
According to Alhaji Yaro Jalingo, a party stalwart from Jalingo local government “the general impression about the APC in the state is that it is a Muslim party, and this notion has been given credence to due to the fact that the two candidates, Senator Aisha and Sani Danladi who flew the party’s flag in 2015 and 2019, respectively, were Muslims. And so a Christian Kente will not only correct the erroneous impression, but will win the party even more members, especially, among the Christian population.
“Unlike other aspirants who have allegedly taken sides with one religious group or the other, Kente has maintained a neutral stance, treating adherents of both religions with respect and dignity, thereby absolving the of any form of religious bigotry. As you can see, he is widely accepted by the Muslims and Christians,” said Jalingo.
More party members who are positively disposed to Kente stressed that another advantage of his candidacy for the party was APC would not be bogged with the issue of zoning.
Alhaji Ali Tella Gassol, also APC stalwart from Gassol local government said, while PDP that has held sway since the creation of the state is battling with the politics of zoning, APC can secure a credible candidate from any of the three geopolitical zones to clinch the ticket in 2023.
Understandably, Kente out of those eyeing the number one seat through the APC has consistently being in touch with the party structures across the state.
For many people, the PDP has already done all the campaign for the APC by the governor’s alleged remarkable failure to bring the needed transformation in the state.
However, for the party to be able to take advantage of the window of opportunity, it must first of all clear the wrong impressions about it, and field a widely accepted candidate and ensure that all the other interests rally round the person to ensure that the party’s ultimate goal in the state is actuallsed.
To sum it up, DSK as he is popularly known across Taraba state and beyond, is a household name. He is an all rounder: an accomplished businessman, a technocrat per excellence and a social crusader who takes people’s projects as his personal problem. Example of these concerns is the establishment of his DSK Foundation to cater for the needs of the less privileged in society and empowerment of widows, women and the youth on skills and trade.
Chief David Sabo Kente has remained one distinguished political figure in Taraba State that has directly or indirectly touched the lives of citizens. This is irrespective of their political, religious and ethnic affiliation.
The question is whether the Taraba APC would allow him fly the flag come 2023 governorship election.
Picture caption: Chief David Sabon Kente