Southern Taraba Senate: Gov Ishaku’s hurdles

Ishaku

Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku has expressed his intention to contest for the Senate seat of Southern Taraba. If the calculation works, he will take over from Senator Emmanuel Bwacha of the APC. Bwacha, who is also serving the last phase of his three terms in the senate, is in the race for the governorship of the state.

On face value, Ishaku’s aspiration is a smooth sail. Aside his party, PDP, presenting him as an unopposed candidate at the 2023 general elections, he has a lot to show in terms of achievements in some sectors of the economy and his patronage of the Southern Taraba senatorial district, in terms of political appointments. His hands are filled with a good number of political appointees and loyalists, who are beneficiaries of his administration. Incumbency factor will also play a big role.

Even as Ishaku’s ambition to be a senator appears to be a fait accompli, some factors may pose a stumbling block. However, the vision for the second phase of his political odyssey revolves around him; as such, his success revolves around his last minute decisions and calculations that can either make or mar his ambition.

So far, he appears to be walking the safety lane. Throwing his weight on Aminu Kotolo, presumably, a signpost of the party’s consensus candidate, is on target. Support for Kotolo epitomises the power shift or zoning ideology, with a significant bend on fairness in the party’s leadership selection process. But there is more to it. To Taraba state politics, Kotolo is a stainless figure with less encumbrances. Based on his antecedent, he is a sellable political material. His passion for youth development and entrepreneurial drive endeared him to youths of the state, even as he has touched positively, the lives of many through his philanthropic gesture.

However, as the party’s primary election approaches, there are other issues that need some creative approach and tact. These issues revolve around the southern Taraba political landscape, where the governor will be jostling with candidates of other political parties to win the votes of the electorate. Under the circumstances, a tough political battle is envisaged.

The governor is expected to have a clear win in Takum, his home town, Ibbi, and Ussa. However, Wukari and Donga, where his deciding votes are expected, will be a fierce political battle. In Wukari, for example, the DSK and Danji SS opposition factor will manifest in strong waves. They are likely to form a formidable front against Ishaku. Like striking workers, there are other factors that will picket the corridors of his aspiration. His support for Daniel Adigrace, Wukari local government chairman, for House of Assembly membership is one of them. It’s believed that his choice for Adigrace will disgrace him. The people are unhappy, not only because Adigrace is unpopular, but they wonder why Adigrace, who hails from Jibu ward, is being foisted on them, when it is the turn of Avyi ward to take the slot.

As the people in Wukari 2 constituency bicker over Ishaku’s imposition, Wukari 1 constituency are also blaming the party chairman, Kefas Agbu, for fronting unpopular Mr Jethro Yakubu, from Chonku ward, thereby shortchanging Akwana which take the slot. On the whole, it is the perception of an ordinary Wukari community member that Governor Ishaku and Agbu partitioned Wukari, politically, to serve their selfish interests.

Ishaku needs a political solution that will neutralise these negative perceptions against him. However, there is no lost hope. Governor Ishaku has patronised the people of the local government with a good number of political appointments. They are likely to stand by him. Like Wukari, Ishaku needs to win in Donga to realise his ambition. Unfortunately, Donga has a complex politico-cultural puzzle that is honeycombed with ethnic nuances. Aside this, the Bwacha factor, which is the arrowhead of Ishaku’s opposition flank, is deeply rooted in the area.

Consequently, his support and choice for aspirants in the ongoing consensus intercession might have some negative impact on his chances of winning in the local government. At present, Ishaku has a difficult choice to make. Majority Leader of Taraba State House of Assembly, Hon Douglas Ndatse, and his Chief of Staff, Hon Istifanus Gbana, have locked horns over the House of Representatives seat of Takum, Donga and Ussa federal constituency. Whichever choice that he makes, he will lose some votes and get some. In the end, ethnic and clannish considerations will be activated, either in his favour or as a potent political weapon against him.

Gbana is a Kpanzon man, a loyal party man, who is diligently serving the governor; while Ndatse is Ichen and also a die-hard supporter of the governor. In spite of this challenge of choice that Ishaku might be facing, political pundits are giving it to Ndatse. According to their permutations, since Governor Ishaku’s threat in the Donga is the Bwacha factor, fronting Indatse, who is also Ichen, will weaken the stronghold of Bwacha and add votes to Ishaku. His support for Gbana will be a miscalculation. It will tantamount to arming the Ichen with a reason to swing boldly in the camp of their kinsman, Bwacha, since they have no stake in the arrangement. It is the view of political pundits that if this choice is convoked, Ishaku will harness many votes from Ichen, just as bloc votes will come from Kpanzon, with or without Gbana as governor’s candidate.

Ironically, all the aspirants are from Kpanzon. This, as the writer confirmed, is based on the party’s consensus arrangement. However, the choice of Gbana will portray a Kpanzon affair in the ongoing political calculation and then Ichen may protest with their votes. The lower ladder of the political contest, which is the House of Assembly, has its challenges. Favouring a wrong person, as the party pushes for a consensus candidate, will count as a minus or plus on Ishaku’s quest of securing a win in the local government.

In Donga, there are eight aspirants, with each looking forward to have the blessing of the governor. They include: Nashuka Ipeyen from Nyitar ward, Nashuka served two terms as vice chairman Donga local government, and rounding off his second term as substantive chairman of the council. Indo Mackson hails from Kumbo ward, but married in Nyita. She is secretary, Taraba State Primary Health Development Agency. Engr. Ushiki Danladi is a retired permanent secretary, while Titus Vojiki from Dutse ward was accountant general of the state during the Sani Danladi and first term of Ishaku administration.

Other aspirants are Hon. Eric UJ Yohanna of Nyitan and Nichodemus Ali from Dutse ward. Until his contest, Nico was director of finance at the Taraba State Basic Education Board. He has a huge investment in the hospitality industry, across some local governments in the state.  Yohanna, who hails from Nyita ward, is a scion of Senator UJ Yohanna. He was adviser to Governor Ishaku, but resigned recently to pursue his political ambition.  Philip Angulu Kadiri hails from Samso, in Dutse ward. He worked briefly with EFCC, and is now an Abuja based business man. Last but not the least is Yahaya Ali Kumbo from Gata-aure ward. Yahaya is a Lagos based businessman. Ironically, only four of the eight aspirants fit into the community’s preference chart. They are Kadiri, Kumbo, Yohanna and Ipeyen.

In pursuing his senatorial aspiration, Governor Ishaku should avoid candidate imposition. Instead, he should play his leadership role by creating an enabling environment for every aspirant to prove his worth in the market of delegates.

Maiyaki, a Taraba state born political analyst, writes from Abuja