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Column: Senator Emmanuel Bwacha’s Desperate Political Gamble in Southern Taraba

 Iliyasu Gadu

As expected, the ward congress of the All Progressives Congress Party (APC) which took place recently  generated a lot of controversies.

In many of the states across the country, there were parallel congresses as factions led by political bigwigs jostled to impose their will on the proceedings.

Taraba state was not left out of the imbroglio when the party conducted its own ward congress. Indeed the state APC had gone into the congress on a note of its usual confusion and disarray on account of the fierce battle for control raging in its fold.

I had written extensively about this previously here and cautioned that if the party did not get its acts together by reining in the centripetal tendencies within it, it may once again come up short at the next circle of elections in 2023.

The Minister of Power, Engr. Saleh Mamman who is angling to become the next Governor of the state, is on opposite pole against a host of political stalwarts like Senator Yusuf. A. Yusuf, former Acting Governor Garba Umar UTC, former Governor Sani Abubakar Danladi, Engr. Ahmad Yusuf, Chief David Kente DSK, Chief Ezekiel Afukunyo, and a handful of others.

The struggle had rendered the state party executive led by Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi largely ineffective as the top political figures prefer to pursue their individual political ambitions without regards to party guidelines and processes.

This much played out at the recent ward congresses. The Minister was heckled and booed by protesters when he tried to insist on elections for the ward congress while the bulk of the members preferred consensus.

But it was in the southern senatorial zone of the state that the struggles were most fiercely manifested.  Indeed at the ward congress southern Taraba proved its billing as the hotbed of Taraba politics.

At play were not just the differences within the APC in the southern zone, but the undisguised interest by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the Senate Deputy Minority Leader that represents the zone in the red chamber of the National Assembly.  

The APC stalwarts from this zone include General AT Ibrahim, Rep. Danjuma Usman Shiddi Danji SS, Barr Danladi Kifasi, Prof Dalhatu Sangari, Chief David Sabo Kente and Chief Ezekiel Irmiya Afukunyo.

Chiefs Kente and Afukunyo have signified interest to run for the governorship elections in 2023 are involved in trying to win as many as the party members to their side in order to secure a favourable position when the state congress takes place.

Rep. Dajuma Shiddi who represents Wukari/Ibbi federal constituency in the green chamber of the National Assembly wants to be elected as Senator of the zone to replace Senator Bwacha at Senate in the 2023 general elections. Rep. Shiddi's ambition clashes with that of incumbent Governor Darius Ishaku who wants to go to the Senate on the platform of the PDP.

Senator Bwacha who also wants to contest for governorship of the state but is having difficulties in that regard from Governor Ishaku is making efforts at defecting to the APC in order to realise his ambition. Senator Bwacha is well aware that his activities in defiance of Governor Ishaku who leads the PDP in the state, will lead to his eventual expulsion from the party. Although he has strenuously denied it, his intention to decamp to the APC is the worst kept secret in Taraba political circles.

Indeed impeccable unimpeachable sources told me that Senator Bwacha has been in secret negotiation talks with the APC in Taraba to sound out the party's position on his imminent defection. But I learnt he was bluntly told that the APC will not endorse his quest to be given a chance to run for governorship under its platform.

Undaunted the Senator's next move was to try and secure the APC party structure at the grassroots in order to control it thereby strengthening his bargaining position when he eventually defects to the APC. And the strategy was to use his proxies in the APC to achieve that during the APC ward congress. A financial war chest allegedly running to two hundred and fifty million naira was budgeted for and allegedly released by the Senator to ''lubricate'' the operation of controlling the ward congress.  

But at the southern Taraba ward congress the combined forces of Chiefs Kente and Afukunyo, well aware of that move by Senator Bwacha worked to block it. The duo stood their ground that the congress should be decided by consensus rather than election which the APC favours over the latter. If elections had been conducted which the Senator Bwacha camp was banking on, the slush money would have been used to install the candidates favoured by the Senator.

Many in the southern Taraba APC point to Rep. Danjuma Shiddi as the cat's paw for Senator Bwacha's move. Indeed as some claim, the decision for Rep. Danjuma Usman to defect from the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was first conceived out in conjunction with Senator Bwacha when he started having problems with Governor Ishaku over his ( the Senator) governorship ambition. Rep. Danjuma Usman too had fallen out with Governor Ishaku who was his benefactor. The two hatched out an alliance in which Rep. Usman was to move to APC and work to secure the party structure in the zone thereby clearing the way for the eventual entry of Senator Bwacha into the APC with the hope to clinch its gubernatorial ticket while Rep. Usman goes for the Senatorial seat under the APC.

I also gathered that Governor Ishaku had taken a very keen interest in the ward congress. The interest of the Governor is to see to it that Senator Bwacha and Rep. Usman do not get the toehold that they are seeking in the APC to enable them realise their political ambitions. Rep. Danjuma Usman's ambition to become Senator under APC comes against Governor Ishaku who is also angling for the same position under PDP. The Governor knows that the duo of Senator Bwacha and Rep. Usman are in alliance against him and he will stop at nothing to checkmate them. 

As it is, Senator Bwacha is on the verge of being rendered politically homeless. He faces the possibility of being kicked out PDP for anti-party activities. He is unlikely to retain the PDP's Senatorial ticket as Governor Ishaku intends to replace him. Similarly, PDP has shut the door to his governorship ambition as the position will be zoned to either the central or northern senatorial zones, after Governor Ishaku who is from the southern zone where Senator Bwacha comes from.

Already the state Chairmanship of the PDP is being occupied by Colonel Dantala Kefas (rtd) from the same southern zone as Senator Bwacha. This effectively means that the party cannot have both its gubernatorial flag bearer and chair from the same zone.

To worsen matters further for Senator Bwacha, he can expect no joy in APC if he eventually joins. As a party that contains a number of bigwigs within it, no grounds will be shifted for him. He will have to fight for whatever he wants to get in the party against the well-grounded gladiators who would view him as a Johnny come lately.

It is quite clear that in the coming months as we inch towards the 2023 elections, the tempo of political activities especially in southern Taraba will witness very interesting developments. The scheming will cut across political parties as candidates seek to make alliances in order to advance their political ambitions.

With the calibre of dramatis personae involved in the political jostling in southern Taraba it promises to be very interesting months ahead indeed. 



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