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Column: 2023: Where Is Central Zone In Taraba Politics?

In the context of Taraba politics, the Northern and Southern senatorial zones respectively are undoubtedly the heavy hitters. This is measured in terms of presence of heavy weight political personalities, political sagacity and the like.

Northern Taraba arguably takes the lead in the roll call of such personalities in both the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC). The zone also hosts the state capital Jalingo which is regarded as the fulcrum of Taraba politics where most of the leading political bigwigs reside, do their business and politics.

Southern Taraba comes a close second. It also has its fair share of political personalities across both political parties. One can also say that under the administration of Governor Darius Ishaku who is from the zone, not a few persons from the area have become prominent in governance and the political arena adding to the status of the zone in Taraba politics.

In contrast to these two zones however, the central senatorial zones seems such a political lightweight going by political trajectory in the state.

Of course one could say that the zone produced in Late Governor Danbaba Suntai, probably the most influential and by the opinion of many Tarabans the best governor to rule the state. It was him who opened up Jalingo by embarking on so many infrastructure project leading to new layouts in the capital city.

Danbaba's influence was also felt most effectively in his commitment to security and no nonsense tolerance for lawlessness and acts detrimental to peace in the state. He may have been irascible and intolerant of dissenting opinions but few in Taraba can doubt that Governor Danbaba had a sense of purpose and was focussed on improving the profile of the state among its peers in the country. Many believe with the benefit of hindsight that had he not met with the tragic and unfortunate plane accident that resulted in his fatal injuries necessitating in a long hospitalization, governor Danbaba certainly would have made the desired impact in Taraba.

Governor Danbaba was from the central zone and his emergence as governor did not owe to his political weight which was nothing to write home about, but to fortuitous circumstances. He did not make the cut in the running for the PDP governorship ticket. It was a contest between Hon. Danladi Baido who was adjudged to be the front runner. And when Baido was disqualified by the fiat of then President Obasanjo, many expected the next person to Baido, A.A Ibrahim would be given the ticket. But then the incumbent governor then Jolly Nyame reached out and tapped Danbaba Suntai who was then the Secretary to the Government of the state and who until that fateful push given to him by Nyame had but a fleeting interest in contesting the governorship position of state if at all.

If anything the whole episode demonstrates that the central zone unlike the North and Southern zones got to the governorship of Taraba through governor Danbaba not by a determined push for it but by accident. Whereas the northern zone got the governorship by a push for it and ruled for over 10 years, and the south also by the same token and is now at the saddle which by 2023 will make it 8 uninterrupted years, the central got theirs by accident and Danbaba only ruled for 6 years.

So in the interest of fairness, the central zone can make a case for the governorship returning to it after the southern zone has completed its 8 years in order for the zone (central) to complete its complement of the mandatory two terms in office which Danbaba could not due to the tragedy that occurred. Indeed the central can also appeal to the moral and political conscience of the Taraba political establishment by saying that in the memorial honour of Danbaba and the good works he did in Taraba while he held sway as governor, the zone where he comes from should be compensated. This point is not far-fetched because it was used nationally to argue on behalf of the north after the demise of President Yaradua who died while in office and that was one of the underlying sentiments the north used to canvass for power shift which was actualised in favour of President Buhari although through the APC.

Further argument in favour of the central zone is that of geography of political zoning. In this regard, we started the zoning trajectory from the northern zone through Nyame. Then we transited to the central zone through Danbaba. And now we are in the south with Governor Ishaku who leaves next year. By the logic of the trajectory of political zoning, we should then move in anti-clockwise manner starting with the next zone after the south which should be the central zone. It looks incongruous to ignore or leap over the central zone in favour of the north. It is insensitive to say the least. We should move from the south upwards through the central and then to the north. That is logical and conforms to

But in all these,  the central zone seems to be muted in pressing its case for the governorship. While the northern zone is vociferously making a case for power shift to it preferably and the southern zone appear to be making subterranean efforts to retain power, the central zone curiously is not been heard making its own pitch too for power shift.

It is not as if the zone is devoid of individuals who can by right stand and be counted across both parties.

In the APC there is Senator Yusuf A. Yusuf the Senator representing the zone in the Senate as well as Bobboi Kaigama former President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC). There is also Ambassador Hassan Buba Ardo former state Chairman of the APC and immediate past Nigerian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago. Senator Abubakar Tutare who is now with the National Assembly Commission is also among the notable political personalities from the zone. Hon. Babangida Nguroje, former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives comes up for mention.

In the ruling PDP there is prominently, the former Speaker of the Taraba House of Assembly, Abel Diai and of course Gebon Kataps former Secretary to Taraba state Government.

With this array of prominent personalities it is curious that the zone seems not to punch its weight in the politics of the state.

Perhaps it may well be that the zone in many ways considers itself one and the same with the northern zone as a result of shared history and culture and language under the old Muri Emirate and province. Indeed this could be a strong contributing factor as most of top personalities from the zone were either born or bred in the northern zone. This makes the factor of division into northern and central zones a mere academic factor as the ties that bind them is stronger.

So perhaps the central zone believes what goes to the northern zone in terms of political power goes for them too and vice versa. And as such the central zone prefers to put its political eggs in the northern basket.

In the run up to 2023 governorship race we see this playing out as the north and central zones are forging a unity of purpose to insist that power must not be retained in the southern zone after Governor Darius Ishaku must have served his mandatory two terms of eight years. To both zones whichever amongst them clinches the governorship it is okay as it serves the larger Muri interest which both used to belong to.                      



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