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Taraba 2023 Governorship: Does Northern Taraba Have A Chance?




By  Iliyasu Gadu

As we approach the home stretch to the mandatory eight year tenure of Governor Darius Ishaku at Government house Jalingo the tempo of the debate is noticeably rising as to who should succeed him in 2023.

Familiar and new names are being bandied about in this regard in both the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressive Congress Party (APC). And it promises to be a compelling political contest within both parties as the aspirants jostle to pick the governorship ticket and between the two parties as they square off in the state governorship decider.

At the centre of the debate is the issue of whether the zoning arrangement that saw the governorship of the state rotate among the three senatorial zones in the state namely, northern, central and southern zones will be kept or jettisoned.

The tempo of the debate is rising because there are discordant tunes making the rounds as to the fact that the southern zone which is power now under the zoning arrangement with incumbent Governor Ishaku is likely to renege and retain power. Although this has not been confirmed by the ruling PDP, there are undisguised efforts by powerful interests both within Taraba state and outside it to draft Abuja-based top lawyer Barrister Damian Dodo (SAN) from the southern zone into the Taraba governorship race in 2023. Because he is influential, wealthy and well-connected, Damian Dodo's rumoured interest in the race is ruffling not a few feathers in the Taraba political firmament and this has politicians of the PDP persuasion mightily worried especially those who have been angling to succeed Governor Ishaku.

Another dimension to the issue has been the recent whirlwind decamping of Senator Emmanuel Bwacha to the APC from the PDP. As Senator Bwacha's who represents the southern zone at the Senate has always stated that his aim is to run for governorship for which he will certainly seek the APC's ticket, the issue of zoning has now been also brought to the front burner in the APC.

Predictably, the two senatorial zones, north and central respectively have been upping the ante in their determination to ensure that the principle of zoning is maintained in both parties to give the two zones the chance to produce the governor of the state in 2023.

And the issue is particularly strident in the northern zone which last had one of its own Jolly Nyame in power over ten years ago. The northern argument is that both the central and southern zones have had the governorship more recently with late Governors Danbaba Suntai and Darius Ishaku. So in 2023 the north should be given the right of first refusal before any other zone in accordance with the zoning principle.

But is the north united and ready? Indeed does it have an iron cast case to seek the governorship in 2023?

These questions are germane because behind the strident demands being made by northern Taraba politicians and elites for power to shift to the zone, there are significant cracks in their ranks which may torpedo the zone's chance of clinching the governorship of Taraba in 2023 under the zoning arrangement.

First let us look at the ethnic configuration of the zone and the political relationship between them.

In the northern zone, the Mumuye can lay claim to being largest ethnic group as they are predominant in two local governments namely Yorro and Zing and in great numbers in Jalingo, Lau and Ardo Kola. Politically they are very influential and have produced the first civilian governor of the state Jolly Nyame. And if the governorship is zoned to the north Mumuye sons will want to throw their hats into the ring.

But the Mumuye will be accused of being too politically greedy if they did so because apart from having their son as governor, one of theirs Abubakar Barde was the first civilian governor of the old Gongola state which comprised present day Adamawa and Taraba states.

Then let us consider the Wurkum of Karim Lamido. The Wurkum may not have the numbers of the Mumuye but they are no less politically influential. They produced Senator Sani Abubakar Danladi as Deputy Governor to Danbaba Suntai who was impeached and then replaced by another Wurkum Alhaji Garba Umar UTC. And of course there is the very prominent political personality from the area Danladi Baido who was on the cusp of clinching the PDP ticket which would have railroaded him to government house Jalingo after Jolly Nyame but for the intervention of President Obasanjo in Bauchi.

Like the Mumuyes the Wurkum will be liable of being labelled politically greedy if as it is being rumoured that both Garba UTC and Sani Danladi are interested in the race to be joined other politicians of Wurkum extraction.

Next are the Kona. They have never had the chance to the governorship of Taraba. Their best bet presently is under the PDP with Victor Bala Kona, wealthy real estate businessman and politician.

But the snag is that the Kona are arguably the least politically influential group among the five major ethnic groups in northern Taraba. They cannot on their own muster the critical enough political muscle to make their quest for governorship count. They will have to count on the Mumuyes and Fulanis to add to add to their own effort. And as they are great rivals of the Mumuyes and the Fulanis, they are not likely to get that support to make the cut.

Next are the Fulanis. Once the most powerful and influential group especially during the days of the Muri province where they wielded power through their control of the ruler ship, the Fulanis have now been relegated to the background politically as the ethnic groups which they dominated before have grown steadily in power and influence eclipsing them in some cases.

Although undoubtedly influential socially and culturally, they are nevertheless victims of their political history as the ethnic groups whom they dominated in the past like the Wurkum, Mumuye, Kona, Jenjos have never forgiven them for their experiences under Fulani rule. Under the circumstances it is safe to bet that a Fulani governorship candidate from any of the political parties will find it extremely difficult to win. This is a slam dunk.

And of course the Jenjos are in the mix too. Of them what can realistically be said is that they are prominent in other areas of endeavour but certainly they do not carry political weight. And their population which is the least among the five major groups of the northern zone is a draw back. It does not give them the weight to be able project any political project as a group. It suffices to say for a Jenjo quest for governorship of Taraba to succeed it have to take a camel to go through the eye of the needle.

So with all this significant political, social and cultural differences between them how then can the northern zone muster enough momentum to push for the governorship of Taraba state in 2023?

This comes up against the massive political and empowerment strides that the southern zone has made during the tenure of Governor Darius. Not only that, while the southern zone has made significant inroads into the political space of the northern and central zones effectively using ethnic and religious factors, the northern and central zones has found the southern zone a closed shop especially under Governor Darius Ishaku.

As it is now, the southern zone holds the political aces and it is not up to the northern or central zones to determine power shift in Taraba. It is the southern zone that can determine whether there could be power shift or not. And this due to the fact that the south have factors better political cohesion despite obvious political differences and a near homogeneity in language and culture. For instance virtually all the ethnic groups there are sub groups of the larger Jukun ethnic nationality and can translate this into ethnic and political solidarity against the north and central zones.   

The north can only make outlandish pronouncement and exhortation for power shift but lacks the political, cultural and social unity and muscle to effectively fight off any determined attempt by the southern zone to cling to power in 2023.

That probably explains the conflicting signals from the south on the issue of power shift in 2023 and the efforts being made by southern political figures to join the governorship race against the knowledge that the north disunited politically as it were may not be able to mount an effective counterpoise to deter the south from retaining power if they really mean to do so.               





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