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2023 Elections: The Governorship Permutations In Taraba

We are on the cusp of the political season which Nigerians has been waiting for with bated breath due to the uncommon and heightened weight of expectations.

The overwhelming feeling among Nigerians is that the change we all laboured to bring about in 2015 under President Muhammadu Buhari has largely remained unfulfilled. Nobody expected that under President Buhari our social and economic conditions would worsen to the point that the dollar will exchange for 700 and counting. Nobody thought that a bag of rice will sell for 30,000 naira from 17 thousand naira or thereabouts. Above all we thought as a General of the Army with proven war experience and having been involved in some of the most challenging security issues in the country which he successfully surmounted, the whole country will now be literarily under siege by all manner of security issues under President Buhari.

It is no surprising therefore as President Buhari prepares to make his exit next year, Nigerians are once again and justifiably so seeking for the genuine change that they hope will come to the country. Indeed they are not sitting down hoping that change will come by some benevolence of fate, they are actively working and engaging to ensure that genuine change comes on their terms. So by all accounts the 2023 elections from all indications is going to witness momentous changes that would probably make or mar the future of Nigeria.

And these changes are not just going to be at the federal level but at the state and grassroots levels as well.

Taraba state is certainly one of the states that will witness some of these changes and indeed it is about time too. In this regard, we should not only expect changes but also faces on the state's political canvas come 2023.

The drivers for these expected changes will come from the factors of the Muri-Kwararafa configuration of the state, ethnicity and religion. Much as we may want to wish away these factors especially for the negative effects they have on Taraba politics, they are however real and intrinsic to the running of the state. What we can say and wish is that these factors be deployed in positive ways to bring about the changes we desire in Taraba politics.

How can this pan out?

First the Muri-Kwararafa divide of Taraba. It is a fact of that Taraba is composed of the old Muri province which and the ancient Kwararafa confederation by history and culture. The Kwararafa confederation which superseded the Muri province extended right into present day northern Taraba. But the coming of the Fulanis resulted in parts of the old Kwararafa entities being subsumed into the new Muri arrangement with Jalingo as headquarters.

Today the old Muri province is made up roughly of the Northern and Central Senatorial zones leaving the southern zone of the state as Kwararafa.

In the context of current politics in Taraba, the northern and central zones are clamouring for a return to power to their zones having been domiciled in the southern zone under Governor Darius Ishaku which by next year would make it eight years. Although within the ruling People's Democratic Party, this arrangement has pretty much hit the rocks with the election of Lt.Col Kefas Agbu (RTD) from the south as governorship candidate, the Northern and Central zones are unrelenting in their clamour for power shift. A similar situation seem to have been playing out in the opposition All Progressive Party (APC) where until the recent court ruling nullifying the primaries of the party, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha from the southern zone was in pole position to run as governorship candidate.

The Northern and Central political figures in both parties in revolt of these developments have decided to pitch their camp elsewhere in order to actualise the dream of power shift. Thus Danladi Baido formerly of the PDP and Professor Mahmud Yahya also formerly of the APC have moved on to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and New Nigeria People's Party (NNPP) to pursue their governorship ambitions.

As it is now the governorship race in Taraba is looking to be a four cornered one mainly between Agbu of PDP, Baido of SDP,Yahya of NNPP and whoever the APC finally puts up following the fresh primary elections ordered by the Federal High Court Jalingo.

By all accounts this promises to be a battle royal as sub factors of old provincial solidarity as well as ethnicity will come to play a great part in deciding who among the four front runners will eventually win the Taraba governorship race come 2023.

The factors of ethnicity and religion are no less important.

The ethnic permutation it must be admitted will not be as decisive because the governorship front runners are from different ethnic groups and even if they succeed in clinching the support of their ethnic groups, this will not give them a decisive victory. Agbu will likely get the support of the Jukun ethnic group which he comes from and ditto Baido will get the votes of the Karimjos which is his ethnicity. Professor Yahya will for sure get the votes of his Fulanis of the north and central Taraba. But all of them will need decisive votes from the Mumuyes who are by all accounts the largest ethnic group in the state covering about up to seven local governments spread in both the north and central zones of Taraba state. Whoever amongst them get the votes of the Mumuyes who do not have a candidate in the governorship stakes, to add to his votes will most likely clinch the governorship of Taraba state in 2023.

This is where the religion factor will play a very significant role.

At some point in the race it will not be the factor of zone or ethnicity that will take the front burner but that of religion.

Being Christians Agbu of PDP and Baido of SDP would like to target the Christian votes in the state while Professor Yahya would expect the Muslims to vote for him. Along the line all would want to get substantial votes from across the religious divide.

So in effect it is shaping up to be a menu of political choices before the governorship candidates and whoever amongst them is able to manage it well can clinch the governorship.

My party the People's Redemption Party (PRP) has an eminently qualified governorship candidate in the person of Wukari Wasa a Marine Engineer in the race, his pedigree, blueprint to develop Taraba  in keeping with the PRP's track record of being a party of the downtrodden is something I advise Tarabans to consider , we can accept our party to give our best in all the electoral positions canvassed. Although we are realistic about our position in the race, Tarabans can expect our party to give the established parties a run for their money. And this all is to make for accountability in politics and governance which has been severely lacking in Taraba state.

By and large we can expect that the governorship race in Taraba will go down to the wire. All the governorship candidates from the major parties are in with a chance.

In the Taraba 2023 governorship stakes there is all to play for and there is no clear favourite. The PDP should not expect things to be hunky dory as it used to be. And the oft repeated statement that Taraba is a Christian state may also be debunked this time around. And it may also happen that power shift may come through the ballot box as it may also be that power will still remain in the southern zone.

All these are possible in the 2023 governorship elections in Taraba state. We pray that it turns out peacefully and well for the ultimate benefit of Tarabans at the end of the day.        

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