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The Governor of Taraba State Dr Agbu Kefas has installed and presented Staff of Office to Barr S...

Column: Taraba sinking into Dictatorship under Governor Ishaku

At the time pro-democracy activists, civil society organizations, the media and conscientious Nigerians were braving the military rulers of Nigeria in the fight to restore democracy in the country, Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku was somewhere in Kaduna minding his architectural firm oblivious and indifferent to the struggle. 


Many were assaulted, detained, tortured and some even lost their lives in the process of designing a new civilian democratic dispensation for Nigeria.


Needless to say that although a professional architect, Governor Ishaku did not partake in the design of the new democratic structure that many in various ways across the country were marching and struggling to bring about. 


There was no record of him joining any demonstrations nor did he write articles in the media in favour of returning Nigeria to democratic rule like many others were doing at the time.


Indeed Governor Ishaku was not counted among the political elites like the G-34 that were crisscrossing the country forging political alliances and structures that would midwife the new political parties and institutions of the new civilian political dispensation which took off in 1999.


When the civilian political dispensation eventually took off and Taraba like all states in the country partook in the new political dawn, Governor Ishaku was not even counted among the emerging political figures in Taraba state.


But as God would have it, with the non-confirmation of the re-nomination of Chief Obadiah Ando for ministerial position at the Senate, Governor Darius Ishaku was thrust forward from obscurity to be nominated and confirmed for appointment as Minister in the cabinet of the President Goodluck administration and assigned as Minister of State for Power.


Thus through the stroke of providence as designed by the almighty God, Governor Ishaku who contributed little or nothing to the emergence of the democratic dawn in Nigeria became the unlikely beneficiary of the sweat and struggle of activists who braved the jackboots of the military for the enthronement of democracy. 


His ministerial experience and exposure put him in pole position to become the Governor of Taraba state at the general elections of 2015 which position he has occupied since then.


As the saying goes, ''one whose palm kernel has been cracked by the gods should at least show some gratitude''. As everyone knows including Governor Ishaku himself, on his ascension to power in 2015, he was not only little known in the state, he did not know much about the Taraba whose Chief Executive he became rather fortuitously. 


The expectation across the state was that he will improve on the legacies of the past Governors of the state and in the process deepen the course of democracy in the state by delivering the dividends of democracy to the people and allowing for the flourishing of ideas for development.


But as we approach the twilight of his rule in Taraba state, the overwhelming verdict of people in the state is that not only has Governor Ishaku failed to deliver on the expectations of the people, more ominously the governor is now trying to muzzle the very democratic tenets that brought him to power. 


As he becomes desperate knowing that the people of Taraba have given his administration the thumbs down and that he will go down in infamy as the worst governor yet to rule the state, Governor Ishaku is trying to cow not just the dissenters to his rule and control within his party but also the opposition. 


Through various contrivances which run contrary to constitutional and legal provisions the governor has sought to clamp down on opposition figures.


On trumped up allegations the Governor has caused the detention without trial of aides of leading opposition figures. In doing this, he allowed himself the privilege of being the accuser, the judge and the jury and determining the crime and punishment of those he accused.


In his next step in the attempt to muzzle the democratic space in Taraba, Governor Ishaku has moved to clamp down on independent media in the state. We can expect that the government owned media will normally be his amen chorus singers, brow beaten to sing his praises and feed the people with fiction about his so-called ''rescue mission'' in Taraba. 


But as expected Tarabans have no truck with the government media and instead prefer to turn on to the independent media in the state as their news source. 


The independent Taraba Truth and Facts newspaper and the Rock FM have become media of choice for Tarabans in this regard especially as they both always come out with detailed investigative reports on some of the malfeasance going on under the Governor Ishaku administration.


As expected, this has riled the Governor to no end; and he had the Chairman/publisher of both media outlets arrested, detained unlawfully even when the court he was arraigned released him on bail. 


The publisher was only freed after a massive clamour for his release by civil society groups, professional bodies and other well-meaning Tarabans who were outraged by this patently anti-democratic step taken by Governor Ishaku.


The action by the governor did not come as a surprise because in a budget presentation address to the state Assembly, in ungubernatorial remarks threatened to clamp down on any media outfit that publishes what he considered ''idiotic'' stories that was unpalatable to him.


But what should alarm us more in Governor Ishaku's journey to Golgotha in Taraba is the fact that he has for all practical purposes emasculated the Taraba Judiciary and the state Assembly, the other arms of government who are supposed to be independent as defined by the constitution. 


Using his prerogative as the disburser of funds for the two arms of government, the governor tries to keep them in check financially and in matters of appointments and promotion of judicial officers and assembly workers respectively in order to get them to act according to his dictates.


As I write, the state assembly workers have been on strike as a result of months of unpaid salaries.

As a result of all these assault on the civil liberties of persons who dare question his ways of governing the state, Governor Ishaku looks determined to deny the people of the state the benefit of the democracy that is in practice in other states in the country.


All these are unfolding as his administration is winding down and as he pursues his political ambition after his lacklustre tenure as governor of the state. 


As many have observed, his idea is to control the democratic space in the state in order to favour his political ambition regardless of what the people of Taraba think and the choices they want to make in the 2023 general elections.


Unless checked by the actions of relevant democratic bodies and institutions, Governor Ishaku will as he promised attempt to make nonsense of democracy in Taraba state. 


Taraba is a state in Nigeria and its people must be allowed to breathe the air of democracy as in other states. This is a challenge to the Judiciary whose officers are being denied the space to practice their profession without let or hindrance.


It is also the responsibility of the Police authorities to ensure that their officers deployed to Taraba state are not pocketed and pressured to serve the whims and caprices of the Governor Ishaku administration in violation of their rules of engagement and contrary to extant provisions of the constitutions and law enforcement procedures.


The office of the National Security Adviser which recently warned governors against denying the opposition in their various states the space to reach out to the electorate must also put political events in Taraba state under their radar.


The Nigerian media which all too often don't give states such as Taraba the scrutiny that it applies to other states in the country, should for a change put Taraba under its critical coverage. 


It should not be about reporting on routine government activities alone, the media coverage on Taraba should also focus on how the government of the state is adhering to the principle accountability of governance, allowing freedom of the press, expression and association as defined by the constitution.


Lastly civil society groups and non-governmental groups like the Center for Democracy and Development, CDD, CISLAC, Kukah Foundation etc, must also make it a point of duty to include Taraba among the states under watch for the observance of democracy as defined by the Nigerian constitution.


 TSU CRISIS: One too many in Taraba

Last Monday as students of the Taraba State University, TASU , prepared to sit for their semester examinations, the found the halls locked. On enquiry they were told that the University's lecturers and staff who were to conduct the exams had decided that the exercise will not hold due to the fact that their salaries of ten months had not paid. So on the part of the Lecturers it was " no pay, no work".


Frustrated and angry at being barred from writing their exams, it was all that the students needed to embark on demonstration against both the school authorities for not allowing them sit for the exams and also the state government for not paying the teachers.


The demonstration took a different and dangerous dimension when the students blocked the nearby Federal highway and spilled over to the town causing panic and pandemonium in Jalingo. 


It was at the Government House that they were stopped and dispersed by law enforcement agencies. 


Taking stock of this, we have come to the point where we can say the TASU CRISIS is one too many in Taraba state especially as it pertains the issue of non payment of salaries in the state.


As of the time of the TASU crisis, civil servants of the state, local government workers, state Assembly workers, pensioners have all cried out over the months of salaries owed them. 


All the complaints in this regard have been directed at the state government which unfortunately has not found ways to address the issue in order to mitigate the hardship suffered by the various categories of state public servants over the issue.


Indeed the response of the DDI administration has been to either dismiss the demands or if any, to resort to staggered payments to a favoured few leaving the bulk of the workers in the cold.


In my penultimate comment on this issue I beseeched the state government to be considerate and pay the state civil servants and local government their salaries in view of the yuletide season. I urged compassion and empathy from Gov DDI who is himself the son of a clergyman to put a smile on the faces of the state's workers so that they could spend this season in happiness and joy. 


But knowing his impervious attitude to such matters I hastened to warn that leadership is not about denigrating those to whom the almighty God has entrusted their fate into your hands. Leadership I told him is not about the leader attempting to play God or equating himself with the almighty as Gov DDI is doing now in Taraba in the state. 


I told him to learn from the lessons of leaders both here and abroad who took this path and ended up incurring the wrath of God. 


I told him that should he fail to pay the workers and civil servants their salaries, God to whom they have directed their cries will sooner than later visit him.


This admonition to Gov DDI I did less than two weeks ago.


No two ways about it Gov DDI by his insensitive ways should be held vicariously for the TASU and other discontent brewing in the state on account of non payment of salaries to the workers in the state. You cannot deny workers their hard earned entitlements and expect things to go well with your administration.


It will s not too late for Gov DDI to reconsider and climb down from his obdurate ways. He should as a matter of urgency arrange to pay all categories of workers in the state public service, their salaries. He should not delay it any further. And that truly is his only way to salvation. Otherwise he will continue to reap the whirlwind from the wind he has sown. 


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