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THE SURPRISE IN TARABA

The emergence of Agbu Kefas as the governor-elect carries with it an enormous responsibility, writes Dele Olowu



 

The military often rejoice in the notion that surprise is the first element of war. However the emergence of Lt Col. Agbu Kefas as Governor-elect of Taraba State is a tale long foretold. He did not get to this summit in one sudden political leap. Instead it has come as a prize, at the end of a long struggle, in which every mile of the way was contested, challenged and litigated until he crossed the finish line. In the end, Col Kefas (rtd), candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Taraba was declared governor-elect having scored the highest number of votes in the March 18 election. M. A Abdulazeez, a Professor and returning officer for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the State, said Agbu Kefas polled 302,614 votes to defeat the candidate of the New Nigera People's Party, Muhammad Yahaya, who scored 202,277 votes. This declaration caused great unease and surprise in many quarters. They had been important desertions from the PDP, some of them of significant political weight. Senator Emanuel Bwacha was one such Goliaths and his emergence as the governorship candidate of the APC, it was said, would banish any opponent, to the fringes. Col Kefas, a disputed aspirant at the time, was supposed to be particularly brittle. Indeed one Taraba expert proclaimed, that Bwacha, whichever political vessel he chose, was bound to win. Many of this type of aspirants, pumped up by their own self-importance, were too easily fooled by Col Kefas, this son of Wukari. Metaphorically speaking, Kefas seemed to wait on the banks long enough, for the bodies of his political opponents to float by! His opponents were both within and without the PDP. In the PDP his opponents chased him in a bitter contest up to the highest court in the land. The contenders were two in number, Hilkiah Buba-Jida and Herome Nyameh. The Supreme Court dismissed both appeals and declared Col Kefas as the rightful PDP governorship candidate. Now, as they say, the rest is history. But in winning, Col Kefas has been called not to a banquet but to regime of rigorous service.

 

 

No one knows this more acutely than the Governor-elect himself. Taraba State is one of the least indebted states in the country, but even at 93.18 billion Naira, it is substantial. With a monthly receipt of just over three billion Naira, Taraba State is amongst the nine least well provisioned states in the entire Nigerian Federation. Col Kefas will therefore be walking on eggshells as Governor! But the Governor-elect brings substantial management sense to the party. His experience in intelligence in the army as well as his tour of duty as Chairman Governing Board Of Directors, Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) will come in handy in the new dispensation.

 

 

Taraba warehouses a multiplicity of ethnic nationalities, hosts several religious persuasions and is populated by people who practice different professions, some hostile to one another. This environment has been productive of turbulence and this has tended to retard development in the jurisdiction. In many ways, the story of Taraba is one of a promise unmet. Taraba State, created out of Gongola in 1991, is largely agrarian, and its people are substantially farmers. If well managed, the state from its resources can meet our national food needs. The Mambilla with its verdant green landscape is the highest and perhaps the coldest point in the Federation. This clement climate once sustained entities like the Mambila Plateau Hydroelectric project, Baisa Timber Development Company, Nigerian Beverages Production and the famous Kakara Tea Factory once midwifed by European industry. I personally visited Kakara at the peak of its flowering in the 1980s. Many of these entities have since been losing weight and blood for several years. And the greatest brake on development has been the massive inadequacy of infrastructure.

 

 

This infrastructure default has not been helped by the inter ethnic tussles which have sometimes ravaged the land. Tenure, herdsmen and pastoralists have presented different mood for music for fight, for killings and for civic clamor. The state suffers. A plethora of panels set up in the past to address this portfolio of challenges has fallen short of meeting their targets. Col Kefas must arrive with a special sense of resolution determined to take Taraba into the freeway of development. He must usher a new sense of Union in the state; banish the partisanship and clamor of yesterday and point to a new tomorrow. He will attack the infrastructure deficit, source for more liberal funding and create a modern new state. Will all his 21 years experience in the army place him in good enough stead to win this war? Kefas is facing Mount Sinai and many say he has strong enough evangelical and political fervors to accept the transcendental and ordinary revelations he will receive. And it may be remembered that as the gubernatorial elections in Taraba were impending, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, a near huge political figure in Taraba politics showed no great respect for Col Kefas and the PDP when he spoke with unmitigated arrogance thus, "The PDP is not only becoming weak; it is becoming irrelevant; if you get power and you don't use it well, people somewhere along the line are bound to react." Considering what has followed, it may not be safe to speak with such pessimism about Col Kefas. Surprise is an abiding feature of his political DNA. He will need to use this special gift to rally his troops, embrace his opponents and commit to the Herculean tasks head.

 

 

The election has produced new heroes and unleashed a new dynamism in Taraba politics. Arguably, at the head of all this is Col Agbu Kefas. He must anoint all, both opponents and supporters with the healing balm, so that they can together transform Taraba.

 

 Olowu is a veteran Journalist


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