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Ishaku and the annulled Taraba election

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Darius-Dickson-IshakuTHE annulment of the election of Darius Ishaku, an Architect and the Governor of Taraba State, is shocking. Governor Ishaku was voted into office in April 2015 after defeating the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, in a keenly-contested election and runoff. He emerged winner. The news of the annulment of his election by the Taraba Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja was an immense shock to all well-meaning citizens of the state. In the controversial judgment, the Justice Danladi Abubakar Tribunal announced that Ishaku did not emerge the candidate of the PDP in a properly-conducted primary election and so must vacate office. Yet, he clearly won the elections by the valid votes cast and was so declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The tribunal’s ruling is puzzling, especially because not a single candidate in the PDP even went to court to challenge Architect Ishaku’s emergence as the PDP flag-bearer to contest the April 11 election! In the first run of the election, Ishaku scored 317,198 votes while the APC’s Alhassan polled 262,386. The difference between the votes of both candidates was 54,812. Over 100,000 potential votes were cancelled at some polling units.

However, INEC, through its Returning Officer for the election in the state, Prof. Muhammad Kariey, on April 13, declared it inconclusive and announced there would be a supplementary election within 30 days. INEC specifically said it took the position following its discovery that the total number of votes rejected and cancelled was more than the total votes with which Ishaku led the runner-up, Hajia Alhassan. Of course, INEC’s position made sense and Ishaku had no cause to argue against it despite the fact that he was leading.
The run off held on April 25 in Donga Local Government Area of the state, and some polling units in Bali, Karim Lamido, Takum, Ussa, Wukari, Yorro and Zing. INEC eventually declared Ishaku the clear winner of the election with 369,318 votes to APC’s Alhassan who scored 275,984 votes.

Immediately he was sworn in on May 29, Ishaku promised to be the governor of all Tarabans and asked for the cooperation of people in the quest to move the state forward. He acknowledged some achievements of former Governor Danbaba Suntai and promised to continue from where Suntai stopped. He urged the people to set aside all political, religious and ethnic differences and unite to move the state forward.
Towards tackling crime as well as religious and ethnic crises in the state, he promised that his government would introduce community policing aside urging civil servants in the state to be guided by the rules.
Governor Ishaku expressed his intention to work with traditional rulers in the state and always seek their fatherly advice on critical issues. He also galvanised Tarabans and charged them on what they will offer the state rather than what the state will do for them.
Despite the November 7 tribunal ruling, Ishaku appealed for calm and called on the citizens of the state to remain peaceful even as he expressed his decision to appeal the tribunal’s ruling.

However, the party chairman stated that the PDP followed every stage of the Electoral Act and the party’s guideline in the submission of the name of the governor and his deputy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). A week after the tribunal’s judgement, Governor Ishaku launched his “Rescue Agenda” for Taraba State while swearing in his 20 commissioners. The Rescue Agenda is hinged on the pillars of health, education, economic development, agriculture, peace and security.
The governor expressed his confidence in the judiciary and assured his supporters of his optimism that the judgement of the tribunal would be upturned by the Court of Appeal.

Judging by the vigour and manner with which the Governor and his team are carrying on, it’s clear that the mission to rebuild Taraba is very much on course. Ishaku’s experience as an architect of almost 40 years will come in good stead as he focuses on achieving his Rescue Agenda and transforming Taraba into a much more modern state. But the uncertainty over his election must be cleared first.

• Ikpechi writes in from Abuja


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