Taraba PDP eyes 2023 as activist warns Igbo on Buhari’s certificate
The 2023 general election might be four years away, but for the Taraba State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the time is short for adequate preparations and planning. Efforts by leadership to ensure that PDP retains the state yielded fruits recently when the governorship candidate of opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 election, Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan, returned to PDP.
Alhassan, who is popularly called ‘Mama Taraba,’ waged a relentless electoral battle against the incumbent Governor Darius Ishaku for the governorship in 2015 and earlier this year, when she contested on the platform of United Democratic Party (UDP). Governor Ishaku is serving his second and final term in office and PDP’s leaders insist that the time is now to unite all tendencies for a successful outing in 2023.
AS calculations for the 2023 election cycle gain currency, an anti-corruption activist, Chief Dennis Aghanya, has warned Igbo of Southeast to cease further cyber attacks on President Muhammadu Buhari for his school certificate and start keying into his succession plan.
Aghanya, who is also the Executive Secretary of Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative (ARDI), said “Nd’Igbo should desist from this self-destructive tendency by chasing after Buhari’s certificate and strategize for the 2023 presidency,” expressing worry that the development exacerbated “since the Presidential Election Tribunal gave its judgment on the Buhari/Atiku case.
“All over the social media network it’s been my Igbo brothers at the forefront of the agitation for President Buhari’s certificate as if that would settle our political problem. This has kept me wondering what our priorities are politically and otherwise.”
Aghanya remarked that within PDP’s fold, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State applied ‘political wisdom’ by congratulating Buhari on his victory and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s state, Adamawa, has been very peaceful since the judgment. He, however, expressed regrets that Nd’Igbo have been making headlines in most media platforms excoriating the judgment “as if all our political problems begin and end with it.”
While explaining his concerns over the development, Aghanya remarked that before he chose to veer into anti-corruption advocacy, he had been agonising over how the zone keeps derailing in national politics, stressing, “it will affect some of us in the nearest future.”
On 2023 presidency, the anti-corruption activist said: “The North and Southwest are already strategising respectively on how to outsmart each other to clinch the ticket come 2023, but here we are occupying ourselves with the quest for President Buhari’s certificate. This is not good enough for us as a component part of the Nigerian federation. There is competition among the various tribes and we must desist from chasing shadows when others are chasing substance.
“We must not be seen as rebellious people at every slightest development, especially when it is not our battle. It is a total deviation from our value system of ‘live and let live’. Let’s learn to mind our business and allow others to sort out their problems.”
Patch-up in Taraba
FOLLOWING the political differences that led to the massive defection of some notable members in 2013, leaders of Taraba PDP have been applying all known strategies to lure some of the chieftains back. The recent defection of ‘Mama Taraba’ alongside the entire party executives of UDP to PDP came as a huge reward for the reconciliation efforts.
It would be recalled that the former Minister for Women Affairs left APC for UDP, citing “inhuman treatment” meted out to her and her supporters by the party a few weeks to the last general elections. She contested the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial poll in the state under UDP platform. Prominent UDP stalwarts that joined her in PDP include the state chairman, Alhaji Sani Chul and his deputy, Daniel Ishaya Gani, as well as other influential players.
The massive crossover, which was ostensibly in readiness for the 2023 electoral showdown, has not only uprooted UDP from the state, but also strengthened the ruling PDP, which has been controlling the state since the advent of democracy 20 years ago. Kicking-off the exodus last Saturday from UDP to PDP at Unity Hall in Jalingo, ‘Mama Taraba’ said the decision to return to PDP that brought her to limelight “has become necessary for the growth of the party, the state and the country at large.”
Although some observers believe her move was to further prove her loyalty to her political godfather, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, who was PDP’s presidential candidate in the last polls, others see her defection as a strategic positioning for the governorship, which she has been craving. The notable female politician did not hint at the jostle for the 2023 gubernatorial election, but The Guardian reliably gathered that should PDP adhere to its zoning policy, the former minister would be left with no option than to revive her aspiration alongside others from Taraba North geopolitical zone.
In line with the power rotation arrangement in the state, both Taraba Central and South have had their turns on the governorship seat. Consequently, Tarabans are looking forward to the northern part to produce the next governor.
FORMER UDP chairman, Sani Chul, disclosed that before the decision to quit UDP, a five-man committee was set up by the party, which “carried out wide consultations and survey on people’s views.” He said the committee, which was chaired by a former APC chieftain, who had earlier decamped with the former minister to UDP, Alhaji Abdulmumuni Vaki, “after going round and consulting with the people, agreed that Jumai should defect to PDP.”
Chul said: “The committee under the chairmanship of Alhaji Abdukmumuni Vaki recommended that all the opinions sampled from the masses and supporters of UDP from the 168 wards of the 16 local government councils in the state agreed that Senator Alhassan should join PDP for the development of Taraba State.”
Also, the former UDP deputy chairman, Daniel Ishaya Gani, said it was the unanimous decision of supporters of the party across the length and breadth of the state that prompted the entire UDP state structure to “decamp with ‘Mama Taraba’ back to PDP.”As at the time of filing this report, the defectors have not been officially received by Taraba PDP. But sources confirmed that the party’s top hierarchy was in the know and accepted their entry in principle. A source in the party told The Guardian that there was no way such a huge political development could have taken place without prior discussions at the highest level.
Also elated by the new impetus, the spokesperson of Taraba State PDP, Alhaji Inuwa Bakari declared: “Her (‘Mama Taraba’) coming would add value to PDP, because politics is a game of numbers. We are aware that she and her supporters have dumped their former political party for PDP. The party will embrace her, because she will definitely enhance the value and fortunes of our party.”
Refusing to comment on the likely motivations for joining PDP even when the tribunal has ruled against Atiku, Bakari was optimistic that the former minister for Women Affairs’ presence in PDP would not only strengthen the party at the state and national levels, but also pave the way for more opposition actors to toe her path. He assured that the party would continue to provide level playing ground for all aspirants seeking elective positions irrespective of gender or agenda.
Recalling the difficulties PDP encountered in previous elections, other stakeholders, who spoke to The Guardian, agreed that the return of ‘Mama Taraba’ would make the 2023 election a walkover for the party. A foundation member of the party, who pleaded anonymity, said: “I’m sure you are aware of the difficulties PDP encountered before winning past elections? So, with her return such difficulties would be minimised, because she is not only a grassroots politician, but a woman of the people.”
Warning the party against indulging in actions capable of frustrating the returnee politician, the chieftain expressed the hope that with a level playing field, APC’s dream of “taking over Taraba State in the next election would turn out a mirage.”
Alluding to how the former minister made UDP popular in the state, the chieftain declared: “Her presence in PDP now, as far as I’m concerned, is going to take the party to new heights, because before now we were already losing popularity and strength to APC, especially since Engineer Saleh Mamman was appointed as Minister of Power.”
Alhassan’s return to PDP is now the dominant political topic of discussion in the state, and the development is, however, heralding anxiety in some camps within the party, especially among persons nursing 2023 gubernatorial ambitions. One of such ambitious elements confided in The Guardian that Alhassan’s “come back to PDP threatens our political ambition, because we all know our pedigrees.”How far Taraba State’s PDP would go in accommodating ‘Mama Taraba’ and her supporters, especially against the background of her grassroots following and governorship aspirations of Governor Ishaku’s inner men, would define the party’s path to 2023.