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AISHA: First Female Gov…That Never Was


APC governorship candidate in the last general elections, Aisha Alhassan

APC governorship candidate in the last general elections, Aisha Alhassan

THE dream of the nation having its first female governor met a brick wall during the just concluded governorship election in Taraba. Senator Alhassan Aisha Jumai contested the position on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Apart from religion, which played a prominent role in frustrating her chances, internal wrangling in the party was also to blame. These factors gave victory to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which earlier had been at the verge of becoming expunged from the state.

The APC’s governorship primary, it would be recalled, was characterised by allegations of malpractice, a situation, which made all the four male aspirants to walk out of the venue of the exercise.

As if that was not trouble enough to clip the wings of the party’s aspirations, internal bickering, before and after its national convention in Lagos state, also dealt a blow to the party in the state, factionalizing the members.

While some embraced the camp of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, others pitched tents with the party’s presidential candidate, now President-elect, Mohammadu Buhari.

Unlike the PDP, which maintained one secretariat, the APC, due to the grudges that emanated from its convention, ended up with each of its faction floating a secretariat.

The lukewarm attitude of the party’s national secretariat is also to blame; it failed to wade into the crisis and unite the belligerents.

A source from the party’s national secretariat told The Guardian that during the national convention, refusal by Aisha and majority of the state’s delegates to queue behind the president-elect, who at the time was seeking the party’s ticket, made the secretariat drags its feet on resolving the crisis.

According to the source, Aisha and virtually 85 per cent of the delegates “were for Atiku Abubakar. So, I must confess to you that that alone made our national leaders reluctant to intervene in their disagreements.”

Had APC deemed it necessary to put its house in order before the election, its dream of triumphing over the PDP and presenting the country with the first female governor might have been possible.

This is because the ‘Kangaroo’ primaries of the PDP conducted in Abuja, instead of Taraba, forced a lot of PDP members to pitch their tent with opposition parties.

It was also insinuated in some quarters that the presidential candidate of the party would not be interested in working with a female governor. Besides party squabbles, religion and culture also hit Aisha unfavourably. Some members of the public held religious views, which they said, forbid a woman from holding such office.

An Islamic scholar said: “As far as majority of us are concerned, women are not supposed to occupy certain public positions. My friend (addressing the reporter), besides religion, our culture is not the same as that of you people from the southern part of the country. On allowing a women to rule over us as governor, I don’t think that would ever happen.”

The scholar confessed he did not vote for her and also made sure “no member of my family voted for her.” According to him, “I don’t have anything against her, as a person. But religion and culture, as far as majority of us are concerned, matter a lot and we would not want to toy with them.”

PDP’s victory in producing three senators for the eighth legislative assembly with APC winning no seat also spoilt the chances of Aisha. Also, while PDP won three of the six seats of the House of Representatives, the APC won two. APGA clinched one. Sixteen of the 24 seats of the House of Assembly were captured by the PDP while the APC had six. According to some analysts, this political outcome worked against the APC.

Even though Aisha and the APC are spoiling for a legal battle, hopeful of reversing the victory of governor elect, Arc. Darius D. Ishaku, observers noted that the APC could have stood a better chance had it fielded a male candidate to slug it out with male counterparts from other parties.

The Islamic scholar said: “To be candid with you, had it not been for her gender, the story would have been different now, because I am very much aware that our people are fed up with the PDP.

So, I think this mistake of the APC gave PDP the victory, because majority of our well read people did not vote for her. A male governor would be more accessible to the public than a female.”

He added that rather than declare the election inconclusive, the Returning Officer, Professor Mohammed Kyari, should have gone ahead and declared the PDP candidate winner “because as at then, he was leading with over 53,000 votes.”

He, nevertheless, viewed the action of Kyari as a blessing to the state, as the move forestalled crisis.

Even with the re-run, carried out in some polling units in 10 of the 16 councils, PDP still triumphed over APC because 98 per cent of the polling units where the re-run took place were PDP strongholds.

But for lack of internal democracy that has troubled the PDP in Taraba, the APC could not have even put up the contest it did.

This is because virtually all members of the APC were former PDP members who switched allegiance due to alleged unfair treatments by the leadership of the party. It would be recalled that before defecting with her supporters, even Aisha, who is still a serving senator, was a staunch member of the PDP.

Aisha, on second thought could decide to follow the advice of some elders in the state who are mounting pressure on her to shun litigation, and allow peace and development have their way. But even if she agrees to leave matters to God, growth in the next four years could be a mirage, as the incoming government would have to tackle the financial crisis presently affecting the state.

According to a top PDP member “the only fear some of us have now is how the incoming government will survive because of huge debts that have been incurred by the sacked Acting Governor and the reinstated Deputy Governor?”

Acknowledging that the PDP candidate who finally emerged as governor-elect was imposed on the party, the PDP chieftain expressed pessimism whether the new man at the helm of affairs “would be able to operate freely without being remotely controlled by those who put him there.”

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