The thinking among politicians and some pundits in Taraba state is, if Governor Suntai had continued to stay abroad for medical treatment, it would have altered some political arrangements and blocked some people’s political ambitions. So, those that feel they would be affected most, made sure Suntai was brought back home, regardless of its implications on his health and that of the state’s polity.
Politics in Taraba is similar to that of some states in northeast and central Nigeria- faith, geography, ethnicity and powerful politicians determine who gets what. Since its creation on 27 August 1991, those who had become governors in Taraba have shared the same trend with those who had become presidents in Nigeria- finding themselves as governors without having planned to be. Rev Jolly Nyame was an aide in the then Atiku Abubakar campaign organization, when Atiku wanted to be governor of the former Gongola State. When Taraba state was created out of the former Gongola state and Atiku was among the politicians disqualified by IBB. Atiku supported Nyame to contest for the governorship of Taraba state, and he won. In 2007, Governor Danbaba Suntai was not in the political equation of who becomes governor. Danladi Baido won the governorship ticket of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but he was denied the ticket. Suntai was eventually given the ticket and he won the governorship election. Same goes for Acting Governor Garba Umar, he was not in the calculation at all, then suddenly the then deputy governor Sani Abubakar was impeached by the State House of Assembly, Suntai picked Garba as Sani’s replacement. Then tragedy struck, Suntai was involved in an air mishap in Yola, on October 25, 2012. Garba assumed the Acting Governor position, following a resolution by the State House of Assembly.
Those who were alleged to have spearheaded Suntai’s return, are also believed to be claiming that the governor has promised to champion the course for power shift to southern Taraba. Senator Emmanuel Bwacha is representing Taraba South in the Senate, and is generally believed to be one of the major players in the return of Suntai. It is believed, Bwacha has a strong ambition to be governor. One should sympathize with Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, he has relied so much on the belief that Gov. Suntai would hand over power to him, but it seems he has to redefine his strategy and work harder. On the other hand, one should admit that Bwacha has the right to be governor of Taraba state, as his constituency- Taraba South, has never produced a governor. Taraba North has produced a governor- Rev Jolly Nyame who was governor for nearly 10 years. While Tabara Central has produced Suntai, who is in his second term. Though, Taraba South has its fair share of power, it has produced three deputy governors (Uba Maigari, Saleh Usman Danboyi and Armaya’u) during Rev Nyame’s reign.
With the current happenings, it appears providence would again keep away the governorship position from Taraba South. Furthermore, Taraba South Senatorial District comprises five local government areas- Wukari, Takum, Ussah, Ibi and Donga. Taraba north comprises six local government areas of Jalingo, Zing, Karim Lamido, Lau, Ardo Kola and Yorro, while Taraba central has five -Sardauna, Kurmi, Bali, Gashaka and Gassol. There is a historical political and cultural affiliation between Taraba Central and North.This is because most parts of the two zones are areas that formed the historic Muri zone. Furthermore, majority of areas in Taraba south are parts of the Wukari division which is mainly dominated by the majority Jukun and Kutep tribes, these are factors that may not be in favour of Senator Bwacha, who is from the minority Nshi tribe. Nevertheless, in politics, building strong consensus and vast contacts are the most powerful weapons in winning elections.
Another potential contender for the governorship of the state is Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan; she represents Taraba North in the Senate. She has strong grassroots and women support, but she is from Taraba North, same zone with Acting Governor Garba Umar.
The centre point of the entire crisis is acting governor Garba Umar- just like President Jonathan- Garba was catapulted to his present position just by destiny, nothing else. He was not in the limelight even before becoming the deputy governor. Garba is from Karim Lamido local government area– Taraba north. Fate has placed Garba in a complex political situation; he has shown maturity and quality of leadership in handling the situation, which has won him the hearts of majority of Tarabans.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd @yahoo.com, 08036070980.