Taraba APC, PDP assess strength with Takum 1 by-election

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The inability of the Taraba State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to work out a round table conversation between the two factions of the party, poses great threat to the party’s dream of wrestling power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s election.

This fact came to light during the just concluded by-election in Takum 1 constituency in which the PDP trounced its main challenger. The victory also attracted more supporters from the opposition parties.The by-election, which was conducted in six out of the ten wards of Takum council, was necessitated by the demise of the member representing Takum 1 state constituency in the State House of Assembly, Hosea Ibi, who was abducted and gruesomely murdered by his kidnappers.

The outcome of the exercise described as a “litmus test” for the PDP in the forthcoming general election by the state governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku, is seen as an indication that the party would mostly likely run away with victory again next year.The current trend, where APC is enmeshed in crisis and PDP enjoying some measure of confidence among the people, could affect the main elections, particularly as it concerns the gubernatorial, national and state assembly.

A political commentator, Tank Saleh, said that judging by the way Governor Ishaku and his lieutenants worked collaboratively with chieftains of the party, the general election in the state  “is going to be a walk over for the PDP.” He added that a lot of things would however come into play in next year’s election, stressing that while the governor was challenged by the opposition to unite his party men, the main opposition was finding it difficult to settle its internal troubles.

Another factor that might ensure continuity for PDP in power is the growing support for the party in the Gassol-Mambilla axis of the central zone of the state, an area noted for its strong support for the APC. This was demonstrated during a rally by the PDP at Mutumbiyu in Gassol local government council, when a large number of APC faithful dumped the party and crossed over to the PDP. The state PDP chairman, Mr. Victor Bala Kona, in the presence of the deputy governor, Haruna Manu and other party stalwarts, received the defectors. 

However, watchers of Taraba politics attribute the shift in the political demographics of the central zone to projects being executed by Governor Ishaku, especially the ongoing Jalingo-Mutum-Biyu power grid rehabilitation. Not that alone, Ishaku’s deputy, Manu, who hails from the area is also a strong factor, because in a bid to display loyalty and political sagacity, he has been reaching out to the grassroots.

The inroads by the PDP to the once politically antagonistic central zone is further reinforced by the emergence of the speaker of the state legislature, Mr. Peter Abel Diah, alongside the governor’s political adviser, Alhaji Abubakar Bawa from the zone. There is no doubt that the Mambilla Tea company, which has been providing employment opportunities for the people is contributing to the new political realignment, just as the rehabilitation of the Gembu General Hospital and some road projects in the area. 

The Speaker, who also doubles as deputy chairman, Conference of Nigeria Speakers Forum, has been up and doing politically to unite the people of Sardauna local government council in the central zone. That development is also seen by many as the reason behind the recent massive movement of faithful from APC to the PDP on the Mambilla Plateau. And these factors would no doubt influence the pattern of voting in next year’s general election.

Governor Ishaku, who was amazed by the level playground the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) created for all the political parties that took part in the exercise, cautioned the commission to remain unbiased and focused during the much-expected general election.Pointing to the by-election, which he described as “free, fair and transparent,” the governor enjoined INEC to walk the same path by remaining neutral in subsequent polls. Specifically, Ishaku urged them to desist from acts capable of jeopardizing the aspirations of the electorate to elect candidates of their choice.

Expressing optimism that PDP would again triumph in the 2019 elections, the governor paid glowing tributes to the security operatives whom he said averted all loopholes that would have ignited tension during the by-election.The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Baba Abba Yusuf, called on stakeholders, especially the political parties that participated in the exercise to endeavour to extend similar support to the commission for a peaceful conduct of next year’s election.

He said: “The spirit of sportsmanship they exhibited during and after the election was wonderful. We wish they would do the same for us next year.”Yusuf lauded the efforts of security agencies during the exercise, and reiterated the commission’s readiness to always conduct hitch-free elections in the state, even as he implored political parties and stakeholders to caution their supporters against violence before, during and after the elections.

The outcome of the recent APC state congress, which led to the emergence of parallel executives, has not only factionalized the party, but is fast reducing its popularity in the state.Some APC stalwarts expressed disappointment at the lukewarm attitudes of some top party members, who failed to rally round members towards the final hours of the campaign for the by-election headed by the Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan.

It was at that point that the split within the APC, which the national leadership tried to mend, but failed, proved fatal to the party’s fortunes in the state. An APC faithful, Dan-Asebe Bala, alluding to the recent gale of defections that hit the party at the national level, said more APC faithful are concluding plans to dump the party for PDP in the state. 

It is apparent that such plans to change party platforms may not be unconnected with PDP victory at Takum by-election. Said the APC chieftain: “I must confess that we see the outcome of the Takum 1 by-election as a handwriting on the wall for the APC in Taraba State.”But despite such pessimism from disappointed and disenchanted APC supporters, many observers say PDP had better manage its present high hopes with caution, saying that Takum 1 is but an isolated case. They also said the by-election was influenced by sympathy for the dead lawmaker.

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