By Nick Dugba
Since the declaration of Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku as the winner of the 2015 Governorship elections in Taraba by the Supreme Court in January 2016, the state has been at relative peace, and people have heaved a sigh of relief.
The incumbent Governor, Darius Ishaku, after the declaration, disclosed rhetorically that, ‘it is now that my government begins’; meaning he has been distracted all this while by Court litigations instituted by Sen. Aisha
The then APC Governorship hopeful has startled political bookmakers with the number of followership she attracted, her tenacity and political sagacity. Gov. Ishaku had 369,318 votes to beat Aisha who scored 275,984 votes.
The huge followership she has in the state, an intimidating résumé as a politician in the state, and being a serving Minister under the Buhari- led government, has positioned her well and given her a lot of political leverage which must not be taking for granted.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the legal tussle, Governor Ishaku resolved to leave politics aside and work in the interest of all while Senator Aisha has accepted the verdict as the will of God. But what is playing out in recent times in the State is the direct opposite of the resolve of the two parties to leave politics aside and consider the interest of the people. As a matter of fact, after everything said and done, the ordinary citizen seemed to be the loser.
Open rivalries and clashes of ego are not new in the political landscape of Nigeria. Squabbles between Governors and their deputies on one hand and Governors and Ministers serving the Central government on the other have been the norm since the onset of new democratic leadership in the country.
Ex-Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau state was involved in a severe personality clash with Damishi Sango, the then Minister of Sports. Sango lost the governorship race to Dariye, at the Primaries, under the same platform but the battle did not end after the elections.
The rivalry almost ended in an exchange of gunfire between security details of the Governor and the Minister, during an event in the state.
The clash between Ex-President Obasanjo and his Vice, Atiku Abubakar is not new even to the most politically naive Nigerian. Just of recent, Edo state Governor, was involved in a serious political rift with his Deputy, but the crisis had to be resolved fast in the interest of APC, who was faced with fierce opposition from the PDP in the forthcoming Governorship Elections.
Meanwhile, the ‘cookie crumbled’ in Taraba state when the Minister arrived in Jalingo, on Friday, 29th July 2016, on an official visit to the State to distribute relief materials to IDPs.
The investigation has revealed that the authorities had gotten wind of her mission in the state but was irked by the fact that in the Minister’s itinerary, a Call on the Governor who is the Chief Security Officer of the state, was not included, which the authorities described as a ‘breach of protocol.’
It was also alleged that the Minister and her supporters were denied certain privileges at the Jalingo Airport when she arrived, in which the government defended its actions.
The next day being Saturday, the Minister addressed the Press, as well as her supporters, where she read the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari as if to tell the world that was what mattered most at the moment.
However, the probing questions that followed by some members of the press triggered the media war that characterized the entire span of her visit.
When asked why she didn’t pay a courtesy call on the governor, the Minister who appeared as a convalescent, responded by saying she did that because of the manner of treatment meted on her supporters in the state and that “if the government didn’t change, I would not have anything to do with them”.
But in its response, the government through its Spokesman, Sylvanus Giwa, described the Minister’s arrival in Jalingo “without formally communicating to the state government” as a “breach of protocol and disregard to constituted authority.”
According to the statement, “a principal subject cannot come to the state on a private visit without informing the Governor”.
“It beats our imagination that an officer of the status of Minister and an indigene of the state can come into the state even on a private visit and will not inform the governor who is the Chief Security Officer of the State… as Minister representing Taraba state, she is expected to pay a courtesy visit to the governor to intimate him of her activities and possible areas of collaboration in the interest of Taraba state. But she did not do all these which we promptly reported to Mr. President via a letter dated 28th of July, 2016”.
But Senator Aisha Alhassan, who is in charge of Women Affairs and Social Development, in another press conference, which was convened to counter government’s position, accused the government of “malice and deliberate action.”
“ The government’s malicious action was premeditated since it admitted that the state government promptly reported me to the President via a letter dated 28th July 2016, while by their account I arrived in the state on the 29th July 2016. Could I have committed all these protocol offenses before my arrival on the said 29th July 2016”, she asked.
Besides that, the Minister admitted that “Courtesy Calls are mere ceremonial junkets, intended to either curry favor or please others. Since I am not a hypocrite, why should I extend my courtesy to a Government that discriminates against, maltreats, intimidates and persecutes my Party (APC) members and supporters? “.
She lamented that the government was not interested in receiving her after all. “From the onset, the Taraba state government neither intended to accord me any respect nor avail me a conducive atmosphere for a courtesy visit, as two senior political appointees of the government (SSG and Chief of Staff) went to the Jalingo Airport on the morning of 29th July before my arrival to intimidate, harass and lock out my supporters from the arrival lounge of the airport and prevented some from entering the airport”.
The government on its part, in the press statement, denied any witch hunt perpetrated against APC supporters as claimed by the Minister and that the government under Darius Ishaku had accommodated all irrespective of party and religion.
The climax of the crises was when the issue of relief materials for the IDPs which included foodstuff, cropped up. Unfortunately, it happens to be the business that brought the Minister to the state.
On Monday, August 1, 2016, as part of the Minister’s itinerary, she was at the IDP camp in Jalingo. But to the disappointment of all including the IDPs, there was nothing to distribute.
The Minister only used the opportunity to address the vulnerable IDPs and gullible Press present, about the situation on the ground. Before long, the whole world was awash with another new dimension to the imbroglio.
The questions then were, where are the grains meant for the IDPs? If they were available, why were they not distributed? It is indeed no news that the IDPs in the state, as it is in other states, are suffering from challenges of food shortage, medical care, disease and lack of accommodation.
Furthermore, according to the Government Spokesman, “ The state government is the custodian of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the relief materials were delivered by NEMA to the state government for safe keeping”. He added that the Minister breached protocol by summoning the Permanent Secretary of SEMA to produce the materials sent to the state by NEMA.
But the Minister responded this way, ‘On my arrival in the state, I personally wrote and signed a letter to His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, who incidentally is the Chairman of SEMA because the Governor was out of town and returned only on Monday the 1st of August. I followed with a phone call to the Deputy Governor to inform him of my arrival and the letter I sent to his office and requested him to direct SEMA to release the grains to me”.
Now the two versions presented by the two parties has further put doubt on the credibility of the whole exercise because they contradict each other.
For instance, to have dealt with the Deputy Governor because the Governor was not around could have put the issue of protocols and procedures to rest. This suggests that, even if the Governor were around, she would have done what she did to his deputy- which was, call him! But the way the disagreement lasted and the fact that the main objective was not achieved at the end of the day leaves much to be desired.
One surprising fact is, at what point did politics enter into the whole plan, when the Minister accused the government of maltreating her supporters and refusing to visit the governor or informing him when on the other hand she had informed the Deputy Governor as claimed?
Some observers of the happening blamed the authorities for the way they handled the visit of the Minister. Some of them are of the view that, having learned of the itinerary of the Minister which did not appeal to them, they should have allowed her to play with their arms before asserting their authority.
That way, she would not have any option then follow the due process as tradition demands. But the way things were handled right from the reception of the Minister might have painted and tainted the situation in the political light and triggered the unnecessary rivalry. Moreover, it may have paved way for the Minister to unearth buried grievances and ventilate them.
Going by the Marxian perspective, the elites have their interest to protect, and this interest is antithetical to the benefit of the masses; which is why as we speak now, the masses are the biggest losers in the whole crises.
This reality was succinctly put by Joseph Gimba, a Jalingo based Educationist and Civil Society Activist. He said: “ From history, we know that when politicians come to Taraba, it is as if the State would catch fire, but when they get back to Abuja, they dine and wine on the same table, and people in Taraba are being saturated, abused and pitched against each other.
People should close their ears and ignore what is happening because it has no direct benefit to Tarabans. Rather, it is a disadvantage to the people of Taraba. If you have relief materials and people don’t get them, what sense does it make? It doesn’t make any sense!”.
He called on politicians to exercise maturity in the interest of the people and play politics according to the rules.
“ If they are playing politics, what is the benefit of the people there? From what is happening now, emotions are charged up, which is awful. For now, I don’t think any politician can afford to play on his ego and of course by translating into other people’s ego. I mean, it is a luxury that they can’t afford”, he stressed.
A timely message to politicians in Taraba indeed. With the huge potentials- both human and material, it would be unwise to sacrifice them on the altar of political, ethnic and religious sentiments.
However, the recent media war might have ended with both parties realizing the futility of the unnecessary rift. According to Senator Aisha, “I believe we can serve the people in our different ways and capacities without each party struggling to pull down the other…. It is our service to the people that will endear us to their hearts and nothing else”.
On the other hand, the Government Spokesman concluded by saying, “ We have no reason to Grind the Axe when we have so much to do for the good people of Taraba state.”
Meanwhile, some top government officials later took a significant number of Journalists to authenticate the presence of the controversial relief materials, since the controversy over the relief supplies has tainted the government in bad light.
The team had the Commissioner of Information, Barr. Damburram, Permanent Secretary, SEMA, Taraba, Mr. Nuvalga Habu, SSA, Media and Publicity to the Governor, Sylvanus Giwa, the Chief Press Secretary, (CPS) to the Governor and his deputy, Hassan Mijinyawa and Iliya Bekyu, respectively.
The packed full warehouse had bags of assorted grains, mattresses, noodles, detergents and so on. But the controversy persists on the exact figure. Also, when the IDPs would have access to those relief materials remains to be seen.