Curiously, two weeks after the election petition tribunal sacked the governor of Taraba State, the state is still gripped with palpable tension. SAM TYAV looks at why the supporters of both parties have refused to sheath their sword
One common thing on the lips of the people of Taraba in recent times remains the November 7, 2015 annulment of the election of the governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The election of the governor was challenged by his main rival, Senator Jumai Aisha Alhassan who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Aisha contested not only the governorship of the state against Ishaku but
also contested the declaration of Ishaku as the governor by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Fortunately for her but unfortunately for Ishaku she got the judgment in her favour.
Shortly after Ishaku was declared winner by INEC, Aisha in a press statement said that she would not hesitate to use all legitimate means to fight to get back the mandate of the people of the state as she believed and told the people that she was elected by the people and the PDP in connivance with the police and INEC denied her the election. She assured her supporters to fight and get back the peoples mandate. About a fortnight ago, the court sacked Ishaku and ordered the swearing in of the APC candidate, Aisha.
Unprovoked as the judgment appeared; supporters of the political parties as well as the politicians concerned reacted in various ways. While the APC supporters were celebrating the judgment, the supporters of the PDP were moody and as such considered any celebration offence even as some people in the course of their celebration went wide. Aisha’s supporters in Unguwangadi, Magami, Kasuwan-Yelwa, Sabon-Gari and Nyamu Sala areas in Jalingo celebrated, while others criticized it. Her supporters were seen on the streets chanting “Sai Mama’’, Maman Taraba Oyoyo” to show their happiness over the verdict.
The wild celebration later degenerated into a serious conflict in Wukari that saw about 30 people dead. Nigerian Pilot learnt from one Audu that about 15 dead bodies were on the ground and expressed the hope that many more would be in other places given the seriousness of the crisis which according to him lasted for several hours.
According to him, “APC supporters who were celebrating the victory of their candidate Aisha Alhassan at the tribunal in the town suddenly started shooting around 1:00am as part of their celebration and the gunshots later escalated to other parts of the town. The gunshots stopped around 4:00am and resumed around 7:00am when many people were in churches for Sunday morning service. I counted15 bodies in my area alone, but the casualties may be higher because the security personnel restricted movement in the town and I couldn’t go to other areas.”
One middle aged man who gave his name as Adamu revealed on phone that although he could not tell what caused the crisis, as all he started hearing were gunshots around 1:00am and it lasted till 12:noon when security men arrived the town. He declined comment on the casualty figures but simply said many got wounded even as houses were burnt in the unfortunate incident which he blamed on the activities of the APC and PDP supporters.
Disturbed by what the supporters of the two political parties were doing in the state, Governor Darius Ishaku called on all the people to be calm and not to take laws into their hands. He specifically called on his supporters not to be worried as he expressed the hope that the Appeal Court would give him victory.
Napoleon Adamu, the Public Relations Officer of the PDP was quoted to have said that the people of the state should accept the judgment of the tribunal in good faith and work with the winner for the development of the state. But Mr Gibeon Kataps, a former Taraba SSG argued that Ishaku remained the governor until the determination of the case at the court of appeal. He urged the people to remain calm and wait for what the apex court would do.
Also calling for calm was the Taraba Volunteer Group, a pressure group which urged the people of the state to shun violence and allow the judiciary handle the tribunal verdict on Gov Ishaku. Mr Joseph Terence, the coordinator of the group disclosed this at a press conference in Jalingo.
Terence said the call was necessary following the outbreak of violence in Wukari over the verdict. The coordinator said the group believed that the appellate court would reverse the judgment of the Tribunal which removed Ishaku of the PDP and declared Sen Aisha of the APC as winner.
“We want Taraba people to remain calm and law abiding despite the tribunal ruling. We believe that the appellate court will reverse the ruling because Sen Alhassan in her petition to the tribunal acknowledged the fact that Ishaku is a member of the PDP and was sponsored by the party.”
He urged Ishaku not to be deterred by the judgment but concentrate on his determination to restore permanent peace in the state. Another chieftain of the PDP in the state, Mr. Dennis Nev equally called on PDP supporters and the people of the state to remain calm and law abiding despite the tribunal ruling which he described as a temporary setback. Nev, a retired Permanent Secretary, Government House administration in Taraba state gave the advice in Jalingo while speaking to journalists on the recent ruling of the Taraba governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja.
Violence according to him does not do any society any good and urged the people of the state to remain calm and law abiding as the governor had appealed the judgment. The party stalwart expressed hope that the court of appeal would give justice to the case on its merit, assuring the people of the state that the mandate they gave Ishaku at the polls would be restored at the Appeal Court.
“This judgment cannot stand. It’s just a temporary setback and Governor Ishaku and PDP would get justice at the Appeal and Supreme Court if the case drags on.”
Taraba women under the aegis of ‘Taraba PDP Women’ also protested the tribunal ruling which removed the governor.
The women in their hundreds marched through major streets of Jalingo the state capital singing (Darius mu ke so), meaning ‘is Darius we want’, before converging at the Women Development Centre, where they addressed a press conference.
Leader of the women and former Special Adviser to the governor on Finance and Banking, Hajiya Fatima Hassan said the tribunal left issues before it and delved into pre-election matter. She said the judgment did not reflect the true position of things and is unacceptable to the majority of the people of the state and believed
that the Court of Appeal would look at the merit of the case and revert the ‘murder of justice’ done by the tribunal.
“The tribunal cannot impose another governor on us. We voted twice for our governor and the tribunal is not disputing the fact that he won the election. The tribunal cannot go through the back door to snatch the mandate we gave to our governor at the polls. If he was not validly nominated, why did the INEC, present him to the electorate, printed ballot papers for his party in the election and declared him winner of the election,”
The women said they were not hired like those in Abuja, but that they were stakeholders in Taraba who voted for their governor and they can be traced to their individual houses across the 16 local government areas of the state.
But with all the protests, celebrations and calls for calm the Taraba governorship election cannot be predicted. It is again the position of the judges that the people of Taraba are anxiously waiting to see at the right time.