Sen. Aisha Versus Gov. Ishaku: Matters Arising

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Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Jummai Alhassan

The judgment by the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal of Saturday 7th November, 2015 may have come and gone, but the shockwave it sent across the nation’s political and judicial landscape is still vibrating. This judgment has none the less thrown into the open several issues which were hitherto silent in the political equation of Taraba State.

Although several legal experts, politicians and commentators have all in unison condemned the judgment, others however aligned themselves with the tribunal. But then the ball is now in the court of appeal where a further interpretation of the judgment is expected to take another plain.

Although I may not be an expert in law, I can sufficiently assert with all the amount of humility at my disposal that it does not necessarily take a legal luminary to understand the issues and events leading to the decision of the Tribunal. The intention here is not the propriety or otherwise of the Tribunal decision (as it is already a matter before the Court of Appeal), but its implication on the political as well as the social relations among the various peoples of Taraba State.

Since the return of constitutional democracy in 1999, the majority of the political groups in Taraba State have always been in the PDP, from Rev. Jolly Nyame through Danbaba Suntai and during the last general elections that produced Arch. Darius Ishaku, Taraba people have remained overwhelming in the PDP. At no time at all, had any party overtaken the PDP in any elections ever held in the state till date.

That the APC, having Hajiya Aisha Al-Hassan as candidate will defeat the PDP in a gubernatorial election is unimaginable.

Now, let’s get into the issues one after the other; One, that the Buhari Tsunami swept away the PDP in many Northan states bringing along with it those that ordinarily could not have seen the corridors of power was completely in the reverse in Taraba. There is no doubt that president Buhari has his own share of cult like followership in the state, but that does not and cannot translate into electoral victory for Sen. Aisha simply because she does not command the required popularity that could have won her that exalted seat in the state at this material time.

Two, the structure and nature of Taraba politics is such that no any single individual can sponsor a political movement especially, for governorship election without the collaboration of local power brokers at both the local government and ward levels as well as civil servants, who are particularly mandated to deliver their units to the government in power. The PDP has consolidated on this structure since its formation in the state. That is the current face of politics in state until proven otherwise. The PDP is so entrenched in Taraba that any politician of substances in the state that has massive grassroot control is embedded in which Sen. Aisha disconnected herself from since leaving the party for APC. The time between when she left the PDP and the gubernatorial election was so short that she couldn’t have built a formidable political machine that would have defeated the PDP.

Thirdly, what seems to baffle many observers of Taraba politics is that Senator Aisha who does not represent the popular will of the people of the state is now been made governor by the tribunal to the detriment of the generality of voters. For instance, in the wake of the governorship election proper which held on April 11th, 2015, and INEC at the behest of APC, cancelled results for some local government and wards in the state even when Arch. Ishaku was already in the lead, the re-run spoke clearly on where majority of the people stand when final results were collated.

To many discerning minds, what the Taraba Election Petition Tribunal has done was to denied the people of the state the right to elect their true representative by opting for technicalities instead of trailing the main realm of judicial interpretation of the Electoral Act which favours outright cancellation of results and ordering fresh elections where there were doubts. The peoples choice in this case is Ishaku, but Aisha may against all popular will be governor if the judgment is sustained. If this happens, wouldn’t it have amounted to judicial imposition?

What this judgment has further done to the psyche of the average Taraban was the introduction of religious dimension into a purely judicial cum political matter. Moments after pronouncement, there were spontaneous reactions from both camps of Gov. Ishaku and Senator Aisha. However, before dawn, there were reports of clashes across the state along religious lines, and at the last court about eight people had lost their lines, while more than 100 others were injured and properties worth millions of naira destroyed in Wukari Local Government and other parts of the state. Instead of a legal battle between APC and PDP, it is now the case of Christian versus Muslims.

This is a dangerous chapter that is opening in the state’s socio-political history that most not allow to take roots.

For the average Taraban, the tribunal decision was nothing short of usurpation of his fundamental right to freedom of expression, choice and association. While they have no quarrel with whoever is the president of this country at any given time, they appear to have a sentimental attachment as to who their governor is and what platform they choose. This is evident as can been seen from their association with PDP since 1999.

But outside the state, commentators are tied down to either a battle of wits between APC and PDP or they are carried away with the fantasy that a woman is being denied the opportunity of been the first governor in Nigeria. This is completely out of the current reality. The question is, does the APC or Senator Aisha enjoy the popularity that is been painted in the media? The answer is outright no!

Contrary to widely held impressions outside the state, Senator Aisha cannot win in any free and fair election for governor in Taraba State for the following reasons;

One, Taraba state like most states in Northern Nigeria is vastly conservative that the people do not seem prepared for a women governor at the moment.

Two, the cultural and religious affinities of the people as being detected by the current traditional setup makes it even more unrealistic for now. The position of women in the Northern Nigeria society gives a lot of disadvantage to this pursuit.

Three, the complexities of the state coupled with its extremely enormous challenges, especially the current security situation as well as the rigid social perception and exposure have not yet generated enough impetus for this kind of leadership emerge at this point in time. So, it goes beyond partisan politics but rather, it is as a result of the people’s conviction and impression of what their lifestyle should be. Change they say is constant, but changing a people’s perception and world view takes more than wishful thinking or just any form of sloganeering.

What observers believe this decision has succeeded in doing for Taraba is the gulf of differences that is gradually creeping into the minds of our people, most especially, that political jobbers have found platforms on both the APC and PDP camps readying for patronage using everything at their disposal.

If this judgment is left to stand, it therefore means that the power sharing formula which the three power blocks in the state deliberately worked out as means of fostering unity and peaceful co-existence among the diverse people of the state would have been compromised under the toga of judicial convenience.


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