By Danjuma Peters
The recent hullabaloo over Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku’s extended stay in Abuja following a domestic accident he had sustained earlier is nothing but political blackmail carried too far. It is also proof of the amount of mischief politicians can do in their bid for political office. In this case, it was a continuation of the post-election bitterness which leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Taraba State, have been exhibiting against Ishaku following their loss of the 2019 elections in the state.
They had promised in the aftermath of their electoral loss to make the state ungovernable for Ishaku, the winner of that election, and they have not relented since then. The latest which was anchored on the decision of Governor Ishaku to spend a couple of weeks in Abuja to receive medical attention following the domestic accident which, I learnt, affected one of his legs, is the most frivolous and nonsensical. In their blind pursuit of this hideous agenda, they have demonstrated unpardonable misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Section 190 (1& 2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)
I have followed very carefully the issues which Barr. Ibrahim El-Sudi, Taraba State chairman of the APC and leader of the crusade against Ishaku has raised against the Governor. His mission is rather more political than legal. His insistence that Ishaku had violated constitutional provisions by not transmitting power to his deputy during his absence from the state amounts to raising unnecessary political dust. That section of the Constitution provides grounds on which the state governor may transmit power to his deputy which include inability to discharge the functions of his office and when proceeding on vacation, both of which are not applicable in the case of Governor Ishaku.
First, Governor Ishaku was not on vacation. He had no reason to be on vacation. He came to Abuja to attend to important issues critical to the social and economic development of Taraba State and was vigorously attending to these issues even after his accident. Video clips and news reports in newspapers and the social media on the Governor’s official engagements in Abuja even while still nursing his injuries were everywhere and are still everywhere for all to see.
Yet El-Sudi and his gang of mischief makers pretended they didn’t see anything nor heard anything concerning the Governor’s official engagements in Abuja. They intensified their campaign against Ishaku to the utter disgust of millions of people who felt it is callous for anyone to take advantage of another’s health condition, especially when it is clearly unjustifiable and blatantly unfair.
As someone who has followed this unfortunate drama closely, I’m deeply pained by this obviously callous politicization of the governor’s health condition.
The truth that the public needs to know so that they are not further misled by those deliberately painting a wrong picture of the scenario to win sympathy is that Ishaku’s case is not such that will render him incapable of discharging the duties of his office. He is also not on vacation. The insinuation that the machinery of government is slow in the state because of the Governor’s absence is wrong and misleading. The APC people are pretending not to know but the truth is that a governor can work from anywhere within the country. I know it was not the intention of Ishaku to do so from Abuja but for the circumstances thrust upon him by the unfortunate accident he suffered.
While Ishaku was in Abuja, the affairs of the state were running smoothly. The dualisation of the Airport Road in Jalingo began in earnest. The road will have an overhead bridge, the first of its kind in the whole of Taraba State, to ease the flow of traffic in the capital city. This road is a major legacy of the Ishaku administration and the people of Taraba State are very excited by the foresight that informed the dualisation of the road.
At the same time, the Mararaba-Baissa- Abong-Nguroje road, another initiative of Governor Ishaku made significant progress. Video coverage of work being done are posted daily on the internet for all to see. The road is crucial to the actualization of the national dream for stable electricity through the Mambilla Hydro project. It is the shortest access road to the project site. As at now, there is no access road to the Dam site. Ishaku has been loudly commended by several high-ranking Federal Government officials, including the Minister of Power, Engr. Saleh Mamman, for this foresight in initiating the project and for his commitment to its quick completion.
It is important for me to also emphasise that the rescue mission of the Ishaku administration has achieved landmark projects that have positively touched millions of lives in the state. Only the opponents of the administration in the APC are unable to see the great work being done. They would rather work to ensure that the pit the people against the administration. The initial plot was to raise dust over payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities. They wanted to popularize the wrong narrative that government was not paying workers. The attempt failed because the evidence on ground contradicted their position. Taraba is among the few states in the country that can boast of faithfully paying salaries, pension arrears and gratuities.
Their attempts to also label the laudable Green House project of the administration as undesirable also suffered a similar fate. Testimonies from the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the project who are more than one million in number have completely silenced them. Fruits and vegetables from the farm which are currently sold in the state and in major marketing outlets in several towns and cities in Nigeria are a proof that the project is wise investment.
This write-up is not meant to be a complete narration of everything that the administration of Ishaku has achieved for Taraba. It will end up being a huge volume of facts and figures that may bore the reader. But let me quickly remind those who have made it their daily affair to run down the Ishaku administration that it will be a very difficult job for them to twist the history of revolutionary changes that the state has witnessed under his administration. The administration has also taken more than 4,000 women and youths out of poverty through its radical and highly productive programme of skills acquisition.
Nothing can also change the fact that the Ishaku administration was the first in the state that provided over 300 boreholes in over 300 communities, thus providing good drinking to a large population of people in the state. In education, the Ishaku administration has remodeled schools and made primary and secondary institutions very learning friendly. The 3000 teachers he employed in one fell swoop dramatically altered the previous narrative of poor quality of instruction. These efforts were backed up by the provision of instructional materials. Today the quality of education has drastically changed for the better. And nothing is a greater testimony of this than the state’s WAEC performances since 2017. In that year, Taraba State student’s performance jumped from 20 percent in 2015 to 67.3 percent. It got even better in 2018 with 75.3 percent.
The Jalingo Airport which is today a major transit point for Nigerians and foreigners coming to Taraba State was completed and commissioned by the Ishaku administration. What, therefore, is the basis for criticizing the Ishaku administration on grounds of non-performance? The unfortunate aspect of these criticisms is that those behind them are Tarabans who do not live in Taraba and who are even very unfamiliar with developments in the state.
To millions of our people in Taraba, my advice is that we do not pay attention to these people who are obviously on a mission to cause chaos and confusion in our dear state. These people have nothing to lose in the event of successfully setting us against one another. They and their families don’t live with us in Taraba. Their investments are in other parts of the country and not in Taraba. We must treat them with suspicion because they are not interested in a peaceful Taraba Taraba.
Governor Ishaku has never abandoned his people. and he is not about to do so even now. He has been very outspoken against the killings of Tarabans by the herdsmen and the very poor attitude of security agencies towards the safety of our people. Some people say it is for these reasons that he is being vilified and I now believe so. We must, as Tarabans, rally round him and support his administration to the end. The attempt by agents of destabilization to truncate his administration should be resisted. The situation calls for unity among the people. We must remain united against the conspirators seeking to pull him down.
Danjuma Peters is a Public Affairs Analyst.