Since the 4th republic began in 1999, Taraba North had produced Rev. Jolly Nyame as governor (8 years), Taraba Central produced Danbaba Suntai who was to end his 8 years tenure in 2015.
Taraba South was the only zone yet to produce a candidate to attain the position. It is in view of this that agitations kept arising from different quarters, especially the southern district that zoning would play a key role in ascertaining who succeeds Governor Suntai by 2015.
Danbaba Suntai’s health problem started on October 25, 2012, when a plane he piloted crashed in Yola. He endured brain injuries in the air crash and was transferred from a hospital in Yola to the National Hospital, Abuja, on October 26, 2012, and later flown to Germany and U.S. where he spent about a year in hospitals receiving treatment.
After a period of political crisis in the state based on claims and counterclaims over his health status, it was revealed that the governor was not healthy enough to live in Nigeria without adequate treatment, or to govern a state.
Due to his state of health, his deputy, Alhaji Umar Garba, was confirmed as the acting governor, pending when the governor would be fit enough to resume full leadership of the state.
Finally in Nov. 10, 2014, Governor Danbaba Suntai returned to the country after a period in the United Kingdom. Suntai arrived Jalingo when the acting governor (Garba Umar) was away in Abuja.
Many people in Jalingo were taken unawares as there appeared to be no prior information about the governor’s return to the state. Reporters at the airport confirmed that Suntai looked physically and mentally sound, and even recognised all his supporters who gathered to receive him at the airport by their name.
However, as Suntai’s supporters were happy and jubilating at his coming, the group in support of his deputy, the Acting Governor, Garba Umar, in Jalingo was in a bad mood as his return did not go down well with them.
Some saw his return to the state as a good omen while others believed he was back to stop Umar from achieving his goal of becoming the governor come 2015.
Incidentally, on November 21, 2014, The Supreme Court ordered that the Taraba State acting governor Garba Umar be removed and the allegedly impeached deputy governor, Abubakar Danladi to be sworn-in.
As it had initially occurred, Danladi was impeached by the Taraba State House of Assembly in September 2012 for gross misconduct and engaging in private businesses. This was just about a month before the governor of the state, Dambaba Suntai, was involved in an air accident in the year 2012.
In a unanimous judgment, the Supreme Court held that the impeachment panel set up by the House of Assembly to investigate the allegations against Danladi violated his rights to fair hearing.
Mr.Garba Umar, as it happened, was appointed to replace Danladi, and later elevated as the acting governor, following Suntai’s ill health that resulted from the crash.
On assumption of office, Danladi nullified all political appointments made by the former acting governor, Garba Umar, from November 14, 2012 to November 21, 2014.
Danladi revealed “After consultations with Governor Danbaba Suntai, the governor has ordered me to nullify all political appointments made in the state from from November 14, 2012 to date.”
The reinstated deputy governor, Danladi, who is from the same village and zone (Nothern) with Umar did not purchase the PDP nomination forms before the deadline for the submission of the forms and did not contest, but his close link with Suntai’s camp, which provided him with moral support and logistics to come back to power, was interpreted by political analysts to favour the candidate of the group who is from the Southern zone.
This is based on the fact that prior to 2012, Governor Suntai was reportedly said to have assured the people of Southern zone that he would ‘transfer’ power to the zone upon completion of his second term in 2015.
The political pendulum in Taraba PDP incidentally favoured former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku and David Sabo Kente.
These two had to slug it out with Umar in the primaries to determine who to confront Mama Taraba (Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan) who hails from Taraba North Senatorial District (the same zone as Umar), of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In the general elections, there were great expectations by Nigerians across the nation that history would be made with Nigeria getting her first female governor.
This hope was further strengthened when the election was declared inconclusive and later concluded 14 days later. However, hopes seemed dashed as Ishiaku was declared winner with a total of 360,318 votes to Hassan’s 275,985.
5 months later, when there seemed to be no hope in sight, the 3-member tribunal ruled that Ishaku was not validly nominated as the candidate of the PDP, and hence didn’t qualify to contest the election in the first place. The tribunal held that PDP conducted the reported primaries with no clear delegation from the state’s local government areas.
There was great joy in the camp of the now confirmed minister of the federation. Likewise, many legal professionals have turned up to give their opinion on the accuracy of the tribunal’s verdict. PDP and Darius Ishiaku have vowed to appeal the verdict.
Could there still be more political drama in store from Taraba? Whose desire will finally win out, history-mongers or Taraba Southerners? Time will reveal!