ANDREW OJIH, reports that the just concluded House of Assembly by-election in Taraba State, could be a template for what would play out during the 2019 general elections in the state.
The outcome of the just concluded Taraba State House of Assembly By-election is perhaps the clearest indication yet of what the political template in the state will look like ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Although the election has been won and lost, the two major parties in the polls, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) would have course to restrategise ahead of 2019.
The PDP hoped to win, perhaps, largely because of the incumbency factor which sees a ruling party in a state retain positions it once occupied. More so, Takum is the governor’s home and immediate political base, as such, for him, a loss couldn’t be imagined.
The APC was however feeling confident that it will pull an upset. Having scored some recent electoral victories, including by-elections in Katsina, Bauchi and Kogi States, its victory against an incumbent government in Ekiti State was all the confidence booster it needed.
But the Taraba by-election was different. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had last month fixed August 18 for the by-election into Takum 1 Taraba House of Assembly seat.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, Alhaji Baba Yusuf, while addressing state party chairmen in Jalingo, the state capital, explained that the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Abel Diah, wrote to the commission declaring the seat vacant following the death of Hon. Hosea Ibi, representing Takum 1 constituency. The late lawmaker was abducted in Takum on December 31, 2017 and murdered by his abductors in January 2018.
Informing that the Speaker of Taraba Assembly, Abel Diah, wrote to the commission on Tuesday, July 24, and declared Takum 1 seat vacant. The commission is therefore mandated by law to conduct a by-election to fill the vacancy within 30 days, the REC said.
With the date fixed, campaigns, which had already started, intensified. The two major parties, PDP and APC threw jabs at each other relentlessly and aggressively.
As scheduled, INEC, on Saturday August 18, 2018, conducted the much anticipated by-election and declared the candidate of PDP, Mr Garba Ajiya, winner.
Ajiya who cleared five of the six constituency’s wards, polled a total vote of 10,725 to emerge winner, while the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atem Ansho, polled a total vote of 3268, claiming victory in one ward.
The returning officer for INEC at the by-election, Dr Ayuba Daniel Kwada, while announcing the result said that nine political parties participated. He however said results from nine polling units in Chanchanji ward were cancelled due to irregularities.
According to him, “the total number of cast was 14,717; total number of valid votes was 14,337 while 380 votes were rejected.”
Reacting to the election result, the state governor, Darius Ishaku, described the process as a litmus test for the 2019 general elections in the state.
He noted that the victory margin could have been wider if all those that turned out to exercise their franchise had their Permanent Voters Cards, (PVCs).
He commended the peaceful conduct of the election, restated the need for state police to permanently tackle insecurity.
“The country will be more efficient with pronounced security if it adopts state policing just like the United States of America where our democracy took its roots,” he said.
But the candidate of the APC, Ansho rejected the result, he alleged gross irregularities and manipulation by the ruling PDP.
Ansho who claimed collation were still ongoing in some wards when electoral officers were mobilised to leave some polling unit, said he was in talks with his lawyers for advice on the next course of action.
State Secretary of the APC , Stephen Othaniel , said APC was intimidated in the election which he said was marred by ballot box snatching and vote buying .
“We are still studying the outcome of the election and we will come out with our position as party soon .
“But in summary , there was voter apathy , vote buying and intimidation of voters by PDP stewarts which is very bad for our democracy , ” he said.
Our correspondent, who monitored the election, reports that the election was relatively peaceful except for pockets of tension across the constituency that culminated in the attack on a minister and the smashing of two vehicles in the convoy.
The minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Sen. Aisha Jumai Alhassan, was attacked in the country home of Governor Darius Ishaku, in Takum.
Aisha, who was attacked alongside with the state chairman of the APC, Dr. Abdulmumini Vaki, were at 12:30pm on the way to Rogo Ward, the strong hold of APC when thugs suspected to be sponsored by the PDP launched attacks on them.
Aisha, while reacting to the attack said before she went out with her convoy, Governor Darius Ishaku and his deputy, Engr. Haruna Manu, were rejected in the area by voters.
“The deputy governor ran as voters were shouting on top of their voices, we will not vote you, we prefer the APC.
“Everyone saw how I was received three days ago when I came to Takum, and that was a sign that this government has failed” she said.
According to her, the attack was not carried out by the indigenous people, but foreigners.
“PDP hired thugs to attack me because the deputy was chased away from a polling unit when he went out early this morning,” she alleged.
But, Ishaku while reacting to the attack said he did not hire thugs to attack the convoy of the minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Alhassan.
Ishaku, who reacted through his senior special assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Bala Dan-Abu, distanced himself from the attack.
He described as malicious the claim that he sponsored thugs to attack Mama Taraba. Dan-Abu said it was wrong and wicked to associate the governor with the attack.
“The governor is from this place and if he wants people to attack Aisha, does he need to go and import them? Why does he have to go outside Takum to bring people for the attack? The governor is a democrat who believes in democracy.
“He believes in election as an instrument of recruitment and will never go to a ridiculous and dishonourable extent of frustrating the election” he explained.
Analysts who monitored the by-election said the process was a litmus test for the 2019 general elections in the state may have been set with the outcome of this poll, regardless of the fact that its a state by-election.
While PDP basks in its victory and strategises on how to consolidate it’s hold across the 16 local government areas of the state come 2019, the APC, smarting from this round of defeat would seek to restrategise on how to give the ruling party a tougher campaign than it did in 2015.
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