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Taraba: Battle for the soul of JYZ seat



Taraba: Battle for the soul of JYZ seat

Eleven candidates are vying for the House of Representatives seat for Jalingo/Yorro/Zing Federal Constituency in Taraba State, popularly known as the JYZ come February 3, 2023. Correspondent VICTOR GAI analyses the chances of the various political parties and candidates.

The February 3, 2023 National Assembly election re-run in Taraba State will once again trigger the traditional rivalry between the ruling PDP, the opposition APC and another fledgling opposition – the NNPP. According to the list released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 11 candidates will battle for the sole position. They are: Abdulrazaq Gidado (ADC), Geoffrey Edward (ADP), Aminu Malle (APC), Almajiri Leonard (APGA), Edison Solomon (APP), Kaigama Hosea (LP), Aminu Liman (NNPP), Sadiq Tafida (PDP), Babanyaya Mansur (PRP), Innocent Patrick (SDP) and Ahmed Habib (ZLP).

The seat remained vacant since April 2023 following the untimely demise of Ismaila Yushau of the PDP before he was sworn into office.

With the conclusion of proceedings, the stage is now set for the exercise which would be keenly contested between at least four candidates. The frontline contenders are former federal lawmaker- Aminu Malle of the APC, a Jalingo Prince- Sadiq Tafida of the PDP, Innocent Patrick of the SDP, Almajiri Leonard of the APGA and Aminu Liman of the NNPP. Of these five contestants, Malle of the APC remains the most experienced while Tafida of the PDP is the rookie.

Tafida, an engineer and son to Emir of Jalingo, Abbas Tafida, won the PDP primary election by defeating nine other contestants who were more politically rooted than him. His emergence was also perceived as the result of a power play orchestrated by the ruling party. The fear however, among party supporters is that the party is into an expensive gamble ahead of the election by sacrificing experience which other contestants had.

The emergence of a former House of Representatives member, Aminu Malle, of the APC in the contest has even complicated the matter for the ruling PDP. Malle scored a total of 41 votes to beat four other contestants including Kasimu Maigari. APC ‘s Maigari actually lost the 2023 National Assembly seat to the Late Yushau of the PDP.

Malle, who was Chief of Staff to the immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase, is widely tipped to succeed the Late Yushau due to his political sagacity, experience, acceptability and the relative consensus within his party. Unlike the ruling PDP where the primary election was fraught with perceived animosities, there was some level of consensus by party stakeholders during the primary elections. In fact, after the primary election, the other APC aspirants pledged to work for the success of the party in the general election. That gesture by the aspirants was unprecedented considering the controversial nature APC primary elections had been over the years.

One of the aspirants, Engr. Mohammed Alkali said: “we are ready to team up behind him to make sure APC wins the election”. Another candidate, Bilyaminu Umar admitted: “This is the first time APC will conduct a free and fair election”. Even Malle himself confessed to the fairness of the recently held primary election. He said: “for the sake of history, I want to tell the world that for the first time in the history of Taraba, we were able to get a free, fair and credible election … they saw the dangers APC is facing in Taraba. They saw the likelihood of extinction of APC in Taraba. And this is the first litmus test. They stood their ground and ensured that the right thing was done”. In fact, while speaking to the press on that victory night in his Jalingo home, Malle disclosed that he and the other aspirants would hit the ground running that night on how to ensure victory for the party.

The New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate, Aminu Liman, is a Fulani politician from a popular Jalingo business aristocracy. He has been vigorously pursuing his political ambition over the years but without success. He has tasted the political waters like his counterparts in other political parties especially in his pursuit for the House of Representatives seat. Could this be his time? It remains to be seen.

Another prospect as far as the JYZ seat is concerned is Innocent Patrick of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). His ambition rather than popularity has stood for him. The young politician is from the Mumuye ethnic group in Zing LGA. He is well loved by his people, the Mumuye ethnic group, who though have the population but have always played second fiddle to the dominant Hausa/Fulani politics in the constituency.

The same goes for Almajiri Leonard of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He emerged third in the 2023 National Assembly elections and would want to give another shot. He is also of the Mumuye ethnic group who are likely to stand by him this time around.

Now, as has always been the culture in Taraba, religion and ethnicity would play a significant role on who emerges as winner. These two factors would play a role over and above political party affiliation.

The JYZ federal constituency consists of Jalingo, Yorro and Zing Local Government Areas. The Mumuye ethnic group constitute the largest in population but the Hausa/Fulani have always dominated the politics. They always churn out bloc votes during elections especially in Jalingo-the state capital which is more populated than others. This usually gives any candidate from Jalingo the edge. More often than not, candidates of the Hausa/Fulani extraction always emerge from Jalingo while candidates from the Mumuye ethnic group always emerge from Zing or Yorro with a far lesser voting population.

Another factor that works against candidates from Zing and Yorro LGAs is the divided votes. When votes are cast on ethnic and religious lines, different party candidates from the same ethnic group are at disadvantage because the electorate would split their votes. That is the dilemma for some of the candidates who are from the same ethnic group. The two candidates from the same Mumuye ethnic group- Patrick of SDP and Leonard of APGA have refused to step down for each other until the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) intervened. Leonard of the APGA finally stepped down for Patrick of SDP earlier in the week to further boost his chance in the contest.

Meanwhile, although the APC has since denied the claim, there are speculations that the APC and NNPP would form an alliance in order to stop the ruling PDP. Coincidentally and unfortunately too, the three candidates- Tafida of the PDP, Malle of the APC and Liman of the NNPP are also faced with a similar ethnic dilemma as SDP’s Patrick and APGA’s Leonard. The trio are Fulani from Jalingo and should they go into the contest without any alliance, there is the fear that the Jalingo bloc vote might split among them giving way to the folks from Yorro and Zing LGAs who are not Fulani. Besides, there are other less popular candidates within Jalingo who have their strongholds. They could serve as spoilers unless efforts are made for them to drop for the more popular candidates.

Finally, security is expected a play a role during the fourth coming rerun elections. Jalingo and Yorro LGAs have never had it bad as now in terms of insecurity. The level of kidnapping and banditry nowadays along the Jalingo/Yorro axis is a serious source of concern. Observers say the tide of insecurity might affect voter turnout and deployment of personnel and materials to the affected areas. Traditionally, residents of Jalingo- the State capital do travel to their villages to vote during elections but the state of insecurity might deter them thereby putting some candidates at an advantage and others at a disadvantage.


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