11 In Race For Yorro/Taraba Federal Constituency Seat

file photo of Taraba state map
file photo of Taraba state map

Next month’s National Assembly re-run election in Taraba State will once again trigger the traditional rivalry between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and the fledgling opposition party, the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).

Going by the list released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 11 candidates will battle for the seat to represent Jalingo/Yorro/Zing Federal Constituency, otherwise known as JYZ, at the House of Representatives.

They are Abdulrazaq Gidado, the African Democratic Party (ADC); Geoffrey Edward, the Action Democratic Party (ADP); Aminu Malle, the APC, Almajiri Leonard, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Edison Solomon, the All People’s Party (APP); Kaigama Hosea, the Labour Party (LP); Aminu Liman, the NNPP; Sadiq Tafida, the PDP; Babanyaya Mansu, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP; Innocent Patrick, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Ahmed Habib of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

The seat has been 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 the Emir of Jalingo, Abbas Tafida, won the PDP primary by defeating nine other contestants who were more politically rooted than him. His emergence could be attributed to the power play within the ruling party. The fear, however, among party supporters is that giving the ticket to the rockie an expensive gamble that could backfire.

The emergence of a former House of Representatives member, Aminu Malle as the flag bearer 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 who lost the 2023 National Assembly seat to the late Yushau.

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 emergence of the rookie as the flag bearer of the ruling party appears to have brought division and animosity within the fold.

Conversely, the APC is united ahead of next month’s election. After the primary, 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 of the APC primaries in the state over the years.

One of the aspirants, Mohammed Alkali, an engineer by profession, said: “We are ready to team up with him to make sure that the APC wins the election.” Another candidate, Bilyaminu Umar admitted: “This is the first time the APC would conduct a free and fair election.”

The APC flag bearer is surprised that the party conducted a rancour-free primary. He said: “I am happy about the outcome of the primary; not because I am the beneficiary but also because, for the first time in the history of Taraba, we were able to get a free, fair and credible election … they saw the dangers that is facing the APC in Taraba. They saw the likelihood of extinction of the party in Taraba. This is the first litmus test. They stood their ground and ensured that the right thing was done.”

While speaking to reporters 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 NNPP candidate, Aminu Liman is a politician of Fulani extraction 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 SDP. It is his ambition that is propelling him in the race, rather than popularity. The young politician is from the Mumuye ethnic group in Zing Local Government Area. He is well loved by his people, the Mumuye ethnic group who although have the population have always played second fiddle to the dominant Hausa/Fulani in the politics of the constituency.

The same goes for Almajiri Leonard of the APGA. He emerged third in the 2023 National Assembly elections and wants to give it 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 in who emerges as the winner. These two factors would play a role over and above political party affiliation.

The JYZ Federal Constituency is made up of Jalingo, Yorro and Zing Local Government Areas. The Mumuye ethnic group constitute the largest in population in the constituency but the Hausa/Fulani have always dominated the politics.

They always churn out bloc votes during elections, especially in the state capital, Jalingo, which is more populated than the other local governments. 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 is their divided votes. When votes are cast on ethnic and religious lines, different party candidates from the same ethnic group are at a disadvantage because the electorate would split their votes.

That is the dilemma for some of the candidates who are from the same ethnic group. For now, it is quite unlikely that any of the two, Patrick of the SDP or Leonard of the APGA would step down for the other.

Meanwhile, although the APC has since denied the claim, there were speculations that the party and the NNPP would form an alliance in order to stop the ruling PDP. Coincidentally, and unfortunately too, three candidates: Tafida of the PDP, Malle of the APC and Liman of the NNPP are also faced with a similar ethnic dilemma as the SDP’s Patrick and the APGA’s Leonard.

The trio are Fulani from Jalingo. So, should they go into the contest without any alliance, there is the likelihood that the Jalingo vote would be split among them. This would provide an opportunity for the folks from Yorro and Zing who are not Fulani.

Besides, there are other less popular candidates within Jalingo who are likely to dominate in their strongholds. They could serve as spoilers unless they are prevailed upon to drop their ambition for the more popular candidates.

Finally, security is expected a play a role during the forthcoming rerun election. Jalingo and Yorro have never had it as 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 the deployment of personnel and materials to the affected areas. Traditionally, residents of Jalingo do travel to their villages to vote during elections but the worsening security situation might deter them, thereby putting some candidates at an advantage and others at a disadvantage.