Taraba Guber And The Zoning Debate: Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya Is Most Qualified
By Peter Ushie, Abuja
As the race to succeed Governor Garius Ishaku in Taraba heats up, with aspirants and their supporters working hard to persuade party stakeholders to support them, one subject that has remained a source of passionate debate within the two major political parties in the state is zoning. Political elites in the state are divided into two factions across political divides: pro-zoning proponents and anti-zoning crusaders.
Both the PDP and the opposition APC are aware of the ongoing zoning debate, and neither is willing to make any mistakes in response to the agitations of the various zones. The caution displayed by the two parties is understandable in a state that has been governed by the PDP since 1999 and where the APC is determined to build on recent successes and make significant inroads in 2023. It is certain that if both of the state’s major political parties fail to manage the zoning problems with caution, it will result in an avoidable implosion in both parties in the run-up to the election, and only a non-serious political party will treat such an issue with levity.
The raging arguments about zoning have split the two leading political parties into two camps: those who argue that the state has never had a zoning arrangement and that governors have always been elected in open elections; and those who argue that the zoning arrangement is what ensured that all three districts tasted governorship between 1999 and today. However, as political permutations and combinations continue, stakeholders in both the ruling party, PDP, and the opposition party, APC, are increasingly calling for the race to be thrown open to all contestants.
There is no doubt that the rotational equation is a healthy principle for representative democracy, and it is worth noting that all three senatorial zones have had a turn at the governorship of the state, from the late Rev. Jolly Nyame of the northern zone, who first took the reins in 1999, to the late Danbaba Suntai of the central zone, and now incumbent Darius Ishaku of the south. While I firmly support the rotating equation in this way, it is crucial to remind people calling for the governorship ticket to return to the northern senatorial zone that, while rotation was agreed upon in 1999, it was not decided which zone would be the first to produce the state’s governor. It was made open to all aspirants, and Rev. Jolly Nyame of the North happened to win the PDP ticket at the time. Isn’t it reasonable to expect that, as we approach the start of a new circle of rotation, the party should repeat the process of opening the ticket to all aspirants, as it did in 1999?
From the names being paraded before the public, Senator Joel Ikenya appears to be the best aspirant, most experienced, and most suited for the job. Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya, a two-term senator from Taraba South, was elected to represent the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003. In 2007, he was re-elected, and in 2011, he ran for governor of the state, but lost. Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya was named as a ministerial nominee to succeed Darius Ishaku, who resigned to run for governor of Taraba State. He was appointed Minister of Labor and Productivity in January 2015 and served until May 2015.
Going by his pedigree and outstanding qualities, Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya, being a grassroot politician, is the only aspirant with the capacity to defeat the APC. Senator Joel Ikenya is the only aspirant with the experience and political sagacity needed to effectively pilot the affairs of Taraba state. The PDP must not make the mistake of caving in to pressure from those who want the ticket zoned to the north. It would amount to a grave mistake if the PDP shut Senator Ikenya out of the process by zoning its ticket to the north. This great, humble man with excellent character, great leadership ability, and a solid understanding of the political dynamics of Taraba state and Nigeria at large deserves to be given an opportunity to present himself for service before the people of Taraba.
Power rotation is good for our democracy. It is also essential that the governorship position should rotate between the three senatorial zones. But the argument, however, is that since in 1999 it was not agreed on where it should start orbiting from, the same process should be replicated in the current nomination process by leaving the process open to every zone, every aspirant, and for the delegates to decide which direction the calculus should swing, where the fresh rotational circle should begin come 2023.
Senator Joel Ikenya is an aspirant with exceptional traits whose service is greatly needed to turn around the fortunes of Taraba state. He possesses the wealth of experience needed to deliver effective leadership to the good people of Taraba state. This wealth of experience must not be allowed to waste in our attempt to maintain rotational equation in a manner inconsistent with popular opinion within the party, by seeking to yield the ticket to the north against the political expediency of fielding Joel Ikenya, a widely loved and acceptable aspirant with a solid understanding of the yearnings and aspirations of the good people of Taraba state, and the strong political clout to face the increasingly desperate opposition party in the state, APC.