Leadership (Abuja)

21 February 2008

Nigeria: Danbaba Vs Baido - The Heat Goes On

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Abuja — Danladi Baido is a strong politician in Taraba State. He won the PDP gubernatorial primaries only for his name to be replaced with that of Governor Danbaba Suntai from the national secretariat of the PDP exactly two months to the election. YAKUBU DANBALA, a public affairs analyst, examines the proceedings in the Court of Appeal where Baido is challenging the election of the executive governor of the state.

Any moment from now, the Court of Appeal sitting in Jos, Plateau State, will be set on a yet to be fixed date, to hear a motion brought before it by Danladi Baido, Taraba State PDP gubernatorial candidate in the last April, 2007 General Elections.

Baido was the flag bearer of the party, having scored 2,445 votes in the party's primaries. A.A. Ibrahim who trailed next to him got 940 votes. It was a keenly contested primary election, where six other aspirants also participated.

Even before and after the primary election, Baido's popularity and good will in the state continued to soar. At a time, it became obvious that Baido's place in the government house was a fait accompli. However, like a beginning of a bad story, things went awry. Thus, on February 5, 2007, two months to the governorship election, a letter emanated from the national secretariat of the party, confirming to INEC, the substitution of Baido's name with that of Danbaba Danfulani Suntai as the state's flag bearer of the party. The letter for substitution, which was signed by Ahmadu Ali, National chairman and Secretary, Ojo Madueke, did not give reasons for the substitution.

That was how Danbaba Suntai became the party's candidate and eventually the governor of Taraba State. Needless to emphasize that he never aspired to be governor nor· did he participate in the party's primaries. Baido, if his disposition was any thing to go by, was calm and took what might be described as his political downturn in good faith. But it was not the same with the general mood of the people of the state, as the development cast a dull moment on the state's political weather. Apathy, depression and indifference lingered, especially, in the weighty political camp of the candidate.

Normalcy was however restored, but not until Baido himself stepped in to assuage the feelings of the people. Danladi as it was glaring and visible, did not only hand over his political structures in which Suntai utilised for his success, he mounted the podium, moving from town to town, village to village, to drum support for Suntai. To some extent, it was rumoured that Baido was given the opportunity to choose who he wants for his replacemen and he chose Danbaba Suntai. And it came to pass that Suntai emerged the governor of the state. This move, as it was evident, enjoyed the support of Rev. Jolly Nyame, the then governor of the state.

Whatever was the basis for Baido's magnanimity remained unknown, what is known is that, he became part of Danbaba's cabinet, where he served as Chief of Staff Government House, until recently when he was relieved of his appointment. This confirmed the fears of watchers of events in the state polity, that the relationship between them, based on the previous indicators, was bound to crash.

While Government House, the state's seat of power, was under heat with jostling of the two political titans, Ahmed Yusuf, a gubernatorial candidate under the Action Congress (AC) was at the election tribunal, challenging the return of Danbaba Suntai as the governor elect. One of the particulars he adduced to substantiate his argument was that, suntai's candidacy was wrongfully substituted for that of Danladi Baido without cogent reason. But the tribunal, in dismissing his appeal, ruled that, it is not his business to complain about the alleged substitution of a candidate within PDP which is a rival party to his own party- Action Congress. "If civil rights and or obligations of anyone was breached in the transaction leading to the April, 2007 polls, it was that of Danladi Baido and not Ahmed" the tribunal ruled. Not satisfied with the judgment, Ahmed has gone to the Court of Appeal in Jos, to have the judgment set aside.

It is on this basis that Baido, who was not a petitioner at the election petition tribunal at the first instance, is seeking in the same Court of Appeal to be joined in the suit as an interested party, in order that he will reclaim his mandate.

It is possible that Baido was inspired by the Supreme Court's judgment which voided the election of former Rivers State governor, on grounds of wrongful substitution of candidate.

The collapse of what was considered as a healthy relationship between these political bigwigs caught even pundits of Taraba politics off guard. At least, nobody envisaged that a relationship in which so much benefits have been reaped, with most of the benefits accruing to the governor, will crash just before take off.

Whatever that happened, it is either that Suntai is a bad manager of relationship, an unappreciable fellow or, Baido who played a key role in the installation of Suntai wanted to assert himself as defacto governor.

By and large, what is happening today has been long predicted by the media. If those reports were any thing to go by, Baido started tasting the bitter dose of Danbaba's hard stand just few months after the take off of the administration.

To begin with, he was not allowed to attend state executive council meetings, this according to the governor was the exclusive preserve of the chief executive and the commissioners. For some time, Baido, it was alleged, complained bitterly of indecent and near shabby treatment melted to him by the governor. What seem like the last straw that broke the Camel's back, was when the governor abolished the Legacy 2007 Project, an ideological political front nurtured by Baido and the erstwhile governor of the state Rev. Jolly Nyame. The aim of the project was to mobilise or garner the required support that was necessary to secure power for Baido and to ensure that Nyame's legacy in the development of the state was carried along in the successive regime. "There is no longer anything like Legacy 2007 in Taraba State" He was quoted to have told members of the front, when they paid him a courtesy call.

The decision to go to court, according to sources close to Baido became inevitable, as it was based, not only on the antics of the ingrate governor, but to enhance the consolidation of democratic ethics, rule of law. This they argued will create a sense of belonging to the people of Taraba state. Whatever the court decides will add value to the evolutionary trend of our democracy.

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