On the heels of the tribunal judgment that upturned the result of the Taraba State governorship election, Governor Darius Ishaku, the standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in this interview reacted to the judgment and issues bordering on the fate of the opposition in the country. Excerpts
Were you shocked by the tribunal judgment that you were not validly nominated as the candidate of your party?
The verdict was not only a surprise but total disappointment in view of the fact that the main issues before the tribunal were not considered except for the promotion of trivialities. As a matter of fact, the issues before the tribunal were purely election issues, but regrettably, the tribunal in its judgment picked a pre-election issue. By this singular act, one can easily conclude that certain interests are coming to bear in the judgment. It is a calculated attempt to deprive me of the people’s mandate to lead them. I contested the primaries under the platform of the PDP and won. I was presented with the party’s flag as a mark of recognition as its candidate for the last polls. Therefore, it will be out of place for someone or the tribunal to insinuate in its judgment that I never contested the primary or I was not validly the candidate of the party.
Why didn’t the PDP primary take place in Taraba?
Truly speaking, the PDP primaries did not hold in Taraba. The PDP resolved to conduct the primaries in Abuja the Federal Capital on security grounds.
Emphatically, during the period of the primaries, Taraba was experiencing security challenges which as a result informed the conduct in Abuja to avert any breakdown of law and other.
What is the correlation of that with the decision of the tribunal to also sit in Abuja?
I must confess that the action of the tribunal to shift its sitting from Jalingo the Taraba State capital as provided for by the Electoral Act to Abuja on security grounds is not different from what the PDP did during the conduct of its primaries. In view of the foregoing, I feel justified. Issues of insecurity are not issues that can be taken for granted because human lives cannot be compromised for anything, election inclusive.
INEC claimed that it was not present at your primary and therefore could not confirm that you indeed held a primary. Do you think this played a role in the tribunal verdict?
Although, I don’t think the testimony of the INEC official at the tribunal played a role in the verdict, but I am optimistic there was a ploy to undo me by bringing into play the issue of primary and leaving out the election which is the main issue at stake. Sometimes actions like this, exhibited by the tribunal on this case, leave more to be desired as justice was thwarted outright to promote certain interests at the expense of democratic principles.
Do you share the sentiment of some in your party that the APC is trying to muscle out the opposition by unfair means?
Yes, I share this sentiment in view of the prevailing circumstances. There is growing anxiety across the nation particularly by the PDP supporters that the APC ruling government is scheming hard to muscle out the opposition party by unfair means, hence quashing of the elections of its candidates in Rivers, Taraba and Akwa Ibom states. Apart from the use of the tribunal there are also other unfair means such as use of anti-corruption agencies to hunt down PDP members. This scenario is not healthy for the nation’s nascent democracy.
Many people expected you to appeal but do you really think you have a good reason to appeal?
It is true that many people expected me to appeal the judgment on the grounds that it does not reflect justice as provided for in law. As a result of this action coupled with my personal conviction that justice was not given by the tribunal in my case, I have decided to appeal the judgment to get justice as well defend the people’s mandate at the polls. Believe me, the action of the tribunal was totally a judicial rape which could also be called judicial rascality given the antics of such judgment.
APC said PDP is paying for impunity and this is responsible for the tribunal verdicts. Do you think that is a correct reading?
The insinuation by APC that PDP is paying for impunity is false. PDP laid the foundation for sustainable democratic practice on the principles of law and good governance and as such cannot be accused of impunity after losing power to the APC despite the characteristics and other factors that came to play during the last election.
What are you reservations about the actions and pronouncements of the tribunal in your case?
My reservations are that I won the election overwhelmingly and cannot afford to allow any individual or group of persons to bring me down through manipulative tendencies to deny the people the benefit of democratic governance.
If issues raised at the tribunal conform with the rule of law on the conduct of the elections, it would have been an issue to consider but where a judicial theft is being promoted is highly unacceptable.
Do you suppose that your challenger aroused passion among Nigerians because she is a woman?
It may be one of the factors responsible for the support Aisha Alhassan who contested the election with me is receiving, but I want to say that the much propaganda her supporters are making on the issue in the media, especially the social media which had so much promoted falsehood on the issue among others reasons are contributory factors. As a matter of fact oftentimes, the issue of religion is another factor her supporters are using to attract sympathy from different quarters for her.
What is your message to your supporters?
My message is simple and direct. Since election is not made to divide or fan embers of disunity or disaffection among the people, but a means of selection or election of leaders for effective leadership for the attainment of developmental goals, it therefore behooves on the people to remain calm and law abiding during and after every issue involving litigation.
I am appealing to the people of Taraba state to adhere strictly to the rule of law which guarantees peaceful living beneficial to all and sundry. I will not relent in pursuing peace with all men, including my enemies so that a platform which will guarantee good development will be actualised.
Election petitions apart, what has changed in Taraba since you became Governor?
I have restored water supply in the state capital, raised the power supply from 2 MW to 18 MW, ensured peaceful coexistence among the various communities who were hitherto ravaged by communal and ethno-religious feuds, mobilized construction firms to resume work on the Jalingo, Kona and Bali-Serti to Gembu roads among others.
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari so far?
I assess him as a man who wants to also contribute his own quota for the development of Nigeria for posterity, hence his policies and programmes even though they are yet to mature.