Wole Ayodele, in Jalingo, looks at the war of attrition between PDP and APC in Taraba State
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Taraba State is currently at war with the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress over the latter’s call for the resignation of the state governor, Darius Ishaku. The chairman of APC in the state, Alhaji Hassan Ardo, had called on Ishaku to vacate office over allegations of failure to pay workers’ salaries and the reduction of the tenure of local government chairmen from three years to two years.
Ardo, who made the call while fielding questions from newsmen in Jalingo, equally accused the governor of lacking focus and pursuing programmes that had no direct bearing on the people of the state. He added that the decision of the House of Assembly to reduce the tenure of local government chairmen in the state at the prompting of the governor would aggravate the myriad problems facing the state.
The APC chairman alleged that over 12,000 workers in the state had been languishing in poverty since the present administration came on board last year, stating, “If he want to solve the problem of the state, let him pay teachers, local government workers and as well address the problems of pensions.”
Describing the reduction in the tenure of local government chairmen as counterproductive, Ardo maintained that two years was not sufficient for any elected local government chairman to record any appreciable achievement, adding that the decision is not only selfish but against the tenets of democracy.
But addressing pressmen at the PDP secretariat in Jalingo on Thursday, the state chairman of PDP, Hon. Victor Bala Kona, lambasted the APC chairman for peddling deliberate falsehood in a bid to malign the state governor in the eyes of the people of the state and Nigerians, in general.
Kona, who was represented at the press briefing by the state publicity secretary of PDP, Alhaji Inuwa Bakari, accused Ardo of misrepresentation of facts to gain cheap political relevance in view of alleged imminent extinction staring his party in the face in Taraba State. He stressed that it was either Ardo was ignorant of developments in the state or swimming in a pool of self-delusion.
According to PDP, “It is very unfortunate that the APC chairman can make the kind of comments attributed to him calling on the governor to resign from office based on unfounded allegations that cannot stand the test of reality. It is on record that Taraba State, under the able leadership of Darius Ishaku, is one of the few states in Nigeria today that is not owing salaries of workers, despite the present economic condition facing the country. With his comments, the APC chairman has exposed himself as being on a mission to deliberately portray the governor in bad light in the eyes of well weaning Nigerians.
“He has, however, failed in this plot because civil servants in Taraba State and the entire people of the state appreciate the governor’s efforts in ensuring that they get their salaries on a monthly basis. It has become very clear that the APC chairman is swimming in a pool of self-delusion and would have wished that Taraba State is unable to pay salaries like most APC states across the country.”
The PDP chairman, however, confirmed that some local government workers had not been paid for three months due to an on-going verification exercise to identify and flush out ghost workers on the pay roll, which he noted cannot be completed within one month. He appealed to the genuine workers affected by the exercise to remain calm, saying they will definitely collect all their entitlements.
He revealed that the verification exercise was currently yielding results considering the numbers of ghost workers that had been identified and expunged from the government payroll while millions of naira was already being saved on a monthly basis by the state government.
Also condemning the call by the APC chairman, former Commissioner of Information in the state, Hon. Emmanuel Bello, said it was laughable that a party renowned for bringing untold hardship to Nigerians would have the effrontery to talk about suffering in a state, saying if there is anyone who ought to resign, it should be the leader of the party at the centre.
According to Bello, “It is laughable that a government that is associated with introducing suffering afresh into the Nigerian landscape, a party associated with starvation and recession, it is strange that the party can even talk about suffering in a state. Where is the hunger and suffering coming from? Is it not from the top? If anyone ought to resign for bringing hardship, it is the leader of the party at the centre whose funny policies have led the entire nation to poverty.”
Meanwhile, the Attorney-general of the state and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Yusufu Akirikwen, said the House of Assembly acted lawfully by reducing the tenure of local council chairmen from three to two years.
Akirikwen was also reacting to the APC chairman’s criticism of the Assembly’s action in reducing the tenure of elected chairmen as well as his allegation that the Assembly took the action based on the directive of Ishaku. The commissioner said the allegations was highly misplaced and a calculated attempt to incite the people of the state against the government. He alleged that the tenure of local government chairmen in the state had been two years before it was later reviewed to three, stressing that there is nothing wrong in reviewing the tenure again for effectiveness.
Debunking the assertion of the APC chairman that the Assembly’s action was against the tenets of democracy and designed to inflict more pain on the people of the state, Akirikwen stated that the Assembly’s action was constitutional and within the purview of its mandate. He maintained that due process was adhered to in the exercise, saying the condemnation of the exercise by the APC chairman is an indication of his ignorance of the law and legislative processes.
According to Akirikwen, “I was so surprised to hear the APC chairman in the state describing the decision of the state House of Assembly to reduce the tenure of local government council chairmen from three to two years as unconstitutional. I want to draw his attention to section 7of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which gives power to state assemblies to make laws on tenure of local councils in their states.”
Akirikwen explained that there were many states of the federation currently operating two-year tenure for local government councils based on the laws made by their various Houses of Assembly. He maintained that it was the exclusive responsibility of the state House of Assembly to legislate and determine the tenure of local government councils.
On the call to the governor to vacate office by the APC chairman, Akirikwen stated that Ishaku deserved commendation rather than condemnation for paying civil servants’ salaries regularly in the face of the economic recession in the country. He said Ishaku was already doing everything possible to diversify the state’s economy in order to foster development, contrary to the APC’s allegation that his government lacked focus.
Calling on the people of the state to shun such politically motivated criticism of the current administration in the state, Akirikwen enjoined them to continue to support Ishaku’s rescue mission, which according to him is already yielding positive and visible results in every sector of the economy particularly, in industrialisation, road construction, health care delivery, rural electrification and provision of potable water, which according to him, would take the state to greater heights.
The APC allegation may be borne out of the politics of attrition. But many believe it can also serve to check any excesses on the part of the PDP government.