Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mantu's Blurred Political Future

Ibrahim Mantu, former Deputy Senate President is said to be out of town. He is said to have traveled to South Africa to cool off. After his two-time defeat, a change of environment to give time for the political dust to settle is necessary. This is the feeling of most political observers in Plateau State and the nation at large.

Mantu's trip could also be linked to a decision to shake political dust off his feet in view of what appears to be an abrupt end to his political journey. As far as Plateau State is concerned there are two political parties that can go into any contest and make an impression. These are the People's Democratic Party, PDP, and the Action Congress, AC. In Nigeria, politicians switch political affiliations with ease as long as the destination party has a good number of followership. The incumbent Governor of Bauchi State, mallam Isa Yuguda, is a typical example of the successful crossover.

Mantu is however said to have fallen apart with the only potent political parties in Plateau State and as such may not have a bright political future anymore.

During the gubernatorial elections in April 2007, Mantu was said to have rooted in for Damishi Sango an archrival of the eventual winner of the contest, Governor Jonah David Jang. Following the victory of Jang, Mantu was said to have been so disappointed that he traveled to Abuja in an effort to use his towering political influence to overturn the results by hook or by crook. He was not successful. Since Mantu lost his own election, it was felt that the only way to give him any political relevance was by including his name among the ministerial nominees from the state. Jang, as a way of protest refused to endorse Mantu's name.

The outcome was a silent war that was only perceived by Mantu's refusal to attend PDP rallies. For instance, Mantu was conspicuously absent during the PDP congress that ushered in Dakum Shown as the PDP Chairman of Plateau State. When Shown eventually convened a reconciliatory meeting at Azi Nyako center Daddin Kowa, it became clear that there was indeed a disaffection within the party as Mantu was not only present but stressed the need for the party to now unite against the AC in his speech to the press.
Subsequent events however, demonstrated that his pledge of support for the Government of Jang never came from the bottom of his heart. A scandal broke out between the Plateau State House of Assembly, PSHA, and the Plateau State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Nuhu Gagara. Gagara was said to have granted an interview to the Nation and the Leadership newspapers in which he accused Mantu of hosting members of the PSHA in his house. The newspaper report said that the host used the meeting to try to persuade the legislators to impeach the Governor. Though Gagara denied ever granting such an interview, it was seen as an effort to simmer down the scandal.

The failure of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, to include the logo of one of the contesting parties in the ballot paper for Plateau Central Senatorial District, Mantu's constituency, compelled a court to order a re-run of the election. It gave Mantu another chance to re-invent his political relevance. He was however, conscious of a possible lack of support from the Plateau State Government whom he has offended in the past. Mantu thus cried out to President Yar'Adua to intervene. Yar'Adua subsequently directed that Jang himself should play the role of the Mantu's campaign coordinator. Whether Mantu became satisfied that Jang can fully support his re-election or not is not clear but Mantu's campaign message on radio had a line that said " this time we are sure of victory". The victory never came as Sati Gogwin again slammed Mantu on the floor. Mantu's camp was heard accusing Jang's of anti-party conducts during the election and that it was the reason why Mantu lost.

Diket Plang is the Special Adviser to the Governor on Inter-Governmental affair and has been in the PDP since 1999. Plang said that contrary to the accusation that members of the Plateau State Cabinet engaged in anti-party affair during the re-run election, he himself actually voted for Mantu and that he is not aware of any directive or intimidation to compel anybody to vote against Mantu. As to whether Mantu's political future is assured under PDP, Plang said that Mantu is a privileged person that has been to the Senate for two tenures and should be satisfied with the position of an elder in the party.

The administration of Joshua Dariye ruled Plateau State from 1999 to 2007. The second tenure of the administration, starting from 2003 to 2007 was characterized by political storms more than it has ever been witnessed in the history of the state. The storms according to members of the administration hamstrung the administration such that it was not able to deliver good governance. The President for instance declared a state of emergency in the state on May 18, 2004. It lasted for six months during which an administrator that was appointed by the Preesident ruled the state. When the state of emergency ended and Dariye returned, there were series of dramas at the PSHA. The climax was the impeachment of the governor in November of 2006. About a month before the handover a newly elected government in Plateau State, a court returned Dariye to office saying that his impeachment was unconstitutional.

Dariye's administration came to power on the platform of the PDP. Since Dariye's problems were perceived, by many, as masterminded by Mantu and supported by a caucus of the party at the national level, Dariye broke off with his cabinet to join the AC.

Honourable James Barry was a Permanent Secretary during the administration of Dariye. He was also a gubernatorial candidate under the AC. He agrees that Mantu was at the bottom of the woes of the administration throughout its two tenures of four years each and not just during the last four years. He says he is not in a position to say whether Mantu's political activity has come to an end, as God is also a factor. He also believes that besides the AC and the PDP, the DPP and the ANPP are also strong parties. He is not the type that believes in switching political affiliation on the slightest provocation. He however sees no reason why Mantu would want join the AC as the politicians in AC are the victims of his bloody political style and that if he is of no use to the PDP he don't see why he could be of any use to the AC.

Mantu was one of those that founded the Nigerian People's Party (NPP) of the Second Republic but later decamped to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) when he felt his dreams would not be actualized in the NPP. In the PDP however, he has risen to the position of the Deputy Senate President and held the position for about six years. There is little possibility that Mantu will descend so low by living the PDP to another party that will not even present him with any chance of victory in view of the fact that the winner has often taken all in Nigerian politics. James Barry however said that if Mantu can go to Abuja in an attempt to overturn the election of Jonah Jang and can be so influential as to mobilize members of the state's House of Assembly, then he is indeed a strong politician that can be expected to spark a surprise anytime. Age however is not on his side.