How Gov Ishaku’s Popularity Expanded Over Grazing Bill, By Emmanuel Bello

These are happy days for Governor Darius Ishaku’s whose job approval ratings, from all indications, are on a steady but solid rise. His acceptance level is also enjoying an upward swing, especially among peace- loving citizens. A survey showed that an astronomical improvement has occurred with the numbers, even as the electorate appears ready to embrace a new view of the governor. The new popularity index reveals that even hard core critics now have a word or two to say in favour of the former minister turned governor. While his traditional support base is getting fortified, Governor Ishaku is winning more souls, as it were. All thanks to his masterstroke of a bill he forwarded to the House of Assembly for deliberations. The anti open grazing bill, a novel and revolutionary concept,  is fast becoming the rallying point for the  new upward swing of the governor’s growing support. It is a move that took the opposition by surprise and left many opponents almost listless. It also suddenly reinforced the notion that the factors that first rallied a majority of the Taraba people behind Darius Ishaku are still intact. The factors include the natural instinct for self preservation by the people, the yearning for good governance and the hope of a better state.

All of the aforementioned ideals appear to have found a symbolic meeting point in the anti grazing bill which came at a time Taraba joined the infamous list of states herdsmen are harassing. Before now, such attacks in the state were limited to the hinterlands. But the latest onslaught saw whole communities ravaged. Ussa, Donga and Takum became frontline conflict zones. The Takum offensive brought the crisis into bold focus as this is the home town of the governor and also home to former defence minister, Gen. TY Danjuma(rtd). Nothing could have been more dire than this. The menance had knocked on the wrong doors and was about to meet its Waterloo.

In the past, there were no decisive actions taken. Before Arch. Ishaku became governor, Taraba was simply awash with such crisis. The entire central zone became a chamber of death as Tiv/Fulani wars took lives and properties. Wukari to the south of the state had become a byword in clashes.

The entry of Governor Ishaku changed that, especially as the catch phrase of “give me peace and I would give you development”, gained on. Collaborations with stakeholders in the civil, traditional and religious sectors enhanced the peace process.

The peace was almost shattered in the latest Fulani herdsmen invasion. Suddenly, the state hung precariously at the precipice. Matters were worsened by what appeared to be the apparent reluctance of the central powers to support peace efforts in Taraba- a state in opposition. A certain Commanding Officer (CO) was openly partisan. Locals alleged that he had received bribes of  many cows and thus has heavily lent his support to the aggressors. Governor Ishaku found himself raising alarms about this and more in various fora. He rightly feared that agriculture, the main stay of our people, was under attack. He saw a more sinister plot in what looks like the relocation of Sambisa forest to Taraba. He believed that the herdsmen were forerunners and co-travellers with the insurgents.

On the Benue state side, Governor Ishaku began working with Governor Samuel Ortom to build wall of peace among the cummunities. Their efforts put paid on the re-emerging Tiv/Jukun skirmish. The idea of anti open grazing bill began to take some shape. Besides, states like Benue and Ekiti had gone far with it. In those states, the law was effective as it suddenly reduced the tensions between farmers and grazers.

Dropping it in Taraba at the time the governor did was timely. The earliest support for the move came from none other than Mr. Benjamin Bako – a Lagos based ferocious critic of the governor hailed the initiative and promised to support it. A flurry of support was to flood in from various quarters. Ussa local goverment generally regarded as a zone with some opposition elements quickly embraced the bill and threw their weight behind it.  The governor became a sensation overnight. His actions was seen as bold and courageous and designed to protect his people from extermination. Besides, it is the first time any government was critically tackling issues of security with an enabling legislation. For a man whose critics viewed as slow and innovative, Governor Ishaku bill practically killed that misconception. It also made him look tough, decisive and efficient when it comes to peace matters. The first job of any governor is the protection of lives and property. Governor Ishaku scored a bull’s eye here.

Above all, the bill sent a signal to the aggressors that it is no longer business as usual. Although a pocket of protest weakly trailed the bill, the entire state appears to be standing with the governor on this matter.

A certain die hard critic called me as I wrote this to say this: “Emma. You know I won’t say anything good about your boss. But please this is a winner anytime, any day. For once, I’m starting to view him differently. Im willing to now give him a chance.”

Apparently, the above critic is not the only one starting to think like that.

Bello is the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to Governor Ishaku.


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