Tempers are boiling over in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, following the Friday arrest of two officials of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the governorship elections on Saturday.
At midday Friday, four service vehicles of operatives from the state command of the State Security Service (SSS) drove to the Government Lodge at Karim Lamido where they arrested Danladi Baido, a federal legislator who just won re-election into the House of Representative a fortnight ago. Mr Baido represents the Karim Lamido/Lau Federal Constituency.
Shortly after the arrest of Mr Baido, news of the arrest of another official, Idi Mali, Council Chairman of the Karim Lamido Local council in the state was reported, according to Victor Kona, the chairman of PDP in Taraba State.
“I was talking to him when the SSS people came and he said they just wanted him in the office. They did not accuse him of anything but it is clear they wanted to keep him till after elections tomorrow.”
According to Mr Kona, this new wave of intimidation is a deliberate scheme to enable the All Peoples Congress (APC) earn a victory by intimidating the opponent.
Mr Kona said the introduction of the SSS into the election equation has created doubt about the prospect of free and fair polls in Taraba. He urged the citizens to be calm and not resort to self-help.
When contacted, the police spokesperson in Taraba, David Misal, said his agency was not involved in the arrests.
“You might contact them (SSS) so that you can get the information from them. I do not know about their activities and also I do not know about their operation,” he said.
The SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, when contacted said he had not been briefed about the arrests.
Taraba is currently governed by Governor Darius Ishaku of the PDP. Mr Ishaku is seeking re-election on the platform of his party. His main challenger is Abubakar Danladi of the APC. Mr Danladi, a former governor of the state, has the support of the presidency amid allegations the presidency is desperate for an APC victory in the state that has suffered from ethno-religious crises.
Mr Danladi was initially disqualified by a high court which found him culpable of age falsification. The court of appeal, however, ordered a stay of execution of the order and approved that he be allowed to contest the election.
A third major candidate in the election is Aisha Alhassan of the United Democratic Party. Mrs Alhassan, a former minister, resigned from President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet after she was barred from seeking the APC governorship ticket.