Is Aisha Jummai Alhassan set to make history as Nigeria’s first female governor?

Following the ruling of the Taraba State tribunal this past weekend, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, aka “Mama Taraba,” is set to become Nigeria’s first female governor. This reignites the state’s dashed hopes of producing the first female elected governor in the country after Darius Dickson Ishaku was declared winner of the governorship election in Taraba at the end of a fierce race in March.

Sitting at the Appeal Court in Abuja, the tribunal, in a unanimous judgement ordered Ishaku to vacate the office of the governor on the grounds that he was not sponsored by the PDP or any other political party as demanded by law – section 85 of the Electoral Act 2010. Musa Danladi Abubakar, the chairman of the tribunal, then ordered that Alhassan be sworn-in having scored the second highest number of votes in the governorship election.

Reacting to the ruling, a distressed Ishaku voiced his disappointment at the tribunal and his intention to appeal the ruling at a higher court. “I am going to appeal, and know that the judgement will be reversed.”

If Ishaku loses in the Supreme Court, Senator Alhassan will become the fifth governor of Taraba State. This feat will be an addition to the list of “firsts” by the senator who is undoubtedly a pace-setter. Alhassan became Abuja’s first female Chief Magistrate in 1996, after previously working as a Magistrate for close to five years. The following year, she became the first female Attorney General of Taraba state while serving as the first female Deputy Chief Registrar and Director Litigation of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Alhassan is also the first woman to be made Secretary of the FCT Judicial Council in 2002, and Chief Registrar of the Abuja High Court in 2003. Hence, winning this legal battle will be another feather to the cap of this remarkable woman who also happens to be one out of the six women in President Buhari’s cabinet.

The impending success of Senator Alhassan is trailed by mixed emotions. “Tarabans” and a majority of Nigerians are excited over the possibilities of welcoming the country’s first female governor, since Virgy Etiaba’s three-month tenure as governor of Anambra state following Peter Obi’s impeachment in 2006. On the other hand, there have been violent clashes over the ruling, spearheaded by individuals speculated to be members or supporters of the opposing People’s Democratic Party. These crises have reportedly resulted in the death of about 30 people, leaving a good number injured.

In light of the general elections conducted early on this year, there are a series of election tribunal cases similar to that of Taraba state, including Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Delta, and Abia states. A look at the outcome of these recent cases might suggest a bleak end for Senator Alhassan, as quite a number of incumbent governors have remained in power. However, judging from earlier years where courts have ruled in favour of election opponents by ousting state governors like Oserheimen Osunbor for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in Edo state – 2008, Segun Oni for Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti state – 2010, and Olusegun Agagu for Segun Mimiko in Ondo state – 1998, Aisha Jummai Alhassan can nurse the hope of becoming Nigeria’s first female governor, by vote.

However this turns out, Senator Alhassan will definitely get a chance to make her presence felt in the country either as a governor in Taraba state, or as a member of the soon to be inaugurated Federal Executive Council.

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