On 27 February 2023, celebrations filled the air. The loud echoes spread into the walls of the room where Ismaila Yusha’u Maihanchi and his campaign team were seated while watching live on television as the election returning officer declared him as the winner of the membership seat of the House of Representatives for Jalingo, Yorro, and Zing Federal Consistency with a margin of over 20,000 votes.
They all bent their foreheads in prayers to God for granting them victory. That evening, the celebrations extended into the streets and suburbs of Jalingo, the Taraba state capital. Cars were convoyed in numbers. A huge crowd moved on foot as they headed to the winner’s family house in Sintali.
At the house, prayers from his parents and relatives were showered on him and every person who was there to witness it. Maihanchi was spotted crying. Tears streamed down his face. His supporters felt it could be tears of joy. However, later in the evening, through his social media handles, he appreciated the efforts of the people who made his victory so.
“My sincere appreciation goes to His Excellency, Arch. Darius Dickson Ishaku, Executive Governor of Taraba State, the leadership of our party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and all our distinguished party stalwarts for believing in my vision,” he wrote.
He also extended his heartfelt gratitude to the good people of Jalingo, Yorro, and Zing who believed in him and voted in his favour.
“I promise to work tirelessly to represent your interests at the National Assembly and bring about the positive change that our consistency deserves,” he wrote.
“To my fellow contestants, while we may have been in opposing parties during the campaign, I want to emphasize that we all share a common goal to serve the people of our dear nation and improve their welfare.”
A few weeks later, prior to the gubernatorial and state legislative elections on 18 March, Maihanchi was in a hospital bed battling an ailment. He did not survive.
Like a sharp knife, the news of his death came stabbing the hearts of his family, friends, and supporters who didn’t see it coming. He died on the late night of Friday, 21 April 2023, amidst the joyous Eid-el-Fitr celebration that couldn’t last well for his constituents who gave him a mandate to represent them at the National Assembly.
By Saturday morning of the following day, the sad news spread like wildfire on social media and through the nooks and crannies of Taraba and even to other parts of the country that a newly elected legislative member at the National Assembly from Taraba passed away.
Unfortunately, the death of a young and vibrant politician like Maihanchi who is 37-year-old is haunting. As it leaves many grieving, it’s still seen as a vacuum that will be difficult to fill because even while in the hospital bed, those who knew him, said his benevolence and philanthropic services didn’t stop as he still supported and helped in settling people’s bills.
The late Maihanchi began his political career as a ward secretary of the People’s Democratic Party or PDP at Sintali in Jalingo Local Government Area. His appointment as a special adviser to the Governor of Taraba State between 2015 and 2022 was life-changing for not only his close allies but even for people who look up to him outside the political landscape.
In those times, he was referred to as a smart lobbyist and progressive politician who went on to improve the social and economic stability of Jalingo residents by sponsoring and enrolling youths in school. He also provided jobs to unemployed graduates, paying medical, rent, and other similar bills to people he barely knew. He was kind-hearted to the less privileged, accommodating, and tolerant irrespective of ethnic, religious, or political distinctions.
His first-time bid for the House of Representatives seat was in 2019 under the platform of the PDP. He lost to Hassan Bappa in the primaries. But for the second time at the primaries conducted ahead of the 2023 General elections he emerged as the party’s flag bearer for the same seat which gave him the will to contest and win at the polls in February 2023.
In an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority before the 2023 general elections, Maihanchi highlighted that his political movement doesn’t rely on thuggery or bankrolling young people in tarnishing the image of his political rivals. He believed that opposition is a feature of democracy and should be used in a safe way that will not cause harm or promote conflicts.
“Our collective responsibility is to build people, educate them, and provide them with sustainable jobs. Politics is about what you have done to your people and community. If you come to me as a young person, I will tell you to go to school and still sponsor your education. If you graduate, I will get you a job to do. But don’t cheat people. Don’t steal or involve in drugs and political thuggery,” he emphasized.
It was through such vision that the promising politician earned himself the name “Commander” for being selfless and exemplifying servant leadership. Now that he is gone— questions are bubbling in the air on who could be the next “Commander” Can anyone match his feat? And who can reclaim the legislative seat that he left vacant? It’s only time that will unfold these expectations even as the PDP puts plan in motion to present a candidate that will slug it out with candidates from other parties in the bye-election.