With his ever-smiling mien and calmness, Senator Ibrahim Mantu was one of the notable figures in the nation’s political landscape and media space for many years, until he suddenly ‘got missing’ in action and was barely publicly seen or heard.
Mantu, who hails from Gindiri District in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State, had been a formidable politician over the years. He holds several academic qualifications and had worked in various establishments before joining politics.
He began his political career from his state (Plateau) until he became a national figure. His political journey, which commenced in the late 1970s with the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), stretched through the 90s when he became a member of the National Republican Convention (NRC) during General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime (when there were only two political parties in Nigeria). He was also a member of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP).
When General Sani Abacha passed on in 1998, General Abdulsalam Abubakar who became the Head of Interim National Government dissolved the existing political parties and prepared the ground for a more democratic setting which he actualized and then handed over to President Olusegun Obasanjo, who won the general election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999.
During the 1999 political activities and electioneering, Mantu was actively involved in the whole process and was eventually elected as Senator representing Plateau Central Senatorial zone on the platform of the PDP.
In the Senate, he was appointed Chairman Senate Committee on Information. He held that position until 2001, when he was elected Deputy Senate President. He was a classy Deputy Senate President and a force to reckon with, not only in the National Assembly, but in the nation at large.
He made himself uniquely relevant and thereby attracting lots of attention in the process. This got him several legislative and national appointments like the Chairman, Joint National Assembly Constitution Review Committee from 2001 to 2003 and from2003 to 2007, Chairman of Policy Analysis and Research Project (PARP), Amir Hajj in 2005 and 2006 and Chairman Palliative Consolidated Committee for Cushioning Measures.
Also, he was a member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) and National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP, Chairman of the Elders Advisory Council of President Goodluck Jonathan Support Group, among others.
In the PDP, Mantu was known to be an electoral tactician who ensured that the party wins election by all means possible through some political moves that are not often common with the Nigerian system. Thus, he was highly respected and relied upon whenever there is any difficulty or whenever the contest is fierce. He also had other pertinent antecedent which kept him afloat and broadened his relevance.
After leaving office in 2007, however, he suddenly recoiled into his shell in a unique fashion which many people believed to be too quickly. This is because most people who have attained his political status are often frequently seen or heard even after leaving office, and still involve themselves in national issues, discourse, assignments/programmes, visible developmental activities, mentorship/political godfatherism, among others.
The last time he was publicly seen in Plateau State was during the 2019 governorship election campaign of Senator Jeremiah Useni of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who contested against Governor Simon Lalong of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He was also sparingly seen and heard during the PDP supremacy tussle between Senator Jeremiah Useni and Senator Jonah Jang which climaxed last year and almost tore the party apart.
There are many prominent people in both factions then. For the Jeremiah Useni side, there was his running mate in the 2019 election, James Dalop; former Speaker, RT. Hon. Emmanuel Go’ar; Ibrahim Mantu (himself); former sports minister and Plateau PDP Chairman, Damishi Sango; among others.
For the Jonah Jang camp, there were the likes of Senator Istifanus Gyang representing Plateau northern zone; former House of Representatives member Timothy Golu; Hon. Dachung Bagos representing Jos South/East Federal Constituency; Chris Hassan, among others.
While some believe he has retired into a private life, others believe his type will not easily retire from public life, but has rather quit the scene in order to re-strategize and stage another kind of return.
Some political watchers, who confided in our correspondent, said the Mantu they know must be weaving the foreground of something formidable and it would be a matter of time before he relaunches out on a sound footing.
A source close to him said he mostly resides in Abuja now with his family and visits his Rayfield house in Jos, once in a while, and that he is quietly going from one PDP controlled state to another for one thing or the other.
According to the source, Mantu’s low profile now is not surprising as it is typical of some politicians who are no longer in position/power, especially those whose party is not in power both at the state and federal level.
The source however said the fact that Mantu remained in PDP despite many of his colleagues cross-carpeting to the ruling APC was indicative of a fact that he is still working on something underground. Or that he still has a political interest, undoubtedly.
Whatever he is working on, the source stressed, it may still not amount to much as his home state of Plateau from where he would launch a proper comeback from and get the required home support is now be ruled by the APC. Worse still, the PDP in the state is yet to fully resolve its crises and iron out their differences.
Interestingly, Mantu’s son, Barrister Umar Mantu, is already actively involved in politics and even contested for Mangu/Bokkos federal constituency seat for the House of Representatives in 2019 under the PDP platform but was defeated by the incumbent, Solomon Maren, at the primaries. Maren, who has been there from 2015, eventually won again in 2019.
The fact that Mantu’s son is already actively involved in politics, a PDP source said, and he (Mantu) remained a member of the PDP Board of Trustee (BoT), shows that his ‘missing in action’ presumption is only a tactical withdrawal to enable him spring forth unsuspecting surprise. This is in addition to his charisma and the respect he commands, not only in Plateau State but across the nation.
“That Mantu is not making noise does not mean he is not politically active. He has been actively engaged in reconciliation of the PDP wherever there are wranglings or internal crises. He has also been involved in strategic planning for the party to stage a forceful come-back in 2023. Even on the Plateau, he has been instrumental to resolving the issues among the warrying factions and aggrieved members of the party.
“Even the recent PDP congress, Mantu was actively involved and he was instrumental to the emergence of the North Central Chairman of the party few weeks ago at the party congress in Benue State who is a Plateau son, Theophilus Dakas Shan, from Quan’Pan local government area. Other Plateau indigenes who emerged as Excos in various positions are Olivia Dazen from Mangu and Joe Danladi from Jos North. So, to say that Mantu is missing in action is not entirely so.
“Besides, many people on the Plateau love Mantu, irrespective of ethno-religious affiliations, and it is a well known fact that the state has never had it so good in terms of federal appointments than when he was a principal officer in the National Assembly. Many Plateau indigenes got appointments into federal boards, governing councils of institutions, among other opportunities he provided for the people,” the source said.
According to the source, politicians often do their strategy covertly and only reveal it in due time. This is because should they reveal what they are up to before time, it may complicate things for them in one way or the order and as well reveal their plan to their opponents who may use it to counter them. That is what Mantu may be doing, the source added.
When contacted for inquiries, his son, Umar Mantu, said he cannot speak for his father in terms of knowing what his future political plans are or if he has any plans come 2023. According to him, he could give his own ideas about his father’s political plans (which he wasn’t actually willing to give anyway) but that his own ideas on his father’s plans may not be quite factual to his father’s real intentions.
He then referred our correspondent to one of his father’s staff who could give appropriate direction as to obtaining further information. But when contacted, the staff said he does not have such authority to do so or give out any information.
Well, it is a matter of waiting to see what Ibrahim Mantu’s next move will be. But whatever it may be, it won’t be long before it would be revealed, especially now that the 2023 general is around the corner. Interestingly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has quickened people’s interest and aspiration by recently releasing the election time table.