Nasarawa 2015: PDP’s plot to dislodge Al-Makura

By Sunday Oguntola
In Nigeria
Jun 14th, 2014
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Nasarawa State governor, Umaru Al-Makura, has many battles to fight ahead of his reelection bid in 2015, mainly from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has devised well-thought out strategies to outsmart him, reports Sunday Oguntola.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), still smarting from a shocking defeat at the 2011 governorship race in Nasarawa State, is determined to wrestle power from the incumbent, Umaru Al-Makura come 2015.

The game plan codenamed “Operation back to power in 2015” has become popular among leading chieftains of the party. It is anchored on the exigency of the party to assume the governorship seat again at the next election with members promised juicy offers at the federal and state levels.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the game plan has been adopted as the blueprint of the party’s electioneering campaign ahead of 2015 with huge resources allocated to making it a huge success.

The ‘power’ of the unseen pact  

The mainstay of the strategy, according to reliable sources, is the alleged pact Governor Al-Makura reportedly signed in the run-off to the 2011 race that he would only run for a term. For several months now, that pact has become the strongest weapon of the PDP in staving off efforts by the governor to seek reelection.

Party sources said Al-Makura entered into the pact in 2011 to curry the favour of Nasarawa North Senatorial District comprising Akwanga, Eggon and Wamba local governments. They said the governor needed the district’s support to dislodge former occupant of the seat, Aliyu Doma, who slumped to a famous defeat to the incumbent.

The Governor, they alleged, had an understanding with the district as candidate of defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) that he would only run for a term to repay the district’s support in 2015. But his camp has repeatedly denied such an understanding or pact existed. Al-Makura, they said, came to power on the groundswell of supports from across the state and did not need a particular district to assume the governorship.

This line of thought has become popular across the state, especially in the PDP. The Eggon ethnic nation has been most vociferous in this agitation, insisting the governor lacks the moral strength to seek reelection based on this unseen pact. For key strategists in the PDP, it is a masterstroke that will keep the governor on the defensive and attract the sympathy of the politically inclined in the state.

The zoning dimension

The major explanation for the governor’s alleged unseen pact is the need for zoning or rotation of power. Since it was created on 1 October, 1996 by the General Sani Abacha’s junta from neighbouring Plateau State, nobody from Nasarawa North has governed the state. The first governor, Abdullahi Adamu, ruled for eight years, filling the quota of Nasarawa West district.

Doma, according to the zoning agitators, served for four years while Al-Makura will complete the eight-year slot for Nasarawa South. By conceding power in 2015, Al-Makura will allow the governorship slot to go to the North and help promote the zoning arrangement in place, they explain. While it sounds altruistic and fair, the arrangement, according to political analysts, is only a PDP affair that is not binding on other stakeholders. They request for documents backing up the alleged arrangement as well as signatories supporting it.

As far as the governor’s camp and supporters are concerned, he is not bound by such an arrangement that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is not privy to. But the zoning argument resonates with many in the Nasarawa North, who feel marginalised and edged out of the governorship slot. This sentiment is spreading like wild fire in the district, winning many advocates and agitators.

To secure sympathy among voters, the PDP has reportedly zoned its governorship slot to Nasarawa North senatorial district. The move, the party’s chieftains believe will strike a chord among people and portray it as standing for fairness and equity. The deputy governorship, according to PDP sources, is zoned to the Nasarawa West district while the speakership is expected to emerge from the southern zone.

Checks revealed that the zoning arrangement was championed by leading Eggon politicians to shore up their governorship bids and blackmail Al-Makura out of the race. Information Minister, Labaran Maku, Senator Solomon Ewuga, who decamped to the PDP recently and the deputy governor, Dameshi Luka Barau, reportedly bought the issue to the limelight.

Ewuga, speaking on the governor’s unannounced reelection bid, recently said: “Governor Al-Makura told me that he wants to continue in office beyond 2015, and I said to him, ‘look, Your Excellency, I have no problem with you coming back in 2015 but you need to tell me how to approach the people whom you told openly that you would only run for a single term. It is not me. So, if the blame is on me and it is on 2015, it is those who are looking for it that are causing it, not me.”

Playing religious card

Since its creation, Nasarawa has never been governed by a Christian, a development that is becoming politicised by some of the aspirants. Many of them are clamouring for a Christian governor to give the Christian community a sense of belonging and in the spirit of fairness. Professor Onje Gye-Wado, who was deputy to Adamu, openly canvassed for the emergence of a Christian governor.

He said it was unfair that the state has never had a Christian at the helm of affairs, a situation he said makes the Christian community wonder if they are not qualified to lead. Reports indicated that many aspirants have approached churches and their leaders in the state to drum up support for the emergence of a Christian as governor in 2015.

If the card works well, it will suit the PDP since the Nasarawa North, where the Eggons are predominantly located, is mainly Christian. With its governorship slot already zoned to the district, the religious card will work to perfect harmony of the PDP’s dream of having someone from the district as governor to succeed Al-Makura.

The party has also embarked on widespread reconciliation moves to heal the wounds of 2011 and return defectors to its fold. Governor Al-Makura started his governorship race from the PDP before he lost the ticket to Doma. He left for the CPC where he emerged victorious. He is a Muslim and considered part of the state’s tradition. Sources close to him said he is working to diffuse the religious sentiment across the state by holding strategic inter-faith meetings aimed at building consensus.

Prominent among those who have joined the PDP lately include Senator Solomon Ewuga, Damishi Luka and Professor Onje Gye-Wado, among others.

The spate of massive violence across the state has also become a selling point for the PDP, which accused the governor of incompetence in tackling the serious insecurity challenge. The proscribed Ombatse group unleashed violence in the state, killing over 70 security operatives in Alakyo village in Lafia East development area of Lafia local government.

There have also been communal clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Nasarawa South as well as the recent incidents among Odobu, Obi and Assakio communities. The APC has however accused Eggon politicians of inciting the clashes to wrestle power violently, a charge they all denied.

The party is also banking on the support of the Assembly in unsettling the governor. It retains majority of the membership and made a good impression at the last council polls in March though the ruling APC won more seats.

Al-Makura fights back

The governor is however a dogged fighter. He has survived several impeachment plots and remained grounded despite the massive oppositions against his administration. His political sagacity has enabled him to survive among hawks and retained his sanity despite the many killings in the state.

But like most of his colleagues in the APC, his masterstroke is obviously sterling performance and delivery of democratic dividends. Even his cruelest critics acknowledge that he has revolutionised governance through infrastructural development. Major roads in Lafia, the state capital, have been constructed, helping to shake-off the rustic atmosphere of the city.

His administration has also impressed in the area of construction of schools, healthcare delivery and economic empowerment. Many cottage industries have become operational across the state, which has witnessed even distribution of government presence. Though he is yet to declare his intention to seek reelection, his aides said it is only a matter of time. It is believed that his fighting spirit, sharp political navigation and exemplary performances will stand him in good stead should he present himself for re-election. He has the power of incumbency on his side as well as large financial war chest.

Other contenders

Senator Solomon Ewuga: In 2011, he has to align with Governor Al-Makura to win the senatorial election in the north district. He is the leading candidate for the district. Most people from the zone love to imagine him becoming their governor.

He served as deputy to former Governor Adamu in 1999 after he was believed to have won the PDP primary election in a compromise arrangement.

However until 2011, he never won any election. The lawyer is fiercely popular and recently defected to the PDP. Should he contest, he can count on the votes of his district but that certainly cannot take him to the governorship post.

Labaran Maku: The Minister of Information has the PDP structure in his pocket. He is believed to have nominated the current state chairman and enjoys support from the presidency. Also a deputy governor, Maku has to stave off the ambition of Ewuga to really win nomination from the district. Many believe that the PDP might not make any Eggon politician its governorship aspirant so as not to alienate several victims of the Ombatse cult group.

John Danboyi

A gentle politician, Danboyi was in the Senate in 2003. He has been a loyal PDP member since formation and is a strong contender from Mada ethnic nation in the northern senatorial district. His biggest challenge will be how to handle the ambition of Maku and Ewuga, who are from his senatorial zone.

Dameshi B. Luka

The current deputy governor is as daring as endearing. He caused a stir recently when he hoisted the PDP flag in his office despite serving in the government of APC. He was considered a big catch to the PDP when he defected from the APC recently. Many believe he is the anointed candidate of the presidency because it is believed he can give Al-Makura a good fight being an insider.

He is also from the northern district where the party has zoned its governorship slot to. But can he dislodge his boss, who has tolerated his treachery with calmness?

Whichever one considers it, analysts say Al-Makura has to fight many battles within and without to win reelection come 2015.


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