Linus Oota, Lafia
The battle for Nasarawa South Senatorial District is a straight one between incumbent Senator, Suleiman Adokwe of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the outgoing state governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The two candidates, incidentally, are all influential in the senatorial zone. But what are their chances? Will the people of the zone allow Adokwe an unprecedented fourth term in office?
Will the people allow Al-Makura, with fresh ideas to take over in 2019? Who will the Alago, Eggon and Tiv support? All these are some of the questions that have been agitating the minds of the people since the emergence of the two candidates.
Most of the elections in Nasarawa State are based essentially on tribal and religious sentiments and such sentiments are always difficult to change, though Al-Makura appears to be breaking the jinx of ethnic politics in the state.
Before now, the general approach to politics in Nasarawa State is “this is our own” whether the person is good or bad, is immaterial.
The people of Nasarawa South have always voted the PDP at all levels since the return of democracy in 1999. But the victory of Al-Makura in the 2011 governorship on the platform of the then Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) changed the political dynamics of the state, as the PDP-led administration of late Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma, was swept out of office.
But in spite of that, PDP still won the senatorial election of Nasarawa South and has been winning it till date.
Senator Suleiman Adokwe (PDP)
By the end of 2019, he would have spent 12 years in the red chamber and feelers from the district indicate that the people appear tired of his representation.
Analysts believe that the only advantage going for Adokwe is ethnicity; he belongs to the Alago, who are the majority tribe in the senatorial zone against Governor Al-Makura, who is from the minority Gwamdara tribe.
But there are a few of his kinsmen who want him retired from the lawmaking business. For instance, during the 2018 PDP primary of the zone, his main challenger, Ogoshi Mohammed Onawo who is a member of the House of Representatives challenged the lawmaker to mention one single project he has attracted to the zone since his election in 2007.
Also, a PDP leader in the zone, Alhaji Musa Kwande said “everyone of them will fight to the end, but I want Adokwe to know that he is facing a great challenger, who is not just a governor but an incumbent one, though Adokwe too is an incumbent senator, he should however know that the struggle will not be an easy one” he said
Alhaji Abubakar Gada Mohammed, Dan Galadiman Keffi, a major stakeholder in the politics of the state said “everybody has seen what Adokwe has done for the past 12 years as a senator, and they have equally seen what Tanko Al-Makura has done for eight years as governor
“If their achievements will be the basis of comparison, then Tanko Al-Makura will win, but if that will not be the gauge for comparison, then tribal politics will come in, and if tribal politics sets in, there will be a very narrow victory on the side of Adokwe
“This is because the Alagos will vote for Adokwe even though nobody can show anything that Adokwe has done for the people of the southern zone. I have gone round, there is no Local Government, no electoral ward in the southern zone that I have not been to, but I have never seen a single infrastructure that someone will tell you was influenced by Adokwe.
“I don’t know what gauge the people of that zone will use to vote, if it is tribal politics then there will be a problem but if it is politics based on performance, what an individual has done and will do when elected, Tanko Al-Makura will surely win” he said
Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (APC)
He had while declaring his intention to run for the southern senatorial districts of the state said that he is not going to the senate because he is an incumbent governor, but reiterated the fact that he has the capacity to give good representation to Nasarawa South in Abuja.
He said his desire to go to Abuja was not for the fun of it, but to ensure more development comes to Nasarawa South and the state at large, saying he was confident that the time has come for him to represent his people.
Despite being from a minority, one of the major advantage going for him apart from his performance and incumbency factor is that the Alago Muslims will prefer to vote for him irrespective of political differences, believing that, it will be more easier to get it back to one of their own in 2023, than going for Adokwe who is a Christian. During the PDP primary, all the Muslim delegates gave block votes for their own brother, his opponent, Mohammed Onawo, though Adokwe won with a slim margin of less than 50 votes.
Another factor going for Governor Al-Makura is the presence of elected Councilors, Supervisory Councilors at all the wards, and the local government chairmen, commissioners, special advisers and assistants in addition to other APC candidates that will add value to the election in favour of the governor.
Indeed, Al-Makura’s candidature has received the nod and blessings of the three major ethnic tribes in the senatorial zone (the Alagos, Eggons and the Tivs), the traditional institutions, religious leaders, political leaders of different divides, market men and women, traders, the academia, students and youths, farmers and workers as well as the people at the grassroots, all of who appear to have much trust in his personality and integrity.
But the Eggon people may not give him good percentage of their votes because he did not support one of their own to clinch the governorship ticket of the APC.
The Tiv communities are predominately found in the southern part of Nasarawa State and they constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in the zone.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Sun, the leader of the Tiv community in Nasarawa State and Commissioner for Higher Education, Dr. Clement Uhembe, said the Tiv people had a voting population of about 146,000 votes and about 75percent of the votes will go to Governor Al-Makura.
“We believe a fresh candidate will bring something fresh to the table for our own benefit, we had followed Governor Al-Makura’s painstaking effort to develop our area, so he is the most suitable person for the Job now
“Above all, we the Tiv people benefitted so much from his government; he did so much to make life comfortable for us through his development plans, now it is payback time as one good turn deserves another. The governor has told us why he is going to the senate, the reasons are quite important to the Tiv people and we shall put him there and hold him accountable thereafter” he said.
The Alago communities have equally declared their support for Governor Al-Makura, their leaders, Mr. Auta Eshi Samuel and Abdul Ari Keana, expressed their desire to have Governor Al-Makura represents Nasarawa South for a change in status quo, and for the sake of progress in the area.
According to Samuel there was urgent need to vote in another experienced politician like Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura to continue from where the current Senator representing the zone will stop in the next few months after the general election. It was necessary to attract sustainable development to the area which has faced utter federal presence neglect for so long.
He said though the incumbent Senator Adokwe has been there for about 12 years now; the people of Nasarawa South cannot feel his impact in the zone as every part of the senatorial districts smells backwardness.
“The time has come for dynamism to be introduced into representation in Nasarawa South Senatorial District to make our people smile for once” he said.
On his part, Mr. Keana said “It is our belief that Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura can carry our torch well, we want to try him, what he did for the whole of Nasarawa State, we trust that he will also do for our area. We are not interested in ethnic politics, all we are interested is who will bring better life to us, we have suffered federal presence neglect long enough and we don’t want to continue with it beyond 2019, we are impatient to witness true change, at the movement, only
Al-Makura can achieve this” he said
For Aliyu Bello, state APC secretary, it will be an understatement to say that Governor Al-Makura institutionalised far-reaching socio-economic reforms and as well provided critical infrastructure for the progress of the state. Majority of the citizens of the state in all sincerity will continue to remember Al-Makura who brought positive infrastructure developments to all parts of the state.
According to Alhaji Sam Daji, an APC chidtain, “Those who know Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura and what he represents in the trajectory of Nasarawa State and its developmental narratives, and in his usual political will and characteristics know that he is certainly going to Abuja to attract more robust development to his people through quality representation on the floor of the senate in addition to helping in ensuring good and forward-looking legislations for the growth and democratic stability of the country.
“He is not going to Abuja to warm the seat, but to initiate progressive bills that would be impactful on the people of Nasarawa South, Nasarawa State and the nation at large. Majority of the stakeholders in the senatorial zone opined that it is indeed the right time to change the docile representation the people had witnessed since 2007. With the emergence of Umaru Tanko Al-Makura as candidate, the people are unanimous in their views that the time is ripe for a new face to represent the zone for robust representation, and Al-Makura is the right man for the job,” he added