From Linus Oota, Lafia
The struggle to produce the successor of the outgoing governor of Nasarawa State, Umaru Tanko Almakura in 2019 has heightened the political tempo of the state.
Daily Sun’s investigations revealed that several factors would be considered in the run up to 2019 elections. Among the factors are: the challenge of incumbency, the demographic agitations and the prospects of opposition parties in the state forming a common front to give the ruling party a run for its influence.
The state was created on October 1st 1996 by the administration of late General Sani Abacha and has produced three democratically elected governors in the person of Senator Abdullahi Adamu (1999-2007), Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma (2007-2011) and the incumbent Alhaji Umaru Tanko Almakura who defeated Doma in 2011 and would complete his second tenure in 2019.
The state was governed by the PDP until in 2011 when Almakura was elected on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) before joining other progressives in the merger that brought about the APC in 2014, after which he was reelected.
The first civilian governor of the state Senator Adamu hails from Nasarawa West senatorial district (Keffi Zone) while the second and third civilian governors (Akwe Doma and Tanko Almakura) are from Nasarawa South (Lafia Zone). Nasarawa North (Akwanga Zone) have not had the opportunity of occupying the number one seat in the state, the efforts of Senator Solomon Ewuga and Labaram Maku from the area to clinch the seat over the years have not yielded any fruitful result.
The battle ahead of 2019
The PDP which came a distant third during the last governorship elections in the state is presently in disarray due to irreconcilable internal crisis at its headquarters and the recent threats by some of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi’s faction to dump the party should Senator Ali Modu Sherriff win at the apex court has cast a sort of shadow on its drive for 2019. But the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), led by its 2015 governorship candidate and former information minister, Labaran Maku is busy strategizing on how to give the ruling APC a fight in 2019.
The ruling APC whose membership is increasing by the day following massive defection from PDP into the party is battling with credibility problem which may affect its chances of producing Almakura’s successor, come 2019.
As the three major parties in the state prepare to face each other and at the same time work out modalities to address their internal challenges, the northern senatorial zone of the state is not relenting on their long time agitation to have their turn on the premise that the zone remains the only one that is yet to produce a governor in the state since its creation 20 years ago.
As political activities gather momentum, the northern zone popularly known as the Akwanga Zone, investigations further revealed would have to harmonize and agree on the best and credible candidate among their personalities on any of the three platforms, the APC, APGA and the PDP in 2019, failure of which may cause the zone its chances again, as it happened in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015 respectively.
Also, there are signs that Governor Almakura would face tough challenges in deciding who fly the party’s ticket. For now, it is obvious that his choice may not tally with the desire of some leaders of the party, particularly his predecessor senator Abdulahi Adamu who command a lot of influence in the politics of the state and is believed to be pushing for a particular choice that might not go down well with the governor.
However, there is also disquiet among the major stakeholders in the northern zone over who to support in 2019. For instance, in October 23, 2016, the palace of the Aren Eggon hosted the Nasarawa North Traditional council and those who could be referred to as major stakeholders in the zone concluded that 2019 was the time for the zone to produce the governor of the state.
The gathering, it was further gathered sent a strong warning to major political gladiators from the zone not to go for anything less than the governorship of the state and that nobody from that zone should accept to be deputy governor come 2019. Among those who attended the meeting were the state deputy governor Silas Agara, the deputy speaker of the State Assembly Godiya Akwashiki, former information minister Mr. Labaran Maku, Senator Solomon Ewuga, former deputy governors Prof Onje Gye-Wado, chief Mike Abdul, Dameshi Luka Barau, Sen Musa Nagogo, Alhaji Halilu Envulanza and Senator Philip Gyunka among other stakeholders.
One major challenge, the zone had faced in its previous attempt to get the governorship slot was lack of coherence as too many politicians from the zone often come out to seek for the position. It is the lack of coherence that the south and west usually take advantage of.
Options before APGA and PDP
The All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA) in the state have already zoned its governorship to the northern axis and their likely candidate is the former information minister and 2015 governorship candidate of the party, Mr. Labaran Maku.
His strength is said to be the fact that he has reportedly been working round the clock to work his way into the heart of various communities in the state and as well engaging the elders to get their support.
The Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) too, have equally agreed to zone their governorship position to the north but there are underground scheming to woo Maku back to the party, or join forces with him as consensus candidate of the zone.
Almakura’s incumbency factor and 2019 equation
As the APC administration in the state under winds down, the governor is likely to pick any of his close allies from the northern zone like the Managing Director of the Dangote Sugar Company, Engineer Abdullahi Sule or the state deputy governor Silas Ali Agara who is the most loyal deputy governor in the history of the state.
From the western senatorial axis where the governor is rumored to have keen interest, his foot soldiers and very close surrogates are: Hon. Ja’afaru Muhammed Ibrahim, a Member of the House of Representatives representing Nasarawa/Toto federal constituency and Architect Shehu Tukur, who is the state government project consultant.