By Ali Abare
It was Ella Wheeler Wilcox, an American writer and poet that said there is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul. Indeed, for Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura, both chance and destiny, seem to join forces to further concretise his determined resolve to leave his imprints in the political history of the country.
According to an abridged biography of the two-term governor of Nasarawa State, Al-makura was born around 1952 in Lafia, Nasarawa State, as a member of the Gwandara ethnic group. He attended Dunama Primary School, Lafia (1959–1966), Keffi Teacher’s College (1967–1971) and then Government Teachers College of Education, Uyo (1972–75). For a short period in 1975 he was an Assistant Producer at the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria. He then went to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1975–1978), graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree. For his National Youth Service he was a teacher at the Government College, Makurdi.
In 1978, he formed Almakura Nigeria Limited, importing and servicing agricultural and industrial machinery. Later he ventured into real estate and property development as owner and chairman of Ta’al Nigeria Limited, with properties in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Washington DC, United States. He owns the Ta’al Lake Resort, Abuja and the Ta’al Conference Hotel, Lafia.
His political journey began in 1980, when Almakura became the youth leader of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the old Plateau State. He was elected to the constituent assembly of 1988–89, representing the Lafia–Obi Federal Constituency of what is now Nasarawa State. He was state secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC) party in Plateau State from 1990 to 1992. Al-makura was a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nasarawa State in 1998.
Al-makura rode to national prominence when he ended the second term bid of the late Aliyu Akwe Doma, after he defected from the PDP, to join the relatively unknown Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), earlier founded by the Daura born General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
Al-makura was sworn into office as the governor of Nasarawa State on May 29, 2011 and he occupied the office for eight years, following which he was subsequently elected as senator representing Nasarawa South at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
Indeed, when Maya Angelou posited that one may encounter many defeats, but one must not be defeated and that, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so one can know oneself, what one can rise from, how one can still come out of it, she could have had Al-makura in mind.
For the baptism of fire he encountered while lawfully pursuing his political ambition to become governor, which saw him being whisked away to Abuja, to answer trumped up charges of inciting irate youths to pelt the convoy of former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was on an official visit to Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.
Prior to that, Al-makura was subjected to intense political persecution, when he was sidelined during the ward, local government and state congresses of the PDP, denied the right to purchase the expression of interest, as well as nomination forms, leaving him with no option than to buy these two essential documents at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
To cut the long story short, cronies of the late Aliyu Akwe Doma, made sure they chased Al-makura out of the PDP ahead of the 2011 general election, making it resoundedly known that, for the then ruling party, it’s the late Doma who will retain the guber ticket of the party.
Apparently undecided on what course to follow, Al-makura shortly after, appeared at the then Jos Road office of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), announcing his decision to pursue his guber ambition on the platform of the party.
What started as the boot of a joke, with those on the corridors of power then jeering and passing snide remarks, about the unlikelihood of Al-makura realising his ambition, metamorphosed into a political movement that eventually swept away the PDP from power and to usher in Al-makura who came with a vision to reform the political landscape and to place Nasarawa State on the path of sustainable development.
For Al-makura, 2011 was the year he had a date with his political destiny. For it was during that time that he joined the CPC, earlier founded by General Buhari to serve as a platform for his presidential ambition in the same year.
Now that choice, that decision to leave the PDP and join the CPC, makes Senator Al-makura the man who holds the four aces in the race for the national chairmanship of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Al-makura may not be playing with a full deck, as they say, because he don’t need a full deck. He has the four aces, which are larger than life and greater than mountains.
In 2011, Al-makura was the only governor in the country elected under the platform of the CPC. It was the CPC, led by Buhari and his 15m supporters, that paved the way for the merger of the four legacy parties namely Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), CPC and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to form the APC.
Prior to the coming of the APC, political historians have posited that political parties in Nigeria, have not been able to fulfill their role as institutions for national development and integration. But instead and like the PDP, were merely dynamic amalgam of interest groups held together by, if anything at all, the fact that the party is in power and therefore the strong expectation of patronage.
However, with the berthing of the APC in July 2013, after leading opposition leaders and a splinter group from the PDP, who collapsed their various platforms, in order to form a broad based political party, that will represent a new phase in the democratic evolution of the country.
Again, scholars argue that, the new party did not only held a successful national congress to elect officers to administer the party, it succeeded in wrestling political power from the former ruling party in the general elections conducted in March 2015. The successes of these two events especially the alternation of political power at the national level have expectedly generated renewed but cautious optimism in the prospect of not only consolidating democracy but also charting a new course for the development of the country.
Giving insights into the process leading to the merger of the legacy parties that gave rise to the formation of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, reminiscing in a foreword to a book, “Power of Possibility and Politics of Change in Nigeria” written by the Director-General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Comrade Salihu Mohammed Lukman, said all the four parties came to the “painful realisation” that none of them could defeat PDP as separate entities hence the need for them to merge.
Throwing more light on the matter,, the president was quoted as saying: “At one point, we in the four former opposition parties, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), came to the painful realisation that there was no way we could defeat the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as separate entities without coming together as a united force.
“So, having agreed to come together, we decided to set up committees to look into how we can best merge to form a formidable opposition party. After that each of the four parties developed the terms of reference for the committees on the modalities of the negotiations for the merger.
“We, however, made it clear that none of the committees has the power to take any final decision on the merger. Their work was mainly to discuss with their party members and report the outcome of the discussion to the leadership of their parties”
Subsequently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), registered the APC on July 31, 2013 as announced by the then secretary to the commission, Abdullahi Kaugama.
The statement from INEC said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved the application by three political parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – to merge into one, to be known as the All Progressives Congress.
“On considering the application, the Commission found that the applicant-parties have met all statutory requirements for the merger, and has accordingly granted their request.
“Consequently, the Commission has approved the withdrawal of the individual certificates of the applicant-parties, and the issuance of a single certificate to the All Progressives Congress.”
Indeed, for Al-makura, this merger which his former party, the CPC entered into, remains evergreen because it presents to him equal footing as a founding member of the APC. Certainly, Al-makura was integral to all the meetings and decisions that were taken, towards the formation of the APC. He is indeed, an apostle of the policy and philosophy thrust of the APC, whose words, actions and body language, constitutes the cement binding the ruling party into a formidable political party, not the usual alliance solely for the purpose of power.
As far as the APC is concerned, Senator Al-makura has paid his dues. From providing the platform for the CPC to join the negotiations, being the only governor from the party, Al-makura has continued to serve the party diligently and with unalloyed loyalty.
It suffice to say that, in deference to this selfless commitment to the party, the APC has always found Al-makura worthy of undertaking certain national assignments.
In fact, barely one week after the APC was registered, Al-makura agreed to host the maiden meeting of the APC Governors Forum in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital. This was against the backdrop of expectations from stakeholders who have resolved that the ideals of the merger must be realized by state governments on the platform of the new party, to convince Nigerians that the party has their interests at heart.
Speaking to journalists on the agenda of the meeting, then governor Al-makura, posited that the registration of the APC marked the beginning of challenges.
“We did not go into this historic merger just because we want to win an election. It is not just for the fun of it, or even changing the PDP as a government. There is something more fundamental about the mere change we are seeking. We must have a different system from what we are trying to change to justify the essence of this merger. Already we have made history by having the very first ideal merger in this country. What happened since independence have been alliances and accords which brought about the amalgamation of various interests together, for the purpose of winning votes. And that is why such accords frittered as soon as elections were over.”
He said for the APC, a fundamental issue is to try and sensitize and enlighten the people about the party’s philosophies, values and ideologies.
Al-makura said the agenda of the meeting is only one.
“We have only one agenda; moving the country forward in a more acceptable, democratically and constitutional manner. We are going to further fine tune it into a forum where we as governors of APC will be sitting to share views, ideas, exchange ideas so that by our actions, programmes and activities, our disposition as governors, we will be identical; we are going to discuss how we will further the implementation of social justice.”
Then again, in May, 2018 precisely, Al-makura was appointed by the APC to chair the party’s five-member primary election committee to elect the APC flag bearer for the 2018 Ekiti governorship election, after the party declaried that it has no preferential candidate.
Then National Organizing Secretary of the party, Senator Osita Izunaso, who stood in for the national chairman of the party, charged the committee to be fair to all contestants in the Ekiti State guber election.
“If we conduct a transparent primary, any aspirant that wins will surely become the next governor of Ekiti state… The party has no preferred candidate, there is no such thing in our lexicon. It does not exist. All aspirants are equal until after the election” Izunaso stated.
In his response, then governor Al-makura, as the Chairman of the Primary Election Committee thanked the party for considering members of the committee worthy to carry out the critical and important assignment at that point in time.
“As far as we are concerned, we consider this assignment as a family affair which has to be done in strict conformity with our party’s guidelines and the constitution. I wish to assure the National Working Committee that by the special Grace of God, we as members of the Ekiti governorship primary will do justice to this exercise.
“We will ensure free and fair election, conformity and adherence to all the guidelines so that by the time the exercise is over, the party will become stronger and more cohesive. This will be the beginning of the assurance of our great party to reclaim the mandate in Ekiti state” he stated.
As promised, Al-makura successfully carried out the assignment and APC went ahead to win the guber election in Ekiti State.
Also, and ahead of the 2019 general election, the party still found Al-makura worthy to lead the Post Primary Reconciliation Committee of the APC for the Northeast states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.
This was in the attempt to resolve conflicts that erupted during the party primaries.
Al-makura, who was in Bauchi to address the cases that erupted from Bauchi and Gombe states respectively, said the committee was in the state with a view to addressing and resolving all emergent issues after the party primaries and also to actualise effective reconciliation of all aggrieved parties.
While assuring all aggrieved aspirants of fair hearing and justice, he said the intention was to engage and interact with them with a view to promoting amicable resolution and better understanding within the APC family.
“I want to assure you that me and my colleagues we will discharge our duties with high sense of responsibility, without fear or favour, we will be just and fair by giving everyone of you a fair hearing, at the end of the day we will articulate all the views and positions put before us and make necessary recommendations to the progress of our great party,” he stated.
Al-makura said the reconciliation process was dear and important to the party because the party need the full support of its members in the north east to effectively execute its plan to retain political power in 2019.
“The party and President Muhammadu Buhari holds you, in Bauchi State, and the North east zone in very high esteem. We rely on your support to succeed,” Al-makura was then quoted as saying.
Being a former governor and now senator, Al-makura has continued to wax stronger as a true apostle and ambassador of the APC. He remains at the forefront of defending and projecting the ideals of the party especially on the floor of the Red Chamber, where he has continued to do the APC proud through engaging in robust debates on pressing national issues, as well as propounding bills that have impact on the lives of Nigerians.
Thus, it’s no wonder that Almakura’s name continue to feature prominently among those contesting to occupy the seat of the National Chairman of the APC. With such a towering profile, Al-makura is sure to dwarf any contender, especially that he was part and parcel of the process that gave birth to the APC.
Not only that, two of the four legacy parties namely ACN and ANPP, have alternately produced previous national chairmen of the party. John Odigwe Oyegun was the first national chairman of the APC. He held the office from July 2013 to July 2018. He was a member of the defunct ANPP. On the other hand, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who succeeded Oyegun, was from the defunct ACN. He was in office July 24, 2018 to June 16, 2020.
Even the current National Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee Chairman, Mai Mala Buni, is of the ANPP extraction.
It’s generally agreed therefore, that the next national chairman of the party, should come from the defunct CPC block, especially that President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure is coming to an end come 2023.
That aside, Al-makura has the character and temperament, to knit the party together and to ensure success of the APC in 2023. He has been under intense tutelage under the founder and leader of the defunct CPC, President Muhammadu Buhari. It’s agreeable that, with Buhari out of the political sphere come 2023, Senator Al-makura will necessarily fit in as the right replacement, as far as maintaining the core values that necessitated the formation of the APC is concerned.
None among those aspiring to occupy the exalted position of the national chairman of the APC could attempt to match such towering credentials and to compete favourably with Senator Al-makura, the new APC bride.
No wonder that his recent declaration in Lafia, to gun for the position of the national chairman of the APC, reverberated through the length and breadth of the country. Al-makura indeed, has the golden key that will unlock the immense potentials of the APC to grow into the truly largest political party in Africa.
Already, he enjoins tremendous support from across the country but particularly from his home state, where his successor and Governor of Nasarawa State, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, has continuously made case for the party to zone the position of the national chairman of the APC to the North Central geopolitical zone.
Engineer Sule has on many occasions, thrown his weight behind Al-makura emergence as the next national chairman of the party.
Declaring his interest to seek to occupy the position of the national chairman of the APC, Senator Al-makura in Lafia recently, said his aspiration was borne out of his commitment to further project the good works of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He spoke at the grand finale of the party’s local government elections campaign rally for the Nasarawa South senatorial district, which held in Lafia.
“I feel this time is auspicious. And the venue of this grand finale is important. Today, I take the opportunity of this event to make a declaration of my aspiration to contest for the office of APC national chairman in the coming convention.
“I consider this important because this is my base. This is my local government where my ward and even the zonal headquarters is. This is where my umbilical cord that gave rise to my political aspiration is.
“I, Umaru Tanko Al-makura, wish to contest for the position of APC chairman. I am doing this to ensure cohesion, party unity, ensure that those values and attributes that came with the emergence of the legacy parties are kept alive,” he stated.
Though it is to be expected that, other politicians will also aspire to occupy the position of the national chairman of the APC, but truly when the chips are down, only Senator Al-makura can fit the bill.
Abare, a freelance journalist, writes from Lafia, Nasarawa State.