BY ALI ABARE Since the coming into power of the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nasarawa State has always played pivotal role in the activities of the ruling party. No wonder, the state is always referred to as the political laboratory of President Buhari, as well as his second home.
Nasarawa State under the leadership of former governor, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura, provided the impetus for the then Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), founded in 2009 as a political platform for President Buhari ahead of the 2011 presidential election, to participate in the alliance which led to the birth of the APC.
Senator Al-makura played critical role in the negotiations and subsequent formation of the APC, being the only CPC governor, as well as the only governor to host the maiden meeting of the Progressive Governors Forum, in Lafia.
After ending the 12-year reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2011 governorship election, Senator Al-makura inherited a Nasarawa State House of Assembly dominated by the PDP, with 20 members, while his party, the CPC had four members. The political imbroglio that followed attempts by the PDP members of the assembly to impeach Al-makura, further tested the the former governor’s doggedness politically, paving the way for the APC to assert itself and to ensure it dominates the state assembly.
Through deliberate and carefully executed political strategies, Senator Al-makura ensured that the APC in Nasarawa State grew from strength to strength, taking over affairs of the state assembly and dominating the political terrain of the state. A party that could only boast of four lawmakers in 2011, expanded gradually to not only take over the state assembly but also the national seats in the state.
From 2015 till date, Nasarawa State has continued to feature prominently in the activities of the ruling APC. It was therefore, not surprising for the party to consider zoning the seat of its national chairman to the North Central and finally, to Nasarawa State.
Though the national convention came with it surprises, especially after President Buhari allegedly endorsed the first executive governor of the state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, for the position of the national chairman, a lot of water has since passed under the bridge, with both the former governors of the state accepting their fate and going about their businesses without let or hindrance.
Even though the decision of the president in rooting for Senator Adamu to become the national chairman of the party, was least expected, considering that Senator Al-makura was the favourite candidate even endorsed by the party at the state level, the two political leaders have already mend fences and continued where they stopped.
However, the APC in Nasarawa State appears to be at a crossroads, particularly after the recently concluded party primary elections. The strong and united APC the incumbent Governor Abdullahi Sule inherited from his immediate predecessor, underwent a hubris, which threw the party in disarray.
It must be understood that that, this circumstance arised mostly not due to any fault of the incumbent governor, who has demonstrated such uncanny ability to foster cordial relationship between himself and his two predecessors, a character trait that is obviously lacking in many states.
The APC is in crisis in Nasarawa State not because the incumbent governor is fighting his predecessors but rather, the infraction gravitated from grievances arising from the just concluded party primary elections.
It would be recalled that, on the night of the primary election for the state assembly, the Nasarawa State chapter of the party, lamented the alleged substitution of delegates across some selected local government areas of the state.
State chairman of the party, Hon John Mamman, while addressing the media on the matter, lamented that the official and authentic delegate list earlier sent to the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, has been completely changed or doctored in a number of local government areas of the state.
“In the light of the above unfortunate developments, the APC in Nasarawa State, will not tolerate this unwarranted doctoring of the official delegates list sent to the national secretariat.
“We consider this as undemocratic, capable of breeding disaffection and tension in the party. Therefore, the party will not accept any list outside the list of delegates who emerged after the APC congress in the state,” the APC chairman was quoted as saying.
In what may have appeared as a prelude to the crisis that will rock the party, the attempt by the state chapter of the APC to save the situation was misinterpreted to mean antagonizing the newly elected national chairman of the APC and a former governor of the state.
With the effort of the Hon Mamman led state executive committee of the party rebuffed, the stage was yet set for the ensuing crisis bedevilling the APC, which saw the defection of some of the erstwhile members of the party.
Following the outcome of the primaries, some notable members of the party like Senator Godiya Akwashiki, Hon Gaza Jonathan Gbwefi, Hon Sarki Dahiru, both members of the House of Representatives, as well as Hon Aliyu Ahmed Wadada, two-term member of the House of Representatives and guber aspirant during the 2019 election, left the party citing irregularities in the conduct of the primaries.
Aside of these, other aspirants who felt cheated in the exercise, with their supporters, decided to shift base and to set up their tents in other political camps.
Also, even after the primaries, some names of candidates that emerged victorious at the exercise supervised by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were substituted, even as more of these aggrieved members resorted to the law courts.
On his part, Governor Sule has continued to make concerted efforts to calm nerves and to cool tensions. As part of the effort to pacify aggrieved members of the party, he set up a reconciliation committee headed by a legal luminary and former governorship aspirant of the party, Hassan Liman (SAN).
Inaugurating the committee at a ceremony, the governor charged members of the committee to go round the state, with a view to reconciling aggrieved members of the party.
“Anyone who feels very strongly that they have not been treated fairly, there are proper procedures to address such issues. I am appealing to our members that very soon we are going to set up a high-powered committee that is going to go around and speak with various members of the party and hear how they feel about what has happened and see how best to address those issues,” he stated earlier.
Aware that all is not well with the party in the state, Governor Sule used every available opportunity, to appeal for calm among members of the party, even as he work assiduously to engender peace and reconciliation among members of the APC.
One of such opportunities was when he hosted the national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, at the Government House, when the latter called to pay the traditional Sallah homage, as well as condole with the governor, government and people of the state, over the recent demise of the Aren Eggon, Bala Abainei Angbazo.
The governor particularly wanted the party to use the period between now and the coming 2023 elections, to calm nerves and to pacify aggrieved members of the party.
Governor Sule told the national chairman why it was imperative for the APC to go into the next general election united and in peace, urging Senator Adamu to use his experience to douse the growing apprehension within the party, especially in the wake of the recently concluded party primaries, which saw to some members of the party defect to other political parties.
“We have almost eight months before election. That’s a long time for us and especially for old politicians like you, to use the opportunity to calm nerves and all those who have been hurt.
“What I pray, is that whatever that is left, let’s make sure, especially with the governorship and house of assembly elections that are left, whatever that is left, we do everything possible to maintain what is right and what is peaceful,” the governor stated.
As if in an answer to speculations indicating that, some sons of the state, who are close to the national chairman and who could pull strings at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, were said to be responsible for the substitution of delegate lists, the governor, in his characteristics humility, called on the personal aides of the national chairman, to also use the opportunity to reach out to aggrieved members of the party and to avoids issues that may further cause problems for the party.
“For that reason, I am happy, your Chief of Staff and other people are here, so we can use the opportunity to reach out, and to ensure that whatever we hear, or we feel is going to bring some kind of problem, we try to maintain it. Because it’s very important to go into this election peacefully and to come out peacefully,” he said.
The governor emphasized the need for tact in the collective bid to make amends and to reconcile aggrieved members of the party.
“People will feel aggrieved over one thing or the other and it’s indeed okay. But at the end of the day, the role we play after the exercise is more important. The President has done a wonderful job by inviting the senators and at the end of the day, those that will go, will go. But others will also come in,” he said.
Even with the laudable initiative by the governor to bring peace back to the party, political observers believe there is still much to be done before it will be uhuru for the APC in Nasarawa State.
Political pundits are of the view that, if lasting peace should be attained, which in itself, is necessary for the success of the party in the coming election, more needs to be done towards reconciling aggrieved members.
Even though some aggrieved members have left the party, it’s believed that most of them took the decision out of anger. Even though they left, they still identify with the party at certain levels, especially since they all accepted that Governor Sule remains the best option for the state.
Maybe it could be as a result of this umbilical cord linking some of these defectors with some members of the APC, which led to the governor reading a riot act to his appointees to be loyal to his administration and the party or quit.
This explains why political pundits in the state posit that, the only way out of this logjam, is to invite both the national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura, to sit down together and to also be part the the reconciliation efforts.
For Senator Al-makura, he must consider this as an onerous task considering that he gave his all to bring the APC to the present level. It will not be in tandem with his fatherly spirit and responsibility, to allow the APC to implode in the state, with Nasarawa State considered as one of the pillars of the party.
The national chairman on his part, has been presented with a golden opportunity to prove his mettle and to ensure that, the APC grows from strength to strength. There is nowhere the APC should be seen as united and strong than in Nasarawa State, his home state.
Indeed, Nasarawa State never had it so good like now. Nasarawa has a former governor, whose vision and desire to exploit the potentials of the state, who saw the need to work hard to bring in the Governor Sule administration. Governor Sule, in the past three years of his stewardship, has more than justified this trust in his leadership capabilities. He has proven to both his supporters and traducers, that he is indeed, the best among all the other options, to govern the state. Also, Senator Adamu, at the twilight of his political career, has been saddled with the responsibility of fostering a united APC, that will be strong and all conquering even beyond the 2023 general elections.
Therefore, it’s of utmost significance, that these leaders, come together, to work for the unity of the party at home, before replicating such overture across the length and breadth of the country.