Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura
There appears to be an uneasy calm in Nasarawa State as the fate of Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura seems to lie in the hands of a Peoples Democratic Party-dominated assembly. The latest brickbats may, however, not be in the interest of the state, writes George Okoh
Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) pulled one of the biggest upset in the nation’s political history when he defeated former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) incumbent, Aliyu Akwe Doma to emerged governor of Nasarawa state in the 2011 general election. While his emergence may not have surprised political observers, fears are being nursed in some circles over the inability of his party to take control of the state assembly.
This particular short coming of the CPC is turning out the governor’s albatross. According to a political analyst, Barrister Ejimbi Otaiku, the CPC concentrated all their energy on the governorship race giving little thought to the assembly election.”It turns out that the PDP got an overwhelming 20 seats in the 24 member Assembly”
The CPC had also thought that with Al-Makura enjoying a cordial relationship with most members of the PDP in the state, he would not have to fret over anything moreover that he was a former PDP member. Despite this calculation, Al-Makura is facing a challenge tougher and fiercer than the battle he wedged to dethrone Doma as governor of the state. His defeat of Doma has been described as a child’s play compared to the battle ahead for the billionaire governor.
Signs of bad times started to emerge when the governor was rebuffed by the state assembly led by its speaker, Hon. Musa Muhammed for attempting to constitute and then inaugurate the Transition Management Committees (TMC) of the 16 Development Area Councils (DACs), allegedly without recourse to the lawmakers in his first three months in office. The disagreement between the governor and the assembly caused a lot of tension to the extent that it was believed it would result in the impeachment of Al-makura.
But Al-Makura’s men moved against the power flexing by the Assembly which they accused of deliberate plot to paint the governor in bad light. They also accused the Assembly for attempting to amend the law less than three days to the expiration of the tenure of former TMCs in order to gain due advantage. The amended law spelt out that the state chief executive must pass through the House to get members of the Management Committees approved. Accordingly, the lawmakers took the action of the Al-Makura led-government as a slap on their faces and therefore exercised their powers by declaring the appointment of the TMC members “null and void” in a unanimous resolution passed by the House.
But while swearing in the TMCs, Al-Makura had insisted that he approved the composition of the DACs pursuant to Section 74 of the State’s Local Government Law 2009, which empowers him to appoint development area management committees.
Although, recently, members of the State House of Assembly convened and amended Section 73 of the Nasarawa State Local Government Law 2009; the governor is yet to assent to it. In other words, the amended section is yet to come into effect said a source. The source was of the opinion that since the governor was yet to assent to the law the Assembly cannot say the governor has contravened any law.
Another source told THISDAY that the entire saga was a booby trap for governor to ensure that he makes another history by becoming shortest serving governor in the country. Al-makura had survived the grand plans of the PDP due to his popularity among the masses of the state who see his transformation plans for the state as change agenda. The lawmakers were also afraid of the backlash from the masses and then, put on hold their plot for yet another day.
After months of cordial relationship with the assembly, pundits suspected that the PDP would still go for the Governor’s jugular as attention to sack him shifted to the election Tribunal to upturn the victory of the CPC.
A source within the PDP said the party was so sure of victory at the tribunal to the extent that the assembly was put on alert for the coming back of its defeated former governor, Doma. The PDP had gone to the tribunal alleging that the governorship election that produced Al Makura was marred with fraud and irregularities and as such, he should be declared winner of the election.
But the much anticipated ruling in a 2 to 1 verdict upheld Al Makura’s victory. Attempt to upturn the result at the Supreme Court also failed leaving the PDP with no option but to fall back on the state assembly through impeachment. The ruling, however, put paid to the 12-year rule of the PDP from where Almakura defected in 2010 following indications that he could not actualise his governorship dream.
In addition, the PDP has resulted to posing serious checks on the activities of the CPC government- a role played in the past by the opposition against the PDP. The biggest attack on the governor is however coming from the state chairman of the PDP, Yunana Illiya who has scored Al-Makura’s administration low. He said the government has failed in many areas.
Iliya, at a briefing in Lafia, said the CPC administration has only glorified the past PDP administration by its failures. He said the administration has only succeeded in “installing a regime of lies, contraptions, vindictiveness, maladministration and poverty on the people of the state.”
The PDP chief said the party had waited this long to break its silence on the stewardship of the CPC in order to allow Al-Makura and the CPC “prove their inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the management of public affairs.” He said the CPC is fond of claiming projects executed by the PDP to cover up for its failures, despite the huge amount it has received from the federation account in the last one year.
But Al-Makura’s special adviser on political affairs, Zakari Abdullahi Idde, said the governor has achieved so much within one year. “Al-Makura is God-sent. Doma left a huge debt of over N60 billion of backlog of salary arrears and an empty treasury for Al-Makura to inherit. Yet, the current governor was not deterred. He took over with nothing in the accounts, and yet refused to borrow. He embarked on the provision of social service in a manner that the governed now feel they are the governors,” he stated.
Secretary to the Nasarawa State government, Alhaji Hamza Elayo, said the policy of the state government is to totally transform the fortune of the state.”That is why you can see massive development going on in different sector of the state. Roads, school and hospitals are being developed.”
But the PDP would not relent and has asked its members in the assembly to sustain the attacks. For instance, the PDP lawmakers just requested the governor to give reason for embarking on a trip to the United State without notifying the assembly. The assembly has also asked him to account for N2billion suspected to be missing from the state Joint Account. They have also asked the governor to reinstate the management of the College of Education, Akwanga, who were sacked recently by the state government.
The governor described action of the lawmakers who gave two weeks within which to explain why he did not transmit to the assembly, a written declaration that he was travelling out of the country as “ignorance”. He also denied allegations leveled against him that it is yet to account for about N2 billion from the State Joint Account. He, however, rebuked the assembly for not discussing its findings with government before going public with the matter.
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Affairs, Abdulhamid Kwarra, disclosed at a briefing held in the office of the Secretary to the State Government that the assembly recently suspended its recess that was billed to end on July 19 to received the report on COE, Akwanga, with regards to N25 million bank loan and also received the preliminary report of ad hoc Committee on Nasarawa state Joint Local Government Account on a missing N2 billion and subsequently ordered the governor to transmit in writing within two weeks, why he travelled to the United State without informing the assembly.
Kwarra, a former majority leader of the state assembly said “on the issue of preliminary report of ad hoc Committee on Nasarawa State Joint Local Government Account, the House Ad hoc Committee accused the Ministry for Local Government of not accounting for over N2 billion out of the over N27 billion received from June 2011 to April 2012. It is worrisome that the House of Assembly ad hoc Committee did not discuss their findings or any financial irregularity with the for the purposes of clarification before making their report a public matter,” adding that, “no such money is missing or that needs to be accounted for.”
On the resolution calling for the reinstatement of the suspended management of COE, Akwanga, Kwarra maintained that the state government would not reverse its decision for suspending the management for collecting a N25 million loan from the United Bank for Africa (UBA).
“Government views the position of the Assembly with regards to the above as ignorance of the underlining principles of the provision of Section 190 of the 1999 constitution as amended. Equally, the action of the Assembly amounts to disrespect to the person and esteemed office of the Executive Governor of Nasarawa state.
“The objective of Section 190 Sub-sections (1 & 2) is very clear and is intended to provide a synergy between the House of Assembly on the one hand which is for the Governor to inform the House of Assembly of his temporary absence or inability to perform his duties owing to ill health, and on the other hand that the deputy governor would be acting for the period of his absence,” he said.
While noting that government would not succumb “to mischief and political blackmail,” the he said “since the Governor is neither sick nor proceeding on vacation, the provision does not contemplate that he should write and obtain permission from the Assembly before he travels within or outside the country for official engagements.” Kwarra said what the legislators has done amounted to issuing a query.
Meanwhile, the entire scenario has been viewed by observers as an attempt to get rid of Al-makura by seeking grounds for impeachment. But the question being asked is: How long can Al-Makura hold on? Is he yet another proverbial cat with nine lives? Only time would tell as the muscle-flexing continues.