Local government election opens another front in the battles towards the 2015 general election in Adamawa State, writes Matthew Onah, in Yola
The sacking of the Alhaji Umaru Kugama-led executive of the Peoples Democratic Party in Adamawa State by the national headquarters of the party on Wednesday climaxed a long-running faceoff between the state branch and the PDP national leadership. On the surface, the point at issue is the conduct of primary elections ahead of the forthcoming local government election in the state. But beneath the surface, there are tons of politics and struggle for control of the soul of the state ahead of the 2015 general elections.
PDP National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh, who announced the dissolution of the Adamawa State executive, stated that a caretaker committee had been approved to manage the affairs of the party in the state “pending further directives”. The committee is headed by Mr. Umar Damagun, from Yobe State.
The PDP National Working Committee had also suspended the party’s National Vice Chairman for North-east zone, Alhaji Girgir Lawan, in connection with the faceoff. Lawan, though from Yobe State, is believed to be loyal to the faction of Adamawa PDP aligned to the state governor, Murtala Nyako. The governor and the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, have been engaged in a battle for the control of political structures in Adamawa State. Lawan’s sin was his attendance and supervision of the primary election, which the state executive claimed it held.
“The dissolved exco was expressly advised by the National Working Committee to halt further steps towards the conduct of local government elections as agreed at a meeting of 9th October 2012 between the NWC and the Adamawa State Working Committee. However, the exco did not only go ahead with the process, it submitted a list of candidates to the State Independent National Electoral Commission without the approval of the NWC,” Metu stated.
The statement by the national publicity secretary that NWC had barred all the state chapters from conducting primaries or congresses without the express permission of the national headquarters of the party had rattled the Adamawa State chapter. This was against the background of the concluded arrangements for party primaries ahead of the local government elections in the state, slated for November.
Metu also stated that the NWC had rejected the planned Adamawa State PDP local government primaries and directed the state to cease any further action in this regard, as any further step will be considered unconstitutional and unauthorised.
According to him, “All state organs of the party should henceforth comply with all the provisions of our constitution in this regard especially Article 50 (1) of the 2012 Constitution.”
But a high court in Yola on Friday granted a motion exparte restraining the PDP national chairman and the NWC from dissolving the Adamawa State executive pending the determination of the substantive suit filed by Kugama and 28 others. They are seeking a declaration of court that the dissolution of the state executive by the national leadership is illegal and null and void.
This adds a judicial dimension to the PDP crisis in Adamawa State.
The cancellation of the Adamawa State PDP primary election, obviously, demonstrated a continuation of the frosty relationship between Tukur and Nyako.
According to sources, almost all the PDP state governors have visited Tukur to congratulate him on his election as National Chairman, except Nyako. And Nyako was among the North-east governors that had, allegedly, opposed the election of Tukur as the national chairman of PDP.
The stand of the NWC reopens the lingering agitations by some major stakeholders of the party about being sidelined in the scheme of things in the party in the state.
A PDP youth leader from Girie local government council, Dimas Tagbaso, told THISDAY that the stand of the national secretariat was not surprising considering the cold relations between the governor and some major stakeholders , especially the national chairman.
He asserted that some top party members like Senators Jonathan Zwingina, Shuaibu Girie, and Grace Bent, and a host of others had aligned with Tukur in Abuja against Nyako. Buttressing that point, another PDP stalwart, Shehu Usman, said the forthcoming local government elections in the state would determine a lot of issues in 2015 general elections.
“It would amount to political suicide for these stakeholders not to protect their interests,” Usman said.
Adamawa State PDP has been divided along three major factions. There is the Nyako faction, which has so far maintained strong a grip on the party machinery in the state under the state chairman, Alhaji Umaru Kugama, and the faction peopled by key party members, such Zwingina, Bent, Gen. Hananiya, Professor Jibril Aminu, and Girie, who formed the rainbow coalition that was used to dislodge former Vice president Atiku Abubakar from the party in the 2006 battle for the soul of PDP between Atiku and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. This group has coalesced under the leadership of Tukur. Of course, there is a third faction headed by Atiku.
The last two groups have been pushed aside in the last five years by the Nyako faction.
According to Tagbaso, “The way the PDP is being run in the state has made things very difficult for some stakeholders in the state and that it would be difficult for the party to win any election comfortably, unless all those outside the mainstream are brought back.
“In the last elections, the party lost in its former key local government councils of Numan, Lamourde, Guyuk, and Demsa because of the failure of some government policies to connect with the people.”
A source within the PDP in the state revealed to THISDAY that the Tukur had insisted the primary elections could only be held if all interests in the party are accommodated. He was said to have insisted that the Nyako faction must concede the local government councils of Jada, where the PDP national chairman hails from, Ganye, and Toungo as his area of influence.
Tukur was said to have also insisted that Zwingina’s interest must be accommodated in Guyuk and Shelleng local government councils, while Bent’s interest must be respected in Numan, Lamourde, and Demsa councils.
The Nyako group was also alleged to have been told to concede Girie local government to former Senator Abubakar Shuaibu Halilu Girie, Hong and Gombi, which is currently being controlled by Action Congress of Nigeria, to Hananiya, and Mubi local government council to former deputy national chairman of the party, Senator Paul Wampana.
In all, Tukur is believed to be insisting on about nine local government councils out of the 21 councils in the state
The reluctance of the Nyako faction to concede the local government councils, accommodate the various interests, and ensure genuine reconciliation in Adamawa PDP is believed to be the main reason why the national leadership is clamping down on the state chapter.
But Kugama said the congresses were suspended until after the forthcoming visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to the flood ravaged areas of the state.
The president would be expected to try to prevail upon all the interest groups within the party to keep a united house.
Usman, however, believes the local government election is really not the issue in the current controversy, but 2015 poll. The key issue is that the various groupings are positioning themselves and building structures ahead of the critical general elections.
Usman alleged the Tukur is angling to install his son, Awwal, as the next governor of Adamawa State after Nyako, a project the incumbent does not seem favourably disposed to. The PDP national chairman is believed to be seeking to assume control of key local government councils in order to present a strong challenge in 2014 governorship primaries.
This project is in direct conflict with Nyako’s interest to produce his successor.
It is believed that Nyako’s group is keeping an open mind on who succeeds him. But observers say most of the aspirants for the 2015 governorship contest are already known. Harmonising the list may pose the greatest problem to the party.
With the current squabbles within the ruling PDP in the state, it is not clear when local government elections would be conducted. Already the Adamawa State Independent Electoral Commission has thrice postponed its mandatory 90 days notice to political parties to prepare for the election.
The state chairman of Congress for Progressive Change, Alhaji Abdulahi Waziri, recently accused the House of Assembly members of colluding with the executive to discourage local government elections in the state.
Waziri, who threatened to file a suit against the legislators for not doing their jobs properly, said that Adamawa State was one of the states in the North-east with no democratically elected local governments since the last three years. The third tier government in the state has since then been manned by caretakers.
“The caretaker committee chairmen are not responsible to the people. Nobody elected them and, therefore, they have no sense of responsibility to the people,” said Tagbaso.
Local government election is a very touchy matter in Adamawa State. In 2008, it was the bone of contention between the House of Assembly and Nyako soon after he was sworn in as governor. It was one of the 17 articles of impeachment drawn up by the assembly against the governor, before the intervention of the national leadership of the party, under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Since then, local government has remained a regular turf in the supremacy battle between the governor and key stakeholders in the state. But unlike in previous battles when the national leadership of PDP worked in tandem with the state governor, Nyako seems to be at the receiving end of Abuja’s offensive this time around. Only time can tell how he will survive the current battle.