Nasarawa’s 2019 Succession Politics

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Although 2019 is some two years and a few months away, the prelude to the succession battle in the state has begun in earnest, writes Adams Abonu

In what appears to be the realignment of forces ahead of the 2019 general election in Nasarawa State, the political ante in the state is gradually rising. While it is agreeable that the next electoral circle is still many months away, political players have continued to show their dexterity for making deals while those perceived to be politically ambitious have not relented in their bids.

THISDAY investigations indicate that several factors would be considered in the run up to 2019 viz-a-viz the power of incumbency of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), 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 money.

Nasarawa’s Brief Political History
Since the creation of the state on October 1, 1996, by the late General Sani Abacha junta, the state has produced three governors in the persons of Dr. Abdullahi Adamu, now a senior senator, who served the state from May 1999 to May 2007; Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma, who served a term in office between May 2007 and May 2011 after he was defeated by the incumbent, Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura.

Both Governors Adamu and Doma served on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while serving Governor Al-Makura was elected on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) before joining others in the merger that brought about the APC in 2014, after which he was reelected.

While Senator Adamu is of the Nasarawa West Senatorial Zone (the Keffi extraction), both former Governor Doma and incumbent Al-Makura are from the southern senatorial zone (the Lafia extraction) leaving the Akwanga zone – the Northern senatorial zone – agitating that one of their own be allowed a fair share of the gubernatorial pie.
Instructively, Senator Solomon Ewuga fiercely contested against Governor Abdullahi Adamu in 1999 and again in 2003. Labaran Maku, was variously commissioner and Deputy governor under Adamu also contested against Doma in 2007 and Al-Makura in 2015. Both Ewuga and Maku are from the Akwanga Extraction.

The Battle Towards 2019
Basically, the issues that would dominate the 2019 governorship election in 2019 are “rightful” agitations for power rotation by the Akwanga zone, the socio-economic reality prevailing in the state at the time of the election and the capacity of the ruling party to expectedly use the incumbency weight available to convince the electorate on why they should still support the party at that level.

Likely contenders from Akwanga
If the prevailing political architecture in the state favours the aspiration of the northern zone, the most visible politicians from the zone in the persons of Senator Solomon Ewuga and Mr. Labaran Maku would be most likely the frontline contenders,” according to Luka Bala, a grassroots politician interviewed by THISDAY in Akwanga.

Bala added that “both (Senator) Ewuga and the former minister Maku have the needed political clout and experience to be governor of a state in dire need of development like Nasarawa. Both of them are strong politicians with reasonable following and their supporters must prevail on them to contest.

“But for many of us from the zone, Maku is our likely collective choice as he is seen more as the champion of the masses and the people will rally around him. Maku has been seen as much closer to the people. All our people will have a say in this issue when the time comes.”

Senator Ewuga was a deputy governor to then Governor Adamu between 1999 and 2002 and represented the Northern zone in the senate between 2007 and 2011. Maku rose through the political ranks from being a student union leader in the University of Jos in the 80s to serving as commissioner in various ministries before becoming deputy to Senator Adamu in 2003. The renowned journalist was later to be appointed Minister of Information by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

APC’s Incumbency and 2019 Equation
The power of incumbency in the ruling APC political arsenal is an added advantage to the party’s chances in who succeeds Governor Al-Makura in 2019. The ranks of the party enlarged recently with the defection of notable political leaders like Senator Abubakar Sodangi and others with their followers and this portends some good for APC.
However, a possible clash of interest might put the party in precarious circumstances giving rooms for opposition parties’ incursion.

“Ta’al (as Governor Al-makura is popularly known in the state) is likely going to anoint a candidate and this might not be the choice of the majority of supporters of APC. He is a man, who claims his own right in political leadership in this state and the likelihood of his choosing one of his surrogates for the position of governor is very high.

“But the party structure is under the control of Senator Abdullahi Adamu, whom many view as the father of Nasarawa State and many people today are still in APC because of the former governor’s sense of carrying everyone along.

“With Al-Makura’s administration perceived to be lacklustre and with burning issues like grazing reserves coming up, Al-Maura could be the undoing of our party in Nasarawa State.
“If Al-Makura wishes to make Ta’al’s wish to see APC in Government House come 2019, he must allow Senator Adamu rally the people for the party to succeed,” a source within the APC, who prefers anonymity owing to the “sensitive” nature of the subject told this reporter.

Senator Adamu enjoys wide political patronage in the state and is perceived as the moral conscience of the political leadership of the state.

How the Opposition Parties Stand
The two major opposition parties in Nasarawa State – APGA and PDP –have unequal chances in the race towards 2019. While the PDP has a sizeable proportion of elected positions like two serving senators, 3 members of the House of Representatives and six members of the State House of Assembly from its fold, it remains to be seen how the party would manage the various in-house squabbles that tend to make joke of her chances.

“To us in Nasarawa State, APGA is the only opposition party in this state as it has been the party that continuously called attention to issues of development. PDP cannot seem to manage their relative advantage and APGA has been seen as the party of choice for those disenchanted with Al-Makura’s performance in APC.

“Let me also mention that there are sizeable Igbos in the state especially in the Karu area, who are very sympathetic to APGA and could greatly influence the outcome of coming elections in Nasarawa,” Ademu Loko, who was candidate for House of Representatives in the 2015 election, said.

Many people in the state are of the opinion that for the opposition to triumph in 2019, they should rally around the political capital of Labaran Maku, who enjoys wider political reckoning especially within the Eggon nationality that is in the majority across the state.

The Choice Before Nasarawa
For the people of the state reputed to be “Home of Solid Minerals,” the choice to elect a governor, who would bring on board, the standard of governance set by Senator Adamu, known as the “Nagari Standard” is before them as Nigerians watch to see how they make this choice.

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If the prevailing political architecture in the state favours the aspiration of the northern zone, the most visible politicians from the zone in the persons of Senator Solomon Ewuga and Mr. Labaran Maku would be most likely the front-line contenders,” according to Luka Bala, a grassroots politician interviewed by THISDAY in Akwanga