Walking a Tightrope in Nasarawa

Abdullahi Sule

Igbawase Ukumba writes that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress in Nasarawa State is treading a precarious course in the choice of principal officers for the state house of assembly

A look at the power sharing formula among the three senatorial zones of Nasarawa State shows that the incoming governor of the state, Abdullahi Sule, is from the minority Hausa tribe in the northern part of the state, while his deputy, Emmanuel Akaabe, is from one of the majority ethnic groups in the southern part of the state. The outgoing speaker of the assembly, Abdullahi Balarabe, is of Egbura tribe from the western part of the state and is returning to the assembly for a second term.

But the Eggon people, who are believed to be the largest in the state, lost out in the political equation of the next dispensation. However, the Eggons have a ranking member in the state house of assembly, returning back for a third term. He is Muluku Agah representing Nasarawa Eggon East on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Though Muluku is from the same northern zone with the governor-elect, however he may be supported if he decides to ask for the position of the speaker to represent the Eggon nation in the, political pundits argued.

Nevertheless, another ranking member of the state assembly from the APC in the western zone that is returning for a second term is Daniel Ogazi, representing Kokona East. He is said to be in the good books of the leadership of the party in the state and is speculated to be warming up for the speakership race because he is from the western part of the state that has neither produced the governor nor the deputy governor in the next administration.

Based on the principle of federal character and geo-political spread of the three key officers; Governor, Deputy Governor and Speaker, political analysts opin that it would be fair for the speakership to remain in the western zone.

For the position of the deputy speaker of the assembly, the outgoing majority leader of the present assembly, Tanko Tunga; representing Awe North, has returned back to the assembly for a third term and is already reported to be warming up to clinch the position. Tunga is from the southern part of the state where the outgoing governor and senator-elect, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, hails from.

Another member who is equally returning back to the assembly from the southern zone is Mohammed Alkali of Lafia North state constuency. Alkali is also reported to be thinking of vying for the position of the deputy speaker to represent the Eggon nation despite coming from Lafia in the southern zone where the outgoing governor comes from.

Political observers were of the opinion that ordinarily, it could have been an easy ride for the incumbent speaker, Balarabe Abdullahi, who is from the western part of the state to return
unopposed as speaker of the 6th assembly, but the observers envisaged that the incumbent speaker is battling with divided loyalty and the current leadership of the state may not be comfortable with him returning as the Number Three citizen under the administration of Sule.

The APC had at the onset of the primaries advertised the former commissioner of works, Engr Yahaya Wada, who resigned his appointment as a commissioner and picked the APC Keffi East state constituency ticket and was being prepared to take over from Balarabe as the speakership in the 6th assembly.

But it was gathered from the grapevine that some powerful forces who were determined to frustrate the Wada speakership project fought tooth and nail to ensure that he was defeated in a surprise manner by the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) during the March 9 governorship and state house of assembly polls.

Consequently, it was gathered that there were also plans by certain forces to put together their resources and influence to make sure that they sponsor a candidate against speaker Balarabe on the day of inauguration of the 6th assembly. It was alleged that the said forces stopped Wada winning his election into the state house of assembly; so that he would not challenge the incumbent speaker.

The forces were reported to be spitting fire that they will work assiduously to stop Balarabe from continuing in the speakership saddle by bringing out the Eggon factor of marginalisation to knock the incumbent speaker out, even as they claimed that zoning in that case does not matter.

This bloc of opposition against Balarabe are reported to have argued that what matters was that the Eggon people needed to be compensated with the speakership position with either Muluku or Alkali who are in the house, and are ranking members.

Watchers of political events in the state argue that the contest for the two presiding officers was open to all the members, irrespective of their political parties and experience in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly.

According to them,, “The convention is that anybody can be elected speaker or deputy irrespective of whether his party is in the majority or not, and whether he is a ranking member or not.”

They reasoned that in 2015, the outgoing deputy speaker of the assembly and now senator-elect for Nasarawa North, Godiya Akwashiki, was elected deputy speaker as a PDP member in an APC
dominated assembly; when his then party, PDP had only four members.

Also, the political watchers argued that it is on record that the incumbent speaker, Balarabe came to the assembly in 2015 as a first timer, yet he was elected speaker of the assembly, therefore maintaining that ranking has never been a factor in the selection of the leadership in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly.

Analysts foresee that though the envisaged contenders may not have the courage to come out openly and declare their interest at the moment, there are on-going strong underground scheme among major stakeholders to uproot the incumbent speaker. His major sin is that he is perceived as one who cannot be trusted. Supporting him, therefore to clinch the post may enthrone an air of uncertainty which the executive arm of government and the leadership of the APC in the state are trying to avoid.