Former Governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, was recently turbaned the Sarduana of Gwandara ethnic nationality. Olaoluwakitan Babatunde dissects the honour amidst the push for the ex-governor to succeed Adams Oshiomole as the elected Chairman of the APC
he Holy Scriptures is apt when it says that a prophet is never without honour, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. It is an age-long truth. However, there are still some exceptions. As far as the Gwandara ethnic nationality of Nasarawa State is concerned, former Governor of the state and Senator representing Nasarawa South Senatorial District, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, is a prophet well recognised by them, and indeed a king among his people.
To drive this point home, they turned out en masse penultimate weekend to turban him the Sarduana of Gwandara. Many have noted the import of the honour coming almost two years after he left office as governor, as it underlines the fact that it has nothing to do with an office, but the good use to which he put political power. Little wonder, while many leaders rapidly diminish after leaving office, Al-Makura has steadily increased in estimation and influence, not only among his people, but equally across the nation.
In a pre-event press briefing, the Secretary of the Publicity Committee, Shuiabu Madaki, described Al-Makura, who also holds the title of the Sarkin Dawaki Mai Tuta of Lafia, as an “endlessly affectionate and consummate leader, whose preoccupation, is to see how he takes Nasarawa State and her people, as well the country at large, to the next level of development”.
He said the former governor was being recognised for not just being a father and a leader to the Gwandara Nation, but also for leaving a record that stands him out as the architect of modern Nasarawa State. Madaki stressed that the title of Sarduana was not meant for just anybody as it places the holder in the class of the late Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello whose pedigree he must continue to aspire to.
Continuing, he described Al-Makura as champion of the cause of the poor who made his home a Mecca of sort for the less privileged.
“For the Gwandara Nation, this honour being done to our illustrious son only serves as a token of appreciation for what our political and business leader has done for his immediate community”, he said. Also speaking at the event, Governor of Nasarawa State, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, described the honour done Senator Al-Makura as “well deserved”, given his track record, which had set a standard for other leaders and governors in Nasarawa and the nation to emulate. Sule said the title exemplified the selflessness and patriotism of Senator Al-Makura, whose commitment to justice, fairness and unity of purpose, led the former governor to pick and support him as his successor.
“I wasn’t a member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), I wasn’t his commissioner or Adviser. I was even appointed by the late Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma, as Chairman of the state investment company and when he came, he removed me.”
He however said that when it was time for Al-Makura to go, he put the development of the state ahead of personal and partisan interest to pick him as his successor.
“I’m committed to building upon and exceeding the foundations laid by Senator Al-makura, not because I’m better than him, but to justify his trust in my capacity,” Governor Sule said.
In his acceptance speech, Al-Makura, who said he was humbled by the fact of bearing the same title with Sir Ahmadu Bello, however said he appreciated the title as it was a challenge to aspire to the pedigree and achievements of the late premier. He promised to build on the legacies of unity, peace and religious harmony that Sardauna bequeathed the country because the title of Sarduana, had assumed a very special meaning since the late Premier of Northern Region held it.
“I am happy to receive this recognition because I will want to be like the Sardauna of Sokoto, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello. This country needs many Sardauna of Sokoto to ensure peace, unity, stability and security.
”I promise not to disappoint my people and Nigerians at large as they have chosen to honour me despite the fact that there are people more qualified for the title than me” Al-Makura said
Empahsising on the need for Nigerians to live in peace and be their brother’s keeper, he noted that the turbaning had made him to reflect the more on how his ancestors migrated from Kano to various parts of the country including, Nasarawa State.
A boost for APC chairmanship
Meanwhile, not a few keen observers of the political development in the country see the recent recognition and celebration of Al-Makura as coming at the right time in view of the efforts by many leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to draft him into the contest for the national chairmanship of the party, which has been run by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Interim National Caretaker Committee and Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning sine June 2020.
The Governor of Nasarawa State has not hidden his push for Al-Makura’s emergence. Speaking during the flag-off of the APC membership registration in his Ward, Gudi, Governor Sule said: “Only Nasarawa State was the CPC state used for the alliance that formed the APC today. Tanko Al-Makura has made Nasarawa State proud. If Nigeria would be kind to CPC, Nasarawa State is the place to look at”.
He equally recalled that since other legacy political parties that formed the APC had enjoyed the exalted position of the party chairmanship, it was now the turn of those who came from the defunct CPC to lead the party.
Also speaking to state house correspondents in Lafia, Sule added: “I’m campaigning; I have done the consultation at different levels of the party; I have been in contact with all the major stakeholders of the APC and we strongly believe that what we are asking for is fair. What we are asking for is not too much for the party to do, what we are asking for will actually keep the party together and that is what we have been saying”.
Political observers note with interest Sule’s push for Al-Makura in a country where governors are ready to give an arm to ensure that their successor or anybody from their state, for that matter, does not mount such exalted office.
Many see Sule’s continued loyalty as a mark of his good self, but importantly as a mark of leadership and Al-Makura’s ability to manage political relationships. Also, while ex-governors try to run their states by proxy, Al-Makura is said to have since taken the backstage, faccing his senatorial mandate, allowing his successor to execute his governorship mandate.
Apart from Sule, informed sources say many other key party stakeholders across the nation are routing for Al-Makura as a trusted hand and man with the temperament to run and further unite the party after Adams Oshiomole’s turbulent tenure.
A political analyst, Ndubuisi Ezenna recently wrote: “Al-Makura has become the proverbial elephant explored by nine blind men, each describing the elephant based on his experience. To some, it is Al-Makura’s mettle, maturity, humility, widespread, and goodwill. To others, it is his consistency, loyalty, and pan Nigerian and metropolitan nature. But to many, he has paid his dues as a party financier. Yet many more believe in his record as a party administrator, political strategist, and a silent hurricane”.
“As the lone Governor of Buhari’s defunct party, CPC; as one who showed absolute faith in President Buhari and believed in him so much as not to defect or abandon him, there is no doubt that Al-Makura should be a close ally and confidant of the President, who himself does not joke with loyalty. What surprises many, however, is that Al-Makura does not throw weight about or engage in influence peddling. He goes about his legislative businesses quietly and responsibly”.
The Man, Al-Makura
Al-Makura is a graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and a scion of a multi-billionaire businessman, who himself had become a business mogul himself since the 70s. He was listed several years ago as one of the governors, who entered the Government Houses as multi-billionaire with his net worth is put at nearly US$300 million. They said his success at running businesses mainly account for his success in political leadership as governor.
Al-Makura made his first political incursion in the Second Republic when he emerged the Youth Leader of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the old Plateau State in 1980. He was elected into the 1988/1989 Constituent Assembly.
He is not new to party administration, having served as the State Secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC) between 1990 to 1992. He was a major political force behind the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) under Abacha’s transition and later became a founding member and one of the major financiers of the PDP in 1998.
A loyal party man, he remained committed to the PDP even when the late Alhaji Aliyu Doma, who was APP and ANPP gubernatorial candidate in the 1999 and 2003 elections, respectively, picked PDP’s gubernatorial ticket in the 2007 elections.
But answering the strident call for change given to what many saw as poor performance of that administration, Al-Makura and his followers moved into the CPC when denied the PDP ticket in questionable circumstances.
Although many saw it as a political suicide since Nasarawa was seen as a one party state under a PDP stranglehold, he wrought a major upset in the 2011 elections, beating Governor Doma.
A smooth navigator, Al-Makura skillfully maneuvered through the roadblocks and intimidations of the PDP, including a menacing impeachment attempt in 2014 despite CPC commanding only four seats as against PDP’s 20 seats in the 24-member House of Assembly.
He went on to complete two terms, bequeathing the laudable legacies that have earned him the sobriquet, “Architect of modern Nasarawa State” among the masses and elites alike, the governor inclusive.
On the political turf, he also broke jinxes including ensuring President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in Nasarawa in 2019, the first by Buhari in any presidential election. Under his leadership the APC equally won Nasarawa’s three senatorial seats for the first time.