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Adamawa: Window to 2019 showdown

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This screenshot taken on December 2, 2017 from a Facebook Live video by Atiku Abibakar shows the former Nigerian vice president giving reasons why he has chosen to return to the People’s Democratic Party less than a fortnight after dumping the ruling All Progressives Congress. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ATIKU ABUBAKAR/GUARDIAN NIGERIA

Apart from being one of the four states in the federation with the alphabet A, Adamawa stands out easily as one of the states where the 2019 general election would be hotly contested.

From all indications, the northeast state is bound to be a flashpoint.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seems to be conscious of the risk level in the state, which must have prompted it to warn against early campaigns.

Atiku Factor

All eyes would definitely be on Adamawa during the next year’s election whether President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term or not. The state would receive maximum attention and media exposure on account of the influence of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

The Atiku factor would to a large extent explain the political behaviour of voters and most politicians in the state. After the 2015 poll, the incumbent governor confessed that the former Vice President supported his election with N500m.

Although the two men belonged to the All Progressives Congress (APC) then, the political circumstances changed last December when the former Vice President returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Consequently, in the event that the Waziri Adamawa secures the Presidential ticket of PDP for the 2019 poll, Governor Bindow would be putting double efforts to ensure that his party, APC, does not lose.

Add to the local tug of war, whether President Buhari contests or not, APC would see in Atiku their main rival and would try all tricks to battle him at the home front so as to prove a point.

It is in this possible contest that the element squabble will set in dividing the voting populace and unsettling traditional alliances. Two months ago the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Kassim Gaidam, disclosed that about two million voters had registered to vote in next year’s poll.

Although about 1.5m were registered for the 2015 election at the end of the day, according to the REC 120, 000 failed to collect their PVCs. The level of apathy would definitely reduce if Atiku features in the poll, because in 2012 only 16, 000 votes separated the winner and loser of the re-run governorship election in the state.

Red Flag
Perhaps, on account of the impending electoral showdown, INEC did not waste any time to raise the red flag against the incumbent governor and the former Vice President to keep their campaign under control.

The electoral umpire saw the competition for big campaign billboards between the two juggernauts as a pointer to what could follow if not checked. INEC drew the attention of the leaders to the Electoral Act, stressing that the display of campaign billboards before the notice of election was published amounts to a breach.

But apart from the warning to politicians against early campaigns or beating the gun, the Catholic Bishop of Yola, Dr. Stephen Dami Mamza, who is also the chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Adamawa State chapter, raised another scary red flag in the state.

The Bishop spoke of the likelihood of INEC disenfranchising eligible voters at the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camp in Michika local government council of the state, pointing out that the claim by INEC that it could not undertake voter registration in the area amounted to a serious indictment of the security authorities.

Bishop Mamza remarked that the 2019 poll could be challenged in court due to the willful disenfranchisement of the Michika voters, noting that INEC has options of engaging locals or applying for security cover if they want to carry out registration.

APC Versus APC
The internal wranglings within the ruling APC is also another anchor point for pre-election friction in the state.

Through a combination of factors, including his impeachment and denial of his former deputy to contest the 2015 governorship poll, the former governor, Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (retd) could not execute a succession plan.

In addition, despite his defection to the APC, he was not allowed total control of the party structure. Distracted by those untoward political happenstances, Baba Mangoro could not have a say in who succeeded him.

Governor Bindow, who seemingly got into office riding on the Nyako structure, distanced himself from the former governor and rather chose to show allegiance to Wazirin Adamawa.
At the exit of Atiku, the governor retraced his step, but while he was still trying to rebuild confidence, some elements from PDP joined the party.

And, although the former Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, joined APC from the governor’s flank, the incumbent seems to nurse the suspicion that Gulak wants to displace him for the APC governorship ticket.

Gulak heightened that apprehension when he remarked during his reception into the party that the APC constitution guarantees the right of old and new members to vote and be voted for in elections.

Governor Bindow’s chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Jimeta, noting the underlying mischief in Gulak’s remarks had publicly declared on the occasion that there is no vacancy for Adamawa governorship in 2019.

“Let me say this before some people will start seeking for the office of the governor. There is no vacancy. You are welcome to our party, but the governor’s office is a no-go area until 2023, so be aware of this now,” Jimeta had told the defectors from PDP.

With the intrigues playing out in Adamawa APC, three distinctive rivals could be isolated. Governor Bindow and Gulak, it could be said are not the best of political allies, while the former Governor Nyako could be said to be on his own.

Neither Nyako nor his supporters showed up during the reception for Gulak and other PDP defectors. But the recent tenure elongation handout to the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has also provided the Nyako group a golden opportunity to fight back.

Nyako, who spoke in Yola recently, while addressing thousands of APC supporters at his expansive private residence, said that APC has lost moral grounds to speak on due process, rule of law and enforcement of democratic norms and culture if the party fails to correct the illegalities in the party. 

Baba Mangoro sees the battle ahead in APC as a golden opportunity to return to the mainstream, even as he expressed the belief that his group will capture the governorship seat in 2019.

But the Bindow handlers have made a tactical move against Nyako, by selecting Hajia Aisha Dahiru Ahmed to contest against his son, Senator Abdullaziz Nyako, who is representing Adamawa Central Senatorial district.

The Chief of Staff, Jimeta, who announced the selection, explained that those who are ready to challenge her should not waste their time and resources.
“If you prove stubborn and contests, you will blame yourself for whatever result you get at the primary election,” he warned.

Alhaji Ibrahim Bilal, who as the acting state chairman benefitted from the tenure elongation being denounced by Nyako, gave tacit support to the pre-selection of Hajia Ahmed for the senate seat.

Though the anointed Senatorial aspirant noted that the tenure elongation of state executives has brought an end to the political crisis in Adamawa State, signs that the joy could be short lived emerged after the former Governor addressed journalists, saying that the gesture has sounded the death knell to APC in the country.

Short of swearing that the tenure extension would not come into effect, Baba Mangoro noted that even a layman can go to court and obtain judgment, pointing out that the party has lost its moral voice on due process and rule of law.

Further Defection Options
With the APC ticket for his son’s senatorial seat up in the winds, it is not yet clear what options former governor Nyako might explore. But the All Grassroots Alliance (AGA) is presenting its platform as a special purpose vehicle to rebuild Adamawa politics.

The party has made overtures to the former Vice President, assuring that its Presidential ticket is his for the asking.

In the event that the tenure elongation against which Nyako is kicking comes to become, would AGA become a viable option for him and his supporters to make a political statement?

Chances are that AGA has the Nyakos also at heart when the state chairman, Mr. Titus Shelleng, told journalists that the party would propose radical legislations to deepen Nigeria’s democracy, describing both APC and PDP as moving corpses.

Knowing that Senator Nyako if he makes it back to the Senate would be a ranking Senator, AGA could push for its signature amendments, including a single chamber National Assembly and six year single term for governors and Presidents, through him.

From all the foregoing it is obvious that both in content and contest, Adamawa would have a lot to offer Nigeria in the forthcoming election. And being one of the states on the high risk alert for the Boko Haram insurgency, it would also be interesting to see how the voters would make their preferences if their son, Atiku, features on the Presidential ballot.


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