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Bindow reels under weight of Atiku’s defection in Adamawa

By Leo Sobechi (Lagos) and Emmanuel Ande (Yola)  
30 November 2017   |   4:30 am
No doubt, Adamawa State is going to be one of the hot spots of politics ahead of the 2019 presidential election because of intricate factors of power play that connect Yola...

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar

No doubt, Adamawa State is going to be one of the hot spots of politics ahead of the 2019 presidential election because of intricate factors of power play that connect Yola with Abuja as Governor Jibrilla Bindow appears to be at a crossroad with the resignation from their common platform, the All Progressives Congress (APC), of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

As speculations mount over a possible 2019 electoral clash between President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who just resigned his membership of All Progressives Congress (APC), there are indications that Governor Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow, might be caught in the crossfire.

Bindow is the chief executive of Atiku’s home state and prior to Atiku’s defection; the governor had on several occasions sold the idea that the former Vice President was his political godfather.

Those conversant with Adamawa politics saw the governor’s statement as a clever attempt to curry domestic support, while upholding partisan solidarity. Right from 1999 when Atiku won the governorship seat, which he later abandoned to join Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on the Presidential ticket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it has always been an uphill task winning the Adamawa governorship without the former Vice President’s blessing.

The only time was in 2007, when his boss, Obasanjo, applied the garrison approach to ensure that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on which Atiku contested the Presidential election of that year, did not win in Adamawa.

But, with the continuous improvement in the electoral process, and the possibility of Atiku standing another presidential election on the platform of PDP, it seems to have dawned on the governor that he needs the best political strategy to balance the delicate threats both the federal might and native solidarity might pose for his second term in office.

That may explain why immediately the former Vice President waved bye to APC, the Adamawa governor could not sleep with his two eyes closed. With the benefit of hindsight, Bindow seems to envisage that political calculations in the state is no longer flowing in his favour, particularly in the light of his ‘godfather’s’ exit from APC.

The governor’s dilemma appears from two fronts. Following his exit from APC, signs have begun to emerge that Atiku has started mobilizing his supporters for eventual entry into PDP, preparatory for the expected heavyweight political battle in 2019. As a politician that has gone through the rigours of elections, Bindow knows how far that development could go to hurt his support base.

Then, on the flipside, anticipating Atiku’s exit from APC, the party leadership, especially in Adamawa, decided to induce a former governorship aspirant on the platform of PDP, Nuhu Ribadu, to join APC in readiness for the expected defection of Bindow in solidarity for his godfather. This is where the Adamawa State chief executive requires sophisticated political thinking and planning to overcome the double edged sword.

Would Bindow stay back in APC to slug it out against whoever Atiku might throw up in PDP in the belief that the combined armour of power of incumbency and federal might could fetch him victory, or join the former Vice President in PDP in the hope that native solidarity would trounce federal might and feeble challenge of Ribadu?

It should be noted that Bindow won the 2015 governorship poll with the active support of former Governor Murtala Nyako’s APC structure, defeating Atiku’s candidate, Alhaji Ibrahim Mijinyawa, whom he appointed Commissioner for Land and Survey. So, what if Mijinyawa resigns from Bindow’s cabinet and in solidarity with Atiku, ends up in PDP while Bindow is vacillating?

The governor could confront a possible payback for his decision to adopt Atiku at the expense of Nyako, immediately after taking the oath of office as governor. It was at the point of exchanging godfathers that Bindow announced to the whole world that he took the decision to dump Nyako, because the former Vice President supported his election with N500 million as take-off grant.

At that turn of events, Nyako’s supporters were saddened and vowed to take their own pound of flesh at an opportuned time, describing the governor’s action as betrayal against Nyako and his political benevolence. Not that alone, the governor’s political fortunes continued to plummet because he failed many of his supporters by not fulfilling his promised compensation to them.

Also, strong indications emerged recently at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) event that the once buxom relationship between Bindow and Atiku might have gone sour. The governor, who had been in the habit of attending the university’s founders’ day, was nowhere to be found last Saturday, without even sending a representative to the occasion.

Early this year, the governor had through his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abdullaman Abba Jimeta, endorsed Atiku for 2019 presidential election, but in a recent statement in Yola declared that he will not decamp with the former Vice President to PDP.

Many people cited the governor’s absence at the Atiku’ AUN founder’s day ceremony as a clear indication of the ensuing political battle between godson and godfather. Just last month, Bindow was endorsed for second term by a section of APC supporters in what was described by rivals as a kangaroo meeting in Government House.

However, that controversial endorsement, rather than secure great political mileage in terms of propaganda and public adulation, generated more political crisis for the governor than the campaign propaganda his supporters intended to achieve.

Adamawa State Organizing Secretary of APC, Alhaji Ahmed Lawan, said criticism of Bindow’s endorsement is unwarranted; pointing out that the party took the decision in the interest of APC in the state.

Speaking to The Guardian in an interview, Lawan explained that the decision of the party was not to close the door against other governorship aspirants on the platform of the party for the 2019 poll. “Executive members of the party and other stakeholders in the state were only expressing their desires to return the governor, considering his excellent performance in his first term,” he noted.

Lawan, who is also the Director General of Team Bindow, the governor’s campaign organization for the 2019 poll, claimed that Bindow’s government has cleared the rots of the past administrations, as well as restored financial discipline and accountability in governance.

Justifying the endorsement further, the organizing secretary said: “We are x-raying those showing interest in the governorship, but for now we are yet to get a better candidate than Bindow to win the election for our party.

“It will be foolish of us as a party to drop a top striker and replace him with clay footed defender in position of a striker, such a team will lose the game like Nigeria versus Argentina, we will not allow that in Adamawa APC.”

He stressed that Bindow should be given the chance to finish the good work he has started in the interest of the state, saying; “My appeal, especially those aspiring to contest the governorship, is that they should put aside their personal interest and work for the interest of the state by supporting the governor’s second term.”

But spokesman of Adamawa APC chieftains working against Bindow’s second term agenda, Alhaji Usman Ibrahim, a former Special Adviser on Electoral Matters to former Governor Nyako, described the governor’s endorsement as impunity and lack of respect to the APC constitution.

Ibrahim referred to those that gathered in Government House last month to endorse Bindow as contract seekers, saying that they have no political weight to win their wards, even as he accused the governor of trying to use short-cut to return to Government House.

Insisting that it won’t be possible, Ibrahim maintained that Bindow must prove to the people why they should trust him with their votes for a second term.

He added: “Those endorsing Bindow are his greatest political enemies, but because the governor is blinded with his political ambition, he feels they are his friends. The question is, was Bindow endorsed in 2015? He went for a contest and defeated the richest aspirant, so why endorsement now if not political deceit?”

Earlier this month, perhaps after learning about Atiku’s exit from APC, Governor Bindow apologised to Nyako, asking the former governor to forgive him with the claim that he is now a repented man. Furthermore, the incumbent may have also noticed that there may not be space for him in PDP and that with Atiku out of APC, he stands the risk of standing alone as a political orphan in the party.

But, about the greatest political challenge threatening Bindow’s second coming is that he has no hold on Adamawa APC leadership. All this while, the party was being run from Abuja by Nyako and President Mohammadu Buhari’s foot soldiers.

The present Adamawa APC executive was selected in Abuja by the Abuja caucus without any election or consent of the governor, thus making Bindow a transit passenger on APC platform and counting his days in office in numbers.

The Guardian investigation show that since Atiku’s arrival in Adamawa last Friday after officially resigning from APC, the governor fled to Abuja, ostensibly to take political refuse and counseling from Nyako’s supporters, whom he has been begging for forgiveness.

Would Nyako’s men take him serious and reabsorb him in their group, celebrating the return of a prodigal son, or keep him at arm’s length to watch the long drawn political drama unfolds? It is obvious however that Governor Bindow has been riding on the back of a tiger for dumping Nyako and finally dumping Atiku his adopted godfather. The big question is, will he end up in the belly of the tiger or hit a bull’s eye as the big elephants fight their own big battle in 2019?

All these and more would make Adamawa State interesting in the days to come.