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Despite LP, SDP inroads, cracks in Nasarawa APC signposts PDP’s resurgence

By Abel Abogonye, Lafia
08 March 2023   |   4:36 am
There were shockwaves in Nasarawa State last week after the presidential and National Assembly elections. National chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, lost his polling unit to the Labour Party (LP).

Abdullahi Sule

There were shockwaves in Nasarawa State last week after the presidential and National Assembly elections. National chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, lost his polling unit to the Labour Party (LP).

As if that dent was not enough damage to the ruling party, immediate past governor of the state, Senator Tanko Al-Makura, lost to the Social Democratic party (SDP), thereby failing in his bid to return to Senate.
The outcome of the first phase of the 2023 general elections was sobering. And unless the governing APC puts its house in order, the governorship and state Assembly elections on Saturday could drive the nail in its coffin.
Nasarawa APC came to this sorry pass following the unending rift between the incumbent governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, and some bigwigs of the party in the state. APC’s loss of the presidential poll in the state did not come as a surprise to many.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to have positioned itself effectively to reap from the infighting among the APC heavyweights. Governor Sule had been trying his best to contain the misunderstanding between him and Al-Makura.
Yet, there is nothing on ground to show that the governor and APC national chairman, Dr. Abdullahi Adamu, are on the same page as far as the party management in the state is concerned.  
For Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) to defeat the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the home of the national chairman, that has also an incumbent governor, tells more about the depth of the issues at stake.
It should be noted however that cracks predated the emergence of Abdullahi Sule as governor in 2019. Adamu and Al-Makura’s parted ways when the then out-going governor insisted on Sule as his preferred candidate and successor.
Al-Makura had threatened to retire Adamu from the Senate unless he allowed Sule to become governor and take over from him (Al-Makura). Although Adamu seemed to have conceded to Al-Makura’s political manoeuvres, the contest for the post of national chairman renewed the faceoff.
Adamu survived Al-Makura’s onslaught when former APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, decreed automatic return ticket for all APC Senators. With both men in the Senate, the contest for APC national chairman revived the rivalry, as the position was zoned to the North Central.  
As a sophomore politician, Sule gravitated towards his immediate predecessor without a proper reading of the political barometer in the ruling party. Notwithstanding Sule’s inclination, immediately Adamu showed interest in the chairmanship, some of Al-Makura’s close allies accused the governor of playing hide and seek with his support for their benefactor.
Caught in the middle of two warring leaders, Sule oscillated between both men, such that while he secretly supported Al-Makura, he demonstrated greater loyalty to Adamu.
It was gathered that a businessman, who is a close acquaintance of Adamu prevailed on Governor Sule to tilt his allegiance to Adamu, hinting that the Presidency was disposed to making the North-central Senator the next APC chairman.
Sources also disclosed that Sule was advised that it would be easier for him to govern Nasarawa under Adamu than under his immediate predecessor, Al-Makura. Al-Makura was also said to be working behind the scene to retain tight control of the APC structure in the state.
Against the background of this clash of interests, as the buildup to the 2023 general elections gathered momentum, the cleavages widened. Adamu’s emergence as APC national chairman made matters worse. It became apparent that two factions of the party were contending for ascendancy. While Adamu held court for the Keffi camp, Sule rallied the Lafia front, with all the gladiators keeping their schemes close to their chest.
Despite that obvious split, both Sule and Al-makura claimed that reports about conflicts and misunderstanding among the stalwarts were but a creation of the media. Yet, many nocturnal meetings were convened by party leaders, both in Abuja and Lafia to end the rift, more so with the general election around the corner.
But, instead of dousing the animosity and infighting, the moves failed to unite the big men and the crisis deepened.  Watchers of Nasarawa State politics expressed alarm when the former national secretary of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr. Labaran Maku, crossed over to PDP, barely weeks to the gubernatorial primaries.   
Maku, once served as the state Deputy Governor during Adamu’s tenure. Maku’s return to PDP, where he and Adamu served the state as governor and deputy sparked speculations that the APC national chairman was planning to make Sule sweat for his second term mandate.
Paying the price

SIGNS that APC would pay the price for its divided house dawned on all with the defeat of the three APC Senators by candidates of relatively smaller parties, especially the SDP. APC’s oldest rival, PDP, also posted impressive showing in the NASS election. 
The inability of APC and Governor Sule to manage the disaffection after the party’s primaries contributed the spanking of the party. For instance, the likes of Senator Godiya Akwashiki, Ahmed Wadada, Muluku Mohammed and others did not survive the primary politics. They were forced to leave APC, only to join alternative platforms and win the main election at the expense of APC.
As a result, SDP has produced two Senators-elect out of the three slots available to the state, leaving the other seat to PDP. The perception is that the recent victory of the Labour Party has altered the mood and calculation of politicians. There is fear that PDP, which has widespread structure in the state could benefit from APC’s self-inflicted confusion.
PDP’s gubernatorial candidate, Hon. David Ombugadu lost to Sule in 2019 because the bulk of opposition votes were split between him and Maku of APGA. With both men now united in PDP and APC stalwarts engaged in wit games, it is possible that unless APC patches every crack, it may suffer again in the hands of its major rival.
One other factor playing to PDP’s advantage apart from its new-found unity, is the existence of former APC stalwarts on the governorship ballot of other parties.
There have been accusations levelled against Al-Makura to the effect that he was behind the SDP governorship candidate, Muhammad Alfa Mustapha. But, while Al-Makura continued to deny such, the gubernatorial candidate himself has never relented from showering accolades on Ta-al.
Peeved by the growing support for Mustapha among his aides, Governor Sule recently warned his appointees engaging in such anti-party machinations to resign. Despite that warning, sources said most of Sule’s commissioners are merely waiting for the inevitable.
None of the cabinet members ever campaigns or promotes their principal all through the election season. As if the entire cabinet has resolved to serve for just one term, even the Governor himself on several occasions declared that he was not bordered about second term. 
When the governor swore that he was not perturbed by concerns for a second tenure, it was circulated in the state to the extent that some beggars along the highway became fond of singing ‘one term governor’ every time the governor’s convoy drives past and fails to pull over to give them alms. 
Even political hangers-on and thugs are not left out as they shout ‘one term governor’, when they are not given attention at political gatherings. The governor’s case is made more complex by the fact that he has two other contenders who share same faith with him.
It is expected that Sule and the two other candidates would split votes among the Muslim community the same way PDP and APGA fragmented the Christian votes in the past.
While the PDP standard bearer, Ombugadu, is the only Christian on the governorship ballot, the other three contenders are Muslims. Unlike in the past when members of same faith collapsed their structures to support one against the rival, it is not happening in APC this time around.
 That gambit, which gave APC the chance to triumph in the past, has not been adopted, perhaps due to the clash of interests among the party bigwigs.