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Fintiri’s projects, Gombe defection and Northeast’s tricky politics

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
16 July 2021   |   3:33 am
When Adamawa State Government announced that fourth republic Vice President Atiku Abubakar, alongside five state governors from Southwest, Northwest and Northeast geopolitical zones would commission

Fintiri. Photo/facebook

When Adamawa State Government announced that fourth republic Vice President Atiku Abubakar, alongside five state governors from Southwest, Northwest and Northeast geopolitical zones would commission projects initiated and completed by Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, it was seen as a mere novelty.

However, weeks after the exercise, the political angle is beginning to catch the attention of watchers of Northeast political schemes. It could be recalled that ever since President Muhammadu Buhari secured his second term in office, politicians from the Northeast began scheming to throw up a possible successor from the zone.

But, the defection of a bigtime Gombe State politician, Alhaji Abdulkadir Hamma Saleh, from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) helped to underscore the tricky political calculations in the northeast geopolitical zone, especially regarding the position of the zone in the 2023 power schemes.

The appointments of Governor Bala Mohammed as the chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), 2019 Election Review and Reforms Committee and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni as the chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), buoyed up expectations that the zone was sure to play crucial roles as far as permutations about the 2023 elections were concerned.

Yet, while Northeast politicians bask in the possibility of the next president coming from their zone, the question, which no one could readily provide an answer to was, which party, between APC and PDP, would be the platform of choice for the zone to actualise its dream.

The quiet conversation in the Northeast revolves around the resolution that whichever party gifts the zone the presidential ticket would be the toast of all the various political tendencies in the zone. That could then explain Governor Umaru Ahmadu Fintri’s decision to include the APC governor of Gombe State on the list of dignitaries to cut the ribbons on projects initiated and completed within the first two years of his administration.

Could it also be that Saleh’s defection from APC to PDP was part of the strategic positioning for 2023, particularly given that Saleh joined APC shortly after losing PDP’s 2019 governorship ticket for Gombe State? Apart from Saleh, the current Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kano State Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO), Dr. Isiyaku Gwamna, also angrily quit PDP for APC following the failure of immediate past Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo to honour a gentleman agreement entered into regarding his successor.

Although Dr. Dankwambo was on the cards for the PDP presidential race for the 2019 general elections, things took a different turn shortly after Atiku Abubakar, returned to PDP and began moves to run on the party.

Following pressures from influential PDP stakeholders on Dankwambo and Senator Ahmed Makarfi to allow Atiku to represent the party in the presidential poll, both presidential aspirants consented to the predominant mood in the party then. But, feeling marooned, Dankwambo did an about-face on his decision to stay out of the contest for the Gombe Central Senatorial District.

With the then outgoing governor’s interest in the Senate, he had to swap positions with the Senator representing the Senatorial zone, Bayero Nafada, to contest for the seat while Nafada, whose popularity was waning seriously in the state. It was in the controversial process of ensuring that Nafada clinches the PDP governorship ticket that some notable PDP chieftains, including Gwamna and Saleh defected to APC.

Like Gwamna, Saleh is a notable philanthropist, who for over ten years has been sponsoring Gombe young people and women for further studies through his scholarship programme as well as rendering economic empowerment stimulus in the form of microcredits to the people.

The defection by two men to APC shook Gombe PDP to its foundation. However, the fact that Dankwambo, at his coming on the scene in 2011 did not dismantle the political structures of former governors, particularly Senator Danjuma Goje, made it impossible for a clear line of distinction to be seen between PDP and APC.

Watchers of Gombe politics maintain that it was that political strategy alongside his pacifist and humane approach to leadership that saved Dankwambo from the Buhari Tsunami that swept virtually all the PDP governors in the zone in 2015.

Savouring his political clout and image as the last man standing, Dankwambo was touted as a fitting presidential material to confront President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 polls. His age, academic qualification and bi-partisan acceptability in Gombe during his tenure as governor, Dankwambo was captivating.

Reviving Northeast Presidential dream
THE only flicker of light and hope for PDP in Northeast is the surprise emergence of Senator Bala Abubakar as governor of Bauchi State in the 2019 general elections. Governor Mohammed Abubakar’s dream for a second term was cut short due to a combination of factors, particularly elite conspiracy and Bala Mohammed’s generosity during his term as Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The former FCT minister cut the image of another Dankwambo, when he stood like a rock of Gibraltar on PDP to surmount the combined forces of federal might and power of incumbency of Mohammed Abubakar of APC in the election.

Having emerged as governor, Senator Mohammed, who at one time aspired to become national chairman of PDP, saw a window of opportunity through his office towards reviving the Northeast presidential action plan.

His appointment as chairman of the PDP Presidential Review Committee after the 2019 general elections buoyed up his aspirations. From his position as chairman of such eminent committee, he not only had access to quality throve of enlightening data, but also to the influential pillars of the party.

Apart from Bauchi State, the other states held by PDP are Adamawa and Taraba. While Taraba is considered a fringe state, Adamawa has the strong political clout of Atiku Abubakar. That leaves Bala’s Bauchi as the only potent PDP state to throw up a possible alternative to Atiku’s presidential aspiration.

Should Governor Bala Mohammed decide to contest the 2023 presidency, there is the likelihood that the hallo of his ambition will cover Gombe, Taraba and to some extent, Adamawa.

It could not be ascertained to what extent the Northeast presidential agenda informed Adamawa State governor, Ahmadu Fintri’s decision to invite the following five state governors to unveil projects executed by his administration: Seyi Makinde (Oyo State), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Muhammad Yahaya (Gombe).

Outside Governor Yahaya, who is APC, others are PDP governors. They were led by the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, to commission various projects in the three senatorial districts of the state.

Based on the programme of events released by the Governor’s Director-General on Media, Solomon Kumanga, the projects in Adamawa South Senatorial Zone were commissioned on May 18 by the Gombe State governor Muhammad Yahaya, even as those in Adamawa North were handled by Senator Bala Mohammed of Bauchi.

Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, another APC chief executive, cut the ribbons on projects in Adamawa Central alongside Seye Makinde and current FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, who is in APC and also from Adamawa State.

Could it be that a bi-partisan understanding is building in the northeast geopolitical zone preparatory to the 2023 general elections? The establishment of the Northeast Governors’ Forum at a time when the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE) and North East Development Commission (NEDC), are engaged in tackling the socio-economic degradations of the zone by Boko Haram, raised the political flag.

For long the North has always rallied around the Northern Governors’ Forum, until recently when considerations for and against the zoning of the presidency became strident.