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Violence, imposition of candidates threaten Gombe APC unity

By Leo Sobechi
24 May 2018   |   3:32 am
If there is any state in the north where the All Progressives Congress (APC) needs to forge unity of purpose and practice inclusive politics, it is Gombe State. The state is not very special for the forthcoming 2019 electoral battle basically because of two issues.

Ibrahim Dankwambo

If there is any state in the north where the All Progressives Congress (APC) needs to forge unity of purpose and practice inclusive politics, it is Gombe State. The state is not very special for the forthcoming 2019 electoral battle basically because of two issues.

In the first place, it is currently the only state in the north that withstood the Buhari Tsunami of 2015. Furthermore, the incumbent Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, has not only been praised for his stellar track record of achievements and good governance, but he is also associated with the 2019 presidential poll. Also, over and above the records of achievements of his administration, Governor Dankwambo has raised Gombe as an oasis of peace, security and development.

With those obvious positive indicators, it is therefore worrisome that as the main opposition party in the state, APC had not learnt lessons from its defeat at what appeared a soft contest in 2015, but has continued to gamble with fate. Available indicators and recent reports show that two issues that could pin APC down in the state in the forthcoming general election are recourse to violent tendencies caused by politics of exclusion and obvious attempts at imposition of candidates against the choice of the people.

Prior to the recent ward and local council congresses of APC, the former governor of the state and Senator representing Gombe South Senatorial district, Danjuma Goje, was being accused of creating division within the party through his unpretending maneuvers to support a rival to the 2015 governorship candidate of the party, Alhaji Inua Yahaya.

A chieftain of the party, Alhaji Rilwanu Jekadafari, told journalists that Gombe APC was sliding into another round of crisis basically because Goje has declared his intention to “support Dan Barde to fly the party’s governorship flag in 2019.” Jekadafari recalled that in 2015, a similar political battle between the Senator’s supporters, who defected from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and members of the legacy parties that have been in opposition in Gombe, led to the defeat of APC in the election.

He said as part of the former governor’s haste to sideline original members of APC, “Goje tried to deny a staunch member of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) the APC ticket to the House of Representatives by imposing the son of one of his close friends.

“Currently, history is about to repeat itself, because Senator Goje is considering two aspirants to the governorship seat of Gombe in 2019. And as it happened in the instance of the House of Representatives seat in 2015, the former governor seems ready once again to back the wrong and unpopular horse.”  

Expressing surprise that “a high ranking politician like Goje” should be considering Dan Barde instead of Yahaya, the APC chieftain said despite the subsisting crisis in the party, “Yahaya gave a good account of the APC in the 2015 governorship election.”

While contending that the refusal by those who lost to Yahaya to support the governorship candidate contributed to APC’s loss in the state, Jekadafari insisted that Goje’s disposition towards Dan Barde is at the root of the current division within Gombe APC.

Poles apart
Apprehensions over the cohesion of APC in Gombe apart, Senator Goje’s interest in one of the aspirants has elicited small talks about the aspirants, a development that would have been eliminated if the former governor had kept his preference under wraps in the true tradition of a leader.

Although Jekadafari agreed that Goje has the constitutional right to support any candidate, he believed that a recent event when Dan Barde’s attempt to put up a motorized borehole in their area was resisted by his people showed that he lacks acceptability.

On his part, Yahaya, who served as Commissioner for Finance in 2003, has garnered some experience, having been successful in business and governance. He has also garnered some experience through his involvement in business and governance. APC faithful in Gombe believe that the sharp contrasting backgrounds between Yahaya and Dan Barde are points that Senator Goje should take into consideration as he plays godfather and kingmaker to Dan Barde.

But despite the perceived poor acceptability of Dan Barde, his supporters say Yahaya has not shown loyalty to the party, alleging that he disappeared from the state shortly after losing the 2015 governorship election.

“It is only Dan Barde that can frighten PDP supporters and capture the governorship in 2019. Senator Danjuma Goje knows that Yahaya is too soft for the forthcoming election battle and as our leader he has seen Dan Barde as the man to beat,” another APC chieftain, confided in The Guardian.

The source said Yahaya did not do enough to unite the party in 2015, stressing that he believed that with the fact that President Buhari was running on APC will give him victory against Governor Dankwambo, who had done much for the people.

Return of strong-arm politics
Gombe State chapter of APC failed to convince the people that they were ready to capture the governorship during its recent ward and local council congresses. In the climate of violence that trailed the exercise, one person was killed, while many others sustained injuries.

In the end, the refrain in town was that Goje and APC were trying to bring back the ghosts of Kalare era of thuggery. The Senator was all over the place boasting that the ruling party has excess power to capture the governorship, alleging that the fact that soldiers and mobile officers are in his entourage shows that the Presidency was strongly behind him.

Perhaps the proceeds of the congresses are signs of what to expect, but the senator must have set a dangerous precedent that could drag the reputation of APC to the mud. The suggestion is that the Presidency wants to take the mandate of the people by force. The questions begging for answers are many:

Why did the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, detail more than ten mobile police officers to be at the beck and call of one Senator? Was it true that the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, actually sent soldiers to follow the former governor about?
Answers to those questions would reveal to what extent security agencies are helping to return Gombe to its better forgotten ugly past, as well as their mandate for the 2019 poll. It is also intriguing that in a localized intra-party election members were killed and disenfranchised.

Sources said there is no way that bragging of political warlords as seen in the last exercise, would not embolden the kalare thugs to terrorise people, including the local Police. That could be what played out in the violent melee at Deba, which claimed the life of Salisu Daje, a young father of three and husband of two wives.Eyewitnesses alleged that the former governor called the Divisional Police Officer on phone and sternly warned that police officers should not arrest the armed political thugs.

Implications for APC
Although the two governorship aspirants have been struggling to attack the achievements of Governor Dankwambo and PDP, those efforts end up as lazy attempts to attract attention to their persons.What would make real impact is if APC comes together in unity and plays as a team, because regardless of what the gladiators may say to the contrary, the incumbent and his party have done much to attract national attention and commendation.

Goje should play in the background because he has unwittingly made himself the major cause of the crises in Gombe APC, especially his alleged insistence on imposing all the candidates, thereby denying bonafide members their rights to vote according to their conscience.It is possible that things might go from bad to worse in the days to come, because the high handedness, open encouragement and support for violence, would no doubt impact negatively on the governorship primary.

The impression has already been created that the Senator is backing a violent politician for the governorship, so that together they would make the party and state their personal property by using the kalare thugs. Some APC chieftains from the legacy parties recall how Goje prevented Buhari from using the Gombe airport and stadium for campaign rallies in 2007 and 2011. As such they said the Senator is still holding grudges against Buhari, for the president’s avowals to try all corrupt politicians.Whether therefore his new tempestuous politics is to placate Buhari would be known in the days ahead.