Fourteen formidable aspirants are jostling for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party to contest the governorship by-election slated for October 11, in Adamawa State. For now, it is a matter of conjecture who will fly the party’s flag in the election
| By Olu Ojewale | Sep. 8, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
NUHU Ribadu was fearsome as an anti-corruption tsar. As chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ribadu’s dogged fight and incorruptible posture stands him good stance with a lot of Nigerians who see him as a good material for leadership position. But that was not so in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Ribadu tested his strength as a presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ANC, in the 2011 presidential election. His involvement in the race exposed his lack of political muscle to manoeuvre his way to Aso Rock. He placed a distant third in the race.
This time around, Ribadu has decided to become the governor of Adamawa, his state. But that is promising not to be easy either. He has a lot of hurdles to scale to get the gubernatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which he defected to from the APC on August 16. Through a proxy, he obtained the party’s governorship nomination form on Tuesday, August 19, three days after he formally joined the party.
On Saturday, August 23, Ribadu met with the PDP leadership in Yola, capital of Adamawa State, to present his political agenda with a pledge to give priority to security, youths and women empowerment. “I pledge good service to the people and commitment to the party, the passion for which I am known is always to uplift the people,” Ribadu said. Besides, he said he joined the governorship race to bring developmental changes in Adamawa State with emphasis on women and youths.
But if Ribadu thinks that the PDP ticket is there for him to pick on a platter of gold, he would be deceiving himself. In fact, 13 other prominent personalities in the state are also interested in the plum job. Leading aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket are Ahmadu Umar Fintiri, acting governor; Mohammed Buba Marwa, a retired brigadier-general and former military governor of Lagos State; Aliyu Idi-Hong, former minister of state for foreign affairs; Umar Ardo, a three-time gubernatorial aspirant; Ahmed Gulak, a former special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on political matters, and Senator Abubakar Girei. Others are Ahmed Modibbo Mohammed, a former executive secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC; Awwal Bamanga Tukur, son of Bamanga Tukur, a former national chairman of the PDP; Marcus Natina Gundiri; James Shuiabu Barka; Jerry Kundusi; A. A. V. Kana, a retired brigadier-general and Andrawus Sawa. All the aspirants have paid the mandatory N1 million for expression of interest to collect the application form which they were expected to return with N10 million each.
To further demonstrate their seriousness, some of the candidates have already hit the road to sell their programmes to stakeholders in the state. For instance, while presenting his agenda to the party, on Saturday, August 23, Modibbo expressed the need to accord the youth priority in governance. “My desire to contest the governorship seat is to bring my wealth of experience in the civil service to evolve changes needed in the state,” he said.
The campaign organisation of the former UBEC boss said it had stepped up the campaign to ensure the victory of Modibbo during the September 6, governorship primary election of the PDP. Fanuel Mosu, director-general of the group, said in a statement on Sunday, August 24, that the campaign organisation would depend largely on massive grassroots mobilisation and consultations. He said the group was looking at new strategies that would put Modibbo ahead of other aspirants in the election. “We have reviewed our campaign structures from ward, council and zonal levels and even though the necessary improvements have been observed, yet we are not willing to rest on our laurels,” Mosu said.
One thing that seems to be working in Modibbo’s favour is that one of his wives is Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed Binani, a current member of the House of Representatives representing Girei, Yola North and Yola South Federal Constituency. Modibbo’s wife has become a household name in Adamawa State following her remarkable performance and philanthropic disposition. With her by his side, it is believed that winning Adamawa Central, which is the most integral constituency that consists of the most populated local governments of the state, would surely give him an edge over the other contenders. But Modibbo’s reticence coupled with his elitist lifestyle, may be a major stumbling block to his aspiration.
Another prominent person in the race is Tukur, the first son of Bamanga Tukur, a former national chairman of the PDP and former governor of defunct Gongola State. A lawyer, the young Tukur was a member of the House of Representatives representing Yola North, Yola South and Girei federal constituency under the platform of the PDP from 1999 to 2003. At the House, he served as the chairman, House Committee on Aviation. He had contested the governorship election in the two previous elections in the state and lost. He is seen as a strong contender for the plum job because of his grassroots structure which he established over the years. He also enjoys the unalloyed influence of his father to gain from. His father has never minced words in his support for his son’s governorship ambition. “As a son of Adamawa, Awwal was entitled to any political ambition and I will gladly support it,” Tukur once said.
But the young man would want people to judge him by his qualification and ability. “There is no doubt I am Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s son. I must be born to somebody, God chose it to be Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and if he is my father, I will ride on my father’s back, I will not ride on someone else father’s back. That is nature. He has born me and there is nothing I can do about it.
“I have said it that people should also look at my history. I am an individual, until you show me in the constitution where it says because I am Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s son, I cannot play politics. I rise and fall in my own right. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s time has come and gone this is my time! So, let us not make that mistake. Until you tell me a butcher’s son that can’t eat meat, then why can’t a politician’s son play politics? I think that is falsehood. So, let us leave that horse alone. I will go and face the electorate, not my father. People should leave my father out of it and face me in my own right,” he said.
In a paradoxical twist, Tukur’s strength seems to also be his undoing. Being the son of the former PDP national chairman has invariably exposed him to share in some of the animosities of his father’s political rivals, who may decide to see his ambition as an extension of his father’s hegemony.
If a record of service is what is required for anyone to win the party’s ticket, Marwa would probably be the leading candidate. He is a retired brigadier-general who had served as military administrator of Lagos and Borno states. He was also a former Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa. As he once put it: “I am running in the next election by the grace of God.”
According to Marwa, the PDP “is looking for good men who will win elections and I am one of them by the grace of God.” He described Adamawa as a state that is comatose after Nyako’s administration. “It is half-dead and it needs a Marwa to resuscitate it and bring it back to where it belongs.” On his plan for the state, he said: “Free education, free healthcare and infrastructural development; the roads that I did in Lagos are about 700, we will double it in Adamawa if not more by the grace of God. In terms of water supply, the most difficult area in the country is Borno Stat. I was governor there and I did over 1,000 boreholes and wells there. Agriculture, fishery jobs for the youth. We will work for the PDP and the people.”
On the security challenges in the state, Marwa said: “It is my job as you know.” No doubt, Marwa has the qualifications to be state governor having had experience as a military state administrator. He is believed to have the support of the down-trodden based on his people-oriented programmes. Since he retired from the military, he has also been visible in politics. This has given him a vast political experience and connections within and outside the state, which may work in his favour. The successes he recorded in his previous attempts as governor has also endeared him to the people in the state. Like Ribadu, he would need a waiver from the PDP national leadership to be able to contest for the party’s ticket.
One person that looks to be in the driving seat is Fintiri, who enjoys incumbency advantage which may help his governorship aspiration. Since assuming the post of acting governor in July, Fintri has embarked on some populist policies, including payment of outstanding salaries that Nyako’s regime owed civil servants, sharp increase in the allocation of resources to local governments, release of running cost to the various ministries and agencies in the state, involvement of emirs and chiefs as first line advisors to the state government and operating an open-door policy to accommodate PDP stakeholders in the state.
Nevertheless, Fintiri’s move is seen an unprecedented since the advent of the Fourth Republic because it is the first time that an acting governor constitutionally appointed to hold forte as governor would be participating in an election to pick a substantive governor. This feeling has been fuelling suspicions that the impeachment of Nyako and the controversial resignation of Bala Ngilari, his deputy, were stage-managed by the Adamawa State House of Assembly to pave way for Fintiri to become governor.
One group that has not hidden his dissatisfaction with the decision of the acting governor to contest the gubernatorial race is the Adamawa Progressive Peoples Movement, APPM, which has warned that the quest could set a dangerous precedent for the nation’s democracy. “Ambitions and overzealous politicians in the State Assembles and the National Assembly can decide to hold their states to ransom by impeaching their governors and deputies in one fell swoop as it happened in Adamawa State and then take over the apparatus of power,” the APPM said in a statement.
Another prominent challenger for the ticket is Gundiri, a former director-general and commissioner in charge of agriculture, water resources and rural development in the defunct Gongola State between 1978 and 1991. During his tenure, he designed, constructed and commissioned more than 500 isolated rural water supply projects. Also to his credit are four regional water supply projects meant to provide potable water to 20 communities with an estimated population of 200,000, in addition to more than 250 kilometres of rural feeder roads.
The former governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, was also deputy director and director in charge of all federal government dams and reservoirs under the Federal Ministry of Water Resources between 1999 and 2009. During the period, Gundiri was in charge of monitoring all ongoing projects in the ministry until his retirement. He is seen as a protégé of Boni Haruna, former governor of the state, and now a minister. Even then, he does not have a strong political structure needed for the office. That notwithstanding, he still led a large number of his APC followers to the PDP. This is a plus for him, especially in the party’s primary election. But as a new entrant, he also requires a waiver to contest the governorship primary election.
Girei, 60, a surveyor, who has a master’s degree in business administration, is a member of the prestigious National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS. He was elected into the Senate to represent Adamawa Central Senatorial District between 1999 and 2003. In the Senate, he chaired the Committee on Services. He is believed to be a strong grassroots mobiliser who can easily identify with their problems and needs. This has helped him to have a vast network of friends and political associates that cut across ethnic and religious lines. But sceptics wonder if he could get the necessary backing and strong finance to run a successful campaign.
Also in the race is eloquent and charismatic Ardo. A former history lecturer at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna holds a Ph.D. in Political History from the University of Maiduguri. Even though he is well loved for his human rights activities and has been in the PDP for several years, but he lacks elite support which is also necessary for his success.
Ardo, 52, is seen as an emancipator of the masses on behalf of whom he has fought against many unpopular government policies. He is believed to be the most popular choice for ordinary members of the PDP. But the party elite may not want him because of his anti-establishment stance on issues.
Ribadu, it appears, enjoys the backing of a group of PDP stakeholders. This was made known at a meeting convened by Concerned Youth for Good Governance in Adamawa held in Yola recently. The PDP members extolled the leadership qualities exhibited by Ribadu in the positions he had served, saying he was competent to rule the state.
Isa Ibrahim Toungo, spokesman of the group, urged the people of Adamawa to support the emergence of Ribadu as the candidate of the PDP in the by-election. He pointed out the need for Adamawa to have a just and fearless leader who could break the jinx of underdevelopment and implement policies and programmes that could transform the state and tackle corruption by government officials.
Adamu Moddibo, representative of Ribadu who was a gubernatorial candidate of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, appreciated the stance of the group on scouting for credible leadership for the state. Some of those present at the meeting included Abubakar Abdullahi, former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Saleh Kinjir, former commissioner for Local Government, and Rhoda Bugi, a former member of the state House of Assembly. It is believed in many circles that only a consensus could get the ticket for Ribadu. But that is not to wish away the popularity of the anti-corruption crusader among the youths in the state who are in the forefront, mobilising for him.
Contrary to what has been speculated, it appears from all indications that the PDP is not going to use a consensus method to pick its candidate for the by-election slated for October 11. This indication emerged on Friday, August 22, when 13 other aspirants in the race, kicked against the consensus option through which Ribadu would have emerged as the party’s flag bearer. All the aspirants were said to have insisted on having a free and transparent primary election with a level play ground for all the contestants in the race to participate. The party has fixed has fixed the primary election for September 6.
According to sources, all the 13 aspirants and their sponsors were said to have cautioned the leadership of the PDP and the Presidency of the dire consequences of giving the ticket to Ribadu through a consensus arrangement. According to a source, the leadership of the PDP was said to have reasoned that it would be dangerous to take any gamble that would undermine the chances of the party.
“When the issue of Ribadu first came up, some indices which we are witnessing now had not come up then. For instance, no one knew that the acting governor was going to be interested in the race. Also, the impression was created that all other aspirants were going to step down for him (Ribadu) on the intervention of a mutual friend of most of them who brought the Ribadu option.
“But right now, the president has insisted that he cannot support any of the aspirants against others since there appears not to be a consensus among them; more so, the hurdles we thought could be cleared for Ribadu are not just there but they are still waxing stronger.
“So, the situation as it is now, means that all the aspirants would have to carry their various ambitions on the strength of their structures because it is obvious we cannot afford to toy with Adamawa,” a source close to the PDP leadership was quoted in a national newspaper.
Besides, the Presidency was said to have been further advised by a security report which indicated that the former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, an indigene of Adamawa State, was waiting in the wings to lure any of the PDP aspirants with the APC ticket if forced to step down for Ribadu.
Apart from that, it is also feared that some of the aspirants could gang up to raise a legal issue out of the manner in which Ribadu was registered as a member of the PDP. “The truth is that Ribadu was not expected to register through a proxy. We expected him to go to his state and do it personally. But now, our problem is simple-what, if any of the aspirants heads to court and insists that Ribadu did not join the PDP through due process? It is really intriguing, I can say for now,” the source was quoted further.
Based on the developments, President Jonathan was said to have been advised to allow for a level-playing field for the PDP to pick its gubernatorial candidate. Indeed, Auwal Tukur, in an interview with reporters at the PDP secretariat in Yola on Friday August, 22, admitted that there had been pressure on other aspirants to step down for Ribadu, but he vowed never to bow to the pressure. “I have not stepped down for Ribadu and I don’t intend to step down for him or anyone else; I have come here this afternoon to pick up my form. That alone is an indication that I am in the race. We are all going to face the primary election. I am not aware of any consensus arrangement centred around Ribadu. I have paid my dues as a politician and I will not be a party to any undemocratic agenda,” Tukur said.
Similarly, Gulak also warned the party leadership against imposition of Ribadu on other aspirants. He said such moves could have a disastrous effect on the chances of the party at the election.
He recalled that Nyako’s term ended in such a manner because he was imposed on the PDP by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007. “That experience is enough to deter whoever is contemplating a similar idea to have a rethink, because any aspirant sure of his popularity among the people should be confident enough to face a primary election. When our party’s NWC released the time table, I was the first to pick my forms, and today, I am sure I am the first to submit it. This clearly shows that I have prepared for this election.
“In this election, there are serious aspirants, pretenders and spoilers. I believe our party can accommodate them all. But suffice it to say that I am dead serious on my aspiration,” Gulak said.
Marwa would also want to be taken seriously in the race for the PDP ticket. While submitting his completed nomination form, Marwa told reporters that there was every reason to be careful with the consensus option, saying there must be total agreement among all the aspirants for such consensus to stand. “The issue of consensus is to be contemplated. There is absolutely nobody who wants to go through the rigours of all this stress. But having said that, I know the PDP is a party that wants the electoral process to be properly followed. You all know that this was what happened in Ekiti and Osun states, and there is no reason why the same process should not be followed in the case of Adamawa State.”
Besides, some associates of some of the leading gubernatorial aspirants, notably those of Fintiri, Gulak among others, are said to be among those championing the rebellion against Ribadu. Some of them are warning that they could either defect from the party or work against the interest of the PDP if Ribadu should be imposed on them. Their grouse, Realnews learnt, is that it would be wrong to allow the anti-corruption crusader to reap from where he did not plant. They argue that while they were working so hard to remove Nyako from office, Ribadu, as a chieftain of the APC, was working at cross purposes with them to save the former governor.
“The national chairman of the party has a choice to make and the choice is simple, Ribadu or the party’s victory. The Osun outing of the PDP is still fresh and must be noted that it has a long way in affecting the 2015 presidential election,” one of them argued. The source said it appeared the same process that brought in Nyako to power was about to be repeated. He recalled that in 2007 while all the PDP members had done all the necessary work, Murtala Nyako, a member of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, was eventually given the ticket through imposition by the then President Obasanjo. He said the group was determined that such a scenario would not be allowed this time around.
That notwithstanding, the state chapter of the PDP has assured all the aspirants that there would be a level-playing field for them to contest. Joel Madaki, chairman of PDP in the state, made the pledge while receiving Fintiri and his entourage. Fintiri had gone to the party’s secretariat to notify him of his plans to contest the governorship primary election. Madaki said the party had made preparations to embrace all contestants, adding that the party would be ready to provide a level-playing ground for all contestants under its platform. “Our doors are open as a party for everybody to come in and people have been coming in particularly from the All Progressives Congress, APC. Marcus Gundiri has come, Buba Marwa has come; I was also told that Nuhu Ribadu has joined us,” he said.
The removal of former Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State from office and the spontaneous resignation of Bala James Ngillari, his deputy, from office have apparently brought a change in the political calendar of the state, which is scheduled to hold a by-election October 11, to elect a substantive governor. Nyako was removed by the state House of Assembly on July 15 over allegations of gross misconduct. Since then, Fintiri, the former speaker, had assumed office as acting governor. Section 191(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides for the conduct of a by-election within 90 days of vacancy, but is silent on the status of an acting governor seeking to contest a by-election after a governor’s impeachment.
From the political calculation, anyone who gets the PDP ticket is as good as being elected the state governor. However, from the look of things, it appears the consensus option is no longer on the card. With the parade of colourful and astute politicians in the race, an upset is not unlikely. But who gets the ticket? The question is going to be answered on September 6, when the PDP holds its primary election. But for now, it is a matter of conjecture.