Operation return Governor Sule

Going by results of the February 25, 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections in Nasarawa state, one may be tempted to say, on the surface, that the re-election bid of  Governor Abdullahi Sule is hanging in the air. Fact of the matter, however, is that the dynamics of Saturday’s gubernatorial election are different from those of two weeks ago. The presidential election result for Nasarawa state showed that Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) got 191,361 votes to beat APC’s Bola Tinubu who had 172,922 votes; PDP’s Atiku Abubakar placed third with147, 093 votes. 

This state had always been an APC state especially since it habours some powerful politicians, among them, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (its first democratically elected governor) now APC national chairman, and Senator Tanko Al-Makura (the immediate past  governor). So, it came as a surprise to some that APC lost to LP in the presidential poll. 

The reason for loss of the presidential  election is majorly religious sentiment and the increasing elite population of urban towns like those in Karu local government area. Nasarawa state is the most contiguous to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Some 70 per cent of those that work and do business in Abuja live in the Karu axis and Keffi. It’s a mixed population of people from other parts of the country who are hooked to the internet, so to say. 

Thus, the LP candidate won in urban elite places like Lagos, Abuja and surrounding places where this population had spilled out. Somehow, the elite had spun the narrative  that the ‘sufferings’ in the land are caused by APC national government and that voting for APC would be a continuation of the ‘sufferings’. This was easily bought by some, especially social media buffs.

Embarrassingly, APC also lost all three senatorial seats in Nasarawa state including Al-Makura’s and Adamu’s zones. However, the voting pattern was different. Indeed, except for the South-east zone, LP did not have a good showing, generally, in the National Assembly polls in states where it won the presidential poll. SDP clinched two of the senatorial seats in Nasarawa state and PDP one. Internal wrangling arising from alleged imposition of candidates during the primaries that saw some erstwhile APC politicians defecting to other parties, a tinge of ethnic sentiments and sabotage were contributory factors. 

The candidacy of APC’s flag bearer for the western senatorial district became a matter of litigation for months as were some others. Amidst this distraction, the SDP candidate for that zone, Ahmed Wadada, himself a grassroots mobiliser and core politician; former PDP and APC faithful, one time chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, was forging ahead and strategising. It was no surprise therefore that he won hands down – 96,488 votes to APC’s and PDP’s 47,717 and 46,820 votes, respectively.

In the northern zone, Godiya Akwashiki (SDP) a onetime deputy speaker of the House of Assembly defeated retired executive secretary of the National Judicial Commission, Danladi Envulanza (APC), who was contesting for the first time – 44,471 to 32,058. Former governor and incumbent senator, Al-Makura, was defeated in the southern district by one-time Speaker of the State House of Assembly and current member, House of Representatives, Ogoshi Onawo, who had remained in the PDP all along. He scored 93,064 while the senator scored 76,813 votes. Here, it was a case of the Alagos (the largest ethnic group in that zone), siding with their son rather than the former governor. But how come they did not side with their son when Al-Makura contested and won in 2019? There are speculations that sabotage may also be involved here. 

For the House of Representatives election, APC fared a little better — winning three out of the five House of Representatives seats in the state. The SDP won the other two, namely, Lafia/Obi federal constituency and Karu/Keffi/Kokona federal constituency. Ordinarily, the ruling APC in Nasarawa should be clearing all five seats, winning four in the least.

Expectedly, Nasarawa PDP had been gloating over the loss of Adamu and Al-Makura in the last elections and talking up its chances in this Saturday’s gubernatorial poll. It is rather premature for PDP to rejoice, nor should they write off APC big politicians as spent forces yet. This is because the factors that played out in the February 25 polls would not be the same for the governorship and state House of Assembly election. It will be a different scenario, a different ball game. The traditional voting pattern would resurface.

Certainly, all of Nasarawa’s APC leaders from the national chairman down the ladder are expected to buckle up and unite for ‘operation return Sule’, lest they further damage their political standing with loss of the governorship contest. Already, a big rally was held for Sule’s re-election in Keffi, headquarters of the western senatorial district, attended by APC bigwigs in that zone, from Abdullahi Adamu down the ladder. It was gathered that the zone had decided that no one from the zone would contest for the governorship post as a pledge of their support for Governor Sule. And so Wadada, leader of the SDP in Nasarawa state, is backing the governor and will, accordingly, direct his numerous supporters to vote APC this weekend. This is a game changer of sorts.

A technocrat from the corporate world, Governor Sule has performed creditably in management of the state’s meagre resources as well as attracting some big investors to the state in his industrialisation drive, among other achievements. His co-contesters are relatively inexperienced. So, notwithstanding his party’s rather embarrassing loss on February 25, I expect Governor Abdullahi Sule and APC to triumph on Saturday.

Ikeano writes from Lafia, Nasarawa state via [email protected] 08033077519

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