Why a stich in time may save APC in Nasarawa West, others

Since 2011, Nasarawa state has continued to play critical role in Nigeria’s mainstream politics, particularly after the former governor of the state, Senator Tanko Al-Makura, led the defunct legacy party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), to merge with other legacy parties to give birth to the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

When Al-Makura came to power, he had no single elected councillor, with all the elective positions controlled by the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, on assumption of office, even passing through the turbulence of the PDP dominated state house of assembly, which attempted severally in vain to impeach, the former governor was able to weather the political storm and ensure that, as at the time he was living the stage, the APC controls all the three senatorial districts.

It was during the time of Almakura that Nasarawa state came to be known as the political laboratory of President Muhammadu Buhari, because the APC was stronger, united and had political dominance across the state.

This clean bill of health for the APC then cannot be said to be obtainable now. The situation the APC finds itself today in Nasarawa state could best be described as self inflicted. Many observers are of the view that the incumbent Governor A. A. Sule took over from his predecessor and using his unique leadership style, succeeded in holding the party together until the moment the state was selected to produce the next national chairman of the party.

Even though many believed the decision of the national hierarchy of the party to zone the seat of the national chairman of the party to Nasarawa state, was as a mark of respect and consideration for the role the state played since from 2011, leading to the formation of the party in 2013 and the subsequent victory in the 2015 general election, things however took a new dimension shortly after the first civilian governor of the state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu emerged as the new national chairman of the APC.

Whether by default or design, no sooner than Adamu assumed office that there were feelers indicating that a line was drawn between the national secretariat of the party and some politicians, notably, Hon Ahmed Aliyu Wadada, who was considered too confrontational in his quest to replace Adamu at the senate.

Matters got to a head during the party’s primary election that will produce candidates of the party for the 2023 general election, when it became glaring there was intention to manipulate the process in favour of some aspirants said to have been anointed by the national secretariat of the party. Governor A. A. Sule, in his characteristic openness and clear conscience, had followed the due process to produce the delegates that would eventually elect the candidates of the party.

It was public knowledge that A. A Sule convened a meeting of stakeholders from across the state, where the list of delegates from the previous congresses of the party both at the ward, local and state levels, were ratified and upheld.

Trouble for the party started shortly a day before the primary election, following which the state hierarchy of the APC, led by Chief John D. W Mamman, raised the alarm over alleged substitution of the list of delegates, particularly in some selected local government areas of Nasarawa West senatorial zone.

Since then, the APC was thrown into an internal turmoil that may dim the chances of the party to retain control across some vital and critical state and national assembly seats, especially the Nasarawa West senatorial seat vacated by Senator Adamu.

Though some politicians who could not stand the heat, with obvious attempts by unknown individuals using the national secretariat of the party as launching pad, have since left the APC, reprieve is however yet to come the way of the party that only a year ago, was as united as ever.

The crisis engulfing the APC in Nasarawa state cuts across all the three senatorial districts of the state and various levels of political offices. In Nasarawa North, there is an impasse involving incumbent Senator Godiya Akwashiki who was left with no option than to defect to the Socail Democratic Party (SDP), when it became obvious that vested interests at the national secretariat of the party are willing to do anything to pave the way for Halilu Danladi Evuluanza to fly the flag of the party.

Similarly, the same scenario obtains for the seat of the House of Representatives in Nasarawa North, where Mai Zuma, who appeared to be inching towards winning the ticket was shoved aside and in his stead, J. J Umaru now flies the flag of the APC. Mai Zuma has since ported to the opposition SDP.

So also in some few state assembly seats, with most of the cases now in courts waiting for final determination. In Awe North state constituency, incumbent Majority Leader at the assembly, Hon. Tanko Tunga, has dragged Hon. Hudu A. Hudu before the Court of Appeal, challenging the pronouncement of the Federal High Court, Lafia, which favoured Hon. Hudu.

This turmoil within the party became even more visible shortly after Governor Sule flagged of his campaign for reelection. Members of the party appears sharply divided, a situation that continue to threaten the campaign rallies with the exercise often disrupted when warring parties confront each other.

For instance, in Toto Local Government Area, where the governor flagged off the campaign, the arrival of the APC national chairman, Senator Adamu, on the scene and in the same vehicle with Arch. Shehu Ahmad Tukur, the supposedly anointed candidate of the national secretariat for Nasarawa West, drew the angst of the youths who are routing for Barrister Labaran Magaji.

Labaran Magaji has gone to the federal high court in Lafia, challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as well as the APC, for announcing Tukur as the candidate of the party for Nasarawa West senatorial district. Magaji cited irregularities and use of unknown delegates on the primary that produced Tukur as the candidate of the party.

On November 2, 2022, the federal high court Lafia nullified the party’s primary election that produced Tukur, ordering the party to conduct a fresh election within 14 days.

In her ruling, Justice Nehezina Afolabi, while delivering judgment in a suit filed by Labaran Magaji, affirmed that the delegates list used during the primary election on 4th June 2022, was fake hence the purported declaration of Tukur as the winner of the election stands nullified.

She, however, directed the APC to conduct a fresh primary election within 14 days using the delegates list originally certified by the INEC.

The 14-day timeline given by the FHC has since elapsed and the APC was yet to conduct a fresh primary election. While information filtered out that Tukur is challenging the pronouncement of the federal high court at the Court of Appeal, where he is seeking to upturn the order for the party to conduct fresh primary election for Nasarawa West, there is growing apprehension among supporters of Magaji, that the national secretariat of the party is bent on imposing Tukur.

The anger displayed by the youths in Toto during the flagging off of the campaign, was obviously directed at the national chairman for his perceived role in trying to manipulate the selection process in favour of his anointed candidate Tukur.

Considering that other aggrieved politicians like Hon Wadada and incumbent House of Representatives member representing Kokona/Keffi/Karu, Hon Gbefwi Jonathan Gaza, have since left the APC to join the opposition SDP, alongside their supporters, there’s every need for the party to be circumspect and to do the needful before it stabs itself in the back.

There is the urgent need for the national secretariat of the party to consider both parties in all the ongoing cases in courts challenging to become candidates of the party as equal and to ensure the party obeys rulings of the courts on the matter.

It will not augur well for the party to go into election divided. There is no price too big to pay so long as members of the party are united leading into the general elections. Since all the matters are before the courts, the national secretariat of the APC must endeavour to abide by the ruling of the court.

Like Governor Sule has repeatedly said, while appealing for calm during campaing rallies, every matter regarding the impasse involving candidates of the party will be resolved once the courts gave its rulings on the issues and that the party is ready and willing to abide by such rulings.

Where there will be trouble is when the courts finally decide on the pending issues and somehow the national secretariat of the party foot drags or outrightly fails to abide by such rulings. It will be herculean for the party to pacify aggrieved members who will feel shortchanged and who would be left with no option than to pursue their political aspirations under other political platforms other than the APC.

A stict in time they say saves nine!

It will amount to a major blow and setback, if by act of omission or commission, the national secretariat of the party colluded against itself to make the APC lose some national assembly seats, particularly Nasarawa West, which was recently vacated by Senator Adamu to become the number one APC member.

Karshi, a public affairs analyst, wites from Karu, Nasarawa state.