In this report, our correspondent examines the chances of PDP in Nasarawa state ahead of the 2019 governorship election in the light of its zoning of the governorship ticket to Akwanga district
Recently, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party-PDP-in Nasarawa state, rising from what it called a stakeholders meeting, announced the zoning of its governorship ticket ahead of the 2019 elections, to the Nasarawa North Senatorial district of the state.
Indeed, the move which was seen by many especially the members of the PDP as a right step, is largely part of the grand design by the party to reclaim what it has lost in the 2011 general election when it defied all logic and well-meaning appeals, to field one of the worst governors the state ever produced, Aliyu Akwe Doma.
It is interesting to note that the Nasarawa North which has the highest number of occupants for the number two seat in the state: office of the deputy governor, has never had the rare privilege of producing occupant to the coveted seat.
The district, which comprises three local governments – Akwanga, Nasarawa-Eggon and Wamba, has never produced a governor since 1999 to date.
So far, it has produced no fewer than five deputy governors in the persons of Solomon Ewuga who had a brief stint before being appointed as minister of state for FCT by the Obasanjo administration; Professor Onje Gewado, a cerebral academic and leading elite from Wamba; Labaran Maku, Micheal Abdul, Damishi Luka and the incumbent deputy governor, Silas Agara.
Consequently, the move by the PDP to zone its guber ticket to the zone was seen by many as a calculated attempt to woo voters and indeed support from the zone, in its desperate move to recapture power in the state and regain its fast fading relevance.
Announcing the party’s decision, its chairman, Francis Orogu, who spoke after an expanded elders and state executive caucus meeting held at the state secretariat, said the decision was reached by all organs of the party “in the spirit of peace, unity, moral consciousness and political perfection”.
According to him, the zoning of the governorship ticket is in line with chapter 5, section 35(1 c) of the PDP constitution.
He said the party was working out modalities with stakeholders toward zoning other positions to other senatorial zones “to ensure justice and fairness”.
Response to long years of agitation
Good enough, the decision by the PDP is a response to long years of agitation by people of the Nasarawa north senatorial district, to be offered the opportunity to produce an occupant to the most coveted seat in the state.
Reflectively, in the build up to the 2015 general election, the zone, just like it did in 2011, made what could best be described as passionate appeal to political party stakeholders to consider offering it the opportunity to occupy the seat through the instrumentality of zoning.
In one of such calls, some stakeholders from the zone likened their condition to the precarious situation the present day Nasarawa state found itself while still with the old Plateau state.
Indeed, they recalled that while under the old Plateau state, what constitute the present day Nasarawa state which was then known as lower Plateau, never had the opportunity of producing occupant to the number one seat in the state.
They recalled, and perhaps accurately too, that in all the years of the former Plateau state, opportunity to produce occupier of the governor seat was hijacked by the then upper Plateau, a term used to described areas which constitutes the present Plateau state.
Will the zoning help North realise its ambition?
Although the move has been hailed by many, especially residents of the zone, analysts said the desire of the zone to produce the governor of the state is still a long dream judging by the precarious nature of its political dynamics.
Observers said the zoning arrangements, coming from a party which has no respect for its agreements, cannot and should not be taken as a dream come true by residents of the zone.
The state chairman, Francis Orogu who even announced the decision, has been accused of flouting his party’s decision on zoning when stakeholders of the party met and zoned the chairmanship position to Obi local government but he, from Keana, acted contrary to the arrangement, threw his hat to the contest and eventually emerged chairman, in defiance to the zoning arrangement.
“I laughed when I saw Orogu reading the decision to some lukewarm audience. This was a man who defied the zoning arrangements. So what assurance have we that he will even respect the so-called zoning which he just announced? To my mind, the whole thing is a ploy to dissuade the zone from joining APC only to live then hanging at the die minutes”.
Above were the views of Danladi Manga, a public affairs analysts.
But then, views are being expressed that the zoning gift from the PDP to the zone will only make meaningful impact if the stakeholders from the zone will set aside their selfish desire to govern the state at all cost and find a way of narrowing down on one credible candidate.
There are concerns that with the zoning arrangements, more and more people from the zone will come out seeking desperately to get the party’s ticket. Already, the longest governorship candidate, who has contested against all but one of the governors the state produced since the dawn of the current democratic experiments, Solomon Ewuga, is said to be making wide ranging consultations.
Ewuga, from Akwanga local government area of the zone, has contested severally under different platforms including defunct ANPP and PDP as he ran against former governors Abdullahi Adamu and Akwe Doma, and, attempted to run against incumbent governor Umaru Tanko Almakura before a more savvy politician, Yusuf Agabi, outsmarted him to clinch the PDP ticket in the build up to 2015 polls.
As far as the contest is concerned, Ewuga is a household name. But then, it is doubtful if an Ewuga candidacy will be a good sale for the PDP.
So far, another aspirant to the seat on the PDP platform is incumbent senator representing the zone, Philip Gyunka. Of the Mada stock, Gyunka who was a member of the state house of assembly, emerged the senator after a slim victory over his closest opponent, the candidate of the APGA, Sam Allu.
Already, Gyunka is said to have commenced high stake networking and bridge building in a bid to realise his dream of flying the PDP guber ticket and eventually governing the state.
While many see him as someone with the financial muscle that can outdo the likes of Ewuga, there are concerns that should he emerged as the party’s flag bearer, the chances of him getting the support of Eggons, Ewuga’s tribe, may be slim. In the event of that happening, it will scuttle the chances of the zone.
Indeed, the list of those said to be nursing ambition to fly the PDP governorship ticket from the zone included the name of former deputy governor, Damishi Luka; an erudite scholar and one time deputy governor under the former governor Abdullahi Adamu administration, Professor Onjeh Gewado; Senator Patricia Akwashiki and the current member representing Nassarawa Eggon-Akwanga-Wamba federal constituency, David Umbugadu.
Politics watchers assert that in few days to come, more people from the zone will join the PDP, just like Innocent Lagi, a former commissioner of justice under the current administration of Governor Umaru Almakura, did and ultimately indicate their interest to fly the party’s ticket since it has been zoned to the area.
It is presumed that most of those likely defectors, will come with the sole aim of testing their might in the scrambling for the PDP ticket and should their bid fail, they are likely to either return to where they are coming from or remain within the fold to deal a deadly blow on the party and its candidate.
Already, a subtle scramble has commenced with views being expressed that as the days goes by, the struggle will increase in intensity.
PDP’s Strength in the state
In the face of all this, views are being expressed that if the opposition PDP can effectively put its axe together, ensure genuine fence mending efforts and ultimately, ensure the emergence of a credible candidate that is appealing to a wider spectrum of the state’s voting population, it sure will assume the governorship seat.
It is an established fact that the PDP still control some appreciable level of support from an average voter in the state owing to which the party now controls two out of the three senate seats, and, an appreciable number out of the about 7 house of representatives seats.
Additionally too, the increasing discontent with the incumbent state government, a discontent that stems from the government’s abysmal failure in addressing the welfare of workers especially prompt payment of salaries, has provided an ample opportunity for the PDP to bolster its alter ego in the state.
It is an established fact that in spite of his modest achievements in repositioning the state through what can mildly be described as aggressive infrastructural development, the current administration of Governor Umaru Al-Makura of the ruling APC, has failed woefully in addressing the pressing issue of workers’ welfare.
The administration earned notoriety for failing in discharging its responsibility of actively paying workers’ salaries as the best it did was to introduce a cliché into the wage payment: salary by percentage. For a very long period of time, workers were paid salaries in percentage which ranged from 50% to 80% and in some instances, some workers reportedly received as little as 30% salary, following which the state witnessed long period of strike by the labour force.
To say this has painted the state government and by implication the APC administration in the state in a bad light is an understatement.
As should be expected, the opposition PDP is repositioning to latch onto this in its determined efforts to clinch power. Whether this will work or not, time will tell.
One fact which is certain is that the party will sure get an overwhelming support of voters from the northern senatorial zone and with some bit and piece of support from the other two zones, its candidate may well coast to victory.
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