Although 32 political parties are fielding candidates in Saturday’s governorship election in Gombe State, the battle is between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Usman Nafada, and that of the major opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Inuwa Yahaya.
Also, if the result of the presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 23 is anything to go by, the APC may clinch the governorship seat in Gombe by defeating the PDP which has ruled the state consecutively for 16 years.
APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari defeated his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP in the state.
This is despite the state being governed by the PDP and Mr Abubakar being from the neighbouring Adamawa.
However, some residents of the state said apart from the candidates of PDP and APC, the candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Abdul Ghaniy Mohammad, a lawyer and former Chairman of Muslim Lawyers Association, is waiting on the wings and may benefit from what one of the residents termed as “split votes of the two major candidates”.
According to the spokesperson of the PDP campaign in Gombe, Dahiru Kera, Mr Nafada has more experience in governance compared to the APC candidate.
He said Mr Nafada “was a former Speaker of the state assembly, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and is currently a Senator representing Gombe north in the Senate and is, therefore, better placed to govern the state well”.
He also said as Chairman Senate Committee on Interior, Mr Nafada has brought development not just to Gombe but the North-east as a whole.
He said the PDP candidate has specifically been involved in the educational development of the state and the sub-region “by building a hall and a classroom block at the Federal College of Education (Technical) in Gombe as well as the construction of a Faculty building at the Modibbo Adama University Yola, Adamawa State”.
Also, Mr Kera said when it comes to the governorship election, the results of the presidential and National Assembly election cannot be used as a pointer to what will happen on Saturday.
“All politics is local and I can assure you that PDP controls 90 per cent of the grassroots here. We have control of the state assembly and our members who are popular in their constituencies will not only deliver themselves but the party as a whole,” he said.
Another factor that can be considered a strength of Mr Nafada is the fact that the two previous governors of Gombe, who both served under the PDP, have brought immense development to the state.
He can, therefore, take advantage by claiming to continue from where his predecessors stopped.
Also, Mr Nafada is considered by many in Gombe as being “more Gombe” than the APC candidate and one resident said, “these things may seem irrelevant in some places, but a lot of our people give it consideration here”.
He said locals take into consideration the historical background of each candidate in casting their votes and that in this instance, while Inuwa Yahaya of the APC is considered a “Hausa man”, Mr Nafada is seen as a local “Fulani boy”.
In the same vein, compared to the APC candidate, Mr Nafada has more financial resources at his disposal, a key factor in Nigerian politics.
A major weakness of the PDP candidate is the showing of his party in the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Elections in Nigeria appear to follow a pattern in which the victory of a presidential candidate often has a direct implication on subsequent elections within the same circle.
By losing all parliament seats and the presidential election, it is difficult to see how PDP can overcome the challenge.
Besides, even the current governor Hassan Dankwambo who sought to replace Mr Nafada at the Senate lost his bid despite the power of incumbency.
Inuwa Yahaya was also the candidate of the APC in the 2015 election in Gombe but he lost to Mr Dankwambo with about 80,000 votes margin.
However, his decision to accept the defeat early enough despite the decision of his party to challenge the outcome endeared him to lovers of democracy in the state.
Mr Yahaya served as a commissioner of finance in Gombe for about eight years under former governor Danjuma Goje.
A major strength of Mr Yahaya is the apparent acceptance of the APC by the generality of voters in Gombe.
This can be attested to by the outcome of recent elections held in the state in which the party posed 100 per cent victory.
Also, according to the spokesperson of APC campaign in Gombe State, Idris Abdullahi, by the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, “people of Gombe have given an indication where their votes will go on Saturday”.
He also said Mr Yahaya is more experienced when it comes to governance because while the PDP candidate spent most of his public life in the legislature, Mr Yahaya has a financial background training and a long time in an executive position. This places him in a better position to provide governance, he argues.
“Our candidate participated fully in the running of the state and had better experience. He is part of the success story of the state. I assure you he is better placed administratively to govern the state compared to our rival,” he said.
Another strength of Mr Yahaya is that he appears to enjoy more support of some of the political big wigs in the state.
For instance, while the PDP governorship primary basically ended in disarray, other APC governorship aspirants drove in the same bus with Mr Yahaya to his home after he defeated them in the primary.
Mr Yahaya also enjoys the full support of former governor, Danjuma Goje, who is the incumbent senator for Gombe Central and leader of the APC in the state.
Also, the voting population of Gombe state, who always vote for the PDP this time around moved over to the APC.
They replaced their PDP senator and two members of the House of Representatives with candidates of the APC.
A major weakness for Mr Yahaya is the perception by some locals that he is not “Gombe enough” because his forefathers are considered Hausa and not ‘really Fulani’.
Also, the PDP is a ‘wounded lion’ now and will give its all to win back the state.
The incumbency factor and financial resources available to the PDP can be used to thwart his ambition.
History of violence
The politics of Gombe is often characterised by violence and this year’s election is not an exception.
The two major parties have each accused the other of being behind violent attacks on each other.
While the PDP candidate has alleged that his supporters were attacked recently when they went to the airport to welcome Mr Dankwambo to the state, reports indicate that the APC candidate’s family home was razed by hoodlums suspected to be PDP thugs.
Despite these, analysts opine that the APC may now have all it takes to edge out the PDP and produce a governor in the state that defied the Buhari “Tsunami” in 2015.
However the PDP will certainly not give in without a fight.