As Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State seeks re-election for another four years on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he and his supporters will be even more closely monitoring the primary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor’s supporters under the aegis of Abdullahi Sule Amalgamated Support Groups, had purchased the N50 million APC expression of interest and nomination forms for Mr Sule.
Declaring his intention to run for a second term in Lafia, Mr Sule thanked his supporters who purchased the forms for him.
“Some of these people who are barely making a living came together and raised the funds to buy the nomination and expression of interest forms for me to re-contest for the 2023 governorship election.
“This gesture is very touchy and important to me, so I cannot turn down their request. Therefore, I hereby declare to re-contest as governor in the 2023 election,” he said.
Mr Sule made the remarks against the backdrop of accusations that he wanted to renege on his promise in 2015 to serve a single term. A video clip had gone viral following evidence of his interest in reelection, showing him making the promise to serve as governor for only four years.
Nevertheless, Fatima Abdullahi, a former wife to the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu, also picked the nomination forms and is poised to challenge the governor at the APC primary.
Ms Abdullahi, a medical doctor, is, however, not seen by many as an obstacle to the renomination of the governor by the APC.
The PDP has three main contenders: Labaran Maku, a former minister of information; David Ombugadu, the 2019 PDP governorship candidate and former House of Representatives member, and Nuhu Angbazo, a retired army major-general.
A former deputy governor, Solomon Ewuga, and a former senator, Suleiman Adokwe, had withdrawn from the race, leaving the former three to slug it out at the primary on Wednesday.
Having been out of government at the state and federal levels for a while, the main hurdles before the opposition party are funding and disunity.
Apart from having a candidate who can finance his own campaign, being able to stand the test of litigation during and after the election is a factor the delegates may consider in making their choices.
Mr Maku had in April returned to the PDP after eight years in the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), where he was the National Secretary until his return to the party.
With the return of Mr Maku, the PDP looks prepared to give the APC a run for its money.
People in the state, including members of the ruling APC, are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the PDP’s primary election.
The three contestants are from the same local government area, Nasarawa Eggon in the Nasarawa North Senatorial District where Governor Sule is from.
For the past eight years, the opposition parties in the state had been divided, leading to the defection of Mr Maku to APGA. Disputes had always arisen over the nomination of candidates. If the opposition candidates work together, observers believe they could pose a huge threat to the ruling APC.
This time around, the three PDP aspirants have pledged to accept the outcome of the primary and support the winner.
Here are the aspirants to watch;
The sitting governor is a favourite for nomination by his party. But in the general election, he will bank on his record in the last four years, unlike in 2019 when he rode on the achievements of former Governor Tanko Almakura.
One of the factors that may favour the governor is his incumbency and the state resources it brings to his disposal.
Another factor is the dominance of the APC in the state. The party currently holds the three senatorial seats, four out of five House of Representatives seats and at least 20 of the 24 seats in the state’s House of Assembly.
However, one major factor that may count against the governor is a supposed rift between him and his benefactor and predecessor, Mr Almakura, who lost out in the race for the seat of APC National Chairman in March.
Generally, most people, particularly the opposition, see the governor as failing so far to match the performance of his predecessor.
A former unionist, journalist, commissioner, deputy governor and minister and until recently the Secretary of APGA, Mr Maku is one of the leading aspirants in the PDP.
Many consider him to have benefited the most from the PDP, among other Nasarawa politicians; enjoying appointments from governments of the party until he dumped it for APGA in 2014.
After losing the PDP governorship ticket to Yusuf Agabi, Mr Maku jumped ship into APGA to run on the ticket of the party against the then Governor Al-Makura and the PDP in 2015. He did the same in 2019.
Going by the result of the last two gubernatorial elections where he came second and third respectively, Mr Maku is certainly an aspirant to reckon with.
While some PDP leaders believe his departure from its fold was a show of ingratitude to the party, others believe his return adds value to their efforts to unseat the ruling APC from the Shendam Road Government House in Lafia next year.
Mr Maku enjoys the support of party chieftains such as former FCT Minister, Mr Ewuga.
The fact that he is a Christian and from the Northern zone gives him a very good chance of defeating the incumbent
However, standing in Mr Maku’s way is the aspiration of his party members from the same ethnic group, local government area and zone.
Davematics, as he is fondly called, was the candidate of the PDP in the 2019 governorship election.
He is a former two-term member of the House of Representatives representing Akwanga/Nasarawa Eggon/Wamba Federal Constituency.
He defeated a former minister and grassroots politician, Mr Ewuga, and others to pick the ticket for the 2019 election but lost the general election.
He is believed to be backed by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and the state working committee of the PDP under the leadership of Francis Orogu.
Mr Ombugadu first won his Reps election in 2011 under the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) before defecting to the PDP prior to the 2015 general elections.
It is, however, believed that the popularity that earned him the PDP’s governorship ticket in 2019 has reduced due to the emergence of the other two aspirants.
Regarded as a newcomer in Nasarawa State politics, the major-general who retired a year ago has become a force to reckon with.
He is the immediate past General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division of the Nigeria Army, Jos.
Mr Angbazo is the son of one of the first-class traditional rulers in the state, Aren Eggon, the traditional ruler of the Eggon people.
The only survivor of the 2006 Benue military plane crash, Mr Angbazo is seen even by supporters of Messrs Maku and Ombugadu as a good candidate.
With the withdrawal of Mr Ewuga from the race, Mr Angbazo has been courting his supporters to boost his chances.
One of his major supporters is Suleiman Adokwe, the immediate past three-term senator representing Nasarawa South.
His deep pocket is another key factor that may work in his favour.
His father, the Aren Eggon, was the treasurer of the defunct Nigeria People’s Party (NPP) that ruled old Plateau State under late Governor Solomon Lar between 1979 and1983.
Mr Angbazo’s security and technical know-how may be a huge asset in tackling the insecurity in the state if he wins the PDP ticket and is eventually elected governor.
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