ANALYSIS: Adamawa governorship election: Murtala Nyako walks a tight rope

Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa
Former Governor Murtala Nyako will fund churches, mosque in Adamawa... Photo:Courtesy Google

Murtala Nyako’s chances of being re-elected Saturday have been hit by some streaks of setbacks. Perhaps the most severe of this is the fact that the former governor is going into the contest without the power of incumbency to his advantage.

Last weekend, the Supreme Court sacked five governors including Mr. Nyako and his counterparts in Sokoto, Bayelsa, Cross River, and Kogi, ruling that their tenures ended on May 29, 2011.

The verdict was received with joy by opposition elements in the state as the judgment immediately stripped Mr. Nyako of the power of incumbency.  The state chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Ibrahim Waziri, said the judgement had stripped the ousted governor of the powers to use state resources to fund his campaign, besides affording a level-playing field for all contestants, including Buba Marwa, the CPC gubernatorial candidate.

The ruling also had a backlash on Mr. Nyako’s political fortunes by paving the way for the embattled speaker of the state legislature, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, to become acting governor of the state.

Expectedly, the acting governor, Mr. Fintiri, who Mr. Nyako fought and barred for nearly two months from assuming the speakership of the state legislature, sacked all the Nyako-era political appointees. There are strong indications that despite the intervention of Vice President Namadi Sambo, urging the acting governor to ensure support for Mr. Nyako’s return to the Adamawa Government House, political pundits still believe the Abuja truce is not enough to douse the acrimony generated between the recently ousted governor and the gang of legislators, who effected the leadership change in the assembly which  elevated Mr. Fintiri from his position as majority leader to speaker.

Many of these legislators still harbour deep-seated misgivings for Mr. Nyako and may be waiting to punish him at the polls by withdrawing their support. Although the presidency has mandated the acting governor “to do everything within his powers to ensure Nyako’s return”, a reliable Government House source said the acting governor has told the presidency not to be “unnecessarily vilified” should Mr. Nyako lose at the polls no thanks to what Mr. Fintiri calls the former governor’s “growing unpopularity”.

The Adamawa State guber contest has five aspirants from the five political parties namely; Mr. Nyako, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Markus Gundiri, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); Buba Marwa, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC); Lilian Musa Kam, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP); and Zainab Kwonchi, African Democratic Congress (ADC).

Mrs. Kam’s entry into the race over the weekend followed the defection of Usman Ahmed Belel to the PDP and his expulsion from the ANPP by the state executive of the party.

Even though five contestants will partake in tomorrow’s poll, the contest is actually among the three notable figures from the PDP, ACN, CPC. The ANPP and ADC are not likely to make any impact in the election as they challenged as they are in disarray due to serious infighting and other internal problems.

Mrs. Kwonchi of the ADC, a tested politician, served as commissioner of health in Mr. Nyako’s government.

They have since fallen out. At her campaign rally, she promised a “renewal of government” if elected saying she would make the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the state, development of the state human capital and health care as the centre piece of her administration.  She has been castigated by pundits as playing the spoilers role in the contest since she has got no political structure on ground or a deep financial pocket to prosecute her aspirations.  Other factors, believed to be against this female gubernatorial candidate borders on socio-cultural challenges confronting many women in the North; the perception that women should play secondary roles.

The fear of the elections being manipulated is not very rife among contestants who believe the power of incumbency had been deflated by Mr. Nyako’s sack from office. However, the power of the PDP machinery cannot be discountenanced. A pointer to this is the recent re-instatement of sacked political appointees by the acting governor hinting that the hostility between former governor Nyako and the acting governor may have been resolved following the intervention of the vice president. 

Compounding Mr. Nyako’s slim chances at the election is an uneasy silence from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who though has thrown his weight behind Mr. Nyako, has become unusually silent.

Also, most of Mr. Abubakar’s supporters have distanced themselves from Mr. Nyako following his recent removal from office. The former vice president’s non-committal, some of his aides reliably told Premium Times, “is the deficit of trust” as Mr. Nyako, despite Mr. Abubakar’s pledge to support his re-election, has been rather discreet in dealing with him, exercising caution not to allow the control of the PDP structure slip into the hands of the later.

Mr. Nyako no doubt is faced with many daunting challenges to reclaim his seat. One of these is his recent handling of the death of 13 persons killed in the Mubi attacks by unidentified gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect, which Mr. Nyako’s government has claimed was caused by “a business deal that went awry”. The Igbo did not receive that information favourably. Further aggravating their concerns is the fact that the police which should have a say on the matter did not do so. The trust between both parties was severely battered.

This has eroded whatever goodwill the governor enjoyed as a son-in-law of the Igbo; more so that in a competitive race such as this every political bloc is important.

How true then is Mr. Marwa’s declaration, prior to the Supreme Court ruling, that Mr. Nyako’s best bet on the longevity of his tenure is the law court ruling in his favour.  Mr. Marwa added that “otherwise, Mr. Nyako is definitely set for a fall”.  The former military administrator of Lagos and Borno states dismissed notions of Mr. Nyako’s return saying the former naval chief would be defeated at the poll.

The ACN deputy national chairman, Boss Mustapha, said at the stakeholders meeting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the election would be won by his party. There are suggestions from opinion polls that the contest tomorrow is likely to be between the CPC candidate, Mr. Marwa, who is seen as one of the more formidable candidate in the race, and the ACN candidate, Mr. Gundiri, the dark horse in the race.

Mr. Gundiri enjoys the backing of former Governor Boni Haruna and sympathies of Senator Jubril Aminu who has vowed to see that Mr. Nyako never returns to the Dougirei government house. The ACN candidate enjoys a huge support base among the diverse ethnic minorities in the state and is the only christian candidate among the three leading candidate in the race.

He is a soft sell to ethnic minority and the Christian community, who see his candidature as an opportunity to break away from the Hausa-Fulani hegemony in the state. But many who have embraced Mr. Gundiri’s candidature said they recall his rural revolution in the state when he served as commissioner of agriculture and rural development under the defunct Gongola State.

Mr. Gundiri, in his campaigns, raised the alarm about the neglect of the rural communities and the dearth of rural infrastructure and said he would lead a rural infrastructure revolution to take many out of poverty. He is also an advocate of free education from primary to tertiary levels. There are strong pointers that politicians, who see a ray of hope that his candidature is gaining ground, are already entering into alliance with him.

The CPC candidiate, Mr. Marwa, is a candidate of distinction. Political pundits are however unanimous in their believe that his albatross in Saturday’s election is the perception of the CPC as a sectional party. Many in the state are still disillusioned about the party following the violence that erupted after last year’s presidential elections linking it with fundamentalism.

Mr. Marwa has promised to re-enact his sterling performance in office as he did while governor of Lagos and Borno States, promising free education from primary to tertiary levels, and free healthcare. He has also promised to build the state’s collapsed infrastructure, which he claimed Mr. Nyako has completely abandoned.  

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