By Austin Ajayi
With the certainty that the present occupant of the Dougerei House, Yola, Adamawa State, Bala Ngilari, will leave on May 29, the struggle to replace him has been hard and intense. Nobody can say who the cap fits except the electorate, who will do so through their ballots on February 28.
Altogether, eight candidates are jostling for the Adamawa top job. These are Mohammed Bindow of the All Progressives Congress [APC], Nuhu Ribadu of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], Ahmad Modibbo of the Peoples Democratic Movement [PDM], and Marcus Gundiri of the Social Democratic Party [SDP].
The others are Amos Sunday of the Peoples Party of Nigeria [PPN], Na’ama Bulama of the Progressives Peoples Alliance [PPA], Abdulnasir Hamman of the Mega Progressives Peoples Party [MPPP], and Muhammad Malgwi of the National Conscience Party [NCP].
Mr. Bindow of the APC is a serving senator representing Adamawa Northern Senatorial District. He is believed to be a political godson of the impeached Governor, Murtala Nyako, and controls the political structure that produced Mr. Nyako.
Mr. Nyako and his godson were PDP members who later defected to the APC. It was Mr. Bindow who won the APC ticket during the aborted October 2014 governorship bye-election in the state.
The APC candidate comes from Njayi, one of the unknown minority tribes in the state. Born to the highly connected international business man and philanthropist, Umaru Jibrilla, the younger Jibrila is indeed riding on the back of his father’s popularity to political fame in Adamawa State.
The APC flag-bearer is not a push over having come from the business community to defeat a serving senator to pick the PDP ticket on which he won his present term in the Senate. He will, therefore, bank on his impressive record in the Senate in his quest to take over the Dougerei House.
While many believe the APC will pull the rug from off the feet of the PDP, especially because of the internal wrangling in the ruling party, Mr. Bindow seems not to be in the good books of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who is a top power broker in the APC. But one of Mr. Abubakar’s aides, Abdurazaq Namdas, thinks otherwise. Mr. Namdas claims the former vice president is solidly behind
Mr. Bindow but the support remains to be seen.
Another drawback for the APC flag-bearer is his perceived lack of intellectual depth. His supporters are quick to point out that life is a learning process and Mr. Bindow will learn on the job if he wins. However, the choice of Martin Babale, a former member of the House of Representatives from Toungo in southern part of the state, is seen as a tactical move that might be of advantage to the APC ticket.
The PDP candidate, Mr. Ribadu is a household name in Nigeria and abroad. He is a lawyer and a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police. He was the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Many believe that he did the job with all sense of dedication.
Mr. Ribadu was the presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the 2011 election. He participated fully in the merger that birthed the APC in 2013 but dumped the party late last year for the PDP on whose platform he sought to contest the aborted governorship bye election in the state. He, however, emerged the PDP candidate during the controversial primary held in Abuja.
Apart from the disagreement over the conduct of the PDP primary in Abuja, Mr. Ribadu had faced stiff opposition from top members of the party Adamawa including the suspended state chairman, Joel Madaki, former House of Representatives member, Awwal Tukur, former senator, Abubakar Girei, and many others.
But the situation has been carefully managed to the extent that about 80 percent of the aggrieved party members are now lining behind the former anti-graft czar. The PDP also settled Mr. Ngilari with the ticket for Adamawa North Senatorial District.
Even Mr. Madaki, who was more vociferous on the matter, was reported as saying, “We disagree to agree; we see that Ribadu will bring the desire change we need and we believe that he will rule with zeal and determination to liberate our dear state.”
With the coast now clear, Mr. Ribadu has been campaigning intensively across the state. His qualification and experience in public service are a plus for him and his track record is not in question. Many, including his rivals attest to his prudence and forthrightness and believe he would bring his experience to bear in governance if elected.
Another advantage Mr. Ribadu has is that the PDP is very popular and has remained the ruling party in the state since 1999 until Mr. Nyako’s defection to the APC in 2013.
Again, the choice of Habila Istifanus, a former chairman of Ganye Local Government Area as Mr. Ribadu’s running mate is seen as strategic because of the man’s soaring popularity in the state.
However, analysts say some of the aggrieved PDP members might still work discreetly against Mr. Ribadu, especially because they consider the former EFCC chief as a usurper who is reaping from the hard work of those who built the party. Although he worked closely with former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Ribadu formally joined politics as a member of the defunct ACN when he returned from exile.
While those who pushed him up for the election wanted good governance and prudence management of the state’s lean resources, Mr. Ribadu anti-graft posture might attract no votes from top politicians who fear they would not have free access to the treasury.
Mr. Modibbo, the PDM candidate is a former director general of the National Teachers Institute and executive secretary of Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC.
He defected to PDM from the PDP after he lost out during the controversial primary held in Abuja.
His running mate, Anthony Madwatte, is a serving member of the House of Representatives from Numan/Demsa/Lamurde Constituency. Mr. Madwatte has been a lawmaker since 2003.
A major factor that may likely work for Mr. Modibbo, is his wealth. He is believed to be the richest among all the candidates. However, his source of wealth remains unclear since he was a civil servant.
Another factor that might favour the PDM candidate is the popularity of his wife, Aisha. Mrs. Modibbo is a member of the House of Representatives representing Yola North/Yola South/Girei Constituency but has defected to the PDM.
However, a major setback for Mr. Modibbo is that the PDM is new and very unpopular in the state. Many have argued that Mr. Modibbo is playing the role of a spoiler for Mr. Ribadu.
The choice of Mr. Madwatte as Mr. Modibbo’s running mate might count against the PDM ticket. Though the lawmaker is a strategist, his people believe he had not done much for them to justify his 11-year stay in the federal legislature.
The SDP candidate, Mr. Gundiri, got the party’s flag following the death of the former candidate, Hakila Yerima, on January 6. Before his death, Mr. Yerima’s name had been forwarded to INEC.
But the new SDP candidate is not new to the governorship contest. He ran for the position on the platform of the defunct ACN in 2011 but lost to Mr. Nyako, then of the PDP. He also ran in the 2012 bye election and was believed to have been robbed of victory in that contest.
Mr. Gundiri, thereafter, defected to the PDP where he had hoped to pick the ticket but was utterly disappointed when it went the way of Mr. Ribadu.
Although he is coming into the race with experience and huge political structure, the SDP candidate is perceived by many as a man desperate to become the governor of Adamawa and this may work against him.
The PPN candidate, Amos Sunday, has a doctorate degree and teaches zoology. Although, he is not known politically in the state, he is upbeat about his chances. However, he is banking on the experience of his running mate, Yuguda Garba, who hails from Ganye in the southern zone, to conquer in the election.
“I think my chances are the brightest out of this confusion. People are fed up of deception,” said Mr. Sunday.
“In the 21st century, a political party is imposing a candidate from Abuja, fielding a candidate who is semi -literate or greedy, whose wife and house guard are contesting for elective positions. I think Adamawa people are fed up with lies.
“PDP has not presented anything in the last 15 years but hunger and poverty. Some people think we are underdogs. With the development in other parties, this election is for the under dogs.”
Na’ama Bulama, the PPA standard bearer is the only woman in the race. She had contested election into the state assembly in 2007 on the platform of the PPA and claims to represent the womenfolk during the 2012 governorship race.
A graduate of Business Administration from the University of Abuja, Ms. Bulama is an indigene of Garaha in Hong Local Government area in Adamawa Central Senatorial Zone. Her deputy, Hafizu Abdulahi, is a business man.
“We have 100 percent chances of winning the election, it is my believe right now that omen want to elect me as their governor because men have failed them severally in the past,” Mrs. Bulama said.
However, the PPA is not popular in the state and this might count against her.
The MPPP candidate, Abdunnasir Hamman, is a young businessman with a degree in Political Science from the University of Maiduguri.
Mr. Hamman is not known politically and, therefore, has no structure with which to pursue his ambition. He was the party’s flag bearer in the October bye-election which was stopped by the court.
The MPPP candidate is counting on the support of youth whom he said were thrilled at his emergence as well as the popularity of his running mate, who is a tailor. “My youthful age gives me an edge above my opponents because I am 41, so youth in the state are impressed that a member of their group is contesting.
They see me as capable of bringing the change they are looking for. They form the majority of voter population but they have been neglected”, he said.
The NCP candidate, Muhammad Malgwi, retired from the civil service in 1994 and later joined politics under the defunct United Nigeria Centre Party, UNCP, where he rose to become the state organising secretary.
He had shown interest in the governorship position in the aborted October bye-election under the NCP. Currently, his running mate, John Jatau, is a farmer from Yola South Local Government.