Danjuma Joseph, writes on the intrigues arising from the search for a consensus candidate in the Nasarawa State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Nasarawa State has been in a quandary, as it battles to produce a consensus governorship candidate for the forthcoming general elections in the state.
In a political clime that seems structured to accord much advantage to a ruling party and its incumbency, the PDP in Nasarawa, appeared set to ensure that its processes to present a candidate that will challenge the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) isn’t unnecessarily cumbersome.
However, those measures by the party appear not to be going as planned, as series of meetings by the opposition party couldn’t yield positive results with regards to ensuring the emergence of a consensus candidate. A recent meeting held at the instance of the state working committee of the party, consisting of high profile stakeholders, also ended in a deadlock.
The meeting was held at Kini Country Hotel Akwanga and it had in attendance Senators Suleiman Adokwe, representing Nasarawa South and Philip Aruwa Gyunka, representing Nasarawa North senatorial districts and himself one of the governorship aspirants.
Also in attendance, were four former deputy governors of the party namely, Solomon Ewuga, Prof. Onje Gye-wado, Chief Mike Abdul and Dameshi Barau Luka, who is also in the race for governorship.
At the meeting were critical stakeholders of the party drawn from each of the 13 Local government areas of the state and aspirants eyeing various positions, particularly from Nasarawa north senatorial zone.
“The meeting of the PDP stakeholders could not resolve on the only agenda which is on how to produce a consensus governorship candidate. There was no resolution reached as all the governorship aspirants present in the meeting agreed to contest the primaries”, an insider in the recent PDP stakeholders meeting told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
The source added “compelled by the situation, the chairman of our party, Francis Orogu, put the issue to a voice vote and all the aspirants answered yes, they will go to primaries and that was how the meeting ended without closing remarks and prayers”.
The only agenda he disclosed was to discuss consensus governorship candidate for the party who ruled Nasarawa State for 16 years, before losing to CPC and now APC, in 2011.
Another member of the party at the meeting described it as very intense, adding “it was one the hottest meetings of the party in recent times”, considering its importance to the survival of PDP in the state.
Although the meeting lasted for 30 minutes, participants came out wearing gloomy faces. They further declined to speak to newsmen confirming that the meeting could not come out with the anticipated resolution which would have eased the tension in the party in the build up to the forthcoming primaries.
LEADERSHIP Sunday however gathered that Senator Gyunka and Dameshi Luka, vehemently opposed the result of a micro-zoning arrangement by the state working committee of the party, which prompted the stakeholders meeting to end in a stalemate.
It was learned that both Gyunka and Dameshi, spoke their minds at the meeting, where they advocated for a level playing ground for all the six PDP governorship aspirants and they assured of their unflinching loyalty to the party whether they win or lose the primary.
It was also reliably gathered that before the recent meeting in Akwanga to resolve the contentious issue, there were series of meetings held to achieve same goal, but to no avail “they all ended in a stalemate” the source said.
However the inability of the party to arrive at a consensus so far is situated in the zoning of the governorship seat in the state. PDP had in 2017, zoned the governorship seat of the party to Nasarawa north senatorial zone. The zone is yet to produce a governor since the creation of the state in 1996, much less after the return of the nation to democratic rule in 1999.
Although there were heated debates during and after the zoning meeting, there were also frustrations, apprehensions, discontentment and different interpretations to it.
The zoning process didn’t go down well with supporters of some aspirants from other zones of the state, even when the state chairman of the party Francis Orogu, tried to justify the party’s decision.
This was inspite of the fact that the leadership of the various groups within the PDP, including the BoT Chairman, Walid Jibrin, supported the zoning formula.
PDP nonetheless, stood its ground, insisting that there must zoning, for equity and fair play.
Tahe party also approved the zoning of the deputy speaker to Nasarawa north, while the deputy governor and majority leader goes to Nasarawa west. The Speaker and Secretary to the State Government, would go to Nasarawa south respectively.
Orogu said with the zoning of positions, PDP is set to win all elections in the state in 2019.The chairman added that the party only zoned positions to the three senatorial zones and not to individuals.
Pundits however believe that the zoning arrangement has reduced the tension of having numerous governorship aspirants from other senatorial zones, gunning for the number one seat of the state. But it seems not be be enough.
The battle ground has been shifted to Nasarawa north that has never produced governor; they have been deputising since 1999, when the country returned to democracy and that is not enough for them, they also want the governor seat come rain, come sunshine.
The battle in the north is taking a different dimension as it has opened old wounds by resurrecting the age long rivalry between Eggon and Mada ethnic groups who are the two major occupants of Nasarawa north senatorial zone.
The Eggon ethnic group owns Nasarawa Eggon Local government area with 13 electoral wards, while the Mada people owns Akwanga local government, with 10 electoral, then Rindre ethnic tribe and others, owned Wamba local government area also with 10 electoral wards; Nasarawa north senatorial zone has only three local government areas.
Three Mada sons namely senator Philip Aruwa Gyunka, the present senator representing Nasarawa north, Hon Dameshi Luka, the former deputy governor of the state and Group Capt. Zakka (rtd), are eyeing the governorship seat under PDP; but two of them Senator Gyunka and Hon Dameshi, are alleged to have some political differences, even when they belong to the same party.
Eggon nation also has three persons contesting under PDP namely, Senator Solomon Ewuga, one term senator, FCT Minister for State and the first deputy governor in 1999. Others are Senator Patricia Akwashiki, also a one term senator and a Former Minister of Information and Honourable David Emmanuel Ombugadu, the incumbent member representing Akwanga Nasarawa Eggon and Wamba Federal Constituency.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that two of the three Mada sons contesting the governorship position in PDP are rivals, so also the three Eggon sons and a daughter eyeing the governorship are not in good terms. Of course, one should expect that such will affect the consensus governorship candidacy.
A source told our correspondent that both Senator Patricia Akwanshiki and David Ombugadu, raised on the political popularity, glory and structures of Senator Ewuga, to their stardom, but they allegedly vowed not to step down for their erstwhile political godfather.
Political pundits in the state argued that the internal fisticuffs’ between the six contestants from the two major ethic groups in Nasarawa north senatorial zone, is in itself a major setback to the emergence of a consensus governorship candidate of PDP in the state.
Another major threat to the consensus governorship candidate of the party is the age long land tussle between Mada and Eggon tribes. They stayed together and interacted, inter married since the days of Akwanga/Wamba native authority; political analysts wondered why they should have issues at this material time.
A stitch in time devised by PDP in the state to resolve the internal squabble would have been the micro-zoning process, but it also failed, because some of the aspirants and their supporters allegedly frustrated the process.
It was gathered that six local governments in the state voted for primaries, while six voted in favour of Nasarawa Eggon to produce the consensus governorship candidate, then Akwanga voted itself on this ground.
At another micro-zoning meeting, it was agreed that Nasarawa Eggon local government should produce the consensus governorship candidate, while Akwanga should produce the senator Nasarawa north, then Wamba, should bring the house of reps candidate, but this too could not yield positive results.
The results of that micro-zoning was said to have been submitted to the BoT Chairman of PDP, Senator Walid Jibrin, who hails from the state, who is also strongly behind the zoning process, to intervene but to no avail.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learned that another issue is that the Mada extraction of the PDP aspirants are allegedly accusing the state PDP chairman of conspiring to manipulate the governorship primary in favour of the Eggon ethnic group, so that Eggon who also play a key role in Nasarawa South zone politics, should support his brother, Senator Suleiman Adokwe, who is eyeing the senatorial seat for the fourth term.
But the PDP chairman who spoke out frustrated at the meeting and in other occasions, denies supporting any candidate or tribe for the governorship ticket.
“My hands are very clean, I have no particular governorship candidate in mind, all the aspirants are my own and the powers to produce a candidate are in the hands of God and the delegates. So they should go to God in prayers and seek votes from the people” he said.
Another factor said to be affecting PDP in Nasarawa State is that the ruling party APC, has allegedly infiltrated the party and it has clipped the wings of PDP in the state by wooing some major key players of the party to its fold, thereby given APC advantage over all other political parties in the Nasarawa State
Judging from the outcome of some recent failed meetings of the party, PDP in Nasarawa State is heading to the primary election to select a governorship candidate that will face the governorship candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, come 2019.
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