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The October 11 governorship bye-election in Adamawa State has pitched two legislators from rival parties – Senator Bindow Jibrilla of the All Progressives Congress and Umaru Fintiri of the People’s Democratic Party – in supremacy battle ahead of 2015. Who will emerge victorious from this strategic bye-election?
By Olisemeka Obeche
After recording a hard-fought win and lose apiece against each other in the recently conducted governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states respectively, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are gearing up for another supremacy battle for the vacant Adamawa State governorship seat on October 11, 2014.
The seat became vacant following the impeachment of Murtala Nyako, erstwhile governor of the state, by the Adamawa State House of Assembly on July 15, this year. Nyako who defected from the PDP to the APC late last year was a major casualty of the PDP-APC power-play.
With the removal of Nyako from office through impeachment, Fintiri, who was the Speaker of the House of Assembly, became the acting governor of the state. However, in line with the provisions of the constitution, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fixed the bye-election for October 11 to elect a substantive governor who will complete Nyako’s term which expires on May 29, 2015.
At the end of the primaries of the two rival parties, Bindow Jibrilla emerged as the governorship candidate of APC while Fintiri secured the PDP ticket. This set the stage for the political battle. Indeed, the race for the vacant seat has become strategic for both candidates and their parties. Expectedly, both parties are mobilizing political resources to enable their respective flag-bearers emerge victorious at the polls. The thinking in both political camps is that the party which emerges the winner of the October 11 bye-election stands a better chance of consolidating its position during the epic 2015 general elections.
Even as both parties try to perfect their winning strategies ahead of the election, attention has shifted to the two gladiators going head-to-head at the polls. Political watchers have termed the bye-election “the battle of lawmakers.” This is because while Bindow is a senator representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, Fintiri was until recently the Speaker of the state House of Assembly.
It is imperative to recollect their antecedents in order to have a fair idea of their chances in the race.
Senator Bindow Jibrilla of APC
Senator Mohammed Bindow Jibrilla was a successful businessman with three companies in Mubi before his foray into politics. He became a Senator, representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, following his victory in the April 2011 election under the platform of the PDP. He later defected to the APC. Senator Jibrilla’s gift of eloquence and his philanthropic disposition which made him a popular figure in Adamawa North reportedly facilitated his triumph over the incumbent Senator, Mohammed Mana for the PDP senatorial ticket in January 2011.
Despite being a green-horn politician at that time, Jibrilla eventually emerged the dark-horse of the Adamawa North Senatorial race, beating former Adamawa State governor and candidate of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Boni Haruna with over 4,000 votes. Jibrilla who is currently the vice chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, appears set to give his closest rival a good fight.
Indeed, his entry into the governorship race and eventual triumph in the APC primaries over other aspirants, including a candidate sponsored by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar did not come to many as a surprise. Those who have followed his trajectory described him as a goal-getter and have tipped him to spring a surprise in the October bye-election. “Senator Jibrilla is the kind of leader every Nigerian is looking forward to have in political offices and we are happy that he has risen so fast through the ranks to become our party’s flag-bearer; and we expect him to come out victorious on October 11,” Dele Kosoko, a former lawmaker and APC chieftain said.
According to him, the APC candidate stands a good chance of trouncing Fintiri because he is a grassroots politician.
Umaru Fintiri of PDP
Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri’s journey to the exalted position of Adamawa State Acting Governor could be described as a game of intrigues and power-play. Luck was also on his side. Just like his arch-rival, Senator Jibrilla, Fintiri’s meteoric rise to pinnacle of power in Adamawa politics has been swift. From an elected state legislator, Fintiri emerged the Majority Leader of the 25-member PDP-dominated House of Assembly. Based on his good leadership qualities, Fintiri became the Speaker following the impeachment of former speaker, Sadiq Ibrahim and his deputy, Mrs. Wale Fwa, for alleged incompetence.
Luck later smiled on him when he became Acting Governor following the Supreme Court judgment that sacked five governors across the country, including erstwhile Governor Murtala Nyako. Fintiri’s reign as acting governor was short-lived as Nyako reclaimed his mandate two weeks later, following his victory at the February 4, 2012 election.
However, when the political equation of the state took a major twist in 2013 with Governor Nyako and the top PDP hierarchy at daggers-drawn, Fintiri again found himself in pole position to spearhead a political assault against the estranged governor. The battle line was drawn when the governor eventually defected to the APC with his loyalists. With the support of the party machinery at the state and federal levels, Fintiri mobilized the PDP-dominated house for a successful impeachment of Governor Nyako on July 15.
Barely four days after Nyako’s impeachment, which paved the way for Fintiri to be sworn in as the state Acting Governor, the latter stormed the Abuja National Secretariat of the PDP on July 18, telling party leaders that he had delivered.
“As a loyal and obedient party member, I came on a courtesy call to my party and the National Working Committee as my first assignment after the battle to remove Governor Nyako who had stolen the mandate of the PDP under which he was elected. I came here to bring back the mandate and I have handed over to them (party leaders) the mandate,” he declared.
Having demonstrated himself as loyal party combatant with ability to deliver on his target, it was not surprising that Fintiri emerged PDP’s governorship candidate for the October 11 bye-election. Fintiri received 60 per cent of the votes from the more than 878 delegates at the primary to beat Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Modibbo, a former Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier General Buba Marwa. Before the primary, seven aspirants including former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ridadu, withdrew from the contest after a meeting presided over by Senate President, David Mark.
A former Political Adviser to the President, Ahmed Gulak, also reportedly stepped down for the emergence of the acting governor. Gulak had earlier in late August declared that Fintiri did not have constitutional right to contest the October 11 bye-election. “His (Fintiri) position as speaker is reserved for him, meaning that he should midwife this election, after that he should resume his post as speaker. He has no moral basis to contest, that’s not the intention of the framers of the constitution, and it has not encouraged members to do so. The Constitution is clear. He is not supposed to contest this bye- election because apart from the letters of the constitution, by implication, he is not supposed to participate as he has no moral right,” Gulak argued.
However, following his emergence as the party’s flag-bearer, against all odds, pundits have tipped Fintiri for victory. “It is the acting governor’s ticket to lose,” Mr. Kingsley Ukoh, a political affairs analyst said. According to him, apart from the strong support that Fintiri enjoys from the federal government, “he is currently wielding the power of incumbency as well as massive support from the state legislators and party”.
Umar Yusuf, another political analyst also thinks that the support from six aspirants who stepped down for Finitiri in the course of the struggle for the PDP ticket could equally play a key role in the outcome of the election. “The aspirants, if they match their words with action, will surely give the acting governor the necessary support to emerge victorious in the election. Fintiri also enjoys the support of PDP hierarchy,” he declared.
The puzzle remains, will Fintiri’s brinkmanship and support base help him secure the ultimate prize this time around to the PDP or will he be swept off by the fast-rising Senator Jibrilla of APC? Only time will tell.