The Nasarawa South Senatorial election that saw Senator Egyegbola of the APC defeat the then incumbent, Senator Adokwe of the PDP has been enmeshed in controversy. While the petition is still pending at the election petition tribunal, Senator Adokwe is alleging threat to his life and the lives of his witnesses by those he suspects are APC supporters. In this piece, PETER AHEMBA looks at how Governor Al-Makura’s alleged 2019 calculation may have added more pep to the struggle
IT is no longer news that soon after the declaration of winners for various elective positions from states to the national levels by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) in the recently concluded 2015 general elections, aggrieved parties had in line with the provisions of the nation’s constitution and the Electoral Act approached the elections petitions tribunal saddled with the responsibility of entertaining such cases in the various states to seek justice.
The situation is not different in Nasarawa state as the National and State Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal under the chairmanship of Justice Obiora is no doubt in receipt of several petitions filed by aggrieved parties challenging the declaration of their respective opponents as winners of the elections by INEC.
For Nasarawa South Senatorial District, the legal battle is raging between Senator Suleiman Adokwe of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his brother, Salisu Husseni Egyegbola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was declared winner of the senatorial election against PDP’s Senator Adokwe who would have been a representative of his people at the National Assembly for the third consecutive time.
Senator Adokwe is challenging the declaration of APC’ Egyegbola as winner of the election by INEC on grounds that ‘illegal’ cancelation of results in some polling units especially in Agwatashi ward and alleged manipulation of the final results in favour of his opponent among other contending issues.
Findings by Nigerian Pilot revealed that since the creation of the state in 1996 by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha and subsequent return to civilian rule in 1999, the Southern Senatorial District which observers describe as the mother of all zones in the state, comprising five local government areas namely; Lafia, Doma Keana, Awe and Obi have produced four senators from 1999-date inclusive of the embattled Husseini Egyegbola whose fate as senator still hangs on the balance.
Investigations further revealed that late Senator Haruna Abubakar, an indigene of Lafia local government area got the mandate to represent the zone and served for one term of four years from 1999-2003. From 2003-2007, late Senator Emmanuel Okudu Okpede from Doma local government also served for one term of four years after which Senator Suleiman Adokwe from Obi local government, a one-time Commissioner for Information in the state under the then Governor Abdullahi Adamu got elected to represent the zone between 2007-2015 (8 years) before his bid to return to the senate for the third time was truncated by Arch. Egyegbola of the APC in the last general election.
The petitioner whom political observers describe as the jinx breaker having made history as the only representative of the zone that served beyond one term was said to have achieved the feat due to what his people say is his outstanding qualities and exemplary leadership style.
Sources alleged that the declaration of Adokwe’s supposed brother (Egyegbola) as winner of the election by INEC was a political gimmick by the powers that be in the zone, geared towards the 2019 general elections. The source claimed that the battle was not Senator Adokwe versus Egyegbola in the real sense of it but rather between Senator Adokwe and the state governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura who is also from the southern zone.
It was also alleged in some quarters that some INEC staff, in connivance with some candidates of the ruling APC in collaboration with their masters and compromised party agents carried out unwholesome activities during the collation of election results at the senatorial district collation centre in Lafia, the state capital.
For instance, a legislative aide to Senator Adokwe and one Alhaji Ibrahim Hamza who were entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the collation process and final declaration of result by INEC on behalf of his boss allegedly accepted an unspecified amount of money offered him by some desperate politicians and allowed for the manipulation of result against the petitioner disappeared soon after the final declaration of the APC candidate as winner of the election. Our checks revealed that the whereabouts of the said Ibrahim Hamza is still unknown since after his alleged involvement in what could best be described as a monumental act of betrayal.
Arch. Salisu Egyegbola’s victory at the poll is seen by political analysts as a political permutation by the governor to retire to the senate in 2019 hence he did all he could to unseat the petitioner. Egyegbola is said to have been brought to hold brief and will be asked to step aside for the governor to actualise his senatorial ambition in 2019 when he would be completing his second term in office as governor of the state as Senator Adokwe of the PDP will constitute a major threat to his ambition if allowed to remain at the National Assembly because of his (Adokwe) intimidating political credentials and his general acceptability by the constituents.
Already, the APC in the state is said to be considering zoning the governorship position to the northern senatorial district with Arch. Egyegbola being tipped for the deputy governorship slot with while Al-Makura will be taking over from him.
But the governor had denied the allegations through his Special Assistant (SA) on Media and Publicity, Ahmed Tukur when contacted on the matter. He dismissed the insinuation that his boss was eying the senate seat in 2019, saying that the governor is currently pre-occupied on delivery of dividends of democracy to the people.
Tukur, who described the claims as a “dishonest statement from small minds” noted that as a committed leader of APC in the state, it was incumbent on the governor to ensure the victory of all candidates of the party from councilor to president, pointing out that Egyegbola who was also one of the candidates of the party had the moral support and blessings like every other candidate who stood for the last election.
“Remember the governor is also the North Central zonal coordinator of APC. He worked for the victory of the party across the country. So APC’s victory is ultimate,” the media aide maintained.
The state chapter of the PDP had alleged that because of what it described as the desperation of the APC to pull down their candidates especially Senator Adokwe during last elections, the APC embarked on campaign of calumny, character assassination and whipping of religious sentiments against Adokwe prior to the general elections, saying that Egyegbola and his APC openly told electorate especially those of the Muslim faith not to vote for Senator Adoke who is a Christian during one of APC’s campaign tours to Azara in Awe local government area of the state, an allegation Egyegbola and his party however denied.
Nigerian Pilot observed that while the matter is being decided at the Elections Petitions Tribunal, some party loyalists believed to have been sponsored have resorted to threatening the live of the petitioner and those of his supporters.
Just at the last sitting of the tribunal in Lafia few days ago where the petitioner had tendered 45 exhibits to prove his case, some of his witnesses that testified before the tribunal and cross-examined narrowly escaped attack by some political thugs suspected to be loyal to the APC on their way back to their various places of abode, prompting the petitioner to seek security cover from the police and some military personnel to guarantee the safety of his witnesses.
A close associate of the senator, who preferred to be anonymous, had solicited for prayers from well wishers for the safety of his boss whose life he claimed has been under threat. In a text message he said, “we are all mortals with appointed time each to take our exit from this world as destined by God. Those desperate on Adokwe’s life should pause to give their action a second thought.
“Join us and other men of goodwill as we faithfully pray for the Senator’s safety while he struggles to reclaim his legitimate mandate”.
In an interview with our correspondent recently, media aide to the petitioner, Abdullahi Adokwe Ladan described his boss as a peace-loving gentleman that do not want to hurt even a fly and wondered why he could be targeted for attacks by the enemies.