“Fifty-five per cent,” an associate of the former governor of Nasarawa State Aliyu Doma replied. The question was how he rated the chances of Doma reclaiming the governorship next year if he, as it appears he will, answered the call to challenge the incumbent. The issue of who gets elected as the next governor of the state is now the toss of a coin, and in many ways, it is a dilemma that encapsulates this young state, and how Nigerians see its people. Umaru Al-Makura, the current governor, or Doma?
For anybody who observed the administration of Doma, and is conversant with happenings in the state now, the contest promises to be rough and intense. Doma, an ex-governor, is one of the key players in the creation and development of the state and remains politically very active. Al-Makura epitomises Nasarawa of today: moments of promise, but ultimately an unlucky state.
How could Al-Makura possibly remain Nasarawa’s governor after election in 2015?
The signs are that he may find it hard to do so. Having been a governor for more than three years, Al-Makura’s popularity has suffered a dip. The performance of APC, his party, at the local government elections, this year, was not encouraging and could be seen as a verdict passed by the electorates calling for APC to be substituted in 2015. The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God.
A political associate of Al-Makura, talking confidentially, has been critical of him recently, saying: “He is a shadow of the governor who in 2012 proved so important in inspiring our people and developing our state. It’s blatantly clear today that he lacks focus and confidence.”
Fortunately for the rest of us, the timing and conduct of the local government polls and current political events in the state allow us to make a handy analysis of the electoral chances of the two politicians. How did Doma perform in office between 2007 to 2011compared to the performance of Al-Makura?
Agreed, on the face of things, it is not a contest between the two politicians because a governor will always come and go but the state remains. But, Al-Makura changed the face of Lafia, the state capital, builds airstrip in his home town of Kwandare, and gave poise and first class chieftaincy status to sarkin Kwandare, his flambouyant brother that had been so lacking before.
Still, you could also see why the people of Nasarawa are so enamored with Doma and PDP. Agreed, Doma angered the people while in office but, he’s not a leopard, and it’s not about spots. In politics, it is believed that people can change, albeit with considerable effort. One has to “jump over one’s own shadow”, the saying goes. Doma can change because he listens to advice. He listens and listens. Al-Makura doesn’t. PDP dishes out the cash to the youths, the APC doesn’t.
According to an unverifiable research, Doma covered more grounds as far as consultation is concerned, and at a higher pace, more than any other leader of the state. Politicians love dealing with Doma. He makes particularly party leaders job just a little easier, by giving them the chance to visit him and boast of their frequent, albeit unfruitful, meeting with him.
But, with Doma, the problem came when he got the opportunity to act on issues he severally made consultations on. In terms of attracting publicity and haste in executing projects, Al-Makura beat him hands down. You could argue that Nasarawa gets more money under Al-Makura, giving him more room to act and play to the gallery. Still, the statistics tell their own story. Al-Makura’s numbers of executed projects are as many as Doma achieved in the four years he ruled.
However, the allegedly inflated amounts at which government now in the state awards contracts and the sectional citing of the projects will, for a very long time, remain subjects of discussion among the people. A kilometre of road, mostly found in Lafia, the state capital, is allegedly built at the cost of N200 million.
Doma, on the other hand, maintained peace in the state, run an inclusive administration, he is more accommodating, urbane, courteous and evenly distributed projects and favours.
The difference between the two can be summarised thus: imagine you run a farm, and your chickens have problem maturing. If you want all your chickens to mature at the same rate, Doma will get that done. If you want one chicken in particular, Al-Makura is your man.
Of course, for the electorates in Nasarawa, the situation is not quite as simple to decide as 2015 nears. And, it can get even more complicated. They are passionate about their governor, and dish out loyalty accordingly. Once a governor earned their trust, it is his unconditionally. If he failed them, betrayed their trust in him and looks after only himself, they hardly think before they dump him.
This is why they refused to re-elect Doma in 2011, like they now threaten to dump Al-Makura in 2015. Both, in some ways, selfishly looked well after themselves. History is, perhaps, just about to repeat itself. In the electorates’ eyes now, the benefit of re-electing the governor has to be weighed against the prospects and benefit of bringing back Doma.
This is why the Nasarawa electorates can be described as unpredictable ahead of the gubernatorial election early next year. “You can only see a governor adored and hated by all, in Nasarawa State,” a former commissioner said.
But at the heart of the Doma v Al-Makura debate is a wider issue: how should the state develop? Since replacing Doma, the people of the state have made hard work and development their watchwords. And, like Al-Makura, Doma fits this template also perfectly. Running an inclusive government with either of them playing a decisive role would be a realisation of the state’s dream. Seemingly, Doma appears more suited for this role.
But Al-Makura, though a progressive in his own right and a divisive politician, too, could speed pace of development. Of course, it can be said that development is far more than the erection of structures and building of roads. It involves uniting the people and acting when you should to prevent the state and its people from descending into ethnic rivalry and clashes. It also entails using resources of the state to cater for welfare of people.
And this is where the issue lies. What sort of development does Nasarawa want? Does it want to develop its chickens together, or just the important few?
Yusha’u Aliyu Writes From Sabon Fegi, Lafia.