In this report, LINUS OOTA in Lafia reports on the political evolution in Nasarawa State since its creation in 1996.
Nasarawa State has never known political harmony since it was created. The political and social rivalry between the major ethnic groups that make up the state has, in too many ways, retarded economic and social progress.
The journey for the creation of Nasarawa State out of the old Plateau State was a rough and tough one; however, some prominent personalities traversed it till it was finally created on October 1st 1996.
Some of the personalities who fought for the creation of Nasarawa State includes Usman Zawam Akwanga, late Dr. Isa Mustapha Agwai, Sen Haruna Abubakar, late Aliyu Akwe Doma, late Sen Emmanuel Elayo, late Dalhatu Arab, Halilu Bala Usman and Sen Patrick Agah, among others.
But as soon as the state was created, the political class in the state began to divide against themselves along ethnic and religious sentiments, especially over who should govern the state.
Observers have attributed this sad state of affairs in the state to the activities of the political class whose interest is to ensure that political and social animosity festers amongst the ethnic groups.
They have so far succeeded and have kept the political and social relationship among the different ethic tribes in constant state of political tension.
The state, which consists of 13 local government areas, has the Eggons, Alagos and Madas as the major ethnic tribes as well as the Affos and the Tivs coming from a far distance.
In 1999, Abdullahi Adamu, an afo by tribe from the western part of the state, was involved in a political battle with Aliyu Doma, an Alago man from the southern part of the state and Solomon Ewuga, an Eggon man from the northern part of the state
After an intense battle, Abdullahi Adamu emerged the candidate of the PDP in controversial circumstances against Ewuga while Aliyu Doma became the candidate of the APP.
The swearing in of Adamu as the first democratically elected governor of the state on May 29th 1999 gave birth to ethnic identity and religious politics in the state.
In 2003, it was Adamu in PDP against Aliyu Doma on the ANPP platform. In 2007, it was Ewuga of the ANPP against Aliyu Doma of the PDP; all these political contests further deepened the ethnic cleavages in the state.
The Nation gathered that the political atmosphere in the state was basically about ethnicity and tribal sentiments which was the basis for the contest for state power.
In 2011, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, who hails from a minority tribe of Gwamdara, first broke the jinx when he defeated an incumbent government led by an Alago man, one of the majority tribes in the state, late Governor Aliyu Doma.
Al-Makura immediately began to burn the bridges of political and social hatred of the past. He began the vision at the time some Eggon leaders rolled out drums of war by allegedly sponsoring the Ombatse cult militia group to destabilise his government. They felt it was the turn of an Eggon man to govern.
But in spite of all that, Al-Makura embarked on his onerous task of neutralising the ethnic prejudices in the state, bearing in mind that without peace, consensus and unity, the state can never achieve development.
He wasted no time in summoning the courage to demystify what many referred to as “retrogressive and archaic mindset in Nasarawa politics.
By 2015, when he was seeking a second term in office after surviving several impeachment attempts allegedly orchestrated by the political gladiators at the time, Labaran Maku, who was Information Minister, resigned his position and became APGA governorship candidate and a PDP chieftain, Senator Solomon Ewuga, both Eggons join forces to stop the return bid of Al-Makura. But Makura’s supporters accused their campaign managers of allegedly re-introducing the politics of ethnicity and religion against Al-Makura.
In 2019 when Al-Makura completed his second term, he defied the logic of the parochial minds of the Eggons and the Alagos to support another minority Hausa-Kanuri from the small Gudi community of Akwanga LGA, dominated by the Madas.
Al-Makura was not perturbed by ethnic cleavages; he believed that his decision will put paid to politics of hatred and will rescue the people from the hands of politicians who instigate ethnic hatred for political advantages, by their divide and rule tactics.
While he was governor, the former Chief Security Officer of the late head of state, Gen Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-mustapha, visited him at the Government House and explained while his late boss created the state.
He said the administration created Nasarawa State based on the persuasion of meeting the yearnings of the then people of lower Plateau State for development.
“I’m impressed that years after the state was created, Al-Makura is driving governance in a manner that actualise the dream that propelled the struggle for the creation of the 5th generation state,” Mustapha had said.
Then came Engr. Abdullahi Sule, who mounted the saddle on May 29th 1999. On arrival from day one, Governor Sule discarded ethnic politics in preference to an all-inclusive politics and this has completely demystified all the ethnic and religious proponents to political oblivion.
“I’m not interested in ethnic or religious politics; we are all one and every single tribe, no matter how small will get their/ his/her dues under my watch. I will put an end to the farmers/herdsmen clashes and unify all the ethnic clashes into one united Nasarawa State,” Sule had said.
Since then, the governor has embarked on the general task of breaking the former bridges of political and social friction between ethnic groups in the state. Like Nelson Mandela, Sule has risen to chart a new cause devoid of ethnic and religious sentiments.
He has chosen to build new bridges of political friendship with the entire people of the state irrespective of tribe, in accordance to the vision of the founding fathers of the state.
Speaking on the 24 years old existence of the state, the Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Barge (rtd) said since the state was created in 1996, all the four civilian governors who have served the state – from Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Late Aliyu Doma, Senator Tanko Al-Makura to Engr Abdullahi Sule; made their marks in the development of the state.
According to him, Nasarawa State has enjoyed unprecedented development under Al-Makura and Governor Sule is already building on it.
He said Sule has proven that campaign promises can be fulfilled in politics; the people of Nasarawa are enjoying the dividends of democracy made possible by a man who refused to barter social services for selfish interest and monetary benefits.
Speaking on Nasarawa at 24, Senator Umaru Al-Makura has called on the people of Nasarawa State to continue to use their different backgrounds as a point of strength, unity and harmony instead of capitalising on it for divisive tendencies.
The elder son of the late governor of the state, Aliyu Akwe Doma, Alhaji Umar Doma, said Sule’s agenda tallies with Abacha’s reason for creating Nasarawa State.
Also speaking to The Nation, the first democratically elected Senator for Nasarawa North, Patrick Agah, said the country woke up in the morning of October 1st 1996 with the usual buzz that surrounds the celebration of the nation’s independence with an unprecedented event. “Former head of state, late Sani Abacha shocked the nation with the announcement of the creation of new states, amongst which was Nasarawa State.
“So far, the state under Sule has hit milestones in several sectors of the state; industrialisation and infrastructures are his biggest focus though he is hindered by the challenges of insecurity but I think he has yielded some amazing results”.
Senator Abdullahi Adamu said “the noble gesture and the delivery of the Governor Sule’s mandates can’t be ignored; his giant strides have helped pull many people out of the ignoble pit of poverty.
“The new paradigm approach taken by the administration has oiled the government machinery for greater productivity and efficiency; one can rightly assert that Governor Sule administration is living up to the expectations of the dreams of the founding fathers; he is putting the state on the pedestal of sustainable development for the years ahead,” he said
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