If Governor Jibrilla Bindow emerges victorious after the final votes for Adamawa State governorship election are tallied on Saturday, he and other members of the All Progressives Congress may still want to pause after their celebrations to reflect on their dwindling fortune in a state they swept only four years ago.
Already, the Peoples Democratic Party has picked two of the state’s three senatorial districts at the February 23 federal parliamentary election. That exercise also saw the APC lose four out of the state’s eight federal constituencies.
The APC had all the three senatorial seats and eight House of Representatives seats before the poll. The presidential election also swung the way of the PDP, after President Muhammadu Buhari won it in 2015 with over 120,000 votes.
This has put the party on the defensive ahead of the governorship and state parliamentary elections on Saturday.
Umaru Fintiri, the PDP candidate, has positioned himself to maximise the momentum the results appeared to have accorded him.
One state, disparate yearnings
Analysts are still puzzled whether PDP’s fortunes on February 23 reflected a verdict on the performance of the APC at state and federal levels over the past four years or indicated a rumbling cascade of votes received by Atiku Abubakar, who is the biggest politician from the state.
But an analysis of the February 23 election results reveals a sharp division between rural and suburban local government areas, with a discernible decrease in APC votes outside of metropolitan Jimeta-Yola compared to 2015 when the ruling party did well there.
While those in the rural areas accuse the governor of abandoning them as their farm produce are regularly destroyed by criminals, urban residents are hailing the construction of new roads and business clusters at an unprecedented scale.
“The urban renewal project which the governor has embarked upon around Jimeta-Yola area has never been witnessed before,” according to Ahmed Lawan, the organising secretary of the APC in Adamawa State. “It has been rapid enough to be felt by residents in these areas in less than four years.”
The infrastructure overhaul had resulted in noticeable improvement to roads, markets and services in suburban Yola, and heavy duty trucks are now allowed round-the-clock passage towards Jalingo and other northeastern hubs.
Due to the claimed uptick in economic activities, flight schedules have improved to three per day between Abuja and Yola, as well as in power generation and distribution.
“People should not underestimate how far these things have improved the economic standing of the state,” Mr Lawan added.
Mr Bindow, a career business developer, represented Adamawa North Senatorial District from 2011 until 2015 when he ran for governor. He went to the Senate under the PDP, but switched parties when he observed in 2014 that the political atmosphere in the party did not favour his governorship ambition.
The PDP gave its governorship ticket in 2015 to Nuhu Ribadu, but Mr Bindow easily defeated the former anti-graft chief, scoring 362,329 votes. The governor’s closest rival in that election was Makus Gundiri of the Social Democratic Party, who polled 181,806 votes. Mr Ribadu was in a far third with 98,917 votes.
Mr Bindow’s performance appeared tailored towards his success from 2015. While he did well in the metropolitan Yola North and Yola South Local Government Areas, he was trounced in rural settlements like Lamurde and Hong.
“People in urban areas that voted for the governor are more encouraged than those in the rural area who did not,” said Yola-based political analyst Aminu Yusuf. “You can expert the governor to again do well in the urban areas.”
But while there are bulk votes in urban areas, the are not as many as expected votes in the rural areas in ultimate sum.
“If the rural local government areas gang up against the governor, he may not survive it even if he has 100 percent of votes from the urban centres,” Mr Yusuf said.
Rural residents are largely farmers, but their produce in the past four years have not witnessed significant yield, and some of them blame the governor for not handling internal strife between settlers and marauding herders.
“Repeated clashes in Numan and other local government areas where you have a large number of farming population left many of them wondering whether they have a governor,” Mr Aminu said. “Voters in those places are not going to be impressed by the renewal projects the governor is doing in the urban areas.”
Ready or not?
Mr Fintiri, a former state lawmaker who served briefly as an acting-governor in 2014, appeared eager to be chasing his own full mandate, but analysts say he had not shown earnest readiness to deny Mr Bindow a second term.
The candidate has not participated in debates, where he could have had a chance to tout his bona fides in education, health and agricultural development.
He also has been grappling with grievous allegations of corruption that trailed his three-month stay as governor between July and October 2014, with some voters expressing resistance about giving him a full four-year term with little guarantee he would be prudent with state resources.
Still, Mr Fintiri’s “chances are brighter now than even the incumbent’s were in 2015,” said Yola resident Daniel Tabiyatiya. “The governor has failed in areas of workers’ welfare and his concentration on infrastructure would not be sufficient for many people in immediate terms.”
Mr Fintiri, 61, has also been exploiting the fractures in the APC that saw the party lose more than a half of its federal elective offices on February 23.
The APC lost several politicians after the party decided to give tickets to elected officeholders without strong consideration of their performance over the past four years. Mr Bindow emerged through a turbulent direct primary, but that was more because he had strong contenders like Mr Ribadu and Mahmood Halilu, a brother of Aisha Buhari.
Amongst those who left the party was Abdulaziz Nyako, a serving senator who decamped from APC to African Democratic Congress in 2018. Mr Nyako, son of ex-Governor Murtala Nyako, has abandoned another run for Adamawa Central Senatorial District and now running as the governorship candidate of the ADC in the state.
Mr Nyako could split the Fulani votes with Mr Bindow in the state, while Mr Fintiri is expected to do well amongst Christian voters. Adamawa has almost even concentration of Christians and Muslims. Although all the three major candidates are Muslims, the PDP has historically benefitted from Christian votes. The SDP candidate who came second in the 2015 election was propelled into second place by Christian votes, despite running on a relatively obscured party.
And while Mr Bindow seems to be bleeding from the APC division, Mr Fintiri has been consolidating its support. Only a few days ago,the challenger entered into an understanding with 10 other governorship aspirants, all of whom pledged to rally their supporters to vote for the PDP.
Political analyst Timawus Mathias said the APC would be deeply hurt by members who had left the party within the last one year, but Mr Fintiri appeared incapable of exploiting the fracture.
Even then, “people always feel they are better off when they align with the centre,” Mr Mathias said in reference to President Buhari’s declaration as the winner of the presidential election last month.