Atiku, Fintiri and the simmering tension in Adamawa PDP

By Garbai Dabo

A seething cauldron of emotion is currently ravaging the ruling party in Adamawa State as the presidential ambition of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is threatening to tear the party to smithereens.

Going by recent events, it is crystal clear that all is not well in the body polity of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which controls the levers of power in Adamawa State as a simmering war of confidence and a looming attrition between the erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri’s camps is trying to cause a seismic conflagration in the party.

An uneasy calm according to sources privy to developments in the party is looming between the Atiku Abubakar’s camp and the governor’s camp for a long time over the vaulting ambition of Atiku Abubakar to contest the 2023 presidential election.

Sources privy to developments in the ruling party in Adamawa State have posited that there is a growing suspicion in Atiku’s camp over Fintiri’s cold feet, apathy and lackluster posture towards the presidential ambition of Atiku as permutations indicated that the governor will rather sail with his colleagues who want one of them to emerge as the presidential torchbearer of the opposition party.

Analysts have posited that the leviathan ambition of Atiku Abubakar to succeed Buhari has thrown governor Fintiri into a political dilemma of a sort being sandwiched between two disparate and contending political interests in his party.

On one hand, Fintiri’s allegiance to the PDP governors’ forum which is working tirelessly to ensure the emergence of a governor as replacement to Buhari come 2023 presidential polls is an anathema to Atiku’s presidential bid.

It is believed that the unity, solidarity and cohesion that exist within the PDP governors’ rank is so strong to the extent that it may be impossible for Fintiri to go against the position of the forum for the expediency of extending olive branch and home base support to a compatriot.

On the other hand, Atiku’s camp felt that Fintiri has an obligation to unconditionally support the presidential ambition of Atiku because of the financial war chest which the former Vice president provided to Fintiri in the build up to the 2019 gubernatorial election which according to sources consolidated the chances of Fintiri’s emergence against a sitting government.

Countering this viewpoint, political analysts in the state have variously posited that a number of forces contrived the victory of Fintiri in the said election including the financial war chest he got from Atiku Abubakar noting that Atiku’s support alone wouldn’t have resulted into the victory of Fintiri without the other forces.

While enumerating the reasons for APC’s woeful defeat in 2019 gubernatorial election in Adamawa State, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) candidate, Abdulaziz Murtala Nyako has posited that the PDP won the gubernatorial election in the state because of the fact that ADC which was hitherto part of the APC left the party.

He said had he and his structure remained in the APC, the party would have coasted to victory without any qualms as the over 130,000 votes it got will have made APC won the election with close to 100,000 votes.

Many other stakeholders have along this line believed that the role played by some aggrieved APC members in supporting Fintiri during the polls has played vital role in his subsequent victory in the election.

But as we enter into the 2023 pre-election period, the political atmosphere in the PDP is becoming replete with uncertainties as the mutual suspicion and gulf between the Atiku and Fintiri’s camps widened.

The political tension recently reached its zenith after the release of three virulently damaging songs against governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri. The damaging songs which were released in rapid successions all pointed to the fact that a potent force is working fervently to unseat governor Fintiri through sustained vitriolic mudslinging.

Already, the Fintiri camp is awash with insinuations that the Atiku propaganda machinery may be the unseen hand behind such ferocious and unceasing attacks.

But while dissecting the scenario in PDP, political analysts in the state are of the view that the recent fracas in the ruling party may not be unconnected to the presidential ambition of Atiku.

They noted that the major opposition party in the state, APC may not be the force behind such ferocious attacks because it is preoccupied with its internal challenges including how to conduct its national convention successfully. They noted that such opposition is expected to come after the party has conducted its national convention and has produced gubernatorial candidate in the state urging Fintiri to search for his enemies from within.

But to understand whether Fintiri’s election was at the imprimatur of Atiku, it is incumbent to go down history lane to bring the credentials and political standing of each of the gladiators to the fore.

Atiku Abubakar, has in the last decade became an institution in Adamawa State, not only on account of his political influence but also because of the immense investment he made in the state.

The former Vice President was the owner of Adama beverages, producers of Faro water and Faro juice and Adama plast manufacturers of plastic untensils. He was also the founder of American University of Nigeria, (AUN), as well as Gotel communications Yola. He also established Rico Gaado, animal feeds processing company among many other business interests he established in the state.

Apart from the state government, Atiku was the major employer of labour making him to spread his influence and tentacles to the business community.

On the other hand, Fintiri started his political career as a state legislator representing Madagali state constituency from where he grew in strength and influence until he became the speaker of the state house of assembly.

Fintiri’s political credentials continue to soar as he led Adamawa State on two consecutive positions as the acting governor, enabling him to consolidate his grip on power and exert his influence across the political spectrum of Adamawa State.

Such influence enabled Fintiri to emerge the candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party in the build up to the 2019 governorship election with a landslide victory before finally clinching the gubernatorial seat.

But while Fintiri enjoyed a seamless and hitch free political emancipation, Atiku Abubakar has had some hiccups in the history of elections in the state.

Apart from his victory in the 1999 gubernatorial election before destiny shot him to become President Olusegun Obasanjo’s running mate, his various trials at the presidential election in the state have largely turned to a huge failure and embarrassment because of the condescending manner he loses his home state to his opponents.

For instance, in 2007 he was defeated by late president Umar Yaradua in the state even though Yaradua hailed from Katsina State. In 2011 and 2015 during the PDP presidential primaries, former president Goodluck Jonathan and ex-Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano respectively defeated Atiku as Adamawa delegates voted them in favour of him.

But on the other hand, in 2019, the first time Atiku savours victory during the presidential election in the state and succeeded in defeating Buhari, Fintiri was the torchbearer of the PDP in the state alluding to the fact that the governor was the brain behind Atiku’s rather surprising victory.

The ability of Fintiri to turn around the fortunes of PDP which plummeted in the 2015 general election was a major turning point for Atiku.

Going by the result of 2015 governorship election as presented by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the PDP which fielded former chairman of the economic and financial crimes commission Malam Nuhu Ribadu emerged in a distant third place with 98,917 votes far below SDP and APC who scored 181,806 and 362,329 votes respectively.

His ability to bolster the PDP votes from 98,917 in 2015 to over 340,000 votes four years after, shows Fintiri as a serious game changer.

Breaking the scenario further, an analyst said, the fact that Atiku won the presidential election when Fintiri was the torchbearer of the party for the first time and consolidated the feat by winning the gubernatorial election against a fellow from minority tribe, all attested to his popularity, acceptability, and strategic influence as a politician.

Accordingly, it is safe to say that relationship between Atiku and Fintiri in the said election was largely symbiotic because while Atiku provided part of the war chest used in prosecuting the campaign, Fintiri also used his overwhelming popularity to ensure the victory Atiku’s presidential bid for the first time in the state.

But feelers had it that there is another dimension to the lingering altercation between the two camps as a result of the failure of the governor to extend patronage to Atiku’s political associates.

It was expected that as a payback for their support, Fintiri will extend juicy contracts to prominent Atiku’s lackeys who besieged the Dougirei seat of power after the victory of the party in 2019.

Sources privy to developments within the two camps indicated that most of the Atiku’s lackeys are brimming with anger following the refusal of the governor to extend government patronage to them although this position is countered by those who believed that Fintiri was fair to Atiku by appointing his associates including his biological son into juicy positions in his cabinet.

Supporters of the governor were also of the opinion that had the governor spent the lean state resources trying to appease Atiku and all his foot soldiers, he would have failed woefully to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people which traversed every nook and cranny of the state.

Dissecting the political logjam, a chieftain of the PDP in the state, Umar Bello Jada a.k.a calculate dispelled insinuations that relationship between the governor and the former Vice president in the build up to the 2019 election was that of godfather and godson saying that those making such wild insinuations are either mischievous or ignorant.

“It is important to set the record straight by saying that Fintiri was not in anyway a godson of Atiku Abubakar.

“I’m in position to make this categorical statement because I had associated with the former Vice president for more than 25 years. I can tell you categorically that Fintiri was not in anyway an associate of the former Vice president but people who met at a certain point in their political trajectories and worked in unison to promote their bilateral interests.

“I can also without hedging or the fear of being contradicted tell you wholeheartedly that Atiku met Fintiri after the former served as acting governor of the state on two occasions.

“Before their meeting, Fintiri was elected into Adamawa State House of Assembly twice where he became the majority leader and subsequently the speaker of the assembly and also served as governor twice in acting capacity.

“You can’t tell me that someone with Fintiri’s political record, muscle and achievements can fit into the description of a godson to a former Vice President,” Jada posited.

To push home his point further, Jada said if anyone among the two has given strategic support to the other, it is the governor who used his significant influence to get the party’s ticket for Atiku in the build up to the party’s presidential primaries in Portharcourt.

“Let me make another categorical statement which a number of our political foot soldiers do not know. In the build up to the PDP presidential primaries of 2019, Fintiri was the major force that ensured the victory of Atiku Abubakar.

“It is interesting to know that Fintiri was elected chairman of all the gubernatorial candidates of none PDP states before the presidential election. Being the chairman of the PDP candidates, Fintiri used his vantage position to galvanize support for Atiku. That singular gesture led Atiku Abubakar to get the party’s ticket in 2019 presidential primaries of PDP.

“In fact, Fintiri was the one who single handedly being the chairman of the candidates provided accomodation and other logistics to his comrades at Portharcourt, venue of the contest. It is heartrending to now hear people insinuating that Fintiri worked with Atiku in the last general election from a weak position,” Jada said.

While corroborating Jada, a number of party chieftains in the state who spoke on the issue applauded Umar Jada for the brilliant and intrepid expose, saying that it is bound to put an end to unnecessary speculations in respect of relationship between the two politicians.

Garbai Dabo, a political analysts writes from Kaduna.


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