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PDP’s presidential primaries: Fresh facts expose Makarfi’s poor outing

By Nasir Abdullahi Chikaji

It is still surprising to keen political observers how, out of the 103 Kaduna Delegates only 12 voted for aspirant Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi. That his total votes in the PDP presidential primary turned out to be 74 is also worrisome. The former Senator and former governor, who has been a powerful force in Northern politics is suddenly suffering a slip in popularity.

The man who, with the support of Governor Nwisom Wike was able to successfully breath life into a comatose PDP, is suddenly less influential  and  now on a political free-fall. For the first time in the political life of Makarfi, delegates disappeared, when word came that he was coming to meet them and canvass their votes at the PDP’s presidential primaries. It was as if Makarfi was on a political misadventure, right from the outset of the PDP presidential campaigns. His campaign train had less media visibility in comparison to the 11 other aspirants.

The PDP delegates were said to have seen in Makarfi, a different persona, a political heavyweight stooping so low as to indulge in imposition. The free-fall into political oblivion was therefore glaring for Makarfi. As if to add salt to injury, Makarfi reportedly had the least welfare package for delegates, of all the dozen or so PDP presidential aspirants at the primaries.

Therefore, a second look at Makarfi’s political free-fall would reveal how his domineering posture in local Kaduna politics undermined his democratic assets at the national level.

His political fortunes started dwindling when he tried to make himself the PDP kingmaker in Kaduna State, disregarding stakeholders’ input and planting his lackeys in strategic party positions. Some members of the party still see this brazen impunity as stone-age politics. In contrast, former Vice President Namadi Sambo maintained his political statue by avoiding meddlesomeness with the local Kaduna politics.

But what really happened to Makarfi’s political collossus identity this time around?

Makarfi’s latest political misadventure started with his open, some say ‘brazen’ imposition of his lackey, Alhaji Isa Ashiru Kudan as Kaduna’s PDP governorship candidate. Intimidation of party leaders to endorse Makarfi’s anointed candidate was reportedly open, as each of the party leaders was told that Ashiru Kudan’s defeat at the primaries would cost the local party leaders their official seats. And they reportedly got the clear message that it was unmistakably from political godfather Makarfi.

While former Vice President Namadi Sambo maintained his respect and distanced himself (as an elderstatesman) from the local Kaduna politics, Senator Makarfi’s was all over the place, even at the venue of the PDP governorship primaries. Using political remote control, he remained at the venue of the party’s primaries. He was said to be conveniently calling the shots by proxy.

Again, Alhaji Isa Ashiru reportedly won through massive rigging of the PDP primaries. How did Makarfi do it? A source at the venue of the primaries disclosed that a PDP official pretended to be helping some delegates that could not write down the names of their choice candidates. The said official allegedly wrote Ashiru’s name on the ballot of the unsuspecting, barely-educated delegates. It went on for almost five hours. This reportedly led to the final results being skewed in favor of Ashiru. Analysts think that the consequence of Makarfi’s latest roller-coaster ride and for those who blindly jumped in for the ride, is the killing of the democratic spirit of level-playing field. This action is widely-belived to be Makarfi’s suffocating agent for Kaduna PDP.

Even before the party’s primary, the PDP governorship aspirants raised alarm over the tacit moves by the State’s party Chairman, Hassan Hyet, to twist the exercise in Ashiru’s favor. The PDP Governorship Aspirants Forum, which blew this whistle at a joint press conference in Kaduna, also declared that the 68- year-old Mr. Hyet had already been assured by Honorable Ashiru of automatic running-mate ticket. The response to these allegations by the party’s spokesman, in defence of Hyet turned out to be so feeble. The prediction of the governorship aspirants’ forum came to pass, as the primaries was reportedly manipulated by Makarfi’s political disciples, working in cahoots with Hyet’s henchmen, to validate Ashiru’s candidature. This jolted observers of Kaduna politics, according to media reports.

The media was awash with another shocking political development, which was the rate and magnitude at which Ashiru’s ‘victory’ led to wild jubilation by the Kaduna State APC leaders and stakeholders. An excited Governor Nasir Elrufai reportedly cut short his Abuja trip to join other senior party leaders and State government officials at a special get-together to celebrate the emergence of Hon Isa Ashiru as PDP’s flagbearer.

But shortly before the said PDP primaries however, there was a long silence in the Isa Ashiru camp, which fuelled speculations as to whether he was still in the race or not. Some analysts however, explained the scenario away as Ashiru’s temporary crisis of confidence, while others suspected that the aspirant might have been hit by paucity of funds for confronting incumbent Governor Elrufai.

Some pundits were dismayed right from the outset, when the new governorship candidate dithered trying to read out acceptance speech. This unexpected development reportedly raised questions in some quarters, about the candidate’s intellect – an important element of leadership in a complex State (known for its scholarship) like Kaduna.

Though Makarfi successfully imposed his pointsman – Isa Ashiru – as the Kaduna PDP governorship candidate, the move came with a price. What appeared to be the political supreme price for Makarfi was that the delegates paid him back in equal measure by voting in aspirant Atiku Abubakar (Wazirin Adamawa). To Makarfi’s utter shock, even his pet political godson – Isa Ashiru dumped him at the last minute – by voting for Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal instead. There are no strong indications yet, as to whether the Senator has recovered from this seeming betrayal by his anointed candidate or what the Senator intends to do as punishment for Ashiru, politically.

However, feelers in the Kaduna State PDP indicate growing fears about how the opposition party can wrestle power from a desperate Elrufai by using a weakling like Ashiru. Some keen observers have gone the extra-mile to argue that this fear is fast snowballing into serious tension within the party and deep anxiety amongst the top echelon of its leadership.

It remains to be seen whether Makarfi’s reported muddlesomeness would translate into Honorable Ashiru’s victory against incumbent Governor Elrufai.

Nasiru wrote from Chicago, in Sabon Gari LG area of Kaduna State

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