By Sani Abubakar

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has concluded preparations for its primaries towards the 2023 general elections.

Accordingly, the party has fixed May 18, 2022, as the kickoff date for the primary elections with the election of state assembly and national assembly flag bearers. The governorship primary election has been slated for May 23 2022.

As expected, the race to pick the opposition PDP’s governorship ticket in Gombe state is heating up, with an array of contestants with various degrees of strengths and weaknesses presenting themselves for the contest.

Feelers are beginning to come in as to who among the top contenders for the ticket will fly PDP’s flag and, possibly, defeat the incumbent Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who has, among other things, the power of incumbency in his kitty.

Although glaring disaffection against Inuwa Yahaya, who has obviously lost favour with the people of the Jewel in the Savannah, is a plus to the PDP, political observers in the state are of the view that PDP’s chance of ousting him despite the incumbency factor and all, would depend largely on the personality, aura and acceptability of the person it presents as its flag bearer.

Jamil Gwamna

This is why it has become imperative for party delegates to insist on the best.

Without a doubt, the quality of those vying for PDP’s ticket is very high, and this has led political analysts to conclude that the battle to select the party’s flagbearer could be fiercely fought among four of its major contenders. They include Dr Jamil Isyaka Gwamna, Alhaji Muhammad Jibrin Barde, Dr Abubakar Ali Gombe and Dr Babayo Ardo Kumo.

This is especially so, considering the fact that all these leading aspirants are putting up very serious fights to ensure they convince delegates well enough to be elected as the party’s gubernatorial standard bearer.

The other two, AVM Shehu Adamu and Ya’u Gimba Kumo, apart from joining the race late, would have difficulties in fitting into the political equation, unlike the major four, and the fact is clear that whoever clinches the ticket among the six of them, needs the support of the others to be able to win the election.

To get a feel of this quality, let me present aspirants individually and in no certain order…

Dr. Gwamna, who also hails from Gombe local government area, is unarguably extremely qualified, if not the best candidate among the rest, and this is without prejudice to the others. Sardaunan Gombe, as he is popularly called, was practically pressurised to return to the PDP and run for the state’s number one seat by different groups and individuals. It is no wonder that he has been rated as the most qualified candidate by the elite and political analysts.

Dr. Gwamna is also said to have the overwhelming support of teeming PDP members at the grassroots. This is not surprising because of his track records of achievements when he served as General Manager of Gombe State Water Corporation during the late Abubakar Habu Hashidu regime as well as his philanthropy.

Gwamna employed many sons and daughters of the state into the service of the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) and sponsored many less privileged indigenes of the state to various secondary schools. Most notable are those studying at the Yamusa Academy, Keffi. His act of human sacrifice is a serious threat to other contenders who mostly don’t have this kind of human touch in giving back to society.

Gwamna is seen by many as gentle, straightforward and sincere individual, and is believed to be the right candidate for the PDP. This is because, as an opposition party with only one National Assembly member, and six out of 24 members in the House of Assembly, going into election with an incumbent, reason demands that only the best is put forward.

This can be seen in the kind of overwhelming support he has enjoyed not just from within the PDP, but also from many of the APC government appointees and party officials that have resigned their positions and have made it clear that they switched parties because of their desire to team up with Jamil Gwamna’s camp to rescue Gombe.

It is believed that Gwamna was instrumental to the defection of the only National Assembly member in the PDP, Hon. Yaya Bauchi Tongo, representing the largest constituency in the state, back to the party. Findings have also shown that over 70 per cent of members of immediate past Governor Hassan Dankwambo’s cabinet, including his two former deputies, are in Gwamna’s camp.

As it stands, Gwamna is believed to be the only aspirant whose candidacy has earned open, public and documented endorsement of powerful elite, groups and community leaders. Add the fact that Gwamna is in the good books of all the traditional and religious leaders in the state to his list of appeal.

It is, therefore, not surprising to find many people believing that Dr. Gwamna’s chances of clinching the PDP ticket and, by extension, leading the party to victory in the general elections are very bright and enormous.

What more, Jamil Gwamna is also believed to have the financial muscle required to bankroll his entire gubernatorial campaign, as he belongs to the billionaire class of Nigerian entrepreneurs, and he is a close friend with prominent Forbes-listed billionaires in Nigeria. Political pundits are of the opinion that, had the PDP given him the ticket in 2019, the party would have won all the elective positions in the state.

Muhammad Barde

Another aspirant, Muhammad Jibrin Barde, is an accomplished banker, seasoned technocrat and development economist who cut his teeth in the complex Nigerian banking sector and rose to the position of Managing Director of Sun Trust Bank.

Popularly known as Dan Barde, Muhammad Jibrin is a frontline contender for the PDP ticket. His campaign office is strategically located in the heart of Gombe metropolis with his posters and campaign portraits all over the building.

Barde is believed to have made fortunes in his profession as a banker and has the financial war chest to finance his campaign without soliciting support from either the party leader in the state and immediate past Governor, Dr Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, or any other person for that matter and that will definitely affect his chances of getting the ticket.

Barde, who hails from Gombe local government area with the incumbent Inuwa Yahaya, is perceived by many as a very blunt person and this sometimes makes him come off as very arrogant and lacking in the soft details of leadership. Even his close associates have revealed that he seems to be at loggerheads with them and members of his family as well as other personal and business acquaintances.

As an accomplished businessman, Barde has enormous cash that he’s ready to splash in a bid to give all the other aspirants a run for their money. Notwithstanding his huge war chest of cash, the chances of Dan Barde picking up the ticket are dimmef by is personality trait as a short-fused individual.

This much is evident, especially after his ward-to-ward tour which confirmed the fact that he is not the popular choice of the electorate at the grassroots, though, he was able to clinch second position during the 2018 APC’s guber primaries.

Abubakar Gombe

Dr. Abubakar Ali Gombe is a refined gentleman and an accomplished medical practitioner. He was the pioneer Chief Medical Director of Federal Medical Centre Gombe (now Federal Teaching Hospital). He’s a former minister of state for health with an unimpeachable record of public service which has not been tainted by the vicissitudes of politics.

Although he is as fresh as you can get from the pool of aspiring politicians, he is not a stranger to the dynamics of governance. However, because he’d not had the opportunity of swimming much in the shark infested waters of politics, Dr Abubakar Ali will definitely find it difficult to get the support of traditional politicians, especially now that the party is in opposition and is determined to retake control of the levers of power.

Many people suspect that his entry into the governorship race could be to simply seek popularity while shoring up his political capital or perhaps, simply as a bargaining tactic to land a federal appointment should the PDP wrest power from APC at the centre.

Babayo Ardo Kumo

Babayo Ardo Kumo is a retired federal permanent secretary. Dr. Ardo was never really an integral part of the state’s political wagon until his recent resignation as permanent secretary in the Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs some weeks ago.

Dr. Ardo is accomplished public servant with extensive relationship with the national treasurer of the PDP and former Chief of Staff to former governor Dankwambo, Alhaji Ahmed Yayari. He is also believed to be counting on the formidable political machinery of his wife, Hajiya Munira, herself an ex-wife of former governor of the state, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje.

It is believed that Dr Ardo may align with the voices clamouring for equitable rotation within the three senatorial zones as he, unlike the other aspirants, hails from Gombe central senatorial district. This is because, he’s neither a politician nor cradling any serious funds that may be used to gain any advantage.

By all implications, if PDP is out to reclaim Gombe state in 2023, Jamil Gwamna holds the ace; internal mechanism of dispute resolution and unity must be put in place to have a stronger effect.

Abubakar writes from Abuja.

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