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The Problem Of Religion In Nasarawa Politics

Hon. Mark Neto Yohana is the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Nasarawa State. In this interview with Yakubu Wuyep in Jos, he speaks on why his party failed to win the governorship election in the state, the religious factor in the state’s politics and sundry national issues. Excerpts:

What are the fundamental reasons that led to the failure of the PDP to win the governorship in Nasarawa State?

You asked me a fundamental question on why PDP lost in Nasarawa state as regards some big shots in the state. I want to tell you that in every human lives people need to understand that human being are always self- centered, that is one of the major challenge that is disturbing our society today. I will tell you the former minister for information and communication bought all the delegates during the governorship primaries yet he failed because he wasn’t the people’s choice; some people think that people will manufacture votes and give them victory but it is not like that. When I begin to mention the names of those who have benefited in PDP in Nasarawa State, there is none like Hon Labaran Maku .The likes of Labaran Maku who have betrayed us is unfortunate. This is a man who was commissioner for four years and became a Deputy Governor for four years. We gave him the ministerial position for six years, then what is he looking for again? . He is an ingrate. He did he not see anything else in the party because of his self-centeredness, he did what he did and think that is the major factor to rubbish us, which actually led to the collapse of PDP in Nasarawa state.

What was really the problem between him and the party?

Labaran Maku was fond of playing the religion card which Nasarawa people are not known for. We are always playing the politics of credibility but Labaran came with selfish, ambitious poliking to destroy our unity in the state . He borrowed that antics try from former Governor Abdullahi Adamu who started the religion politics on assumption of office as governor in 1999 through 2007. Why Maku came with his Christian politics in Nasarawa State by telling the people that a Christian is yet to rule the state since its creation. This is quite emotional way of thinking that drew the attention of many people who gave him their backing because of that statement; most of them queue into it. Soon those who were hooked by this thinking started agitating and asking that Christians are the majority yet they have never enjoyed the benefit of their majority. Believed me, our Christian brothers and sisters who fell for that script had no plan to realize it, assuming they were correct. I challenge them at the time, telling those who cared to hear that most Christians in Nasarawa state are not united on the matter, they are not focused on it so why should they allow themselves to be used to play self-center politics which is our big problem in the state. But I assure that if our people will solve that problem of disunity, then, we may likely to take over the mantle of leadership come 2019.

Coming back to the question, when Hon Labaran Maku left the party, no one complained or was there anything else that made him leave the PDP?

The primaries that was conducted in Nasarawa was disrupted by him. It is not about imposition of candidate. We did not have the government to select or impose a candidate as it was done in most states, which had governors, so the problem of PDP was not the imposition of candidates Our problem was because Labaran has the resources and what it takes to mobilize people in Nasarawa, he certainly had the upper hand coupled with the fact that he was Minister. But because of this factor we in the party all sat down and agreed that the best thing to do in the circumstance was to let the people choose whoever they wanted and in that way he would be our candidate. And wee tried all we could simply not to identify with any person including the delegates. But Maku who had the resources to fight whoever he wanted to brought all the delegates from his constituency, those were the people he presented for the election. Then he wanted to use the party to make the delegates give him automatic ticket because he is the Minister. That to the party, was unthinkable. It is fouls common sense for him to say that people did allow him to emerge. We allowed the delegates in PDP to vote their conscience. Because he was the minister did not mean the party should give him the ticket without primaries. How could we have done that.? When you look at the setting in Nasarawa State, it divers nature you would understand what I mean. He was supposed to be the leader of the party but he was not carrying the party structure along. I tell the world that after he served as minister for Information at the federal level he brought no significant input to Nasarawa State.

That is not possible?

When he was a minister how many Nasarawa youths did he empower There is nothing that Maku will show to convince the people otherwise. Well for me I did not know anybody that Labaran empowered.

How will you described the rivalry going on between Senator Solomon Ewuga and the former Minister Maku in the PDP before the elections?

There is long time rivalry between them, they all come from the same Egon ethnic group but what I expected of them to do when both of them were in the opposition; one is a senator and one is a minister, both from the same local government and the same ward. We expected them to come to an agreement on who between them should take what position at a particular time, while the other come forward to offer some support. In other words if Labaran is coming out for the governorship then Ewuga should go to the senate but because of greed and self-centeredness, no such thing could take place. As a state secretary of the party in the state, I do not however think that running to another party is the best way to solve the problem, whatever may have happened. It is the same attitude at play. The attitude that if it is not me, it cannot be someone else is bad for our politics. That kind of politics is not doing us any good in the short and long run.

With hindsight do you think the PDP has any thing to show by the next election in 2019?

This is a very tough and provocative question to answer, but let me assure you that at least one of the big fish of Nasarawa politics is still in PDP and the second is not ,one of the popular indigent of Nasarawa is more on ground than the other one who have gone on exile to APGA so PDP has what it take to produce the next governor after Governor Tanko Al-Makura finishes his 8 -year tenure. No shaking, we are ready for the journey. There is no bigger politician in Nasarawa politics like Solomon Ewuga, it is a big gain for Solomon Ewuga to remain in the party, that is not going to be a problem to us now and we have other people who we have been working round the clock to ensure we get our acts together. It is better to have 100 dedicated followers than to have 2000 that are not serious minded.

Now that you raised the question of finance by Maku, who will be responsible for funding of PDP in Nasarawa state after his exist from the party?

The party will survive without the support of Labaran, after all these years the party executive believe in themselves and believe in the party because most of us left our businesses to concentrate our efforts toward building the party. It is disheartening that we never got any support or funding from outside. PDP without Maku’s funding? Well as Secretary, I can tell you that when I call a meeting of 5,000 people, Maku would send his contribution of N500,000 for us to buy drinks and pure water for entertainment. That is the only money he always give. No anyone is funding PDP in Nasarawa yet the party is waxing stronger everyday, that is no problem .

What would it take for the PDP in Nasarawa state to reposition and capture power by year 2019 ?

I want you to know that we have the leverage over everything to take over power in 2019, the party is now working toward putting aside our differences to grab power by 2019 .

You said Labaran is trying to introduce religious politics in Nasarawa State. Are you saying the state is not already operating under that system?

It could be looked at in that way looking at the past administrators in Nasarawa state has actually been Muslims, whether for elections or appointments but I won’t want to agree to that. It was not based on religion because the basic thing in politics is finance, which started when the state had not been created from Plateau state, and it was when we were still in Plateau that the Muslims laid the solid foundation to become economically buoyant. I will give you example. Each time they picked a Christian in the northern Plateau for governor then the southern Plateau, which is the present day Nasarawa state would produce a Muslim as Deputy Governor, thus economically empowering them and when the state was created it was a Muslim that was appointed to lead the state. Then they entrenched themselves. The Plateau people have already empowered Muslims in Nasarawa state; the fact that the Christians are in the majority does not mean they are economically influential hence now I want to say that we are trying to look at the theory differently. But the issue came up during the last election when we debated Muslim/Christian ticket and people said we should zone to Nasarawa north and in Lafia we were told we have never agreed on zoning arrangement but rather to maintain the principles of gentleman agreement. If we agreed on zoning we were likely to run into problem of the past when the party overwhelmingly agreed on Ali Akwai-Doma as its candidate. Then Al-Makura left the party to join CPC, saying he was sub-changed so the game became a problem .

That was why we now said whoever picked the ticket in the primaries is Ok and how many Christians where there, about seven of them against one Muslim and your are telling us to play a religion card? Do you understand what I am saying, right?

I think if they could all come together they will raised a candidate that will remove fear. I believed that each one of them has the resources but the problem is that they try to manage it independently. In Nasarawa the Christians never had government backing before as I said earlier in the area of appointments with deputy government constantly coming from the side of the Muslims. We challenge Michael Buba, Labaran Maku and Solomon Ewuga that if they all come together and support one person I believe the Nasarawa people will speak with one voice for the PDP.

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