There is concern in Nasarawa State over Governor Abdullahi Sule’s reluctance to wade into the face-off between the Speaker of Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Balarabe Abdullahi and the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, Aliyu Tijjani. In this report, Linus Oota gives the inside story of the cold war
CHINUA Achebe never had the immediate past Nasarawa State Government (SSG), Aliyu Tijjani and the current Nasarawa Speaker, Balarabe Abdullahi, in mind when he authored his classics, Things Fall Apart, but nothing better describes the state of affairs in the ruling party in Nasarawa State.
When in 2011, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura emerged the governor after defeating an incumbent PDP government under late Aliyu Doma, using the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC platform; it saw the end of the PDP era in the state.
Al-Makura brought CPC, which later merged with other parties to become the present All Progressives Congress (APC) to the entire northern Nigeria because he was the only governor elected under the platform.
Through his persuasion, records of achievements, oratorical prowess and good will, Al-Makura collapsed the PDP in the state after majority of the foot soldiers of the PDP joined his moving train in the state.
However, in 2019, when his administration got to an end, he wholeheartedly supported the present governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, a minority Hausa in the state to succeed him at the expense of the majority tribes, especially the Eggons and the Madas.
Though The Nation gathered that almost all the leaders of the party in the state were opposed to Al-Makura anointing Sule, Al-Makura ignored their advice and ensured he had his way.
It was not an easy decision for him to make, particularly when his deputy, Hon. Silas Agara, his political foot soldier, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, as well as other strong candidates like Aliyu Wadada, Halilu Evuluanza, among several others, were in the race.
Both Wadada and Evuluanza were men with deep pockets and were supported by veteran politicians. So despite Sule’s financial stability, he would not have survived their onslaughts if not for Al-Makura’s unwavering support.
It was difficult for Al-Makura to persuade any of them to step down for his preferred choice, Sule, because all of them, especially Wadada and Agara, enjoyed the support of the people of the state and they went to the field due to their strong conviction that their political experience would give them victory at the primaries.
However, Al-Makura, who know his strength as a sitting governor, was able to stop them at the primaries and the foot soldiers he used were Aliyu Ahmed Tijjani, then Commissioner for Education, Mohammed Hassan, then SSG and now Minister of State for Science and Technology, Speaker Balarabe Abdullahi, among other lieutenants.
Barely a year into office as SSG, trouble brewed when the Assembly, led by Balarabe Abdullahi, instituted a probe of N1bn meant for renovation of secondary schools across the state in November 2018 when Aliyu Tijjani held away as Commissioner for Education and the House accused him of allegedly diverting the said amount.
On March 17th 2020, the state Assembly, under Balarabe, announced the setting up of a panel to investigate the said diversion. According to the Speaker, “The SSG was the Commissioner for Education when the contract was awarded in 2018 without completion up till this moment”
The House equally invited the then SSG, who appeared and admitted that N1bn was released in November 2018 by the state government under Umaru Tanko Al-Makura administration to the Ministry of Education for school renovation, though he said that work is still ongoing and pledged that the House should hold him accountable if investigation revealed the contrary.
“I will take full responsibility for the outcome of the investigation if otherwise proven that the money expended in the execution of the projects was not commensurate to the work done,” Tijjani had told the Assembly.
Our correspondent gathered that as this probe lasts, all efforts by stakeholders to get the governor to intervene has fallen, even as several underground meetings held with the Assembly members to step down the probe have also fallen as the Speaker remains adamant and the governor bluntly refused to intervene. The governor was said to be neither on the side of the Assembly nor his SSG. He is simply sitting on the fence.
Chairman of the House of Assembly investigation panel, Hon Daniel Ogazi, who doubles as the chairman of the committee on education, had told journalists that since March 23, when the committee started sitting, it has gathered all the necessary information and documents from the ministry and would come out with a comprehensive report on the matter to the House.
On June 1st 2020, the committee submitted its report to the House where it indicted the then SSG Aliyu Tijjani of embezzlement of N248.5m out of the N1bn given to him. The report asks him to refund the money to the coffers of the state government.
The committee chairman, Daniel Ogazi, said the former commissioner displayed outright inefficiency, incompetency and ineffectiveness in the performance of his official duties by mismanaging the government resources entrusted under his care for projects meant to benefit the state.
On the 2nd of June 2020, the Balarabe Abdullahi-led Assembly adopted the report recommendation and asked the governor to sack the SSG. According to the Speaker, “Based on the resolution of this House, Governor Sule is hereby directed to immediately sack the SSG, Aliyu Tijjani, to save the government the embarrassment,” the Speaker said.
On June 8th 2020, Governor Abdullahi Sule responded and announced the sack of the SSG and directed him to handover the affairs of his office to the permanent secretary cabinet affairs.
Not satisfied with his indictment by the Assembly, Aliyu Tijjani approached a high court in Nasarawa, challenging the Assembly’s action and on the 8th of August, the court voided all the Assembly recommendations which led to his sack in office on the ground that there was no fair hearing by the members, hence violating his fundamental human right when deciding on allegations against him.
Angered, the speaker vowed that the Assembly under him will appeal the judgement. The Assembly equally slammed a three month suspension on the Executive Chairman of Nasarawa Local Government, Hon Mohammed Sani Ottos, for his loyalty to the embattled former SSG, Tijjani, who also hails from Nasarawa Local Government Area.for reasons he described as political.
The Nation gathered that Aliyu Tijjani, who hails from the same senatorial zone with the Speaker, is said to be interested in the 2023 Nasarawa West Senatorial seat being occupied by Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
But other sources said that Tijjani, who was the most powerful man in the Al-Makura government, frustrated the intension of the Speaker who wanted the Nasarawa/Toto Federal Constituency seat in 2019.