Adamawa is a northeastern state with a landmass of 36,917 km², twice as large as Ondo (15,500km²) and more than 30 times larger than Lagos (1,171 km²). Adamawa is a relatively new state, having emerged when the old Gongola State was split by the Ibrahim Babangida administration into Taraba and Adamawa. Apart from the Fulani, other ethnic groups in Adamawa include the Mumuye (who are the most populous group in neighbouring Taraba), Higi, Kapsiki, Chamba, Margi (Marghi), Hausa, Kilba, Gude, Wurkum, Jukun and Bata.

Adamawa had its first civilian governor in 1999 in the person of the current Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who won the state governorship election but handed over to his running mate, Boni Haruna, after he was nominated by the PDP’s presidential candidate at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo, as vice president.

Since then, Atiku Abubakar has helped the PDP stay dominant and relevant in the state. The only time the party lost the governorship election was in 2015 when Atiku joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) and helped its candidate, Jibrilla Bindow, get elected as Adamawa State’s governor with 362,329 votes in a win that had the ruling PDP’s Nuhu Ribadu, coming a distant third with 98,917 votes behind the Social Democratic Party’s Markus Gundiri, who had 181,806 votes.

Later on, Atiku left the APC and returned to the PDP, and in the 2019 election, his influence once again led to the defeat of the ruling party’s candidate with Ahmed Umar Finitri of the PDP bagging 376,552 votes against the APC’s Jibrilla Bindow, who got 336,386 votes. This see-saw in the political fortunes of the major parties within the state illustrates the political influence Atiku Abubakar wields. It is noteworthy that ex-governor Bindow recently left the APC to support Atiku’s presidential bid; that’s how omnipresent he is as a political heavyweight.

The bottom line is that it is going to be extremely difficult to dislodge Finitri, who is seeking a second term as governor. Finitri’s major opposition is the APC’s Senator Aisha Dahiru Ahmed, who has overachieved simply by being the female governorship candidate of a major political party in the North. It is striking that the more conservative North has produced a major female governorship candidate before the more liberal South.

Usually, factors such as one’s ethnic background play a major role in determining winners in elections, but Adamawa’s case might be different. While Fintiri is Marghi from the Adamawa North Senatorial District and Ahmed is a Fulani from Adamawa Central, it is unlikely that will stop the PDP from winning this contest. For the Adamawa guber elections, tribal considerations will not matter as much as they would elsewhere. The political force that is Atiku, who is himself motivated to win the state during the presidential contest, might just be enough to ensure that the PDP retains one of its safer governorships.