ALTHOUGH 2015 is still far away, there are indications that politicians, who are eyeing the Sokoto State governorship seat, have since hit the ground running. Most of them have stepped up subtle campaigns to for the Government house. Some of the major contenders are in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while others are in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Their faces have become more prominent at major private and public functions in the nooks and crannies of the state in the last few months. Even though they have not been using such fora to proclaim their individual governorship interest, their body language speak volume over the pivotal role they now play in the public.
Most of the gladiators are not strange to the people of the state nay Nigerians generally. They are either holding exalted elective offices at the national and state level, or appointive positions in strategic agencies of government.
Expectedly, the horse trading is beginning to generate ripples in some circles, as there are claims and counter-claims of mutual suspicion among the leading gladiators on one hand, and their loyalists on another. Almost every passing day, the stake gets higher because of the calibre of names doing the rounds as among the personalities from the state waiting in the wings for the governorship race.
Shagari, a lawyer, is currently the deputy governor of the state and is of the old PDP stock. He is believed to be seriously routing for the position of governor. But his boss, Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko belongs to the New PDP, which is still at logger heads with the Mainstream PDP at the national level. Some pundits claim the crack could pose a challenge to the ambition of Shagari, the scion of Second Republic President of the country, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
Nonetheless, he is generally seen as a highly principled man who believes in working for the people rather than inducing them with money.
House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal
Tambuwal is of the new PDP and is an ardent supporter of Governor Wamakko. He is believed to be interested in the position of the governor but is said to be patiently waiting for the governor to endorse him for the position. He is well disposed to the people of the state.
His purported romance with the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress [APC] has sent tongues wagging with some saying it could be part of his strategies to build bridges and put himself in good stead ahead the 2015 polls. Others contend he has been adopting an open door policy because of his current position as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which comprises lawmakers elected on the platform of different political parties.
Farouk Malami Yabo
He too is of the new PDP. He served as the state commissioner of finance from 2007 to 2012 before he was redeployed to the ministry for local governments and community development. Regarded as a generous man, the commissioner is considered to be one of Wamakko’s core loyalists. Some observers are of the opinion that his current portfolio could further endear him to the electorate.
Attahiru Yusuf Yabo
Yabo was a contender for the same position on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change [CPC] in the 2012 governorship election in the state. He recently joined PDP at the peak of crisis between the Bamanga Tukur-led leadership and the G7 Governors and has allied with the Tukur camp. However, it is a general belief even among the governorship hopefuls, that the chances of any defector, be it to the PDP or APC to secure the governorship ticket is very slim. This is because of the assumption that any prospective standard bearer will the support of the incumbent governor because of the way he has been able to bring himself closer to the people of Sokoto since 2007.
He is an old member of the PDP and a former minister of transport under the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. However, pundits say he will either run on the platform of PDP or APC, in view of a recent development in the political circle. A few months ago, he attended a wedding ceremony at the house of the then state chairman of the defunct All Nigeria peoples Party [ANPP], Alhaji Ibrahim Milgoma, along with the member representing Sokoto South/ Sokoto North constituency on the ticket of the PDP in the House, Hon Umar Bature. It is being speculated that the latter could run as his deputy under APC if PDP does not offer them its ticket.
As for APC, there appears to be two likely contenders for its governorship ticket. They are:
Yusha’u Ahmed Kebbe
Kebbe is a banker, who specialises in bonds’ transaction. He is the immediate- past governorship candidate of the defunct CPC. However, the circumstances that characterised his defeat during the election pitched him against a former governor of the state, Attahiru Bafarawa who, at the moment, is the state leader of the party. It is feared that this could affect the ambition of Kebbe.
Aliyu Abubakar Yabo
An engineer, he is a former Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Abuja during the General Ibrahim Babangida administration. his admirers say he was able to touch the lives of most people positively while government.
Wamakko, Bafarawa, G7 and APC
The rift between Governor Wamakko and his predecessor, Bafarawa is increasing by the day. The visit to Sokoto by top members of the APC such as a former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and former Lagos State governor, senator Bola Tinubu, to witness the inauguration of the Sokoto State University, brought to the fore what some observers described as the dirty fight between the two former associates.
The state government had reportedly sent a letter of invitation to Bafarawa on the function, a request he was said to have rejected.
However, Buhari and Tinubu honoured the invitation from the government by showing up at the occasion. They did so without making a top over at the residence of Bafarawa to inform him about their mission in the state. And being a leading member of the party, Bafarawa reportedly felt slighted by the action of the APC leaders.
As if to further worsen the situation, the APC national leadership cashed-in on the earlier visit by Buhari and Tinubu to Sokoto by sending a powerful delegation to the state in less than a week. The team was led by APC national chairman and former Governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande. In his delegation, were Buhari, Tinubu, the interim national secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Oyegu, former Governor of Benue State, Chief George Akume and a former speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Bello Masari.
Speaking at the inauguration of the state university, Wamakko confessed that on that morning, he was caught in a protocol mix when at the Sultan Abubakar (111) International airport Sokoto while awaiting the arrival of the special guest of honour on the occasion, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, he picked up his GSM and called Buhari intimating him of the inauguration. He said he did not know that the former leader would be able to attend the inauguration, in view of the short notice. He said after taking General Abubakar to the Sokoto Government Lodge, Buhari eventually arrived Sokoto and he was chauffeur-driven to the lodge.
Wamakko said a drama unfolded between the two Generals when it was time for the governor and his guests to go to the venue of the event, as Buhari said Abubakar should enter the long Civilian bus first and Abubakar said “no sir, you enter first” and after a little hesitation, Buhari accepted to go into the bus first.
The governor also said when they got to the university, a similar scenario played out with Buhari insisting that Abdulsalami should alight the bus first as the special guest of honour but with the latter saying Buhari should disembark first which he acquiesced. He said, with this, even if there was any misunderstanding between the two, it would have been resolved.
However, the national leadership of APC, realising that it had offended Bafarawa who is one of the founding fathers of the party, set up a reconciliatory committee under the chairmanship of Chief John Oyegu, to visit the former governor over the action of the APC leadership.
In the delegation were Governor Abdul’Aziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State, APC deputy national treasurer, Alhaji Usman Dan’Madami, Masari, Colonel Musa Gwadabe, Alhaji Tijjani Tumsa and Alhaji Yusuf Ali. He said the APC leadership held Sokoto very dearly because of the role Bafarawa played in the politics of the state.
Oyegu further stated that Bafarawa’s contribution to the formation of APC would never be forgotten, as he served as the deputy chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee of the party. He said the APC leaders were unhappy to learn that there was disaffection in the Sokoto APC due to a mistake on their part by attending a government function and visiting the government house without calling on Bafarawa at his residence to intimate him of their mission as one of the party’s leaders. He however said General Buhari, when contacted, explained that his invitation came at a short notice and the event in the state was not under the control of their party. Chief Oyegu pleaded with Bafarawa to forgive and forget the excesses of the APC national leadership.
One of the respondents, Professor Lawal Bashar, lamented what he termed as the systematic victimisation of Bafarawa and other top members of the party, by the state government. He alleged series of litigations against some members of the party including their leader –Bafarawa, as well as the destruction of homes and places of businesses of some of APC members in the state.
Also speaking, Alhaji Akibu Dalhatu described Wamakko as a bad product that could no longer sell in the state as far as politics was concerned. Akibu said they did not need him as a member of the party to succeed. He said one thing that should be clear to the national leadership of the APC, the members in Sokoto were not keen on the party winning Aso Rock as much as they were keen in winning Sokoto government house.
When invited to speak, Bafarawa described Wamakko as a mosquito that could breed malaria in the party. He said Wamakko was his political student as he was the one who put him into politics by making him a deputy governorship candidate. “I don’t want anybody to come and say he will broker peace between me and Wamakko. When did you know Wamakko?, He was my political student, and he and his associates are very familiar with my house, including this conference hall. This chair you are sitting on, is his chair!”, Bafarawa told the committee chairman. Bafarawa made it clear that the APC members in the state would not accept any new member into the party from the top no matter his position insisting that anybody wishing to be a member should follow due process by joining the party at his ward level.
Apparently confused at what he heard, Oyegu said because of his respect for the Sokoto APC members, he would speak for the second time. “I plead with you to bear with us. Stage two is coming. We don’t know how many governors will be with us. What the APC leadership is doing is to try to make it difficult for the G7 Governors to remain in the PDP,” he said. He added that the party at the moment had 11 governors and hoped the number would significantly increase before the 2015 elections. The chairman of the APC’S reconciliation committee doused the tension among the Sokoto APC members by saying that the members should be patient as “the party’s leadership will definitely deal with all its enemies.”