Sokoto: Political Titans Take Positions

25 Nov 2012

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Wamakko and Tambuwal

Barely eight months after the re-election of Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State for a second term, the strong, powerful and clever in the state are engaged in behind-the-scenes campaigns and moves to determine the course of politics at the next governorship election in 2015. Mohammed Aminu reports.

The race for the seat of governor of Sokoto State has commenced, amid intrigues and plots, behind the scenes, by political titans, particularly, within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the state. The seeming concentration of activities in PDP is hardly surprising, as Sokoto is at present a virtual one-party state. The opposition parties in the state, particularly, the All Nigeria Peoples Party is largely weakened, fragmented and without any purposeful leadership.

Since the return to democracy in 1999, two of the three senatorial zones in the state have produced governors. Only Sokoto South has not produced a governor of the state since the Fourth Republic. The immediate past governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, who spent eight years in office, hails from Sokoto East senatorial zone. The incumbent, Wamakko, comes from Sokoto Central senatorial zone, while Sokoto South senatorial zone is yet to have one of its own on the governorship seat. May feel the zone should produce the next governor in the interest of justice and fairness.

However, in politics, particularly in developing economies, fairness is often sidestepped or jettisoned for pragmatism. But the overwhelming opinion in the state seems to be that since both Sokoto East and Sokoto Central have produced governors, it is now the turn of Sokoto South to have its own at the helm of affairs in the interest of fairness.

Extra-geographical Issues
In the seemingly zero sum game that is Nigerian politics, however, many issues come into play in trying to determine who finally flies a party’s flag in the forthcoming polls. Suitability of the candidate in terms of his general acceptance across the state and his capacity to win over potential aspirants from other zones would determine, to a large extent, who will emerge the PDP governorship candidate.

Intraparty Wrangling
There is also the issue of the lingering feud between what has become popular as the old and new PDP in the state. The old PDP include mainly those that have been in the party since 1999, while the new PDP are members who defected with Wamakko from ANPP to PDP prior to the 2007 general elections in the state. The old PDP feels marginalised in the scheme of things and they had battled, albeit unsuccessfully, to stop Wamakko at the February 18 governorship election in the state.

Despite winning the governorship election, the old PDP had gone back to the trenches and had been strategising against Wamakko’s anointed candidate ahead of the 2015 election. The old PDP believes that for them to remain relevant in the scheme of things, they must devise ways to ensure that their own emerges PDP candidate when the chips are down.

The issue of the old and new PDP is a hot topic in the state and it is expected to be a major factor in the PDP primaries ahead of the 2015 poll.

At the moment, many candidates are rumoured to have indicated interest in the governorship election in 2015. They include Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Deputy Governor Mukhtari Shagari; and the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Alhaji Faruk Yabo, all of who hail from Sokoto South senatorial district, which appears favoured to produce the next governor.

Others said to nurse governorship ambitions are former Minister of Sports, Yusuf Suleiman, who hails from Sokoto East senatorial zone; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Bello Gwiwa; and the Commissioner for Sports, Dalhat Sidi Mamman, a close associate of the governor. Mamman hails from Sokoto Central senatorial district like Wamakko and many observers suspect he may be edged out if PDP adopts its official policy of rotation among the zones.
The race is likely to be for three Sokoto South aspirants: Yabo, who is rumoured to be Wamakko’s anointed candidate, Shagari, and Tambuwal.

Many believe that Yabo, who is the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs and a confidant of the governor, may likely be favoured by most PDP chieftains to emerge governor.
Moreover, many pundits argue that should Yabo be favoured to emerge as the PDP candidate, Shagari and Tambuwal may likely fight back in ways that may pose a serious problem to the cohesion of the party in the state.

Old Vs New PDP
Incidentally, both the deputy governor and the speaker are from the old PDP. It is believed in some quarters that except there is an agreement and compromise between the old and the new PDP members, there would be serious acrimony in 2015 and the old PDP may likely team up with the opposition against the PDP.

But, on the other hand, observers believe that Shagari may likely fight back by teaming up with Tambuwal and Suleiman as well Senator Abubakar Gada, as they are all from the old PDP to battle Yabo.

Although, some pundits argue that even if Shagari should team up with the old PDP members, they may not be able to defeat Wamakko’s anointed candidate, Yabo. This is based on the fact that Sokoto is effectively a one-party state and the party machinery is firmly in the hands of the governor, as the executive members of the party in the state are all Wamakko’s loyalists who will always do his bidding when the vital issues are at stake.

Abuja Connection
Tambuwal played a critical role in Wamakko’s re-election last February and even assisted the governor in thwarting the machinations of the old PDP members, like Gada and Suleiman, who many believed were sponsored by the Presidency to unseat Wamakko.

Wamakko extolled the virtues of Tambuwal and acknowledged his assistance shortly after being cleared by the PDP to contest the February governorship election, despite the cloud of uncertainty over his candidacy following a petition written by members of the old PDP alleging that Wamakko engaged in anti-party activities in Zamfara State and as such should be disqualified from contesting at the poll.
Tambuwal’s opponents allege that despite his popularity in Abuja, he is not really in touch with people at the rural level, as he is being viewed as an Abuja politician. Thus, many see the speaker as an outsider when it comes to politics of Sokoto State, particularly, as it is being played at the grassroots.

Already, Wamakko’s aides and associates are not leaving their future to chance and have started strategising in advance to curtail the threat posed by Shagari and Tambuwal.

Many believe that Wamakko has reaped enormous political gains over the years as a result of his alignment with rural dwellers for decades, as he is still popular across the state.
It is believed that barring any unforeseen circumstances and if things go as planned, Yabo may have a smooth ride in the primaries by 2015. But that is if PDP adopts the zoning formula.

Disorganised Opposition
Due to lack of serious opposition in the state, the ruling PDP has a very good chance of winning the 2015 election if they keep their house in order. There is lack of cohesion within the opposition parties in the state, especially the ANPP which is currently rudderless. The case of ANPP is worsened by the fact that most prominent figures in the party, who were associates of the former governor, Bafarawa, have defected to PDP and many of them have been given juicy political appointments as special assistants and board chairmen, among other positions.

Tags: Politics, Nigeria, Featured, Political Titans

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