ANKELI EMMANUEL in this analysis takes a look at how the ring is gradually getting set for old rivals to once again test their political might, as schemings intensify ahead of the 2019 general elections in Sokoto State.
Nothing else adequately captures the recent gale of defections, political realignments and conditional marriages that greeted the nation’s political landscape like the lexicon of no permanent friend or enemy in politics but interest.
The interests, no doubt, brought together old foes, pulled good friends apart and, worse still, crossed iron rods of hidden bitterness between political godfathers and godsons in some states.
Though, the scenario is not an issue of serious concern to the political actors. However, the trend of heated rivalry between followers ahead of the general election could be very devastating if not checked.
A good pointer to such rivalry is the ongoing deliberate distortion and mutilation of posters and billboards by supporters of political parties.
Amusingly, despite these signs, political gladiators in Sokoto seem not to be bothered. After all, the act of defection is no longer strange to a good number of them except for very few like Mukthar Shagari, Senator Abdallah Wali amongst others who stood by their party’s ideolgy against all turbulence.
The recent defection of Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) (his former party), and his picking up of its Presidential nomination form is seen by many analysts as a replay of some of the state’s political gladiators journey.
This was even more so that a quick reflection on how Tambuwal’s predeccesor, now Senator, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko’s defection from the then ruling PDP to then opposition APC in 2014 still remained fresh in the minds of many.
Both Tambuwal and Wamakko are no longer novices in the act of defection, especially, when their political ambition and interest are at stake.
Wamakko, whose political prowess was said to have oiled Bafarawa’s electoral victory in the wake of Nigeria’s 1999 return to democracy served as deputy governor under Bafarawa for seven years before they parted ways.
The duo of Bafarawa and Wamakko were by their mandate expected to serve eight years together as governror and deputy respectively under the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
However, that was not to be as Wamakko left barely a year to the end of their second tenure because of alleged plots against his perceived political future.
In 2006, Wamakko dumped the ANPP having realised that his ambition of succeeding Bafarawa was not getting the desired nod.
Wamakko was said to have seen the handwriting on the wall very clearly that Bafarawa was already giving preference to then Secretary to the State Government, (SSG) Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi.
Feeling uneased with the perceived deviation by Bafarawa from an ealier arrangement to allow him become the governor, Wamakko swiftly tendered resignation a year before the end of their tenure to ward off any plot of impending impeachment.
While Wamakko’s perceived maltreatment and subsequent resignation from the deputy governorship position earned him lots of pity, he was however in a fix because of Bafarawa’s political might that was solidly behind Maigari Dingyadi.
Though, loved by the electorate because of his benevolence, Wamamkko was however confused over which political platform he could use to defeat Bafarawa and his anointed candidate.
Having studied the political terrain in lieu of his quest to actualise a third term bid, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo swiftly came in and appealed to the governorship candidate of PDP in the state, Alhahi Mukhtar Shagari to step aside for Wamakko with a promise to become his successor after spending two terms of eight years.
As a loyal politician who served almost seven years under Obasanjo as minister for Water Resources, Shagari agreed and relinquished the PDP’s governorship ticket to Wamakko.
The duo of Wamakko and Shagari went into the 2007 contest and defeated Bafarawa’s candidate to become the state governor and deputy respectively.
Political analysts argued that Wamakko and Shagari’s ticket would not have been enough to wrestle power out of the grip of Bafarawa were it not for his over concentration on the quest to become president in 2007.
Bafarawa’s ambition to become president in 2007 led to his defection from the ANPP where General Muhammadu Buhari was holding sway then.
As Sokoto State governor, Bafarawa formed a new party (DPP) under whose platform he concentrated all his political arrithmetics outside the state with the sole aim of getting the presidency.
While Bafarawa was busy scouting for support across Nigeria, he left his anointed candidate to the superior political whirlwind of Wamakko hence losing control of the local electorate at the home front.
Wamakko, after winning the election under the platform of the PDP and having served for two terms of four years each, suddenly ditched PDP in the wake of 2015 general election to support same Muhammadu Buhari whom he ensured never won the state during his reign.
His defection to the APC and the subsequent appointment as Buhari’s campaign director for North Western states gave Buhari an unprecedented victory in the region in 2015.
Wamakko’s defection from the party under whose platform he became governor to a new party in 2014 was seen by many political observers as gross betrayal of conscience.
Many pundits felt Wamakko would compensate his deputy, Mukhtari Shagari in 2015 to succeed him because of how he stepped aside for him to become the party’s flag-bearer.
But that was not to be. Shagari stayed put in the PDP in anticipation of getting yet another ticket by 2015.
Unlike Bafarawa when there were alleged plots to impeach Wamakko as deputy governor, no thought of such sinister move was contemplated as Shagari remained the deputy governor but in his original party (PDP) while the governor jumped to APC.
It’s on record that Buhari would not have won in Sokoto and some states of the North West had Wamakko stayed back in the PDP during the 2015 general elections.
The defection cycle of Wamakko and Tambuwal whom many presumed to be his political godson seems to have some semblance as the duo have defected from opposition to ruling party and back to opposition while Tambuwal returned back to the opposition which he dished.
Tambuwal, though once the number four citizen of Nigeria during the 7th National Assembly is still serving his first term in office as Sokoto State governor.
Unlike Bafarawa who served eight years as governor, the young dynamic, result oriented Tambuwal however seems to be burning with the ever consuming passion and zeal for good governance, hence his decision to take a shot at the presidency even while serving his first term as governor of Sokoto state.
The fact that he has picked up his nomination forms within weeks after returning to the PDP showed therefore that, he has to be more concerned with national politics than that of the state for now.
Speaking on the significance of Tambuwal’s ambition to fix Nigeria, a political observer in Sokoto, Hamisu Tudunwada said, “The young politically vibrant Tambuwal by every standard is fit to be the nation’s president.
“As a matter of fact, Tambuwal is better off in terms of delivering good governance than all other aspirants indicating interest for the presidency in PDP.
“No doubt, Tambuwal has been tested and trusted as an uncommon leader at the National Assembly. After all, it has been established that he proved himself as a better captain of national integration than even president Muhammadu Buhari whom has been serially accused by Nigerians of glaring nepotism, deliberate witchhunting of oppositions and frantic effort at suppressing the press and freedom of speech as enshrined in the nation’s constitution”.
Political pundits in the state are of the opinion that Tambuwal should not allow history repeat itself unlike what happened during Bafarawa when he was more concerned about his presidency and lost the state to Wamakko who defected to the PDP then.
They therefore advised that, while Tambuwal is making calculations into the presidency, he should also make similar calculations towards ensuring his dragnet over the states political structure does not slip off his hands.
As it stands the battleline seems to have been drawn between Wamakko and Tambuwal in the state. While the incumbent governor is set to define the political path by stamping his authority politically, Wamakko is out to prove his political mettle by ensuring that he secures the state for the Progressives Congress (APC).
Barely days after Tambuwal declared his defection to PDP, packing a mammoth crowd, Wamakko, in an apparent response, made what could pass for a triumphant entry in the state, as his supporters flooded the streets of Sokoto to receive him. Weeks later, over 200 aides declared their resignation from Tambuwal’s administration a claim the governor refuted.
For watchers, the 2019 general election in Sokoto State will be a test of political grit in the state.