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TUESDAY COLUMN

Sokoto At A Political Crossroads

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Sokoto State like the rest of the country is at a political crossroads. The choice made in the 2019 election will no doubt go a long way in determining the features, prospects and future of politics, democracy, progress and development.  All are agreed that we cannot afford to get it wrong.

Take it or leave it, the fact is that Senator Aliyu Magatarka Wamakko remains the deciding factor in the political barometer of Sokoto State. Recent political developments in the historic seat of the Caliphate have only clearly indicated that the two-term governor has not significantly lost grips of the reins of power equitation. One might say that he was rather haughty and brash in his public statement at a political rally weeks ago that he is a critical determinant of the political tides in the state, but, subjected to clinical analysis, he was merely stating a crystal-clear and empirical fact.

While he was governor, 2007 to 2015, he deftly worked the ropes, tied the loose ends to the point that at the end of the day, all the elected persons from the wards through the local government councils to the state and national legislative houses were not only members of his political party, but were also persons with unalloyed loyalty to his person. Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who succeeded him at the Government House, rode to power on the crest of Wamakko’s political structures. For either reasons of political naivety, complacency or, outright helplessness, the scenario has essentially remained the same through the three years that Aminu Tambuwal has been on the saddle. His recent actions aimed at reconstructing the political architecture perfected by Wamakko, appear to be coming too feeble, too late. Talk of a medication coming after death. Magatarka

Also, working in favour of Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko in the choice of the prime political office holder in Sokoto State in 2019, is the weird and amazing decision of incumbent  governor Tambuwal to defect from the ruling APC to the PDP in pursuit of a presidential ambition. While serene and objective minds have seen the political summersaults as tantamount to the mythical chase after the chimera, there are those who see in his decision, a reminiscence of Governor Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa similar action in 2007. While Bafarawa might have easily secured the governorship of Sokoto State for his anointed candidate, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi on the platform of the DPP, if he had not expended the greater of his resources, time and focus in a palpably unrealistic presidential project. Under the present circumstance, pundits are also of the view that Tambuwal would have been better off seeking a second term as governor, instead of an ambitious and energy-sapping race to the Aso Rock. Wamakko, as a candidate, was the beneficiary of Bafarawa’s vaulting ambition in 2007, and from all indications, he is set to also reap from Tambuwal’s political missteps in 2019, this time, as a mentor.

With Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal out of the equation, Aliyu Wamakko, as a former governor and now a Senator, has become the leader of the APC in Sokoto State. With the tacit allowance given to state leadership of the party to choose between direct and indirect formats in the selection of flag bearers, there can be no question as to which option the local party leaderships will prefer. In this case, Wamakko, like others in his position, will be the critical or sole determinant of the flag bearers of the APC in the 2019 elections. This has given rise to the question being asked in many quarters as to who, among the frontline aspirants for the APC’s gubernatorial flag will be most favoured by the generalissimo? That, in other words, is asking: who between Farouk Malami Yabo and Ahmed Aliyu will be the pick of Magatakarda Wamakko in the ensuing contest? The puzzle is arising against the backdrop of the fact that each of the two aspirants ranks high among those that should be favoured as godsons by the godfather.

Alhaji Farouk Malami Yabo, a highly educated, urbane, cosmopolitan and a grassroots politician has been a long standing political associate of Wamakko. A successful business man even long before his foray into the political arena, Farouk Yabo is known to be among the very few of Sokoto elite who, using his material resources and clout, stood by Wamakko in the dark days of his (Wamakko’s) political tribulations and persecution when all but a few gave him a chance in his contest with an overbearing, intimidating governor Bafarawa on the eve of the 2007 elections. In appreciation of his tremendous contributions to his success and surely, in recognition of his many sanguine attributes, Aliyu Wamakko appointed him a Commissioner first, to the strategic Ministry of Finance and later, to the equally important Ministry for Local Government and Rural Development.

On the other hand, the present Deputy Governor, Ahmed Aliyu, was also a Commissioner throughout the eight year tenure of Senator Wamakko. A member of the kitchen cabinet as well, he warmed his way into reckoning for his ebullient and brazing activism especially among the youths in the buildup to the 2007 election. As a Commissioner, Ahmed Aliyu was forwarded as a running mate to Aminu Tambuwal in 2015 principally and almost essentially because he was an outstanding political protégé and confidant of Wamakko. Ahmed’s choice might also have been due to the consideration of Wamakko that the initial choice for the APC’s gubernatorial flag bearer, Farouk Malami Yabo, was asked, at the very last minute, to step down for the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. Yabo, who had gone far in his campaign and mobilization, was perceived as having acquired a stature bigger than the status of a gubernatorial running mate. In retrospect, those close to Senator Wamakko have said that, he, sooner than later, began to regret whatever were the political expediencies, fears or permutations that informed that decision to jettison Yabo for Aminu Waziri. At the thresh hold of another bout of elections, feelers from the Senator Wamakko’s Political household, indicate that he is yet again faced with the dilemma of choice.

Even on the rather pedestrian template of demonstrated loyalty, Farouk has paid his dues in multiple ways to Senator Wamakko. There was for instance, the case in 2007 when, after going far into his campaign for the House of Representatives, Wamakko prevailed on Yabo to step down for Aminu Shehu Shagari, obviously in deference to the elder, former President Shehu Shagari, the biological father of Aminu. Again in 2011, Farouk Yabo was asked by Wamakko to collapse his bid for the Senate in favour of Senator Dahiru Umaru Tambuwal. In 2015, Yabo yet again exhibited unalloyed loyalty to Senator Wamakko by giving up his gubernatorial project in respect of which, his campaign had gone very far with ultimate victory palpably in sight. Will Wamakko for the fourth time, ask Farouk Yabo to forego, this time, his aspiration to the Sokoto State Government House? For sure, the godfather has in this regard, a huge moral dilemma.

Beyond the burden of morality on his shoulders, to the question of suitability and qualifications, no other of the lot prancing the space presently for Wamakko’s endorsement, comes close to Farouk Malami Yabo. Literally, he is as tall and colourful as they come. A recipient of the national honour of Member of the Federal Republic, MFR, Yabo’s records variously, as Commissioner of Finance and for Local Government and Rural Development also earned him a number of local and international laurels. For instance, in appreciation of his unprecedented delivery on infrastructure, primary healthcare, peace and security as well as in functional entrepreneurship model, the USA Congressional Black Caucus; the USAID; the US Department of State Services (DSS) and the Washington DC Chamber of Commerce are among global bodies that, at different times, honoured him with their accolades and garlands.

There can be no gainsaying the point that, at this moment of his political career, age and stature as a statesman, it will only be an additional and befitting glory for Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko if he puts his overwhelming political muscles on the side of one who embodies the attributes of a loyalist with the added benefits of experience and manifest visionary powers in the course of the emergence of the next governor of Sokoto State.  This he should do in the superior interest of development and progress of a state that is in dire need of a purposeful, focused and patriotic leadership. Without any equivocation with the exception of the spell experienced between 2007 and 2015, Sokoto State has not been too fortunate in its political leadership since the beginning of the ongoing democratic, representative governance in 1999. Also, without any fear of contradiction, Farouk Malami Yabo, MFR, was a catalytic factor in the kitchen cabinet whose contributions in terms of ideas and execution of projects accounted for the phenomenal accomplishments that has, today, stood Wamakko out as a leader still loved and followed by majority of the people of Sokoto. The decision that he is about to make in the days ahead will surely go down as his most enduring legacy, in the positive or negative sense. It is one that sentiments must not be allowed to becloud.

  Isa wrote from Sokoto.



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