2019 Ambition Pits Lawmakers Against Governors

Filed in Politics by on March 15, 2018

The governorship aspirations of many senators have pitched them against governors and other party leaders in their states. As the polity prepares for next year’s general elections, RAYMOND MORDI and MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE examine the crises generated by the matter and the chances of the aspirants.

Governors and senators are at loggerheads in many states. The bone of contention is next year’s governorship polls. Many senators want to succeed the governors in their states. But, the governors have their anointed candidates.

Fierce battles are looming in these states. Five of the states are controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC), while the sixth one is one of the strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In the PDP state, the battle line is already drawn between the senator and a former governor of the state, who is the leader of his party there. Given the powers they wield in their domains, the battles between the governors/former governor and the lawmakers are increasingly looking like a ‘David and Goliath’ affair.

Ogun is one of such states. The battle in the Southwest is between Senator Solomon Adeola, who represents Lagos West at the upper legislative chamber and Governor Ibikunle Amosun. In Kaduna, the ambition of Senator Shehu Sani, who represents Kaduna Central at the Red Chamber, has pitched him against Governor Nasir el-Rufai. In Zamfara, Senator Kabiru Marafa, who represents Zamfara Central, is also at loggerheads with Governor Abdulaziz Yari over the party’s 2019 governorship ticket. Similarly, in the Northeast state of Borno, there is a friction between Senator Abubakar Kyari and Governor Kashim Shettima over who succeeds the latter. The PDP state is Rivers, where the ambition of Senator Magnus Abe has put him on collision course with Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.

What are the chances of the lawmakers, who incidentally belong to the APC, in the 2019 governorship race?

Ogun

In Ogun, the ambition of Adeola, popularly known as Yayi, to occupy the number one position in the state come 2019 has already ruffled some feathers. But the Yewa-born politician appears unperturbed.

This is perhaps because he has never witnessed any setback in his political career. At the dawn of the current political dispensation, he was nominated and won the primary of the the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to represent Alimosho State Constituency 2 at the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) in 2003. He won the election and went on to serve the constituency in the chamber for two terms, between 2003 and 2007 and again from 2007 to 2011.

While serving at the LSHA, Adeola was reputed to be the brain behind the enactment of the law that strengthened the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, which catapulted the revenue of the state from N5 billion to over N20 billion monthly.

Subsequently, he was elected to represent Alimosho Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives in 2011. Though he was a first time member of the House, he got position of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. As a senator, Yayi is the Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Communications, as well as member of the Finance, Marine, Interior and Science and Technology committees of the upper legislative chamber.

Having proved that he is a politician who understands how to play the game, with the opportunities he has had, Adeola now wants to govern Ogun State. He claims that the people of Yewa had urged him to come home and serve them. A colourful personality, Yayi has lived almost all his life in Lagos. Born on August 10, 1969, at Lagos Island Maternity Hospital to Mr. Ayinde Adeola Ogunleye and Madam Abeeni Olasunbo Ogunleye (née Akinola), he grew up in Alimosho area of Lagos.

How far can Yayi go? Governor Amosun has already indicated that he is not favourably disposed to his aspiration to govern the state. At the primary, the governor is likely to anoint a different person. In seeming reference to the senator, the governor vowed for the second time last November that he would not hand over to a ‘stranger’ in 2019. Although he is disposed to someone from Yewa part of the state succeeding him, he sees Adeola who is from that part as a ‘stranger’.

The governor said it would be an insult to the forebears of Ogun State if an atohunrinwa (stranger) should succeed him when there are true sons and daughters of the soil in abundance.

Nevertheless, Adeola is believed to have the backing of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as well as that of former Governor Olusegun Osoba. Nevertheless, observers believe that Adeola may not get the ticket of his party for the race. Though there are similar precedents in Southwest politics, his case is complicated because he is currently occupying an elective position in Lagos and intends to return to his ancestral home in Ogun to actualize his governorship ambition.

In the run up to the last general elections, then a member of the House of Representatives, Adeola had attempted to contest for the Ogun West senatorial seat, but local intrigues frustrated his ambition. Thereafter, he retraced his steps to Lagos, where he had no difficulty picking up the ticket for the Lagos West senatorial race of his party, the APC.

Kaduna

Like Adeola, Senator Sani is likely to face an uphill task in his ambition to contest the Kaduna governorship election in 2019 or 2023, because he would not get the backing of Governor el-Rufai.

In 2019, el-Rufai who is in his first term is likely to contest and as a sitting governor, he would clinch the party’s ticket without difficulty. Even if the governor is not re-contesting, for one reason or the other, he is likely to back someone else for the job.

Senator Sani is Governor el-Rufai’s greatest critic. There is no love lost between the two politicians. The political feud between el-Rufai and Sani dates back to 2015, when the governor sidelined the senator representing Kaduna Central in the Red Chamber in appointments he made after the APC took over power in the strategic Northwest state.

In his defence, the governor said the nominees the senator sent to him were dropped because of lack of the necessary academic competence and capacity to function as commissioners.

The disagreement has polarized the state chapter of the APC. Currently, Sani is locked in a legal battle against el-Rufai. The governor is demanding N2 billion for an alleged defamation.

The governor is seeking compensation for injury allegedly suffered as a result of ‘the malicious statements’ made by the senator to humiliate him and defame his integrity, by calling him a drunk, a loose cannon and an embarrassment to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The lawmaker has equally criticised the governor for recently destroying the APC factional office. The outspoken senator said the party is doomed, if the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Reconciliation Committee fails to bring all aggrieved members of the party to a round table for an amicable settlement.

Although, Sani has not really come out to declare that he would be contesting for the Kaduna governorship in 2019, indications are that the bone of contention between him and the governor is his ambition to govern the state. Thus, he has openly criticised those who have endorsed el-Rufai for a second term.

Nevertheless, Sani recently debunked claims that his constant criticism of Governor el- Rufai’s government was born out of his ambition to become governor. He said he has been speaking out against bad governance for over 25 years and that his current criticism of the governor is not an exception.

His words: “I don’t know what criticising has to do with being a governor. When I criticised Babangida, Abacha and other tyrants of the past,was it whether I wanted to be President. When things go wrong, I speak out against President Muhammadu Buhari, does that now mean that I want to be President for speaking out? I have been speaking out for the past 25 to 30 years to bad governance, corruption and tyranny.”

The lawmaker described el-Rufai as a ‘military administrator and a tyrant’. He added: “What is happening in Kaduna is simply tyranny. We don’t have an elected governor; we have a military administrator who thinks everything should go his own way. He engineered the party to suspend us, to suspend me.”

Zamfara

Marafa who currently represents Zamfara Central, is among those jostling for the 2019 governorship ticket of the APC in Zamfara State. But, his ambition is not enjoying the support of Governor Abdulaziz Yari, who would be concluding his second term next year.

The political mudslinging took another dimension last November, when the senator alleged that the governor was not an indigene of the state. This followed the senate’s refusal to confirm the nomination of Ahmad Mahmud, an ally of the senator, as the Resident Electoral Commission (REC) nominee for the state, following the petition written to the Senate committee on INEC by Governor Yari.

Marafa had also accused Yari and his deputy of sponsoring a militia to terrorise the state. In his response, Yari said the senator’s comments were “mischievous, callous and misleading”. The governor went further to threaten the senator’s 2019 ambition. Sources close to the Zamfara Government House said the governor is patiently waiting to clip Marafa’s wings and put him where he rightly belongs.

The governor who made this known through his aide, Alhaji Salisu Isah, said: “We are going to kill him politically; we are going to bury his political ambition in 2019. He wants to be governor; he is not going to get it. It would not even be possible for him to return to the Senate.”

The popularity of Marafa, a former Commissioner for Water Resources, appears to be growing in Zamfara, in view of his contributions on the floor of the House. The senator, who was born September 16, 1960, holds a Diploma in Chemical Engineering from the Kaduna Polytechnic. His started his political career in the PDP. Subsequently, he joined the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and later the APC. He won the Zamfara Central senatorial race in 2015 on the platform of the APC.

Marafa incurred the wrath of Governor Yari recently for accusing Yari and his deputy of being responsible for the insecurity in the state. The governor has threatened to kill him politically in 2019. Yari who spoke through one of his Special Advisers, Alhaji Salisu Isah, said: “The Senator displayed his fraudulent character and l made it a duty to respond to these reckless allegations with the view to among other reasons let the world know the character of Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa and why he cannot be taken seriously.

“Most importantly to bring to the public notice the laudable efforts Governor Yari is making to tackle the security menace confronting the good people of Zamfara state and why he should be commended rather than castigated in a manner the Senator did.”

Isah said it is irresponsible for Senator Marafa to state that Yari and his deputy were responsible for the insecurity in Zamfara.

He also berated the Senator, saying: “Senator Marafa has always posed as a friend and supporter of President Buhari, but behind the President, he is an enemy. I am calling on President Buhari and the Senate President to be careful of slippery people like Senator Marafa. Such people are serpents moving around with venom, seeking for an opportunity to strike. They are unreliable and cannot be trusted.”

Borno

Their 2019 ambitions appear to be putting Governor Shettima and Senaor Kyari against each other. The senator who is currently nursing an ambition to occupy the Borno Government House is not in the best of relationships with the governor who, many believe, is eyeing the same senatorial seat currently occupied by Kyari.

For two reasons, Senator Kyari has been touted as one of those that may succeed Governor Kashim Shettima. First, he is a former member of Shettima’s kitchen cabinet.

Secondly, the Senator who was born with silver spoon is a Kanuri. He had grown up within the corridors of power. His father was a military governor of the old North Central State during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon.

As the Chief of Staff during the first term in office of governor Shettima, he wielded enormous powers, simply because of the trust the governor had in him. He is from Borno North senatorial district, which is favoured to produce the next governor when Shettima steps down next year.

To neutralise Kyari’s ambition, the governor is said to have initiated moves to draft the senator representing the central senatorial district, Baba Garbai, into the governorship race to succeed him. Even though they are both in the same party, the APC, the former allies appear not to be comfortable with their 2019 ambitions.

Kyari was born in 1963 and he attended Barewa College, Zaria. He later attended University of Tennessee Martin, USA for BA degree in 1986. He has played crucial role at the National Assembly to draw government attention to the escalating security challenges facing the state.

Rivers

The feud between Abe and Amaechi in Rivers APC is still festering. The face-off started prior to the 2015 governorship election in the state, when the then outgoing Governor Amaechi chose Dr. Dakuku Peterside as the party’s governorship candidate.

The serving senator has been reported to have his eyes on the governorship position of Rivers State. His political impact in the state is well established. Ahead of the 2019 governorship contest, Abe’s body language suggests that he is not prepared to acquiesce to Amaechi’s superiority this time.

Abe apparently took his case to Amaechi’s backyard when he got some of the former governor’s kinsmen to endorse him recently. A clan of the pro-Abe supporters, grouped as Rivers East APC Stakeholders, made up of party stalwarts from Ameachi’s Ikwerre enclave, on February 6 in Port Harcourt, endorsed Abe as the “overwhelming choice” of the district for the 2019 governorship ticket.

He was born in May 1965 and attended and attended the Rivers State University of Technology for his law degree (LLB Degree). He was Minority leader, Rivers State House of Assembly in 1999. He later became Rivers State Commission for Information and in 2011 he became Secretary to the state government.

Abe has held various positions as the Senate: Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum, Chairman Senate Committee on Fuel Subsidy Scheme as well as membership of other committees. The senator made it clear that his primary goal is to focus on people who have been forgotten, exploited by the privileged few and prepare a greater future for them.

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