Monday, 25th September 2023

10th Senate: Why Yahaya rallies ‘external’ forces against Goje

By From Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
05 May 2023   |   3:08 am
Gombe State is the one Northeast state where the imminent contest for the floor functionaries of the Senate is convulsing its politics. The heat from the battle for the 10th Senate is accentuated by the supremacy battle between Governor Inuwa Yahaya and one of his predecessors, Senator Danjuma Goje.

Governor Inuwa Yahaya

Gombe State is the one Northeast state where the imminent contest for the floor functionaries of the Senate is convulsing its politics. The heat from the battle for the 10th Senate is accentuated by the supremacy battle between Governor Inuwa Yahaya and one of his predecessors, Senator Danjuma Goje.

With the plan to alternate the zoning of Senate President and Deputy Senate President (DSP) between Southeast/South-South and Northeast, the contest for DSP is currently heating up Bauchi and Gombe states.

During the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Gombe State, Goje turned out as the saving grace for the governing All Progressives Congress (APC). The former governor won his re-election to the Senate for a fourth consecutive term in an election in which the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was having a field day.

In the life of Ninth Senate, Senator Goje aspired to contest the Senate Presidency, but was prevailed upon by leaders and stakeholders of the party to postpone his ambition in deference for Lawan. Although Goje won his re-election on February 25, his party and the incumbent governor, Alhaji Yahaya, were frightened to the bone marrow by the PDP.

The outcome of the election showed PDP’s rebounding ascendancy, because while the opposition party secured two senate seats and four federal constituency slots for the House of Representatives, APC had only Goje and Usman Bello-Kumo for the Senate and House of Representatives.

Alarmed by the obvious implications of PDP’s margin of victory Governor Inuwa Yahaya was said to have expressed worry that Goje’s perceived indifference to the APC campaigns was redounding to the benefit of PDP.

APC stalwarts from the state told The Guardian that but for the one-week postponement announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Inuwa and APC were heading to imminent defeat.

APC had, in line with its strategies in other states, decided to handover the headship of the Tinubu presidential campaign council in the state to Governor Inuwa, despite the presence of Senator Goje as a leading member of the party in Gombe.

The fact that Goje won his re-election piqued Governor Inuwa, who had never hidden his aversion to the continued relevance of the former two-term governor in Gombe and national politics.

It could be recalled that out of a perceived political modesty, the third term Senator had tinkered with the idea of retiring from active politics to leave the scene for his younger protégés.

But, while that move came as more than a welcome relief to the incumbent governor, who has continued to be seen as an underling in the light of his seven years’ stint as Finance Commissioner under Goje, the masses and supporters of the former governor kicked.

It was therefore against the background of that silent beef that when the results were announced returning Goje for a record fourth term in the Senate, the governor’s greatest fear of continued living in the shadow of his former boss became acute.

Senator Goje

Goje had polled 102, 916 votes to gift APC its only Senatorial seat in Gombe State. His vote haul was an emphatic message to PDP and its candidate, Aliyu Abubakar, who got a paltry 37, 870 votes to beat Bibikir Muhammad of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

Further, the fact that immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo and Hon. Thony Siyaku Yaro won the Gombe North and South Senatorial Districts respectively for PDP, created the impression that APC was only popular in Gombe Central on account of Senator Danjuma Goje. Not that alone, prior to the general elections, Governor Inuwa was being accused of non-performance and focusing his empowerment programmes on his acolytes and praise-singers.
Resurgent crisis

Only keen watchers of the identity politics in Gombe State would see the resurgent wrangling between Governor Inuwa and his estranged political godfather in the light of ongoing scramble for prominent positions in the 10th Senate.

At the onset of the 9th Senate, Senator Goje was looked upon as the candidate to beat for the position of chairman of National Assembly and President of Senate. However, in a bid to respect the understanding entered into by party chieftains after Dr. Bukola Saraki scuttled the initial plans to enthrone Ahmad Lawan as President of 8th Senate, Goje was prevailed upon to forego his ambition.

As it turned out APC chieftains, particularly Presidency insiders, after evaluating the chances of various aspirants to the post of Senate President for the 9th Senate, Lawan and Goje decided against allowing the former Gombe State governor to participate in the election of the principal officers.

Goje’s track record and national appeal left nobody in doubt that he would easily beat other contenders from Northeast for the position. Consequently, the Gombe Central Senator was invited to the Presidential Villa, where he was persuaded to opt out of the race “for a future prospect.”

However, some of those who participated in the discussions at the Villa, which culminated in Goje’s withdrawal from the race for President of 9th Senate continued to leave in constant dread of not only the Senator’s political IOU, but also his looming clout in the National Assembly politics.

Although attempts were made by APC leaders to settle rift between Governor Inuwa and Senator Goje, some Northeast politicians who did not want Goje to have things easy in the approaching political dispensation, threw their weights behind the governor, thereby making the crisis intractable.

The major sign that the supremacy battle between Governor Inuwa and Senator Goje has gone beyond the narrow confines of APC secretariat in Gombe emerged on November 5, 2021, when the Senator’s convoy came into a barrage of attacks by thugs suspected to be working for the state government. The thugs, who were armed with dangerous weapons, displayed no restraint as they clubbed passersby and damaged every vehicle at sight.

Explaining that incidence to journalists in Abuja, Special Assistant to Senator Goje, Lilian Nworie, disclosed that the Senator was visiting the state for a private engagement, lamenting that he was prevented from accessing the city by the bonfires that the hoodlums set up.

While specifying that the incident took place adjacent to the Gombe International Conference Centre located along Bauchi-Gombe Expressway, Nworie declared that the thugs were loyal to Inuwa Yahaya, Gombe governor. She regretted that police officers stationed in the area pretended as if nothing was amiss and made no visible effort to stop the chaos.

Not long after the chaos, many APC stalwarts from Gombe loyal to Senator Goje, particularly his daughter, Dr. Hussaina Goje, who was then the  Commissioner of Environment, as well as Special Advisers and Assistants, resigned their appointments in protest.

It was in a bid to avoid the escalation of the clash that Senator Goje was said to have excused himself from the APC electioneering for the 2023 general elections. But, feeling that the Senator withdrew to sabotage his re-election, Governor Inuwa expressed surprise that a man who did not campaign for APC should win by a very wide margin during the National Assembly polls.

Yet, APC’s candidate for Akko Federal Constituency in same Gombe Central Senatorial District, Hon. Bello Kumo, was the only successful contender in the party for the House of Representatives race. Add to that, the party lost the presidential election to PDP, just as the governor lost in his polling unit.

Peeved by the fact that the outcome of the election put to question his capacity as the Gombe State Campaign Director for the Tinubu Presidential Campaign Council, Governor Inuwa authorised the suspension of those he felt worked against the party.

Those suspended included the Chairman of Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Goje, Hon. Yunusa Abubakar and Senator representing Gombe South in the outgoing Senate, Bulus Amos. Amos was accused of working against APC in the elections.

Chairman of Bambam ward in Balanga Local Government Area, Muhammad Kaka, alleged that Amos did not campaign for APC during the elections, adding that the Senator could not defend himself when confronted with his alleged offence.

Kaka stated: “Senator Amos did not come out to campaign for our party, instead he went around telling his supporters not to vote for APC. Even in his polling unit and the surrounding polling units APC didn’t win, because of his anti-party activities
“This really disturbed the executives at the ward and we sat down to examine this and decided to summon him to defend himself and explain why he did what he did.”

But faulting the suspension as rash, the Special Assistant to the Senator on Media, Mr Felix Manasseh, recalled how Senator Amos served APC diligently both at the national and zonal levels, stressing that the Senator expanded the frontiers of the party, especially in Tangale -Waja.

According to Manasseh, Amos donated his house to be used as zonal party office, regretting that the suspension came as a clear case of political witch hunt. He added: “For those accusing him of losing his polling unit, who in Gombe State can boast of victory in his unit during the Presidential election? But, Senator Amos won his state assembly election and delivered his local government during the governorship election.”

In the fight against Goje, Gombe APC has remained in state of flux, putting to doubt the ruling party’s capacity to survive the combined challenge of PDP and NNPP. In a bid to supply the fatherly role leadership left by Governor Inuwa, the NNPP governorship contender in the state, Khamisu Ahmad Mailantarki, had congratulated former Governors Goje and Dankwambo on their electoral victory.

While extolling the contributions of the two leaders to the development of Gombe, Mailantarki said future leaders must continue to tap from the wealth of experience to unite the state for growth and development.

He pointed out that Senator Goje’s re-election for a fourth consecutive term as representative of Gombe Central Senatorial District, “is proof that you are representing the interest of not just your constituency, but the entire people of Gombe State and country at large, and it shows that you are in the good book of your people.”

On Dankwambo, the NNPP stalwart said the Senator-elect is not only “a gentleman politician that many are learning from, (but also) his representation would mean a lot for Gombe State and Nigeria at large.”

However, checks by The Guardian revealed that plans by APC to zone the Senate President to Southeast or South/South has raised increased the potential for Northeast to throw up the DSP. And with Yobe State out of it, Gombe and Bauchi states are being positioned to throw up Senator Ovie Omo-Agege’s successor.

Sources within the geopolitical zone confided in The Guardian that feelers within APC, which suggest that Senator Goje is being considered, predicated the attempt to suspend him from the party to reduce his chances.

One of the sources, a former member of the APC NWC stated: “The same way Senator Ahmad Lawan was pencilled for Senate President in 2015, was how Senator Danjuma Goje was promised to wait for his turn.

“Those pushing Governor Inuwa to rubbish Goje know what they are doing, because they are also interested. The result of the recent elections shows that Bauchi and Gombe states are primed to produce the next DSP.”

Intriguingly, Governor Inuwa, who served as Finance Commissioner under the Senator, climbed on Goje’s coat tails to become governor in 2019. The Senator climbed into state and nationwide political reckoning from serving as member of Gombe State House of Assembly, Minister to two-term governor of the state and ranking Senator.