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APC’s challenge of retaining Kebbi deepens amid intraparty intrigues

By Leo Sobechi (Deputy Politics Editor) Abuja and Ahmadu Baba Idris, Birnin Kebbi
18 April 2022   |   4:20 am
Without doubt the two most prominent members of Kebbi State chapter of governing All Progressives Congress (APC) are the state governor, Senator Atiku Bagudu, and Minister for Justice and Honourable Attorney General of the Federation ....

Malami

Malami’s indecision, zoning outside Gwandu major headaches for party leaders

Without doubt the two most prominent members of Kebbi State chapter of governing All Progressives Congress (APC) are the state governor, Senator Atiku Bagudu, and Minister for Justice and Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF), Abubakar Malami SAN.

However, while the governor and the Minister enjoy political visibility at the federal level in Abuja, owing to their positions in the APC federal government and its politics, back home in Kebbi, a former governor of the state, Senator Adamu Aliero, wields some measure of influence.

These three political actors are set to clash over the ongoing search for Bagudu’s successor. Malami, who contested the governorship in 2011, is expected to make another try in 2023, but the minister recently declared that only God knows the shape of his political future.

The Guardian learned from close sources that the Justice Minister is taking his time, especially in terms of Section 84 (12) of the 2022 Electoral Act, which was said to have targeted him and others who are holding political appointments and have behaved as if Abuja holds the aces. Those who played roles in dismantling the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of APC, which gave way to the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) are now to pay some price.

Recently words started making the rounds in Kebbi that the state Commissioner for Finance, Ibrahim Mohammed Augie, had resigned preparatory to contesting the governorship poll. That surprising development left many people in no doubt that Augie was set to be Bagudu’s preferred candidate.

Prior to the reported resignation, the Finance Commissioner was not in the picture, as many observers believed that Governor Bagudu was grooming his Secretary to the Government of Kebbi State, Alhaji Babale Yauri, to takeover from him in 2023.

A governorship aspirant in the 2019 APC primary, Mallam Salihu Isa Nataro, said he was optimistic of clinching the party’s ticket in 2023 following the clash of interest among the governor, Malami and Senator Aliero.

Yet, while the situation in APC is becoming too cloudy by the day, things are beginning to look up for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose last governor, Ibrahim Nasamu Dakingari, crossed over to APC.

Amid the jostling for APC ticket, the National President of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) comes as electorate’s favourite, who could make things a little bit hard for Bagudu’s anointed candidate, depending on how soon Malami makes up his mind.

APC and PDP are working hard to ensure that their individual strategies triumph, even as PDP remains the underdog based on the calibre of aspirants jostling for APC ticket.

Going by the recent council poll in the state, the governing party has a lot to do to ensure that APC retains the state, despite the fact that the Kebbi State Independent Electoral Commission (KBSIEC) declared that APC won all the 21 Local Government chairmen and 225 councillors seats.

Intriguingly, KBSIEC could not announce the vote tallies by each political parties that participated. Barely one month after the election, which was held on February 5, the electorate still nurses the feeling of alienation.

In a press statement, KBSIEC chairman, Hon. Aliyu Muhammad Mera, said APC cleared all the positions contested without indicating figures, noting that while 18 political parties indicated interest to participate in the election, only 17 took active part.

Mera stated: “Kebbi State Independent Electoral Commission based on the power conferred onto it by section 197 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to organized, supervised and conduct Election into the Local Government council in the state, that Election was held into the 21 Local Government Areas and 225 Electoral wards in the state.”

All the same, he expressed appreciation to the Kebbi State Government for “ensuring that this important tier of Government is rule by democratically elected council. I equally thank all the security agencies and other relevant stakeholders for supporting the election.”

However, in their reaction, the opposition PDP, through its state chairman, Alhaji Bello Suru, condemned the election, alleging that the exercise was full of irregularities such that the KBSIEC cannot declare the results.

“I can assure you that if the election was free and fair, APC will not win all Local Government councils, people are tired with the APC government in the state and Nigeria as well,” Suru added.

In spite of PDP’s rejection of the LG poll outcome, the APC could not enjoy its victory, because the implications of the exercise on the impending 2023 poll have thrown the party into two factions. While Governor Bagudu leads one faction, Adamu Aliero heads the other one. The Aliero camp failed to participate in the LG poll.

Checks by The Guardian showed that Aliero’s political structure is gaining more ground, a development, which some people said informed the massive vote for opposition party during the council election.

Investigations also revealed that some key political actors could not win their wards. Sources disclosed that that was why KBSIEC could not declare figures on which the result was based.

It was gathered that matters came to a head, after Governor Bagudu returned for a second term and started scheming to have total control of the party without any interference. The APC leadership in the state was said to be hijacked by the governor’s Personal Assistant, Alhaji Musa Yaro Enabo.

Immediately Enabo emerged as the financial secretary of the party, he was said to have proceeded to remove all those loyal to Senator Aliero from the party executive.

An insider confided in The Guardian that after receiving reports about Enabo’s actions, Aliero vowed not to relate with the current leadership of the party unless the party structure would be shared on 50-50 basis. It was gathered that the Senator Abdullahi Adamu Reconciliation Committee failed to meet up with the demand from the Aliero camp, even as most party faithful feel inclined to join and support the former governor even if it amounts to leaving APC for another party with him.

In the midst of the logjam, the two leaders, Bagudu and Aliero, are unable to decide on whom to support for the governorship position. But, both factions are said to be working round the clock in a bid to ensure that they throw up a saleable candidate that could win the main election for APC during the 2023 general elections.

Already, about 10 aspirants have indicated serious interest to contest the governorship, including Malami and NUT President, Dr. Nasiru Idris Kaura Guwandu. Among the lot, it was gathered that Governor Bagudu is interested in his long-term friend, the Commissioner of Finance.

Malami’s ambition became a subject of conjecture recently, when the Governor told the gathering at Kamba, where they commissioned the APC party office during the flag-off the LG campaign that the HAGF would be honoured with the post of Vice President. While this may explain Malami’s statement that his political future depends on God, it was also seen as an indication that Bagudu was not interested in having Malami as his successor.

Kebbi State has four emirates, Gwandu, Arugungu, Yauri and Zuru. Out of the four, Gwandu has the largest population and number of Local Government Councils. That could be reason why some APC chieftains believe that if Governor Bagudu wants APC to win the governorship easily, he should support Nasiru Idris, the NUT National President.

Although Gwandu emirate had been producing governors since the creation of the state based on their huge population, other emirates are agitated and feel that 2023 is the time to look elsewhere.

In a chat with The Guardian, an APC stalwart, Alhaji Audu Lamba, said the rotation of the governorship has become imperative, stressing that the next governor should come from any of the other three emirates.

Lamba, a former Commissioner of Information and Chief of Staff in both Aliero and Dakingari administrations, condemned the dominance of the state governorship by just one Emirate. “We insist that the next governor should be produced either from Argungu, Yauri or Zuru emirates, not Gwandu Emirate any more,” he said.

Among the governorship aspirants, Dr. Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate leader is from Arugungu emirate and a staunch member of the Aliero camp. People of Gwandu Emirate do not want hear to anything about rotation.

That could explain why all other contestants from both PDP and APC are from Gwandu Emirate, including Malami, Nasiru Idris, Abubakar Gali Mallam among others. However, the challenge for aspirants from Gwandu Emirate is how to throw up a credible candidate.

Commending President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the Electoral Act 2022, a former chairman, 4+4 for Buhari and Bagudu campaign, Alhaji Kabiru Giant, said the provision of the law was another clever way of promoting democracy.

He therefore contended that the APC and PDP should know that only a credible candidate acceptable to Kebbi people would save them, adding that aspirants like the NUT President, Dr. Nasiru Gwandu, who enjoys the support of the masses should pray the APC leadership in the state allows internal democracy to guide the nomination process.

Alhaji Giant noted that the Electoral Act 2022 has empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver on credible elections that reflect the wishes of the people.