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Governorship poll: APC, PDP battle for soul of Jigawa

By Mohammed Abubakar, Dutse
16 March 2023   |   10:21 am
The outcome of the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly election has thrown up a big leadership contest among the political gladiators in Jigawa state, ahead of Saturday's governorship and state assembly elections. The two major political parties in the state are the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP). At…

A polling station official marks a voter’s finger with a marker pen before he casts a ballot at a polling station in Ibadan on February 25, 2023, during Nigeria’s presidential and general election. (Photo by Samuel Alabi / AFP)

The outcome of the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly election has thrown up a big leadership contest among the political gladiators in Jigawa state, ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state assembly elections.

The two major political parties in the state are the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

At the centre of this epic battle for the most prized political office in the state are the immediate past governor of the state and leader of the PDP, Alhaji Sule Lamido, whose son, Mustapha is contesting for governor under the PDP and the incumbent governor, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, whose deputy, Umar Namadi, is contesting the for governor on the ticket of the ruling APC.

For the PDP, 2023 could be described as its finest outing since 2015, when it was swept out of power in what was dubbed the “Buhari Tsunami”. At the end of the collation of the results last month, the PDP grabbed one of the three senatorial and two of the 11 House of Representatives seats in the state, while the New Nigeria People’s Party, (NNPP) won one.

From 2015 up until the last election, APC has maintained almost 100 per cent record as far as elected offices are concerned. But the performance of the PDP in the just concluded election has excited some PDP stalwarts, who see the development as a positive step towards bouncing back into the Government House.

Going by the official results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission,(INEC) the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu trounced PDP’s Atiku Abubakar at the national level, while PDP’s senatorial candidate for Jigawa (Central) Mustapha Habeeb defeated the incumbent APC senator from the zone, Sabo Muhammad Nakudu with 153, 731 to 134, 802 votes.

Similarly, the PDP’s House of Representatives candidates for Birnin Kudu/Buji Federal constituency, Adamu Yakubu defeated Dr. Magaji Da’u Aliyu, just as Mr. Dahiru Madaki of the PDP defeated the incumbent representative from Dutse/Kiyawa Federal constituency, Abdullahi Kemba Madobi.

Since 2015, PDP has only managed to win one councilorship position in Chayko, Lamido’s political ward in Birnin Kudu local government area during the local government election in June last year.

Interestingly, all the defeated APC lawmakers are serving their second terms, aspiring for third term. Analysts however, view the crushing defeat of the APC in the zone as a sign of subtle protest vote by the people against the administration of Badaru. The governor is accused of systematic marginalisation in both appointments and citing of projects in the zone.

For instances, following the defeat of Sen. Nakudu from the Southwest zone by Namadi from northeast zone at the gubernatorial primaries, the people from the zone had expected to be allocated the deputy governorship slot, which was offered to Aminu Usman, an engineer and immediate past commissioner for works from Gumel, in the northwest zone where the incumbent governor comes from.

But beyond that, the voting pattern by the people of Jigawa southwest against the APC candidates has polarised the emirates in the state, with the northeast zone, (Hadejia zone) where the current deputy governor and APC’s governorship candidate, Namadi hails from accusing their compatriots from the Southwest senatorial zone of deliberately planning to scuttle the governorship ambition of their son. Before now, there has been silent supremacy battle among the five emirates in the state.

Recall that since the creation of Jigawa state nearly 32 years ago, this is the first time that the zone is getting close to producing a governor for the state, despite arguably having the highest number of voting population. The central zone, on the other hand, precisely, Birnin Kudu has produced two elected governors in the persons of Ali Sa’ad, a lawyer during the short-lived Third Republic from 1991 to 1993 and Lamido from 2007-2015, while Saminu Turaki from Kazaure, was the governor from 1999-2007 and the incumbent Badaru Abubakar from Babura, both from Northwest zone.

However, the public anger against the governor, especially in the area of economic empowerment does not seem limited to the southwest. Every segment of the state appears hard hit by Badaru’s “calculator” policy, which his critics say, has left many pauperised. The governor, however, defends his thrifty policy as he claims that it has helped his administration save resources to deliver the famous democracy dividends to “silent” majority of the people, especially those in the rural areas.

In fairness to the governor, he has not only left his mark in the area of infrastructure development, but has also kept faith with the prompt payment of salaries and pension to the state workforce, and. As a result of the policy, Jigawa is one of the few states where workers look forward to retirement because they are sure their retirement benefits are settled even before their last days in office.

Already there is tension, acrimony and atmosphere of uncertainty in the political landscape concerning the possible outcome of the forthcoming governorship election. Influential traditional and religious leaders have begun to appeal to the conscience of the voters to disregard any emirate division as they head to the polls to elect a new governor.

Dr. Abubakar Sani Birnin Kudu, the Chief Imam of Dutse Central Mosque, in his sermon penultimate Friday blamed the elites and politicians of planting the hatred in the minds of the people with a view to creating divisions. He, therefore, appealed to the public not to be persuaded by those divisive comments from the elites and politicians.

According to the cleric, such behaviour of identifying oneself with a particular region existed in the pre-Islamic era. “But with the coming of Islam, people are united under one identity. Anybody seeing himself from another region as above someone from another clan and region is still in the dark ages”, the cleric said, warning residents against provocative remarks using emirate affiliation.

But the governor appears unfazed about any possible gang up against the party in the Saturday’s governorship election. Speaking with reporters shortly after the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election, Badaru said: “The achievements we have recorded in the presidential election would be further solidified. Remember, the presidential election has diverse interests, but the next election has only two interests and I don’t believe it will be difficult, it’ll be a lot easier to prosecute.”

However, findings revealed that, not many share in the governor’s optimism about the election, given the angry mood of the people towards his leadership. The situation is even more pronounced within his own party, a situation that has made some key members of the party either leaving or adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

Though the personality rating of the deputy governor is very high amongst the populace across the state, his association with the governor could unfortunately pose a serious challenge to his ambition. He’s seen as a quiet, humble, organised and above all, not arrogant. From all indications, he is seen as somebody who operates an open door policy.

But his recent public pronouncement that he would continue the “calculator” policy of the Badaru-era does not seem to sit down well with a large majority of the people. Just like his boss, Namadi is a trained accountant, in fact, a Fellow of ICAN, who allegedly designed the calculator policy put in place by the government as a cost-saving measure to cut-down heavy financial burden on the government when he assumed office as the Commissioner for Finance during the governor’s first term. The policy has unfortunately caught up with him as the deputy governor, with the budgetary allocation to his office slashed by 50 per cent.

Besides, the policy has been a subject of lamentation amongst his own party chieftains, members and the opposition parties. They are using it as a campaign tool against the government and his candidature.

Another obstacle against APC is that the governor, as the leader of the party always not on ground to provide leadership to the party, when it matters most. This, it is alleged, has always led the party to resort to private individuals with resources to wade in and support the party with resources needed to at critical periods, especially during elections. The intervention of a Kano-based industrialist, Isa Gerawa always comes to mind.

A party stalwart, who preferred to be anonymous confided in The Guardian that the governor’s conspicuous absence was visible in the preparation for the just concluded election, adding that the governor only returned to the state capital on the eve of the polls. This, he said, is beside his alleged dictatorial tendencies when it comes to the party administration in the state.

The Guardian gathered that the governor’s handling of the party’s primaries in May last year, has left the APC apparently divided. It was gathered that, as result of the alleged mishandling of the post-primaries disputes, most of the party’s stalwarts have chosen to stay away from the campaigns.

Three instances of cases of discontent within the party easily suffice. First, one of the party’s founding fathers in the state, Farouk Adamu Aliyu, who was one of the governorship aspirants, instituted a legal battle up to Supreme Court to challenge the conduct of the governorship primaries in the state. Analysts believe that if the issues surrounding the conduct of the primaries had been properly handled, he would not have approached the courts.

Similarly, another APC bigwig, Senator Danlandi Abdullahi Sankara, who currently represents the Jigawa Northwest Senatorial District has stayed away from the party’s activities since the primaries. Though he stepped down from the contest in the dying minutes, in a somewhat controversial circumstances, one of his supporters claimed the action was a sign of his displeasure with the governor, who is also from the same zone as him.

The Guardian gathered that Sankara withdrew from the senate primaries after having allegedly discovered that the governor had directed the local government chairmen from his zone to work against him during the exercise. The lawmaker is still aggrieved. Though, he reportedly mobilised votes for the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, in the just concluded presidential election. It is not clear if he would apply in the Saturday’s governorship election.

To demonstrate his apparent anger towards governor and the party, Sankara, who is a three-term senator, and chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation, had twice met with the governorship candidate of the PDP, Lamido in Abuja in the space of two months last year, amid wide speculation within the political cycle of his possible decamping to the PDP. But so far, that has yet to happened.

The senator is believed to have some influence in his district with nine out of the 12 local government chairpersons in the district in his camp. As things are, the APC would need his support to win the governorship election. This is even as his followers have been posting unfavourable comments on social media vowing to bring the APC down.

Four members of the House of Representatives were also denied return tickets under the APC. They are Mohammed Faggen-Gawu, who has joined the PDP, Galambi who defected to the NNPP, Muhammad Gudaji who moved to ADC and Ado Sani. There are indications that they would work against the APC in the election.

Also, nine members of the state House of Assembly who failed to secure APC return tickets for alleged disloyalty to Mr. Badaru may also work against the party. The lawmakers are Sulaiman Musa representing Guri constituency; Garba Muhammad (Garki); Abdulrahman Alkasim (Yankwashi) and Usman Haladu (Kanya).

Others are Ibrahim Kadaita (Gagarawa); Hassan Usman (Roni); Musa Sule (Dutse); Ka’is Abdullah (Malammadori); and Kabiru Abdullahi (Babura – the governor’s hometown).

Galambi, who contested the 2023 election under the platform of the NNPP defeated APC’s Isa Idris Gwaram, a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, while Fagengawu defected to the PDP barely 48-hours to the elections, citing the desire to support young Lamido, with whom he said, they’ve been friends during their university days.

Though, APC managed to secure a victory in the presidential election, the fact that it lost one of its key senatorial zones and two House of Representatives seats to the PDP, is a clear signal that anything could happen in the governorship election.

But the APC state chairman, Aminu Sani Gumel, however, absolved the governor of interference in the administration of the party. In an interview, Gumel, a former chairman of Gumel local government council told The Guardian that allegation of dictatorship against the governor was baseless. He said the governor, as the leader of the party in the state does not take decision on anything concerning the party alone.

“I can tell you categorically that our governor is a real party man, who believes in the supremacy of the party. He does not unilaterally take any decision as far as matter is concerned without consulting all the relevant stakeholders within the party,” he stated.

In the case of Sule Lamido, the outcome of the governorship poll will determine his continued political survival and relevance in Jigawa state. This is not just because his biological son is one of the leading governorship contenders, but because, at close to 75, he believes it is high time he stepped aside from active politics, at least at the state level. Perhaps, it was in line with that thinking that he handed over his son’s governorship project to his predecessor, and a former governor and senator representing Jigawa northwest, Ibrahim Saminu Turaki.

Turaki has been a recurring decimal in Jigawa state since the inception of the fourth republic, culminating in his two term of eight years as the governor of the state, where he was credited with so many landmark achievements, particularly in the area of the provision of lasting infrastructure across the state.

Even though out of office, his leadership of the party in the state has not been in doubt, as he determines who gets what position in the party, except in 2022, when Ringim led some of his former associates, including his appointees to challenge his leadership of the party.

Ringim, the 2015 and 2019 PDP gubernatorial candidate, as well as a four-time Chief of Staff (CoS), Government House and his supporters had protested the conduct of the party’s congress elections. He accused Lamido of sabotaging both elections to clear the way for his biological son, Mustapha to contest the same seat. In addition, they alleged that the former governor had an agreement with Lamido to crown his son in 2023, allegations that the former governor has consistently denied.

Ringim eventually defected to the NNPP. This is after waging a fruitless legal battle with a view to getting the current leadership of the party in the state nullified.

But his critics insist that, by bringing forward his biological son as the next governor of Jigawa, he intends not only to continue ruling the state by proxy, but also to keep his stronghold of the party in the state in perpetuity.

But a senior lecturer at the Federal University Dutse, Dr. Muhammad Bello does not share such view.

Bello, who teaches at the political science department in an interview with The Guardian said no law stopped Lamido’ s son from vying for the governorship of the state simply because his father had once been the governor of the state.

Among those that defected with him at a well-attended rally in Dutse township stadium were three former senators, four former House of Representatives members, scores of former commissioners, local council chairmen, local government and state party officials, former special advisers and assistants and tens of thousands of supporters.

Ironically, it was the choice of Ringim as the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate in 2015 with the backing of Lamido that dealt a severe blow to the party’s cohesion, as some key members of the party left in protest, yet he was still offered the ticket to run again in the 2019 governorship election, where he was defeated for the second time by Badaru.

Coincidentally, Ringim is also one of the top three governorship contenders in this year’s election, which are his third consecutive attempts at becoming the governor of the state.

And given the fact that Lamido’s influence no longer looms large in this election, observers said it is left to be seen how far he can go to get the seat this time around.

Many see his joining the race once again as an avenue of getting back at his former boss, by splitting the votes of the PDP, given that, just like the two previous attempts in 2015 and 2019, going by every available indication, he may still not be able to make it to the Government House, Dutse. This is because a large chunk of his followers was the same people that worked with Lamido during his eight-year tenure.

Mustapha’s political journey to the present state has been an interesting one. With no apparent previous political experiences, he ran an impressive political campaign in 2019, when he was the PDP senatorial candidate for Jigawa Central in that general elections, narrowly losing to Nakudu of the APC, who was then aspiring for his second term in the senate.

Though highly educated and urbane, the younger Lamido has in the course of his campaigns, been working hard to erase the general perception that his father would be the “real” governor, instead of him as an imaginary and idle talks of critics. Besides, there are those, who believed that handing over the governorship project of that magnitude to the former governor was a political miscalculation, given that Turaki’s own attempt at making a political comeback failed to scale through, as he was defeated by one of his protégés, Babangida Hussaini, a retired federal permanent secretary to represent Jigawa Northwest in the 10th senate.

Whichever way the polls go, the two leaders have a date with history. For Lamido, as he takes his bow from active political scene, it is left to be seen if the people of Jigawa would show their appreciation by rewarding him with the election of his son. In the case of Badaru, though his political future is looking so uncertain, winning the governorship election for his party would guarantee him some safe passage out of power.

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