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Tambuwal’s bargain politics spurring crisis in Sokoto PDP

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
14 August 2022   |   2:45 am
The crisis in the Sokoto State chapter of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not have a recent cause. Trouble set in shortly after Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal snatched

Tambuwal

The crisis in the Sokoto State chapter of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not have a recent cause. Trouble set in shortly after Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal snatched his second term mandate from the jaws of menacing defeat.

   
Those who knew how close the Sokoto State governorship poll in 2019 was between Tambuwal, who retreated from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), and the APC candidate, Ahmad Aliyu, would understand the intricate politics playing out in the build-up to post-Tambuwal Sokoto.
  
Prior to the 2019 poll, Tambuwal, who had joined his predecessor and godfather, Senator Magatakarda Wammako, to defect to APC, decided to rejoin PDP, thereby abandoning Wammako in APC.
   
Tambuwal’s former deputy, Ahmad Aliyu won the APC governorship ticket and contested the March 11, 2019 poll against the governor. The election proved a titanic battle between two former political allies-turned-bitter rivals, former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa and Senator Wammako.
   
Like Tambuwal and Aliyu, Wammako was Bafarawa’s deputy and went ahead to succeed Bafarawa, after crossing over to PDP. The 2019 Sokoto State governorship, therefore, became a surrogate political battle between Bafarawa and Wammako.
    
It was based on APC’s decision to hand over party structures to outgoing governors that compelled Bafarawa to defect to PDP instead of allowing himself to come under his former deputy, whom he brought into politics from the civil service.
     
Just as Tambuwal mounted the saddle in 2015 through the help of Wammako and the Buhari Tsunami, the governor reclined Bafarawa’s grassroots support to win the 2019 governorship. After the first ballot was declared inconclusive, the governor narrowly escaped defeat by scoring 512, 002 against Aliyu’s 511, 660 votes.
   
It is against this background of political intrigues that the current crisis within Sokoto PDP could be explained, because the people of Sokoto look at the governor with suspicion, even as many believe that he allows his narrow political calculations to dwarf collective bargain.
   
Tambuwal’s political ‘cleverness’ played out during the build-up to the PDP governorship primary, when the governor’s presidential aspiration put his loyalists in suspense over his succession plan. Although the governor was covertly tipping the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Saidu Umar, he allowed his other five loyalists, who were among the top notches for the PDP governorship ticket.
   
Among the pack were the incumbent deputy governor, Munir Dan Iya, son of the former Governor Bafarawa, Sagir, state PDP chairman, Bello Aliyu (Goronyo), Mukhtar Shagari, who like Ahmad Aliyu as deputy governor, refused to follow his principal, Wammako to APC in 2014 and Umar Bature, the National Organising Secretary of the party.
   
Tambuwal’s decision to step down for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar during the PDP presidential primary also impacted on the political calculations in Sokoto State. For instance, having noticed Tambuwal’s ambition to gun for the Senate, the incumbent Senator representing Sokoto South, Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba, decided to cross over to APC to await a contest with the governor.
  
Danbaba’s supporters have been spreading the campaign of non-performance against Tambuwal even before the governor stepped down for Atiku at the PDP special convention, just as they were said to have reached out to other aggrieved PDP faithful to move over to APC.
  
That campaign paid off when Tambuwal’s Commissioner for Careers and Security Matters, Colonel Garba Moyi Isa (red), left PDP and joined Wammako in APC. Most of those leaving PDP for APC accuses the governor of not carrying them along, stressing that even when former Governor Bafarawa and General Aliyu Gusau prevailed on the governor to step down for Atiku, he (Tambuwal) did not take them into confidence about his succession plans.
    
Some PDP stakeholders that spoke to The Guardian in confidence said despite knowing that he would step down from the presidential race, he decided to tackle Prof. Ango Abdullahi when the Northern Elders selected Dr. Bukola Saraki and Governor Bala Mohammed.
    
They described the governor’s speech at the PDP presidential primary as hypocritical, pointing out that he merely used the presidential contest to negotiate for President of the Senate.
   
It could be recalled that Tambuwal while announcing his decision to opt-out of the presidential race, declared: “Having consulted so many people across the country, the time has come to make the sacrifice for the good of the country and the party. Also, to minimize rancour and jostling for power among aspirants, I have come to the conclusion to step down from the race. I urge my supporters to vote for Atiku Abubakar.” 
 
 
The governor was therefore accused of betraying Governor Nyesom Wike, whom they said assisted Sokoto State PDP and the citizens on a number of occasions, especially during the fire outbreak at the Central market.

Wammako’s Triumph And Wike’s Pushback
THE misgivings against Tambuwal within the Sokoto State chapter of PDP have translated to Senator Wammako’s triumph as the new political leader in the state because party faithful now recall how he disagreed with Bafarawa over supporting a man that could not read or write as the party’s chairman.
  
Wammako’s Gawon Nama Sokoto residence has become a new political Mecca following a series of high-profile defections to APC. For instance, speaking after he joined APC, Tambuwal’s former commissioner, Colonel Moyi, explained that he decided to leave PDP because he was not “happy with a system that lacked trust and focus.”
   
He added that having noticed Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko’s quality leadership, he had no option but to join Sarkin Yamman Sokoto in his efforts to lift Sokoto APC supporters.

 
Moyi noted that his decision to resign his position as commissioner was a demonstration of sacrifice to support Wamakko and APC in Sokoto State.
   
Wamakko had charged Moyi, who was accompanied by the APC Deputy governorship candidate, Idris Muhammad Gobir, Senatorial candidate, Hon. Ibrahim Lamido Isa and House of Representatives candidate, Hon. Abdulkadir Jelani Danbuga, to work hard and ensure “the victory of APC in Sokoto East Senatorial District and the state at large during the 2023 General elections.”
    
Perhaps, noticing the rising profile of Wamakko and ostensibly to requite Tambuwal for “his great betrayal,” Rivers State Governor, Wike has developed a more than a cursory political relationship with Senator Wamakko. This new camaraderie came to light last Thursday when the governor personally invited Senator Wamakko to Port Harcourt next Tuesday to commission the newly completed Ogbunabali/Eastern bye-pass road project.
   
Apart from Wamakko, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila were also invited, thereby throwing up speculations that the Rivers strong man was warming up to new political friends in APC to downplay his ill-treatment in PDP.
   
Sources said that Tambuwal’s sudden about-turn to support former Vice President Atiku Abubakar after the PDP governors resolved that one of them should be supported for the PDP presidential ticket “was the unkindest cut.”
 
Similarly, noticing the grave danger that Wike’s estrangement from PDP could cause, Sokoto State governor, Bafarawa, regretted that the national leadership of PDP did not step in immediately to quell the crisis in the party.
    
Specifically, Bafarawa described the attempt to neglect Wike and scheme him out as a very grave mistake on the part of the national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, lamenting that PDP stands the risk of losing again in 2023.
   
While urging Ayu to resign if he cannot solve the crisis in the party, Bafarawa assured journalists that the ongoing reconciliation efforts would resolve the seeming crisis, stressing that immediately after the presidential candidate emerged, party leaders should have taken on the fallout from the primary.
   
The former Sokoto State governor, who is now among the respected elders of PDP, described the PDP crisis as “a very serious issue which nobody can undermine,” even as he blamed the problem on party leadership.
      
Bafarawa stated: “What I am trying to say is that the candidate (Atiku) is no longer an aspirant. He is a candidate. He is supposed to be controlled by the party. So, if any technical problem arises, it is the duty of the leadership of the party to swing into action and solve the problems.
   
“But, in the present situation, it looks like the leadership is not helping matters to bring the situation down. It is the duty of the national chairman to lead even the presidential candidate to go and speak with Wike for whatever decision they have taken, let him be recognised.
    
“As far as I am concerned and to the best of my knowledge, nobody can undermine Wike in building PDP. He was an aspirant, he was number two and he has done everything to help the party to be what it is today. So, it is very painful for anybody to abandon him and say to hell with him. Wike is a factor in PDP in Nigeria. Nobody can say to hell with him.
     
“Being the national chairman, he should forget that even if there is any difference between him and Wike, he is supposed to take away his personal interest and rescue the party because he is the leader; it is the responsibility given to him.”
    
Insisting that nobody can undermine or ignore Wike, Bafarawa contended that as an incumbent governor, Wike cannot be dismissed as inconsequential, adding, “Wike is a human being. When a mistake has been made and people recognise that they have made a mistake, they should seek him out for support, asking him to forgive and to forget.
     
Bafarawa, who was once a national chairman of the All Peoples Party (APP), said a national party chairman cannot afford to neglect an incumbent governor whose state has a huge number of voters. “You cannot ignore them and as a leader of the party, you are supposed to think of the importance of Rivers State itself and the person who is governing the state,” he added.
    
While the bad blood in PDP continued, Wike, in allusion to Tambuwal, had chided Atiku for depending on people who won their governorship seat with a mere 300 votes, adding that most of those feeding the flame of distrust in PDP have no electoral worth in their constituencies.
    
Tambuwal’s margin of victory over the APC governorship candidate in the 2019 poll was 342, as such the allusion to electoral worth could be a way of pointing to the declining political influence of the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum in his home state.
   
There is no doubt that a converge of issues is feeding the ongoing climate of distrust and mutual suspicion within the Sokoto State chapter of PDP. How far the party resolves the crisis at the national level would therefore determine to what extent PDP would in retaining the state in 2023.
   
Consequently, the 2023 governorship contest in Sokoto State would be a referendum on Tambuwal’s politics, both in the state and at the party’s national level.

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