BODUNRIN KAYODE in this report, periscopes the political terrain in Borno State and identifies the candidates warming up to take over the mantle of leadership from incumbent Governor Kassim Shettima in May 2019.
|Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced dates for the 2019 elections, activities in the camps of prospective governorship aspirants are not at top gear yet in Borno State. This is understandable considering the ravaging effects of insurgency that has been the lot of the state in recent years. Many political operatives have chosen to undertake their preparations and politicking towards the 2019 elections quietly.|
And political watchers in Borno State, also called Yerwa, have stated that not many of the actors are in a good mood to start the usual clandestine moves that characterize the build up.
The uncertainty that pervades the city of Maiduguri as a result of the seemingly intractable insurgency is not allowing the usual free flow of activities on the political turf.
Besides the curfew at night, the fact that the two political heavyweights in the state; Senator Ali Sheriff and a former senator and the first two-term governor of the state have been at war since 2015 is also taking its toll on the politics of the state. So far, it is unclear what arsenal the duo would deploy in relation to who succeeds Shettima in the highest political office in Borno.
The two figures have dominated politics of the two leading parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for long. And whoever must become the next governor of the state must be a scion of either of the two broad-based parties and political godfathers.
But as they say in politics, there is always permanent interest. It is possible the duo of Shettima and Sheriff may decide to join forces ahead of 2019 and that would create a solid base for whoever emerges on such platform.
The uncertainty in the political arena is however not seen as pleasant by some political watchers of Yerwa land. Many of them are said to be unhappy that the playing turf for the game is yet to be laid. “And it is almost getting late,” said Alhaji Modu Musa, one of the PDP ward leaders in Bolori market area of Maiduguri.
For many who voted in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in 2015, a number of questions are already agitating their minds; when will it be possible for them to go vote in their council areas without being killed? How do they play the game with all their hearts when remnants of Boko Haram insurgents are still surrounding the entire state, thus making human activities difficult without armed cover? When will this quagmire end so that the real political movements will start?
For nine years, the people have watched closely as the Federal Government uses force to try to stop the bloodletting which has resulted in casualties in excess of 30,000 persons and yet remains unending. Will this forceful solution proffered by the Federal Government end this decade long war? Why did it take the political leaders so long to rethink about their resistance in allowing MNJTF forces to fight along the soldiers inside the Sambisa Forest?
Political actors however told the Nigerian Tribune that what they could not do freely in the state in terms of actual politicking in the state is now taking place in other locations like Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and Abuja, the Federal Capital.
It was gathered that politicians use the occasion of their visits to the holy land and arenas outside the country to express their ideas about the delivery of dividends of democracy in the state. Baana Musa, a card carrying member and staunch supporter of Ali Dalori, the chairmaan of the APC in the state told Nigerian Tribune that, “Boko Haram may be raging but these people still find time to plan for their people. We have been meeting even in town, I can’t tell you where because we control this government but we do meet regularly as a caucus.”
The Role of Stomach Infrastructure (Yirne)
The former national chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff can be said to have institutionalised the idea of stomach infrastructure (yirne) in the state. Sources close to the Sheriff Camp told the Nigerian Tribune that the former governor actually started and still propagates the culture of throwing bundles of cash to the people wherever he goes.
“He sees his distribution of massive amounts of cash to the poorest of the poor who swarm around him wherever he goes as a way of indirectly funding the people,” said one of his supporters who spoke on a condition of anonymity.
Since Sheriff was able to outshine the relics of the progressive politics of the Mohammed Goni era, he has been able to institutionalise the culture of Yirne among the ‘talakawas’ or downtrodden.
It was claimed that Sheriff was able to displace the soft spoken late Mala Kachalla, who was the governor of Borno State between 1999 and 2003 simply with his popularity through the Yirne culture which is the hallmark of Sheriff and his hold on the political terrain in the state.
At present, there appears a consensus in the state that whoever will take over the mantle of governorship in 2019 would have to practice one form of yirne or the other.
A number of names are making the rounds as possible contenders to the governorship seat of Borno in 2019. The political culture in Borno though largely dominated by the recent “yirne” culture, was before now deeply soaked in the tradition of progressive politics tied around the former civil servant turned politician, Governor Mohammed Goni. Former Governor Goni is regarded as the best thing that happened in the old Borno politics in the sense that his foot prints can still be seen in Borno and Yobe states till this day. Modu Sheriff came to the scene and introduced the idea of Yirne also known as stomach infrastructure. It is a far cry from the dividends of democracy concept designed by the likes of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the late Waziri Ibrahim. So the candidates that would emerge would struggle to operate within the two known cultures in the politics of Borno. Some names are already resounding across political corridors within the state.
He is a serving senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence in the red chamber. He is one of the names which have been making the rounds as a possible successor for Shettima for two reasons. First because he is a former member of the kitchen cabinet of Governor Kashim Shettima and secondly he is Kanuri, born with silver spoon and had grown up within the corridors of power. It is believed that the fact he grew up in the corridors of power might have taught him some rules of power play, especially how not to outshine the master. His father was a military governor of the North Central State during the days 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 the Northern senatorial zone of Borno which should rightly get the next opportunity going by the rotational arrangements of political office. According to one of the respected elders who does not wish to be named because of his closeness to the corridors of power in Maiduguri.
“The governor is indeed interested in going to the Senate in 2019 but he is not likely to get the post due to certain intrigues.” It is said that there are plans to get Kyari as a candidate for the Government house while Kashim goes to the Senate.
Kyari is, however, known to have a legacy in the education sector in his constituency by paying the school fees for his people who have been completely devastated by insurgency. His focus on education, where he paid for secondary school final year students classes were paid for while in IDP camps, this is similar to the idea of his political godfather Kashim Shettima. So far, Kyari is keeping mum about the alleged ambition. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be seen as pre-empting his mentor Kashim Shettima.
Senator Kaka Bashir Garbai
He is described as a cool and calculative gentleman who can be mistaken for any common man around. When his name popped up on the list of gubernatorial hopefuls, many factors including his blue blood, were brought up to undermine his ambition; he is said to be a blue blood from the linage of the Shehus, meaning that he may one day become the Shehu of Borno and the chair of the traditional councils of the state, this is the second most powerful traditional ruler in the North after the Sultan of Sokoto.
His childhood friends that spoke to the Nigerian Tribune do not have any problem with his perceived ambition but some people see it as interference into what is meant for the common man by the blue blood family. Apart from this, the fifty-eight year-old is seen being too independent minded, an attribute that political watchers say could be his greatest undoing in the murky political game, instead of being an asset. Observers said that he never really manifested that side of himself until he was sworn in as senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after the death of his predecessor, sixty-year-old Senator Ahmed Zannah. Bashir is seen as a candidate that cannot be easily manipulated or swayed and this, stakeholders believe political allies may find an asset difficult to cope with, though he was said to have displayed loyalty as a former Commissioner for Local Government in the state.
One of the occasions of his display of independent mindedness was when he dropped the bombshell that only three local government areas in Borno were completely safe from Boko Haram and that Mobar, Abadan and Kala Balge were under complete control of Boko Haram at that time. Before he voiced out his opinion, nobody had the courage to say so. Though he has not really confirmed interest in governorship, however, not a few see him as ably qualified for the job.
He is the Commissioner of Works and Transport in Borno State. Lawan is also Kanuri and appears like one of the few top contenders for the job. He has worked with Kashim Shettima in the banking industry and is said to be well known to the governor. For him being a former banker sitting on top of the works ministry, it’s a big sign that he may be undergoing tutelage on how to change the narrative of Maiduguri, a flood-prone city with virtually no drainage system. He is one of those in the kitchen cabinet of the governor and is believed to have the eyes and ears of Kashim Shettima. He may not believe in the crude Yirne culture as practised by Modu Sheriff but he is seen as very approachable.
For over thirty years, the people of southern Borno have been dreaming of getting the ticket to the Government House. But only the central and the north have had their way so far. Isa Buratai is a former commissioner in the state and a member of the APC but he is seen to have some inhibitions because of where he comes from. A key inhibition to his ambition, according to sources, is the fact that he is not from the region of the majority Kanuri in the state. The only politicians that may have crossed that political hurdle include the deputy governor, Zanna Mustapha, who had a military background and Senator Ali Ndume.
Deputy Governor Mamman Drukwa
Ordinarily, looking at the way former Commissioner Drukwa found his way into the Government House as the current deputy governor, one could easily construe that he should be able to make it to the next level but the same factor of the majority holding the aces may be an obstacle.
He hails from the minority ethnic stock in the state which has never produced a governor since 1976. It was also said that Drukwa might have played into the hands of the governor by sticking his head out even before the whistle was blown. Political watchers describe that as a dangerous game which appeares to have left him isolated from the kitchen. Sources close to his office say he will never stop dreaming about higher duty and would be ready to stake what it takes to get the job.
He is believed to be one of the ‘sons’ the governor is well pleased with. The Kanuri political factor in the governorship of Borno looks pretty unpredictable come 2019. That is why this Professor of Engineering, Babagana Zulum, is also seen as a probable governorship hopeful. Sources in the state say that he ranks high on the list of the governor’s beloved including the likes of Kaka Shehu. Since his ministry is in the middle of rebuilding insurgency-ravaged areas, he is well in the eye of the public. Since he pulled out of the academic environment, he has become one of the governor’s disciples and favourites. Though he has not openly declared for the governorship, in view of INEC guidelines, already, not a few watchers in the state have identified him as one of the candidates to watch come 2019.
A lawyer and a strong insider in the governor’s kitchen cabinet, Shehu is a top operative of the ruling APC in the state. He is believed to be one of the cabinet members with strong-holds on the governor as well. Many close watchers of the administration say that once Shettima is in town, Shehu loses his privacy because he is one of the few the governor runs almost everything through. Observers say his strength is in his near absolute loyalty and obedience. He is seen as a disciple of the governor who is quietly creating his own school of loyalists in the state. Kaka Shehu is also a popular member of the state branch of the Nigerian Bar of Association (NBA).
Speaker Abdulkarim Lawan
He is the Speaker of the Borno State House of Assembly and one of the power brokers in the state. Like others, he has not openly announced his ambition. But it is public knowledge that he is one of those on the list of possible gubernatorial aspirants.
His critics however say that he has not made much impact in his constituency because of the effects of insurgency. Some also complain that his management of the state House of Assembly is less than enviable as they point to the state of the Assembly structure. It remains to be seen how he navigates the murky waters to secure the governorship ticket.
He used to be in the heart of the loyalists of Governor Shettima. He was said to have fallen out with the governor when he was the chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). It was said that the struggle for power and relevance between him and the late Zanna boomeranged and affected the running of SEMA. He was said to have also resigned in anger and is said to be considering to run on the platform of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, (ANPP) which is relatively unknown in the state.
Mustapha Shehuri is the Minister of State Power, Works and Housing. Even though he is believed to have an intention, he has not been a loyalist of the governor. It is also said that he doesn’t belong to the Modu Sheriff camp as well.
His ministerial portfolio was said to be as a result of his having being a member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Except the forces in the APC in Abuja seek to compel his candidature, Shehuri may have to reconcile himself with the home based politicians to give his ambition the required flip.
Like Kashim Shettima and the rest, he is believed to be a professional who is in love with his first calling—accounting. As an accountant, it is believed that he would be a well cut out material for the job of governor. Dikwa is also believed to be a humanist and a welfarist who has touched several souls that were badly affected by insurgency.
His ambition is already being linked to the type of experience of Governor Ibrahim Dakwambo of Gombe State who, like Dikwa, also worked in the Office of Accountant General of the Federation.
In Borno, the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs which he leads is believed to be critical to the governor. He is one of the power brokers in the state and a member of the kitchen cabinet. Even though he has not announced his ambition, he is already being seen as one of the likely faces to succeed his boss in the Borno Government House.
He is the founder of the Wanoriyya Amana Foundation, which is in the area of supporting persons battered by insurgency as well as the poorest of the poor. He is said to have decided not to wait to deliver dividends of the democracy to his people before entering the Government House. Through his Foundation, he is said to have helped a lot of IDPs in his constituency and even beyond.
Abubakar is a businessman and the son of the late Ahmed Deribe. Though the governor was said to have expressed disappointment at the numerous moneybags in the state who have not shown interest in building the state, he is said to be toying with the idea of working with Abubakar as his successor in 2019. If the stakeholders coalesce to back him, he can easily emerge the candidate to beat.
Senator Ali Ndume
He hails from Borno South and he is the senator representing the area in the Senate. He was Senate Leader until about a year ago when he had issues with the Senate. Right now, he is seen as the most qualified candidate from the South. This polytechnic lecturer turned partisan politician who has been in the National Assembly since 1999 has remained a huge pillar in the politics of the state. His former colleague and national officer of ASUU, Dr. Musa Abdullahi, told the Nigerian Tribune that Ndume is one independent minded personality who could deliver the goods as governor.
However, when cornered by newsmen recently, he told the gathering that he was not interested in the job.
“I am not interested. I think I want to concentrate on what I am doing for my people and that is what I want now.” Despite that, a lot of people continue to insist the Ndume is warming up to join the race.
The unexpected and unpredictable
One of the unpredictable is the possibility of a dark horse emerging at the end of the day. It is expected that in order to douse the tension and ensure a united front at the end of primaries, the power brokers could then chose a less controversial politician.
The battle really lies on the front of the APC and the PDP and more essentially between the progressive ideals and the Yirne culture. As the months roll by the reality would begin to dawn on these myriads of aspirants.