2011: GOVERNORS WHO MAY NOT RETURN
Even as political parties are awaiting the amended timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the battle for the control of the soul of various states in the country promises to be interesting and intriguing. Indeed, as the 2011 elections draw closer, the incumbent governors are strategising and scheming to maintain their hold on power while forces aiming to unseat them are building alliances and mobilising for that purpose.
Apart from the governors who are constitutionally barred from continuing in office, having spent two terms of eight years, some of those serving their first term of four years may not return in 2011. Even some of the governors, whose term will expire next year but are angling to enthrone their protÃ©gÃ©, may not succeed in their plans.
Saturday Sun investigations revealed that the shock, which will trail the exercise, will reverberate in all the geo-political zones in the country and across parties.
In Lagos State, Governor Babatunde Fashola's fate hangs in the balance. This is despite the fact that he has towered above most of his colleagues in terms of performance. Indeed, since he came into office in 2007 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), he has demystified governance, by what he has been able to accomplish. He has transformed the Centre of Excellence in the area of infrastructural development.
However, Fashola's fate appears sealed by the forces desperately determined to deny him the ticket of the ACN and, therefore, deny him the platform to pursue his re-election aspiration. Ordinarily, Fashola could have moved to another party to seek his political salvation, should the ACN deny him the opportunity of re-contesting on its platform in 2011, but he does not seem to have the political structure to actualize such ambition.
Moreover, the forces against him are so entrenched in the politics of Lagos and do not want to have anything to do with him again. It was gathered that the forces, which are in the party and House of Assembly, have foreclosed the option of impeaching him, which was earlier considered. However, they want to make sure that the governor does not get a re-election ticket.
Since opposition appears dead in Lagos, those against Fashola's comeback bid are confident that if ACN denies him ticket, that would be his end politically.
Sources revealed that those, who do not want Fashola to return, have compiled a dossier on him, which they intend to present to the caucus that would decide who would be the standard bearer of ACN. With such dossier, it was gathered that the group would ask Fashola to honourably decline from seeking re-election.
However, it was learnt that the governor is making efforts to appease the godfathers of ACN, particularly former governor of the state, Senator Bola Tinubu. Sources revealed that he has solicited the assistance of Oba of Lagos, Oba Akiolu 11, to plead on his behalf. Three weeks ago, Oba Akiolu invited Tinubu and Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Ikuforiji, in this regard.
Although the Abia State governor, Theodore Orji was received into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by President Goodluck Jonathan and all the big names in the party, it would take a miracle for him to remain as governor after the 2011 election. Since he came into office in 2007, Abia has tottered on the brink. Apart from his government's inability to deliver verifiable dividend of democracy to the people of Abia State, the security concerns in the state have put him on the spot. For a while, Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state, has been a lawless city, where kidnappers, robbers and sundry criminals run riot unchallenged. The situation is such that doctors, banks, market associations and schools have had to close shop for weeks because venturing out at Aba could be one big risk.
Again, Orji's naivety in political strategy appears obvious, as demonstrated by his penchant for jumping from one political party to another. Elected on the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), he had defected to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the PDP within three and half years. In PDP, it is doubtful if he would get the ticket to contest the 2011 governorship election. PDP members, like the former deputy governor of the state and now serving senator, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; Chief Henry Ikoh and Chief Onyema Ugochukwu are believed to be interested in the seat. To make matters worse, the governor has parted ways with his godfather, former governor Orji Uzor Kalu, who single-handed installed him in his present position. The PPA is also fielding a candidate in the governorship election.
Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi is not likely to return as governor of Zamfara State in 2011 because of a number of factors. To start with, he is engaged in an endless battle of wits with his predecessor, Senator Yerima. The conflict between the two former allies has reached a point where reconciliation is no longer feasible. The 2011 election presents Yerima the opportunity to attempt to get his pound of flesh. Considering the fact that Yerima is a grassroots politician, with a large, cult-like followership in Zamfara State, he may easily teach Shinkafi the political lesson of his life.
Furthermore, the fact that Shinkafi is supporting the presidential ambition of his father-in-law, General Ibrahim Babangida (retd) on the platform of the PDP makes it even more difficult for him. There is doubt that the PDP would make him its standard bearer in next year's election because of the President Goodluck Jonathan factor. Sources said that this is why he, recently, started praising Jonathan, as a way of appeasing him.
Another factor that will work against Shinkafi is that he is in the bad book of former National Security Adviser, Gen Aliyu Gusau, a prominent indigene of the state, who is also nursing a presidential ambition on the platform of the PDP. The conflict between both men has polarised the PDP in the state. Still, indigenes of the state are peeved that Shinkafi is backing Babangida rather than Gusau.
Alhaji Ahmed Ahmed, a public affairs analyst, summed up the mood in Zamfara State thus: 'Governor Shinkafi has disappointed the people of Zamfara State by not supporting our son and brother, Gen Aliyu Gusau, in his quest to be president. We are disappointed that he is supporting another person because of a woman. But we will express our feelings at the polls. In fact, if Shinkafi is nursing the ambition of remaining our governor in 2011, he should forget it. We will teach him a lesson with our votes.'
To say the least, the 2011 governorship election in Enugu State will be total war. And it will be fought on three fronts or between three camps. The battle will be among the Governor Sullivan Chime camp, the Ebeano dynasty headed by Senator Chimaroke Nnamani and the Nwodo clan. While Chime has indicated his desire to continue in office, his predecessor, Nnamani, is not pretending about his desire to shove him aside. At the same time, the Nwodos, led by the PDP national chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, want to install their own man as governor.
Indeed, it promises to be mother of all battles for a number of reasons. On Chime's part, he will maximise the incumbency factor; Nnamani will try to teach his former protÃ©gÃ© the political lesson of his life. The Nwodos will leave no stone unturned to assert themselves, as the most visible political family in the state. First, the battle will be fought in PDP, where a new congress would hold.
The Nwodos and Nnamani want a new party leadership in PDP in the state. This is where Chime's problem would start, as the Nwodos are bent on taking over the party echelon. Nnamani seems to be working ahead of the rest, as he had registered a political party, Peoples for Democratic Change (PDC), with which he wants to unseat Chime. What makes Chime's case bad is that Nnamani and Nwodos have common goal: They want to install somebody from the Nsukka zone of the state as governor.
Instructively, the odds do not seem to favour Chime. First, he was said not to have been favourably disposed to the installation of Jonathan as acting president when the late President Musa Yar'Adua was undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Second, he is currently having issues with such political leaders in the state as former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and former Senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani.
Analysts contend that but for the curious manner the legal team representing the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and Alhaji Mohammed Dingyadi in the ongoing court case regarding the 2007 governorship election of Sokoto State, Governor Wamakko would have been kicked out of office before now. But if at the end of the day Wamakko remains in office till next year, he would find it difficult to return because of the array of forces against him. His former principal, Senator Attahiru Bafarawa remains resolute in his desire to stop Wamakko. A grassroots politician with immense goodwill, Bafarawa has the capacity to ensure electoral woes for Wamakko.
Governor Ikedi Ohakim has a big task to retain his position as governor. One of the things some people have against him is that his government has been trailed by many controversies. For instance, he was in the news not long ago following allegation that he flogged a public affairs commentator, Mr. Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha. Recently, his security details also flogged, detained and humiliated a Catholic priest over a minor traffic incident. Although he has publicly apologised to the priest for the dehumanising treatment, the Catholic community in the state, which constitutes a large percentage of the population of voters, is believed to be waiting for the election to pay him back.
Besides, such political bigwigs in the state as Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and ex-governor, Chief Achike Udenwa are bent on stopping Ohakim. He is also accused of performing below expectation but engaging in media hype to over-blow his achievements.
Ohakim's defection from PPA, on whose platform he became governor, is also a minus for him in PDP; some people see him as an outsider.
The recent court's pronouncement that there will be election in Rivers State next year puts Governor Rotimi Amaechi on the high jump. This is so because there are many forces against his continuation in office for the second term. On one hand, the problem which Amaechi has with his erstwhile godfather, Dr. Peter Odili is still there. Also, President Goodluck Jonathan's wife, Patience, is believed to have something against him. During the First Lady's visit, as was widely reported, she publicly upbraided the governor.
Political watchers contend that the first lady's action in the public clearly shows that all is not well between Jonathan and Amaechi. And considering that the president is the leader of the PDP, he might not be favourably disposed toward the governor being the party's standard bearer in 2011.
Despite the show exhibited during President Jonathan's visit to Bayelsa State this week, it is an open secret that he and Governor Timipriye Sylva do not enjoy a chummy relationship. Their frosty relationship began before the 2007 election when Jonathan, after being picked as running mate to the late Yar'Adua, rooted for Timi Alaibe to take over from him as governor. Eventually, Sylva secured the PDP ticket and was returned governor by the INEC.
While Jonathan was vice president, Sylva was said not to have deferred to him much. Sylva was believed not to have supported the idea of making Jonathan the acting president when the late Yar'Adua was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for medical reasons. It is difficult to believe that Jonathan has not forgotten the incident. The president is also equally working with Alaibe, who is his special adviser. Sylva's second term ambition, therefore, cannot be guaranteed, except if there is a general deal among governors and Jonathan.