2011 AND THE BATTLE FOR SUCCESSION
In less than one year from now, most of the 36 states would go to the polls to elect new governors. Expectedly, the political temperature is beginning to rise across the country. But in Ogun, Kwara, Kano, Osun and Borno, the contest would be much more different. This is not unconnected with the fact that the governors of these five states are in their second term, consequently, they can't contest again. The 1999 Constitution prescribes a minimum of two terms of four years each for elected governors.
Already, there are serious indications that it is not going to be an easy battle in the concerned states. This is as a result of a number of factors. One of such is the interest in the outgoing governors to determine who succeed them. Next to this is the desire of some powerful forces in the states to ensure that they displace the existing governors in the politics of the states. The other factor is that of the desire of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over some of the states presently controlled by the opposition parties.
These states include Borno and Kano. Both states are presently controlled by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). The ANPP would not want to let go the two states where Senator Alli Modu Sheriff and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau presently hold sway.
Even in PDP-controlled states like Ogun and Osun, the situations would not be different. While Ogun State PDP contends with an intra- party crisis that is threatening to claim the soul of the party, vested interests in the Osun PDP would make the succession struggle in the Living Spring state an epic battle.
One major determinant of who succeeds Dr. Bukola Saraki next year would be Dr. Olusola Saraki, father of the incumbent governor, is the generalissimo of Kwara politics. Since 1979, the older Saraki, who was Senate Leader in the Second Republic, had always made serious input into the emergence of the governor of the state. Irrespective of the party he belongs to, he always ensures that he produces the next chief executive of the North Central State.
At the inception of the present democratic dispensation, Saraki, then a member of the All Peoples Party (APP) now ANPP enthroned the former governor of the state, the late Admiral Muhammed Lawal. When Lawal fell out of favour with him, he, the godfather of Kwara politics, left the ANPP for the former governor. He moved to the PDP.
When it was time for the 2003 election, he fielded his son, Bukola as the PDP candidate against Lawal, who was seeking a second term. Bukola did not only win the 2003 governorship poll, he capped it up with a second term victory in the 2007 governorship election. As the scion of the Saraki dynasty is winding his administration, the older Saraki is also warming up to give the state another governor.
In fact, Saraki had wished that the Constitution does not place a term limit for governors, so that, Bukola can continue in office as governor beyond 2011.
According to him, ' only that I wish that the Constitution had not given a limited term. If it were possible for Bukola to carry on, I would have loved it; I would be very happy… But now I am going to Mecca and I will pray to God, because when I was begging God to give me somebody that will take up my dream of Kwara, that was how Bukola came up. Now that he is going, we have to pray for somebody to take over from him,' the elder statesman said last year.
He promised the people of the state that he would announce the next governor of the state by the end of last year. Though he is yet to do that, not a few people are looking at his direction to know the next governor of the state. Already, speculations are rife that the godfather's daughter, Senator Gbemisola Saraki is already being prepared to take over from her elder brother as the governor next year.
One factor that would help Saraki in his ambition to singlehandedly produce the next governor is the fact that there is seemingly no visible opposition.
If the next governor of Kwara State is going to be subject to the whims and caprices of Saraki, same cannot be said of Ogun State. Ogun is home of the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Speaker of the House of Representative, Dimeji Bankole and the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye. There has been no love lost among the trio and the governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Daniel has been having a running battle with Obasanjo et al, over the control of the party structure in the state. A development that has given room to the polarization of the state chapter of the PDP where all the key political actors in the state belong.
As Daniel's second tenure gradually draws to a close, there are strong indications that the rivalry between him and his traducers would assume a fiercer dimension.
Meanwhile, the fight for Daniel's successor will be a straight fight among the governor and Obasanjo, Bankole and their supporters on one hand and the entire state PDP and the political parties especially the Action Congress (AC) led by the former governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba. Between the Obasanjo and Daniel groups whichever group succeeds in producing the PDP candidate would have the AC to contend with in the main election.
ANPP candidate in the last election, Senator Ibukunle Amosun is also a factor to be considered in the 2011 election. Amosun, who was runner-up in the 2007 election is said to be interested in trying his luck again next year.
But one thing that would work seriously against the ruling party in the state would be their inability to resolve the differences before the main election, a situation that would boost the opposition chances in the election.
More than any of the seven states that their chief executives are completing their second term in 2011, the situation in Osun is still very fluid. The litigation arising from the last governorship election is still on- going. The AC standardbearer in that election, Rauf Aregbesola, is still challenging the validity of the mandate of the Governor, Prince Olugunsoye Oyinlola. Whatever happens in that state would depend on the outcome of the pending case.
However, that notwithstanding, there is already a scramble for who governs the state from 2011. But one thing that is going to influence matters in Osun would be the clamour for power shift. The Ijesha are already making a strong case to produce the next governor. Already, the traditional institution has thrown its hat into the fray, making a strong case for the zone. But even within the zone, there is also an intense power play between the people of Ilesa and Ife over which of the two towns would produce the next governor. But suffice it to say that already, there are aspirants within the PDP seeking to get the party' s nod to contest the next governorship election.
But everything is dependent on the pending electoral suit instituted by Aregbesola against Oyinlola. Whether or not there would be governorship election in Osun next year would depend on the outcome of that sui at the election tribunal.
It is expected that the next governorship election would be very explosive. This is not unconnected with the desire of the PDP to take over the state in the next election. Kano hitherto a PDP state has been a stronghold of the All Nigeria Peoples Party since 2003. This is however to the consternation of the ruling party at the centre. The PDP national chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor not long ago expressed dismay that Kano as big and strategic as it is in Nigeria's politics is being controlled by the opposition. Ogbulafor had stated, ' Kano State must be brought back to the PDP. It belongs to the PDP basket. It is painful that the PDP doesn't have a governor in state like Kano'. Flowing from that declaration from the PDP helmsman, it is expected that the party would deploy every weapon in its arsenal to ensure it wins back the state it lost in the 2003 general election.
On the other hand, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, the man who rubbished the PDP incumbency factor in 2003 would do everything within his power to ensure that an ANPP stalwart succeeds him as governor in 2011. Having successfully kept the PDP at bay in the past eight years in the state, the Kano governor would stop at nothing to thwart the plans of the PDP against ANPP in the 2011 governorship polls in the state.
On that score an epic political battle is inevitable in Kano in the months ahead.
Just like Kano, it would be a battle royale in Borno State come 2011. The ANPP governor, Senator Ali Modu Sherif would be completing his second term in 2011. Since Sheriff succeeded the late Mala Kachala as governor, he has not looked back in consolidating his hold on power. It is speculated that the governor is preparing his wife, Fatima Sheriff or his younger brother, Mai Sheriff to succeed him next year.
The governor and his handlers have dismissed the claim with a wave of the hand. But what is obvious to all is that Sheriff is desirous of having a successor that will pander to him.
In as much as the ANPP desires to hold on to the levers of power in Borno, the PDP said time is up for the former, which would have ruled Borno for 12 years by May 29, 2011. The state chairman of the PDP in the state Alhaji Baba Basharu, told Daily Sun recently that his party is poised to produce the next governor of the state. He said this is because the people are tired of the ANPP government. But for the state government, that is just an empty boast. An ANPP chieftain and younger brother to the governor, Alhaji Mai Modu Sheriff said the PDP could never win an election in the state.
In his words 'just count the PDP out. Because they don't have a room here. They are like strangers and nobody knows them. The PDP only exist as a party by name. In Borno, there is no seat for PDP come 2011.'
The die had been cast in the concerned states. For all the concerned parties, it is no retreat, no surrender. Who wins ? The outgoing governors or their adversaries? The election would decide.