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BATTLE OVER SHEKARAU'S SUCCESSOR HEATS UP KANO POLITICS

By NBF News
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Gov. Shekarau
Will  the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in Kano State be three times lucky in winning the governorship? Can they, in 2011, spring the same old magic that has left their arch rivals in awe? And can they bury their hatchets and field a team, not a distraught crowd, in the next polls? These are some of the pertinent questions that have occupied the minds of keen observers of the politics of the ancient city of Kano in recent times.

The reasons for these questions are not difficult to offer. At the best of times, Kano ANPP's triumph over their most dreaded rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been marginal, always  a slim victory that confounds their man opponent..

But these are not the best of seasons for the ANPP in Kano . A number of indicators which were hitherto in their favour are no longer there in the present equation. For instance, that relatively mass appeal enjoyed by the party on account of association with General Muhammadu Buhari has since evaporated, as the Kastina- born General has pitched his tent with his new political party, the Congress for Progressive Change. And the anti- Obasanjo sentiment that smoldered then, which in the first place, helped invent the Buhari phenomenon has since faded with the passage of time.

Today, the party has come to distress as a result of its own internal wrangling. The rumble is centrally drawn from the choice of a successor made by the Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. Recently, he went public with his choice and the lot fell on a former Commissioner for Local Governments, Alhaji Sagir Salihu Takai, a gentleman from the Kano South Senatorial district. But since then, all hell had been let loose by the rest of the aspirants to his seat, many of whom had been seeing themselves as worthy successors before now.

Among aspirants who have expressed discomfort with the choice made by the governor are Alhaji Sani Lawal Kofa Mata, Alhaji Mohammed Adamu Bello, a senator representing Kano Central Senatorial zone; Alhaji Kabiru Gaya, a  senator and former governor of the state; Sheik Ibrahim Khali , a conservative Islamic scholar, and the deputy governor of the state, Engineer Tijjani Abdullahi Gwarzo.

Generally, these aspirants unanimously faulted the governor's choice of Alhaji Salihu Sagir Takai on the grounds that he is much more down the ladder in the ranking of party stalwarts and in the contributions made to the survival of the party. They equally frowned at the hasty  public declaration of this choice, arguing that given regard to gullibility of the political atmosphere, it will result into massive flow of support in the direction of Takai such that even when eventually a primary is held by the party for the aspirants, it will be a mere formality, since Takai is already being perceived as the governor's choice..

They equally contended that since the aides of the governor are many in number, same for the elders committee which had the full presence of the interest of the governor, whoever is endorsed by the governor will automatically win the primaries. For most of them also, Alhaji Salihu  Sagir Takai might not defeat the candidates of either of the two parties in the state- the CPC and the PDP-  just as they urged the governor to rise above his personal interest for the sake of the survival of the party.

'He [Takai] simply lacks what it takes to go through this journey, We are doomed in the hands of PDP except some miracles happen,' one of the aspirants told Daily Sun .

But the pro- Takai camp said last week, that the choice of Takai fits into the political calculation of Kano State . For instance, it would end the 12 years unbroken stay of power in the Kano Central senatorial zone. 'Much noise have been made regarding the fact that one area of Kano has been producing the governorship but quote me, this politics of rural versus urban residence will surely come to play and the  rural are going to conspire to deal with the urban crowd,' it was argued.

Takai, besides his years of loyalty to the governor and his service to the state in various capacities, is also reputed to be a congenial person that can carry the fortunes of the party to a greater height even as they said that Takai record remains unblemished: he has no political liability. In Kano politics, big names don't win elections, good name does, they sermonized.

A Government House source, who craves for anonymity, said the choice of Takai must be seen and discussed objectively while expressing concern that a number of commentators have been cheaply swayed by a wave of a carefully scripted political propaganda mouthed by the aggrieved parties. He wondered if it is politically correct and fair for a governor of eight years standing and a man of Shekarau's repute to be displaced or intimidated in the process of selecting his own successor.

The source argued that given the situation in Nigeria, where governors give cold shoulder to their predecessor, any governor who fails to ensure the emergence of a trusted successor will invariably dig his political grave .

He said that most of the people fighting for the ticket of the party are persons whom the governor have  reservations over their capability to serve the interest of  the people of Kano State .

'Don't forget, everybody wants to bestow on his people a worthy successor that will sustain his legacies,' he added.

Speaking on the controversy that has ensnarled the party since the governor's expression of support for Takai, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media Affairs, Alhaji Sule Yau Sule, recalled that for a long time, the stakeholders of the party which consist of the party big had demanded that the governor made known his choice of a successor.

According to Alhaji Sule, they were unanimous that whoever the governor picked among them would earn their unanimous support, noting that this was the background to the declaration of the governor's choice recently. He regretted that the choice had generated enough concern within the party, but assured that the governor is consulting deeply with the individuals in the race and not long from now, there will be a consensus on the matter.

But aspirants in the ANPP and their proxies, are waiting in the wings, spoiling for a show down. In fact, since the declaration of Sagir Salihu Takia and his famous courtesy visit to the Government House, some weeks back, his opponents have been squealing against his choice, publicly especially on Radio Freedom, Kano.

Among those in the vanguard of this protest is the Deputy Governor, Engineer Tijjani Abdulhahi Gwarzo. By their calculation, he is Shekarau's successor next in the hierarchy of power, and should step in his master's shoe at the expiration of this tenure. They also claimed that that he has served his principal well enough, with no record of  disloyalty, to date. They quickly recalled that even the governor was quoted as saying that he could sleep with his two eyes closed with a deputy like Engineer Tijjani.  They also reeled to reel out his profile as a former Chairman of ALGON, and therefore, a grass-root politician.

Indeed, if the grass-root level is what matters most in this case, the Deputy Governor will easily pick the ticket in the party. Over the years, he has gradually built a formidable structure, inspiring loyalty among the elected council bosses in the state, many of whom he ensured their victory at the primary elections years back. This way, his reach is enormous with the delegates of the party. A source told the Daily Sun that when the governor entrusted him with the responsibility of the party's primary, he paved the way for many of his boys to become council bosses, some of whom were not the choice of their local people, adding that if today, the Deputy Governor decides  to turn his back on the party at this last minute, it could cause a lot of harm.

But his detractors have a counter view worth considering too. They claim that his influence in the politics of the state and in the home area of Gwarzo is  too insignificant, demanding for the number of votes the ANPP secured in Gwarzo, ahead of the PDP in the 2007 elections.

Another key opponent of the governor's choice is Alhaji Sani Lawal Kofar Mata, the erstwhile Executive Secretary of the State Pilgrims Welfare Board. Until lately, he was a member of the kitchen cabinet of the administration. Many could easily remember that it was Mata that forcefully took the ANPP's flag from the hands of General Buhari and handed it over to Shekarau in Gusau, Zamfara State , during the party's convention in 2007.

But he had since  been  sacked from his position of influence. In his place, a new Executive Secretary of the Board, Alhaji Abubakar Matawalle, was appointed ending weeks, if not months, of a boiling drama and power play, while setting the stage for new confrontations. Among his sins are that he was already campaigning for the governorship while holding his office as the executive director of the board.

So far, Mata has been undaunted and has hit the roads. To match words with actions, Kofar Mata had publicly declared his interest in the governorship race, at the Maraba Cinema, late last month, with several hundreds of youths,  in attendance chatting and idolizing him as the symbol of their salvation.

Another feature of the Mata protest is that he has  been mobilizing all other aspirants to put up a united front against the Governor's choice. Here, several nocturnal meetings have been held by the opponents in different locations in the state, the Daily Sun was told. Besides, he was in attendance in the public declaration of interest by Sheik Ibrahim Khaliel,  and there, he offered to support any of the aspirants who emerged victorious among them.

Senator Gaya is also in the battle and has sworn to battle on, with or without the governor's support. He is  former governor in the short lived Third Republic. When Mallam  Shekarau picked his choice of a successor from Gaya`s  backyard and  senatorial zone, he realized that it is no longer a joke.

One of the possible consequences of the current diatribe is that a number of the protesting aspirants and their followers are likely to look elsewhere in the event they are not guaranteed a level playing field. But the Congress for Progressive Change that had become the plan B of many of the aggrieved members of the ANPP appears not to be a formidable platform. The party has its internal feud too. The actual owner of the party, Alhaji Rufai Hanga and the members of The Buhari Organization (TBO) are already flexing their muscles in Kano .

Despite this state of affairs, the state chairman of the party in the state, Alhaji Sani Hashim Hotoro in a press conference, described the governor as the leader of the party and said he only expressed his personal opinion with regard to the choice of Takai

He maintained that as a member of the party, Shekarau  has the right to a choice but added that the choice of the governor does not mean the aspirant he prefers will not be challenged at the congress  of the party. He maintained that only the congress will produce the winner at the end of the day, even though he observed that the party has a tradition of making efforts to get consensus candidates for all positions.. He assured that the rumbles over the choice of the flag bearer of the party will be resolved soon as wide range consultations are currently in progress among all the aspirants.

Alhaji Danlami Hamza is a founding member of the ANPP in the state and member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Fagge Constituency. According to him ,the party has always faced  hurdles in the choice of gubernatorial candidate in Kano, but he observed that it has the capacity to subdue it.

' Yes, there are conflicts within the party but there is nothing impossible. Don't forget in 2003, we faced a huge hurdle and God in His miraculous  way made it possible for us to come out of that crisis and even win the state. I believe reason will prevail at the end of the day.  I believe that the governor is a matured politician, and I can tell you that what he is doing at the moment is reaching out to the people, because he is the leader of the party'

But Hamza advised the governor to reach out to all.

'It is important that he reaches out to the other aspirants and the other aggrieved parties generally, because under the best of circumstance, we have a fight on our hands in Kano , not only with the PDP. Don't forget the breaking away of Buhari and his people. So we cannot afford to make mistakes, we must work extra hard than we ever did before, to win the state and I think we can do that.'