KATSINA 2011: EVEN IN DEATH, YAR'ADUA IS A FACTOR
Katsina State was created on September 23, 1987 by the General Ibrahim Babangida junta. Carved out of the old Kaduna State, it is bounded in the east by Kano State, in the west by Sokoto State, in the south by Kaduna State and in the north by Niger Republic. One of the most homogenous states in the country, the indigenes are Hausa and Fulani from the three constituent emirate councils of Katsina, Daura and Funtua. It is made up of 34 Local Government Areas.
Following the return of the country to civilian rule, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (now deceased) became the first executive governor of the state in 1999. He ruled for eight years (1999-2007).
In 2007, Katsina became a power state by virtue of being one of the five states in the federation to produce two heads of state following Umaru Yar'Adua's election as president. General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) was head of state from December 31, 1981 to August 27, 1985.
Ironically, during the 2007 election, two Katsina sons, Yar'Adua and Buhari, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), respectively, were among the top contenders for the coveted position of president. Yar'Adua was eventually declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The coming of Shema
The emergence of Ibrahim Shehu Shema as the flag bearer of PDP for the 2007 gubernatorial election was a surprise to many. Prior to the primaries, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Bello Masari was regarded as the candidate to beat. Other top contenders in the PDP included Senator Abdu Yandoma, Murtala Safana, Ambassador Magaji Mohammed, Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, and Umar Suleiman, a retired AIG.
For the ANPP, Senator Bello Kanti, Senator Abu Ibrahim, Engr Nura Khalil, Dr Jabir Mohammed and Manir Yakubu, were highly rated.
But no issue dominated the politics of the state at the time as the place Yar'Adua's successor would come from. While Shema hails from Katsina senatorial zone, the people of Daura and Funtua senatorial zones argued that it was their turn to produce the next governor, as the two zones were yet to do so since the state was created in 1987. In other words, it was the North versus the South. However, Yar'Adua anointed Shema and supported his candidature with the incumbency factor and awesome PDP machinery.
Maisari was believed to have lost out because he could not pull through the Third Term agenda, of which he was one of the arrowheads .The then President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have sold Shema to Yar'Adua even as he dangled the PDP presidential ticket to the latter. Shema admitted as much when he said: 'God has used President Yar'Adua to make me the governor of Katsina State and he remains my political father and mentor whose legacies and style of leadership and administration will continue to be a guide to me as I continue to implement all the programmes and projects that he initiated when he was governor of the state.'
Things fall apart
However, about two years into the first tenure of Shema, his relationship with his mentor began to show cracks. Or so it seemed. For instance, it was alleged that Shema slighted Yar'Adua by removing the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Ahmed Aminu Yar'Adua, a cousin to his supposed mentor.
On this, Shema explained that the former SSG had to leave due to irreconcilable differences, adding that due process was followed.
Hear him: 'For me, there is no problem on this. The former SSG came to serve in my administration and there were areas of differences and he left and I did not have any quarrel with him. I didn't have any argument with him and I don't think it should be an issue because it is not only in Katsina that people occupying positions have had to leave before the end of the term.
'The most important thing is to appreciate that the work being done is not the work of the governor but the work of the people of the state. If somebody is working well, there is no problem. But if we have difficulties and misunderstanding and don't have the same purpose, the person is free to say 'I am leaving' or I am free as the person who hired you to say, thank you, it is okay. And this is not a problem at all.'
Findings revealed that the removal of the former SSG was exploited by some Katsina-born political hawks based in Abuja masquerading as Yar'Adua boys to strain the relationship between Shema and the late president in their bid to pull the rug under the governor's feet, and take over the reins of government in 2011.
They fabricated lies and half- truths, which they fed the then ailing president with. Indeed, the Abuja group was said to have convinced former First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar'Adua, into believing that Shema was dismantling the structures her husband built over the years and she reportedly promised to 'deal with him' at the appropriate time. But with the death of Yar'Adua and the loss of her status as the power behind the throne, it remains to be seen how she could carry out the threat. A source, which pleaded anonymity, said that Yar'Adua's death may have been a big relief to the Shema camp.
Now, Yar'Adua's death has introduced new calculations into Katsina politics. Or rather, Yar'Adua's death has brought renaissance into the politics of the state. According to Imam Imam, 'with the death of Yar'Adua and 2011 fast approaching, there are indications that many of the contending groups may be prepared to re-adjust positions and seek dialogue in order to boost their chances of survival and increase their relevance in the scheme of things. Some pundits are quick to point out the fact that Yar'Adua's illness had no doubt opened the political space in the state as many are trying to explore available opportunities.
'In essence, what this means is that the era of waiting for the president to determine the course of events or who got what is over. Similarly, those who sheathed their swords waiting for the late president's position would now strike with poisonous political venom. Those chased out of the party by their perceived animosity with the president have started returning to their former political nest in the PDP.'
Different faces of PDP
There are indeed more divisions in the Katsina PDP than the number of colours on its logo or flag. But five of the groups contending for the control of the soul of the state and its politics are on the trot. They include the Shema group, the Masari group otherwise known as the PDP Change, the Lawal Kaita group, the Magaji Mohammed group and the Abba Sayyadi Ruma group.
The last group is believed to be the one most desperate in its quest to abort Shema's second term bid. The group, which is made up of the like of former minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Abba Ruma, former Economic Adviser, Taminu Kurfi, former SSG, Ahmed Yar'Adua and Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Mustapha Darma, is believed to be behind the anti-Shema campaigns.
The group, which is blessed with almost limitless resources and powerful connections, has the capacity to cause all sorts of troubles for Shema, including creating embarrassing situations for him. According to ex-Deputy National Legal Adviser of ANPP, Barr Aminu Maigari, 'during the burial of the late President Yar'Adua, people were throwing things at Governor Shema. He cannot enter the town now because the youths could rise against him.'
Perhaps, the group is behind the development.
Admitting that Katsina PDP is not one united family, Chairman, PDP Concerned Elders Forum, Alhaji Aliyu Sani Mohammed, said: 'There are some disgruntled elements, who call themselves PDP Change 2011. I think it is one of those things; it is the beauty of democracy. I think this group is aggrieved because of a few things. The group, which calls itself the Abuja Group, is intensifying efforts to see that they cause confusion in the PDP.'
Mohammed, however, posited that efforts are being made to rein in the black sheep.
He said: 'We have advised the governor to try and extend a hand of friendship or make an overture to them so that they come back to the fold of the PDP. I believe, by the grace of God, there will be a reconciliation in the next few weeks because everybody is important as far as politics is concerned.'
An ace up Shema's sleeve
Despite the array of formidable forces determined to pull him down, Shema has a competitive edge over his opponents: his performance in office. Within the last three years, his administration has left indelible footprints in different parts of the state with people-oriented projects.
The administration's area of focus includes but not restricted to infrastructural development, youth empowerment, education, health, agriculture/agro-industrialization, hospitality and tourism. And Shema boasts that his administration neither owes any contractor for any completed project nor has it borrowed money to fund such projects. His achievements are believed to give him confidence that the electorate are on his side and will speak with their votes at the appropriate time.
Again, while Yar'Adua was battling with his health, Shema was busy consolidating on power. As the succession politics hots up, a new PDP exco loyal to him was sworn in recently.
The Buhari factor
No doubt, Muhammadu Buhari remains a factor in Katsina politics. He is so popular in the state, especially in Daura, that whenever he makes a public appearance everything stands still. With the death of his major challenger, Yar'Adua, the coast seems clear for him to concretize his influence in the state by picking the right candidate to run for governor on the platform of his new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
However, Buhari's departure from the ANPP appears to affect his political goodwill and following as many of his supporters refused to pitch tent with him at CPC.
Again, it is doubtful if the CPC has the war chest to withstand PDP in 2011. Indeed, almost all the other political parties in Katsina State are in financial dire straits, hence they cannot effectively challenge the PDP. However, the other groups in the PDP may decide to join other parties and do battle with Shema. It promises to be battle royale.