HOW GOVERNORSHIP 'WAR' WAS WON AND LOST
One bright afternoon in 2008, Governor Gbenga Daniel placed a call to Tunji Idowu Olurin, a retired Army General. It was an important call to serve. The outgoing Ogun State governor was about to put in motion the train that would deliver his promise to the Yewa people of the state. A meeting was eventually held where Daniel requested that Olurin become his successor.
But, Olurin reportedly turned down the offer. The General, obviously, was enjoying his life in quiet retirement.
Still determined to enthrone a Yewa son as his successor, one year later Daniel again phoned the former ECOMOG commander and the latter was still noncommittal. And when he did the third time in 2010, Olurin was said to have emphatically told Daniel that he did not want to be Ogun governor due to his age and promised to support anyone that he pushed forward. Disappointed, the governor settled for the younger Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, a former Managing Director of the state-owned Gateway Holdings.
But the political drama was just unfolding. Not long after, Olurin suddenly changed his mind, but, strangely, he failed to inform Daniel. So when he showed his hands and indicated interest in the state's plum job, Daniel and those who suspected Olurin's action resisted him. Surprisingly, Olurin insisted on his ambition and a schism ensued that tore the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state into two rancorous factions. By the time the dust settled, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its governorship candidate, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, had sneaked in and carted away the prize.
In Kano, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), powered by former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, was well received and was indeed cruising to victory until internal crisis ripped through the party and the choice of its standard bearer suddenly became problematic. Who would fly the party's flag – Jafa'ar Isa or Mohammed Abacha? While Mohammed, scion of the late maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha, had the first laugh at the High Court, Isa, a retired army officer, had the last laugh at the appellate court. By the time the appeal court ruled, CPC had lost the momentum and the will to fight. Its members were demoralized and the outcome was that the PDP, which lost power in 2003, reacted faster even ahead of the ruling All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Without doubt, Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala worked his fingers to the bone, determined to break the re-election jinx into the Oyo Government House. He openly supported and worked for his party's presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, even when it was risky to do so. Things seemed to be going his way until one sad afternoon when his party primary in the state went awry and a chieftain of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Lateef Salako (popularly called Eleweomo), died during a fracas. The man that was directly affected, a serving Senator, relinquished his hold on his ticket but that was not the end.
There was also strong wind billowing against the governor's second term from the traditional institution as two powerful monarchs in the state were decidedly against his return. The climax of all his battles was that ACN's Abiola Ajimobi, who Akala trounced in 2007, became the biggest beneficiary.
The Saraki dynasty had launched into battle with all the weapons in its arsenal. The battle was fierce because it was unlike in time past when the state's political godfather, Dr Olusola Saraki, propped up a candidate and virtually everyone had no choice than to support him all the way. This time, Baba Oloye as the older Saraki is popularly called, pitched tent with his daughter and against his sitting governor son, Bukola. Senator Gbemisola Saraki of the ACPN looked set to clinch victory from her own brother's hands in a state many feared was not ready for a permanent governor, given its cultural and religious proclivity. But at the close of ballot on April 26, Abdulfatah Ahmed of the PDP, the candidate backed by Bukola, emerged winner while Baba Oloye and his beautiful daughter were left high and dry.
In Katsina, Governor Ibrahim Shema looked like a goner before the election. The Buhari hurricane appeared to have swept through the state and after the National Assembly and presidential polls, all seemed lost for the PDP while the CPC looked like it was going to cruise to an emphatic victory.
But between the presidential election and the violence that erupted in ten states in the North, Shema got a lucky break. The Appeal Court aborted the ambition of the apparently more acceptable CPC candidate, Garuba Lado as the in favour of Bello Masari, a former House of Representatives Speaker. The verdict threw the supporters of the CPC into a quandary and coupled with the needless post-presidential election riots, which cost the party a large dose of sympathy as it was believed to have instigated it, Shema and PDP bounced back to clinch victory.
It was the case of the big masquerades coming to the market square and the dance is yet to end. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the elections were inconclusive and was yet to declare a winner at press time. But clearly, the battle is between the incumbent and PDP candidate, Ikedi Ohakim, and his closest rival, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
Youthful Gabriel Suswam showed that he understood the adage that when a young man knows how to eat with elders, he would do so for a long time. He had run into bad weather with his predecessor, Senator George Akume, who decided to teach him some political lessons. Akume left the PDP for the ACN to train his weapon well at the governor. But at the end of the day, it was Suswam that had the last laugh.
Governors and their deputies are supposed to operate on a frequency that could allow for smooth operation of state affairs. In Plateau, the reverse was the case. Jonah Jang's deputy, Paulen Tallen, believed she could do a better job than her boss and so threw her hat into the ring. Well, as a ship cannot be steered by two captains, Tallen defected to the Labour Party to actualize her dreams. But Jang nevertheless trounced her in the election.
The PDP made a heavy weather of how Dr Ade Dosunmu would take incumbent Babatunde Fashola of the ACN to the cleaners. The party's spin doctors pointed at the impressive showing of President Goodluck Jonathan in the state in the presidential poll as the needed leverage to upstage Fashola. An apparently rattled Fashola intensified his campaign. Disappointingly, when the chips were down, it turned out that the governor had brought out the howitzer against a rat. It was a no contest!
In Borno, the ANPP made one of the biggest comebacks in Nigeria's political history. The ruling party in the state looked dead and buried after the National Assembly poll in which the PDP carted away more than 60 per cent of all the seats on offer. Even the outgoing Governor Ali Modu Sheriff had his ambition of returning to the Senate scuttled.
ANPP's case was made worse by the pan-Nigeria endorsement that President Jonathan got even in Borno. It seemed the age-long history of the Kanuri not bowing to the Hausa-Fulani was about to be consigned to the dustbin of history. But a dazed Sheriff and his ragtag ANPP army went back to re-strategize and the ANPP roared back to life, sending PDP away empty-handed for the third time.
Yobe had always being in the pockets of the ANPP, but some PDP hawks in Abuja disputed it. To put a lie to this reality, they reportedly came into town with large dose of cash and spread it round. It was another case of the fool being separated from his money.
Blinded by the quest to rule, the PDP Turks failed to factor in the history of the Kanuri not bowing to the Hausa-Fulani hegemony and the sterling performance of Ibrahim Gaidam. At the end of the election, ANPP whipped the PDP silly that some people were asking whether the result was worth the trouble.