By NBF News
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For political gladiators in Katsina State, the forthcoming elections will not be a tea party. All things considered, it will be battle royale even as intrigues and surprises will characterise the exercise. The picture began to unfold following the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua, which unlocked the political landscape of the state.

Hitherto, the late president was the domineering factor in the political calculus of the state because of the enormous power and influence he wielded. It could not have been otherwise, anyway. He was a governor of the state for two terms of eight years. Thereafter, he mounted the exalted seat of president of the country.

However, with the demise of Yar'Adua, new calculations have been introduced into Katsina politics. Indeed, as Imam Imam, an analyst noted: 'with the death of Yar'Adua and 2011 elections 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.'

Ambition vs greed
The red light began to flicker even before the demise of Yar'Adua. The health crises of the former president had thrown the PDP into serious crises as contending interests attempted to hijack the party machinery, adopting all kinds of stategies. Some ambitious Katsina-born politicians had exploited his prolonged illness and perceived differences with his successor, Governor Shehu Shema, to feather their own nest.

Cracks were believed to have begun to show in the relationship between Yar'Adua and Shema when the latter removed the former's cousin, Ahmed Aminu Yar'Adua, as Secretary to the State Government (SSG).

A report said: '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 off the governors feet, and take over the reining government in 2011.

They fabricated lies 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 might have been a big relief to the Shema camp.'

Defending his action, Shema said: ' 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 argument with him. I don'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'. But Shema's defence did not matter to those calling for his head.

At the same time, Yar'Adua's death created new problems for Shema. His acceptance of the offer to become the coordinator for the Goodluck /Sambo Campaign Organisation was interpreted in some quarters as betrayal because they felt that Jonathan took power from them at the time he needed support.

Now as the elections approach, politicians are prancing about the political stage, strategising, scheming, building new alliances and friendships at the ward, local government and state levels.

Those who feel that Shema had betrayed their benefactor led by the former minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Abba Ruma, are warming up to pay the governor back in his own coin. Those who are not on the same page with him have tried to make life difficult for him. According to Barrister Aminu Ibrahim Maigari, an ANPP chieftain, ' PDP is fighting PDP. So, if the other parties can do their homework, they can unseat the PDP while they fight.

The other thing is that the people do not like the incumbent governor. I do not know why. During the burial of the late president Yar'Adua, people were throwing things at the governor. He cannot enter the town now because of the fear that the youths can rise against him'.

But Shema has proved that his survival instinct is running smooth.

Buhari factor
Katsina will witness 'war' in April. The war will be between the PDP and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) because of the Muhammadu Buhari factor. To be sure, Buhari, the presidential candidate of the CPC is very popular, especially in Daura, one of the constituent emirate councils of the state. With the death of Yar'Adua, his major challenger, the 2011 elections provide him the opportunity to assume political control of the state by ensuring that his party produces the next governor.

In fact, this is the last chance for the former military head of state to prove his mettle in the state. If he could not defeat Yar'Adua when he was alive he could at least subdue his spirit. Several notable politicians in the state are already decamping to the CPC. They include Alhaji Mamman Abubakar Dan Musa, former deputy senate president, Hon Aminu Bello Maisari, former speaker of House of Representatives, Senator M.T. Liman, Dr Musa Inuwa, Senator Umar Yandoma, Bilya Zango, Sadiq Yar'Adua, former SSG, Dikko Umar Rada, Dr Ishaq Kurfi, Senator Lado Danmarke and a host of others.

Chieftains of the CPC are talking tough about the battle ahead. If the allegation of election of electoral malpractices alleged to have characterised past exercises rear their ugly head in 2011, blood may be spilled. Hear Danmusa: 'We are mobilising. This time we are not going covert. Anybody who rigs election, they should just kill him. They should not allow him. The vote of the people must count this time around. If people are not determined to suffer to make progress, they are useless. They are not human beings'.

Fire in CPC
However, the CPC wall is already cracked. Or so it seems. There is already a dog- fight for the party's gubernatorial ticket in the state. The contenders are Danmarke, Masari, Abba Sayyadi Ruma, Abubarkar Isa Ismaila and Mannir Yakubu. The ambition of these men can ignite fire in the party; their posture suggests that it is a do-or-die battle to them.

The top contenders, Maisari and Lado, hail from the same senatorial district.

The party had earlier set up a consensus committee headed by Dr Yusa'u Armayau, former ANPP state chairman. The committee picked Senator Lado but the Maisari group screamed blue murder, alleging financial inducement to the committee members and council party chairmen.

Members of the committee defended the financial transaction vigorously. Senator Yadoma claimed that it was assistance to the party to help it meet its financial obligations. In the same vein, Danmusa, an elder of the party, supported the action. Eventually, the report of the committee was rejected. It is believed that the way and manner the matter is resolved will make or mar the chances of the CPC to take over Katsina.

Cry of marginalisation
One of the issues that dominated Katsina politics when Yar'Adua's tenure was ending was where his successor would come from. The issue remains germane today because Shema hails from Katsina senatorial zone, which had always produced governor of the state while the people of Funtua and Daura senatorial zones contend that it is their turn to produce the next governor having not done so since the state was created in 1987. Buhari is from Daura. Put differently, the South may square up against the North.

Gang up
Between 2003 and 2007, when Buhari flew the presidential flag of the ANPP, the party was a force to reckon with in the state. In 2007, it had seven seats in the state House of Assembly but only three remain now. One of them, Hon Garba Usman, representing the Funtua constituency is now the party's governorship candidate. He is said to be collaborating with other parties with the aim of shocking the PDP at the polls.

However, Buhari's departure from ANPP has affected its fortunes in the state.

There is a mass exodus of its members and supporters to the CPC at all levels, including party executives. But the rejuvenation of the party following the emergence of Dr Ogbonaya Onu as national chairman could alter the political equation.

The ANC, which made remarkable impact in 2007 could play the spoilers role. Perhaps, it is girding its loin, bidding its time. Its secretariat was recently repainted. It could be an indication that it is back. Its candidate in 2007, Dr Usman Bugaje will still fly the flag.

The battle line has been drawn.