2023 Election: Jigawa APC cries out for a successor to Governor Abubakar

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The outcry for a successor to Governor Muhammad Badaru Abubakar in Jigawa State has earnestly commenced. As a result, the governor has come under intense pressure from various political camps within his party – the All Progressives Congress (APC), to throw his support behind a particular successor come 2023.

The development is coming against the raging debate on the imperative of zoning the governorship slot to the northeastern part of the state come 2023. On record, the state’s leadership has been oscillating between the central and north-western parts of the state since its creation more than 30 years ago, leaving the Jigawa North-East high and dry.

For instance, the state’s first elected governor during the short-lived Third Republic, from 1991-1993, Ali Sa’ad, was from Birnin Kudu in the Central Senatorial District. He was unable to complete even his first term, having been swept away by the palace coup spearheaded by the late General Sani Abacha on November 17, 1993, in the heat of the annulled June 12 election.

The second elected governor, Sen. Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, who governed the state between 1999-2007, is a native of Kazaure in the north-west. The third elected governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, who led the state from 2007 to 2015, is also from Birnin Kudu in the Central, while the incumbent, Badaru, is from Babura in Jigawa north-west.

Recall that Badaru had in late December 2020 sent a signal to those aspiring to various political offices from the state under the ruling party that he would not anoint any candidate, neither would he encourage such from any party chieftain. Instead, he said he would remain neutral and support committed and hardworking candidates who emerge through the laid down rules.

While addressing party loyalists during the inauguration of the now-defunct caretaker executive of the party in Dutse, Badaru said, “As leaders, we will try to be fair by supporting hardworking and credible personalities vying for different political offices in line with our party’s doctrine.”

He stressed that it was through adhering to the party’s manifesto that credible candidates would emerge to lead the party to victory in 2023. An indication that the governor is not about to change that position appeared again earlier last month when he not only re-iterated the same place, hosting a delegation of amalgamation of Buhari Support Groups (BCGs) in the state at the Government House; but also warned them not to take a partisan position in favour or against any individuals seeking to take over from him in 2023.

With none of the political gladiators yet to publicly declare interests in the coveted seat, the political atmosphere in the two major political parties in the state is already heightened with speculation. Prominent names said to be angling for the seat from the ruling party include the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Sabo Muhammad Nakudu (Central); Chairman Senate Committee on Information, Abdullahi Danladi Sankara (North-West) and immediate past Deputy Governor of the state and the Senator representing Jigawa North- East, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia.

Other names include the incumbent deputy governor, Umar Namadi, and the immediate past Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Services (CG-NIS), Muhammad Babandede (rtd). Lately, however, the names of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Idris Garba Karaka from Jahun in the Jigawa Central and that of a former deputy governor of the state and currently, a Federal Commissioner in the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission, (RMFAC), Amb. Ahmad Mahmud Gumel from north-west has crept up among potential successors to Badaru. Instructively, out of the lot, only the trio of Hadejia, Namadi and Babandede are from the same senatorial zone of Hadejia.

With the growing list of potential aspirants to the governorship seat in APC, observers have interpreted the governor’s neutrality position as a subtle attempt at staving off pressure from the political gladiators, both from his zone and outside, not only as a result of his relationship with some of them but also for the fact that some of them, especially the ones with deep pocket and consequently, with large followership, are capable of causing a problem for him, in the event of any political misstep on his part.

The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) is not left out in the permutation, as about three potential aspirants have been reported to have emerged so far on the scene. They include Mustapha Sule Lamido, the party’s Senatorial candidate in the 2019 general election and scion of Lamido political dynasty; Dr Nurudeen Muhammad, a former Minister of State, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, later, Supervising Information Minister, as well as a four-term member of House of Representatives representing Kazaure/Roni/Gwiwa/ Yankwashi/ Federal Constituency between 1999-2015, Bashir Adamu Jumbo.

With the zoning debate becoming louder in the public discourse in the state, especially since the beginning of this year, opinions are still sharply divided about the propriety or otherwise of zoning the governorship slot to Jigawa north-east zone in 2023, being the only zone that has not produced the governor of the state. Proponents of this arrangement believe that zoning the slot to the Hadejia zone would ensure fairness and justice and would go a long way in assuring the zone with arguably the highest voting population a sense of belonging. However, opponents of the zoning formula argue that restricting the highest political office in the state to a particular zone would amount to shutting other zones out of the contest, which they consider as antithetical to democratic principles. They believe that the race should be left open to attract the best candidate who could come and continue with “the good work” governor Badaru does in the state.

But the governor’s latest position appears to have emboldened some people outside of the north-east senatorial district, especially those considered political “heavyweights”. The likes Senators Nakudu and Sankara discreetly throw their hats into the political rings as they appear to have started oiling their campaign machines through their proxies. The support groups of both politicians have started crisscrossing the state, selling the ideals and achievements of their principals.

Already, alluding to the ongoing controversy over zoning of the seat of governorship seat in 2023, a political group has raised the alarm on what it described as alleged plots by some leaders within the party to scheme out and marginalize the north-western part of Jigawa in the yet-to-be-decided power shift arrangement in the state.

The group, which appears sympathetic to the yet-to-be-declared governorship ambition of Sen. Sankara, under the name of “Sen. Danladi Sankara Support Group, 2023,” described the alleged move as unconstitutional in an unsigned petition addressed to the governor last week.

The petitioners noted in part: “All we know politics is a game of number and manoeuvre. Like any other zone, Jigawa north-west is blessed with credible and capacity contenders who can deliver. People who can make Jigawa the best in developmental history, just like you did in this your six years so far. We know that in every democracy, the governor’s position is always a highly competitive one. It is not unconnected with the influence the position wielded on virtually all government activities in a state.

“We believe a person like Sankara, with such an experience, should be engaged further to contribute his quota to the development of our state, as it is the practice in all advanced democracies. Sankara’s political experience, coupled with his business background as a developmental economist, will be an asset to your continued government that is determined to re-position the state economy.

“We know you and all your life have stood for justice, equity and what is fair to all. We have strong faith and believe in your person; we look up to you to intervene and save democracy. It is inimical to our coexistence as people, more especially now that Jigawa north-west has a great man who works for the party and is serving the state well in his present capacity.”

However, without raising questions on the competence, integrity and credibility of Sen. Sankara, the question many are asking is, what kind of justice would Badaru be serving the people of Jigawa if, after eight years as a chief executive of the state, he hands over to another person from his zone. It is more so, as both Badaru and Sankara, who are from two neighbouring local government areas of Ringim and Babura, are also prominent traditional title holders in Ringim Emirate Council. While the governor holds the title of Sardaunan Ringim, Sankara holds the title of Dallatun Ringim.

With the stakes getting higher and the governor’s position of “absolute neutrality” in the selection process within his party publicly known, the poser that observers are raising is that can he afford to go back on that prominent position? No doubt, he cannot and should not. But how he handles the scheming and manoeuvrings within the party in the weeks and months ahead will go a long way in guaranteeing peace within its fold.

Suzan O./Punch

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