Deputy Editor,Olawale Rasheed delves into emerging cut-throat political battles in 20 of the 36 states, where incumbent governors are completing their maximum second terms as stipulated by the Nigerian Constitution.
AS scheming for the 2015 presidential race is intensely manifesting at the centre, unreported competition for succession is raging in 20 states, investigations by The Friday Edition, has revealed.
Many, who had expected sleepy political landscape at the state levels, cannot but be surprised with the high-tension politicking now raging across the states over the coveted governorship of the states. The tempo of political activities has risen sharply in the states at the threshold of 2013.
Unlike the previous scenario, where the sitting first term governors will be re-running, the field appears wide open in the affected states with politicians of various shades discreetly showing interest and oiling their machine for the race. The incumbency factor is nonexistent in the affected states.
Checks showed that while some of the governors are keeping silent about their succession preferences, some are already indicating their choices through body language and strategic appointments and assignments.
In the subtle power struggles, investigations showed that the aspiring successors fall into four categories: those that depend solely on the incumbent for their anointing; those that have strong links with the presidency; those who are lone rangers banking on their financial and political muscles, as well as, those within the opposition, hoping to upstage the ruling political party in their respective states.
The governors, who are exiting are also discovered to be in various categories with a group having a weak link with the centre and are vulnerable to arm-twisting by political forces well connected to the centre. This category may have hard times anointing their successors when the time comes.
Another group of exiting governors, while politically strong at home, are discovered to be having challenges about their future due to the likely hammer of anti-corruption agencies. This group is said to be extra careful about the issue of their successor.
The third group of governors is said to be so closely aligned to the national power establishment such that the members may not only have their way in succession selection but are also likely to end up with Senate seats after the 2015 elections.
Checks across the country showed that the affected states spread over the six zones. In the North West, such states include Sokoto, Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina. In the North East, four states are involved: Yobe,Bauchi,Adamawa and Taraba. For the North Central, the states are Benue,Plateau and Niger.
Others are Ebonyi, Abia, Enugu and Anambra for the South-East; Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Rivers states for the South-South. Only Lagos State in the South-West has an outgoing governor by 2015 even though governorship elections are scheduled to hold in Ekiti and Osun states in 2014.
In the North West, Sokoto is said to be under pressure as aspirants for succession are positioning themselves for advantage. Unusually, the Sokoto case was complicated as the Niger state governor, Dr Babangida Aliyu at a function in Sokoto committed what some observers described as a political error by openly canvassing for the deputy governor, Muktari Shagari, to succeed the governor, Aliyu Matagarda. Ever since the slip by the Niger helmsman, succession politics in the state has assumed an open dimension.
The advocacy is said to run counter to an alleged plot by the incumbent governor to make the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, governor in 2015.Other insiders claimed that the governor also has a soft spot for Farouk Malami Yaro, the commissioner for local government. It was learnt that Shagari is not in reckoning for succession even though the man is set to slug it out with others irrespective of the choice of the sitting governor.
In Katsina, the governor, Ibrahim Shema is said to be in full control of succession politics within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. The PDP in the state is, however, not at peace and the choice of a flag bearer may not be as smooth sailing as the sitting governor may wish. The real challenge is said to be from the Congress for Progressive Change [CPC], which is said to be regrouping ahead of 2015.
In the case of Kaduna, a succession battle that was already drawing blood was abruptly closed with the sudden death of Patrick Yakowa in a helicopter crash. The Northern Kaduna establishment had launched a virulent campaign to stop Yakowa`s bid for re-election in 2015, a confrontation that generated almost bloodbath across the state.
Watchers of Kaduna politics agreed that if Yakowa had not died, there was the possibility of the state emerging the most turbulent of the succession states in 2015. What the political elite of Southern and Northern Kaduna were hoping to resolve through the ballot in 2015 was however tragically settled with northern Kaduna elite now having one of their own as the new governor of the state.
For the North East, Yobe PDP is already boiling even with the Boko Haram insurgency. New and old forces are slugging it out with a serving minister and a former minister angling for the party’s ticket. Within the ruling All Nigeria Peoples Party [ANPP], the incumbent governor, Ibrahim Geidam, though preoccupied with combating the insurgency, is not likely to lose focus of the succession issue. Some pundits believe the governor will support the deputy governor, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, the brother of late governor, Senator Mamman Ali. Others also signal that the chairman of Senate Public Account Committee, Senator Ahmad Lawan is in good stead for the succession.
In Taraba, the succession war was already on a fast tempo before the state governor, Danbaba Suntai embarked on the ill-fated air trip to Yola. His ill health has not however reduced the succession battle, as some interest groups have launched a vociferous campaign against the acting governor. Whether Suntai returns to the governorship or not, there might not be any slowdown in the 2015 scheming.
The Adamawa case has even become nationalised with the governor battling to retain the control of PDP machinery in the state. The crisis openly manifested recently when the governors` forum visited the party`s national headquarters to prevail on the PDP leadership not to review the already concluded state congresses of the party. While the PDP is factionalised, the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria [ACN] is angling to take the state from the ruling party.
The case of Bauchi is as turbulent as that of other states, as the leading aspirant, the federal capital territory minister is reportedly not supported by the incumbent. The ruling party in the state is reportedly split, heightening the battle for succession between the two groups.
The North Central is also a battle field as the ‘war,’ for long, started in Plateau where the governor is having hard times holding the system together. In Benue, Governor Gabriel Suswam is torn in between the desire of the Idoma people for governorship and the warning of the Tivs to hold onto the coveted seat.
In Niger, Governor Aliyu is having to contend with power blocs outside his control in the succession war. The battle at a point led to threat of impeachment against him.
For the South East, Abia is rumbling especially with the plan to get a former governor of the state, Orji Uzor Kalu back into PDP. In Anambra, the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance is badly fractured, even as the PDP is said to be more divided. Anambra has never for a day lost its penchant as the trouble political baby of the South-East.The sleepy Ebonyi is also coming to live with contending caucuses taken the front stage. Interestingly, the victory wind is said to be blowing in the direction of loyalists of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.
The South-South has a more complex make up. While Akwa Ibom appears like a straightforward case, the same cannot be said of Cross River, where the governor`s ill health is believed to be impacting on the succession war. Uyo while categorised as monolithic is also reported to be developing a competitive scenario with loyalists of the governor angling for favourably placement in the succession politics.
For Delta, the supposed internecine competition that clouded Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan ascension to power is said to be threatening to repeat itself. The race in River is almost cult-like with three or so allies of Governor Rotimi Amaechi individually positioning themselves for his blessing.
The South-West zone has only Lagos as a battle base in 2015. The strategic importance of the state is raising stake in competition for its control while some errors of the current government is being capitalised upon by the opposition PDP. If pressure is coming on the ruling ACN from PDP, the succession war within the state ACN is even more threatening and devastating.
The ACN now has an entrenched opposition within its fold with two leaders almost emerging, one led by Governor Raji Fashola and the other by Senator Bola Tinubu. The likelihood of both camps sponsoring a successor is said to be very high while a third party platform is described by many analysts as a possibility.
What will happen in Lagos in 2015 may however be influenced by whatever happens in Osun and Ekiti states during the 2014 governorship elections. Already in Osun, some PDP governorship aspirants have commenced open mobilisation, just as the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has declared that there is no vacancy in 2014. Checks however showed that the Osun ACN was scared of the possibility of the state PDP fielding Senator Iyiola Omisore for the governorship.
Forces behind succession war
As the plotting intensifies across the states, investigations showed that certain forces are driving the development. It would be recalled that during the 2007 succession, several forces interacted to decide the eventual successors. It was discovered then that the Presidency is a key determining factor in the succession war.
For example, Governor Aliyu got the ticket without the nod of former Governor Abdulahi Kure. Godswill Akpabio secured the ticket without the blessing of former Governor Obong Attah. Ailing Sullivan Chime of Enugu succeeded his boss, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani without the latter`s consent.
The Friday Edition gathered that in the 2015 succession, the interest of the Presidency is a major force driving the succession. Some of the exiting state chief executives are said to have succumbed to the federal influence, while others are to be unrepentant in their push to nominate their own successors. A source in Abuja affirmed that ``the decision on some candidates will come from Abuja and there is nothing the governors can do about it.”
Aside the Presidency as a factor, it was also gathered that some sitting governors are so influential that only they can decide who succeed them, especially within their party. This is said to be the case of Jigawa , where the governor is said to wield an awesome power and authority. Others in this category include ailing Governor Lyel Imoke of Cross River, Akpabio of Akwa Ibom and to a large extent, Uduaghan of Delta, among other governors.
Some other observers however posited that the outgoing governors may combine to resist interference by the Presidency or other outside forces in their states` succession politics.
According to such pundits, the governors, having concluded their second term, will not need anything from the power that be in Abuja again and so can enforce their preferred candidate on the state.
Other observers however differ on the above, stating that most of the outgoing governors still need protection due to alleged misdeeds while in office. Aside that, some of these chief executives have new agenda of seeking elective office into the Senate, meaning that they still need the blessing of the federal caucus of their parties under the control of the Presidency.
Whoever determines the successor between the governors or presidency, two other non human institutions are expected to play a crucial role in the contest. The first is said to be the anti-corruption agencies, which are already discreetly investigating most of the outgoing governors. Reports of the agencies had in the past been deployed for political ends especially, when it came to electoral contests. Insiders hinted that in 2015, the EFCC and ICPC may still play a crucial role in determining the fate of top elected and appointed officials in the country.
The other major force is the Boko Haram insurgents which effectively determined the governorship of Borno state in the 2011 general election. The deepening influence of the sect due to its force of arm, confers on it a political role which cannot be denied in the 2015 calculations. Only recently, conflicting reports was aired of Governor Suswam alleging that Boko Haram is after him and also insinuating that there was a systematic elimination Christian governors in the northern states. Though the report was later denied by the governor, analysts opined that the report point to significance of the sect in forth coming political contest.
Checks showed that for the northern states, Boko Haram has become a political factor contenders are taken into account in plotting their strategies.
With changes in executive leadership expected in 20 Government Houses alongside the presidential and National Assembly elections in 2015, Nigeria could indeed be set for another testy political era starting from 2013.