It is battle royale between political godfathers and their godsons ahead of the 2019 general elections as the undue advantage, which power confers on its wielders has come to play with its attendant consequence of politics of betrayal, scheming and backstabbing becoming glaring by the day, FELIX NWANERI and WALE ELEGBEDE report
Though democracy grants the people the liberty to choose their leaders through periodic elections, the concept exists mostly on paper as leaders at the various levels of governance have always had hands in the emergence of their successors.
While this practice was not prominent in the first and second republics, it has become synonymous with the present dispensation. Consequently, the Fourth Republic, which took off in 1999, with the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, has produced hundreds of political godfathers, who sit in the comfort of their homes to determine who get what, how and when.
In most cases, the beneficiaries of decisions by these “powers that be” have always been their cronies, associates, business partners and even family members. The reason for this is not farfetched. Most public office holders are more disposed to those who will cover their tracks as their successors.
But, politics, being a game of the possible, the cozy relationship between the godfathers and their anointed ones hardly last. In most cases, these anointed successors hardly settle in office before the “romance turns sour.”
The political bubble usually get burst, when the anointed successors try to do things on their own although there have been instances, where the heirs had tried to destroy their benefactors even when they had tried as much as possible not to interfere in the running of government.
While some usually get shocked whenever a godfather and his godson fall apart despite the bond between them, most analysts hardly feel perturbed as most Nigerian politicians believe that politics is nothing but the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Recent political developments across the country ahead of the 2019 general elections, which have seen godfathers and their godsons gearing up for supremacy battles, has not just brought to the consciousness of many political observers, similar cases before now, but show that there is no end in sight to such battle.
Signs that the supremacy battle between these godfathers and their godsons would be more interesting this time are already in the offing as more politicians would be joining the ranks of godfathers given that some state governors on the last lap of their second terms have already swelled the ranks of this power cabal.
These state chiefs executive are already positioning themselves to remain politically relevant by clinging to power in one way or the other. While a majority have declared to contest for their respective senatorial districts seats in the forthcoming general elections, a few, have their eyes set on the presidency.
Besides their senatorial ambition, which, its battle begins with their party men, some of them incumbent senators, who also want to return to the upper legislative chambers of the National Assembly, the outgoing governors are also burdened by succession battles in their respective domains.
Ordinarily, that would not have been their yoke given that democracy grants liberty to the people to choose their leaders through periodic elections. But, the undue advantage, which power confers on its wielders, especially in developing countries like Nigeria, explains why none of them is toying with the succession issue.
At the moment, the governors, like the godfathers, are equally battling to have their cronies or even family members to succeed them. Some of the cases at hand include the rift between the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his anointed Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode; Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun and his longtime political ally, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, former Zamfara State governor, Senator Ahmed Yerima and his protégé, Abdul’azeez Yari, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his then vice, Atiku Abubakar.
Others are former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and his anointed successor, Governor Kashim Shettima; Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and his deputy/political ally, Eze Madumere; former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and his successor/political ally, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje; former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio and his anointed successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel as well as former Rivers State governor and Minister of Transport, Chibuike Ameachi and his former ally, Senator Magnus Abe.
Tinubu’s silence casts doubt over Ambode’s second term
It is still a hazy political cloud in Lagos State as the impasse beclouding the second term bid of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, is yet to be resolved.
The governor’s second term bid is under threat following the decision of the Managing Director of Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC), Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, to contest the APC governorship primaries.
Ambode’s “sin” is that he cut off those who helped me to power immediately he assumed office. It is an open secret that Tinubu anointed him to succeed then Governor Babatunde Fashola and mobilized both men and material to ensure his victory in the 2015 elections.
Though the governor has continually played down on the rift and went ahead to obtain the expression of interest and nomination forms of his party – All Progressives Congress (APC), his benefactor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, remains adamant over his purported opposition to the governor’s return to power in 2019.
Reports of interventions, including that by President Muhammadu Buhari and other political leaders have dominated the media space of recent, but sources close to the APC national leader said no such meeting took place and that nothing has changed on the matter.
A top member of Tinubu’s camp who told our correspondent that there is no headway yet on the matter, said: “Nothing has changed with the situation of things about Lagos APC governorship candidate. It is still a stalemate over Ambode’s ambition as Tinubu’s is still adamant over the governor’s re-election bid.”
While a possible reconciliation cannot be ruled out despite threats by Tinubu’s loyalists to rebel against him if he backs the governor, there is no doubt the APC leader and former Lagos State governor will have the last laugh. He is an enigma that has come to bestride the Nigerian political space like a colossus.
Blessed with uncanny ability to identify political as well as electoral assets, there is no doubt that Tinubu laid the foundation of the transformation that has seen Lagos – Nigeria’s former capital and commercial hub.
Many have wondered how the man popularly referred to as Jagaban by his admirers, has been to navigate the murky waters of politics and still remain afloat over the years. The answer is not farfetched as Tinubu is unlike most of his contemporaries, who see politics as a profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.
Kwankwaso faces challenge of stopping Ganduje
Former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso (now senator representing Kano Central) and his successor, Umar Ganduje, are not just political allies. Both worked together as governor and deputy for eight years and enjoyed a harmonious working relationship that was devoid of rancour.
They first came to stage in 1999, and even when Kwankwaso lost his re-election bid in 2003 and was appointed minister of Defence, he picked Ganduje as one of his aides. When he returned as governor, 2011, he also came back with Ganduje and worked tirelessly to ensure that his long standing deputy succeeded him.
But few months after Ganduje assumed, a wide crack emerged between the two. The crack came to the fore on October 21, 2015, the 59th birthday of Kwankwaso. The event has been marked in the last five years as Kwankwasiya Day. Kwankwasiya is the political movement led by the former governor.
Instead of members of the group to come together to mark the event as was in the past, pro-Ganduje elements celebrated it at the Government House, while loyalists of Kwankwaso, led by his former Chief of Staff, Alhaji Yunusa Dangwani, held their own at Mambayya House in Kano.
Kwankwaso was not in Kano for the event, and it was clear that the political group on whose crest Kwankwaso and later Ganduje rode to Kano government house has been split. As usual, the rift was downplayed by both camps even though discerning minds knew that all was not well, especially the way the former decided to stay put in Abuja after handing over to Ganduje, who on assumption office went to town with a tale of huge debt about the Kwankwaso administration.
Both camps later seized fire, temporarily, following the intervention of their party’s national leadership, but the battle was rekindled ahead of the 2019 elections. The intrigues that ensued culminated to Kwankwaso’s exit from the APC for the PDP. And with the stage is set for the 2019 elections, both men are to test their might with Kwankwaso going for the presidency and Ganduje working hard to for a second term.
While Kwankwaso is of the view that Ganduje’s second term bid is dead on arrival, Ganduje has continued to sound it that the former governor is finished, politically.
Obasanjo vows not to support Atiku
The supremacy battle between the former and president and his vice, midway into their second term in office, no doubt, remains the bitterest political battle so far in the present political dispensation.
Atiku was elected governor of Adamawa State in 1998, but while still governor-elect, he was picked by Obasanjo as running mate after he emerged the presidential candidate of the PDP. Both won the presidential election in February 1999, and were sworn-in as Nigeria’s second democratically elected president and vice president, respectively, on 29 May 1999.
They had a blissful political relationship, but the romance turned sour after their re-election for a second term in 2003, although Atiku turned down a plot to upstage Obasanjo ahead of the poll. Governors elected on the platform of the PDP, had in the build-up to the poll wanted Atiku to contest the party’s presidential primaries against Obasanjo but he declined. Though Atiku opted for a joint ticket with his principal, Obasanjo never forgave those who muted the idea.
They battle got messier after Atiku mobilised the leadership of the National Assembly and stopped Obasanjo’s bid to amend some provisions of the constitution in order to take another shot at the presidency for the third consecutive time.
Obasanjo’s insistence that Atiku would not succeed him forced the former vice president to leave the PDP in 2006 for the defunct Action Congress (AC), which handed him its presidential ticket. A power play that ensued led the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to omit his name from the final list of 24 candidates for the presidential election it released on March 15, 2007.
The electoral umpire cited Atiku’s indictment for corruption as the reason for the omission. But in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the commission had no power to disqualify any candidate for an election, and he contested the poll, but came a distant third with 2.6 million votes (seven per cent of the total votes cast) behind the PDP candidate, late Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari (now president), who contested on the platform of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Atiku rejected the result and called for its cancellation, describing it as Nigeria’s “worst election ever.” He however returned to the PDP in 2009, though his coming back was initially resisted by his state chapter of the party, acting an alleged script by Obasanjo.
He was later granted a waiver by the party’s national leadership. This paved the way for him to contest the 2011 presidency. On 22 November, the Northern Elders Political Leaders Forum (NPEF) led by former Minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, selected him as the region’s consensus candidate over former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, former National Security Adviser Aliyu Gusau and former Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki (now president of the Senate). The Turaki Adawama as Atiku is popularly known was however floored at PDP presidential primaries by then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan who later went ahead to win the election.
Atiku has again declared his interest to take a shot at the presidency, this time under the platform of the PDP. But, while Obasanjo is not disposed to the Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration, he has advised his former vice not count on him for support in his latest bid to actualise his life-long ambition of being elected the president of Nigeria.
His words: “How can I be on the same side with Atiku, to do what? If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support.”
With this pronouncement, it is unlikely that the former president, whose continuous national relevance is partly explained by his deep knowledge of the Nigerian society will work with the PDP despite his aversion to the ruling APC.
Okorocha dumps Madumere over family consideration
Before his impeachment on July 30 by 19 out of the 27 members of the Imo State House of Assembly, Prince Eze Madumere was on the spotlight for weeks. The House had earlier received a report by a panel set up by the state Chief Judge, which indicted him of gross misconduct. But, the impeachment did not come to many as a surprise as there had been subterranean moves to sack him after he fell out with his principal and benefactor, Governor Rochas Okorocha. Madumere’s sack was a replay of the 2013 political drama in the state, which led to the impeachment of Okorocha’s first deputy – Sir Jude Agbaso. For Madumere, trouble started, when the state legislators launched impeachment proceedings against him over allegations of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty. He was also accused of absconding from his office for more than three months without permission. Furthermore, he was accused of disobedience to Governor Okorocha by refusing to carry out official duties assigned to him; refusal to attend State Executive Council meetings and refusal to hold meetings with the governor and commissioners. It was also alleged that he was imprisoned for theft in the United States. Madumere, however, denied any wrongdoing to warrant his impeachment and described the allegations levelled against him as embarrassing and an old ploy of calling a dog a bad name to hang it. He added that the most painful part of the allegation is that the two times he had to go through the pains of losing his freedom in detention were all in the course of saving Okorocha from public disgrace. There is no doubt that Madumere showed undying support for Okorocha, but the governor equally appreciated and rewarded his loyalty as well. Okorocha, on assumption of office in 2011 appointed Madumere his Chief of Staff and when Agbaso was impeached, it was Madumere that Okorocha elevated to step into his shoes. Both enjoyed a cordial working relationship and were re-elected during the 2015 elections. But, the bubble burst, when Okorocha, rather than endorse his deputy as his successor, opted for his son-in-law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu. Perhaps, Madumere stemmed his conviction of being the most suitable among members of the Okorocha political family to succeed their mentor in 2019 given his relationship with the governor, which spans over 20 years and is beyond politics. But the governor may have been influenced by personal and family consideration rather than political interest in arriving at his choice of Nwosu as his successor. While Madumere succeeded in getting an interim order by a High Court sitting Owerri,to stop the swearing-in of his successor, Calistus Ekenze, he has gone ahead to pick the APC’s nomination forms for the party’s primaries, but it is left to be seen how far he can go in this audacious move given that the Imo State APC structure is in Okorocha’s firm grip.
Amaechi’s choice for 2019 leaves Abe in the dark
The immediate past governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi, and the senator representing Rivers South-East in the National Assembly, Magnus Abe, were jolly good friends until party issues severed the longtime relationship. The bone of contention is who gets the Rivers APC governorship ticket for the 2019 general elections. While Abe, a two term senator from Ogoniland has declared his intention to contest the governorship in 2019, Amaechi, a former two-term governor, who appointed him (Abe) the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in his first term in office sees this aspiration as disrespect to his person. In 2015, Amaechi picked Dakuku Peterside, then House of Representatives member ahead of Abe to the surprise of some party leaders who felt that Abe was more experienced, matured and above all, more popular. While some have blamed Abe for jumping the gun by positioning himself for the governorship without Amaechi’s blessing, others lauded him for “not repeating the mistake he made in 2015.” But, the senator’s governorship seems to have been dashed again with Amaechi’s recent adoption of a businessman, Tonye Cole, as his preferred candidate for the 2019 governorship election. The minister, who is indisputably the leader of the party in the oil-rich state, despite the existence of a faction led by Abe, did not stop at that. He recently disclaimed the senator, whom he contributed immensely to senatorial election victory. Reacting to reports, in which Abe was quoted as saying that Amaechi is his leader, Amaechi described the claim as being nothing less that cheap, shameful and political sophistry. He wondered how a member of a party who “wakes up and creates an imaginary parallel party executive” as well went ahead “to open an office for the non-existent parallel executive that has no base and foundation,” could claim to be his follower. His words: “How can I be Abe’s leader when he and the minions sponsored by him, privately and publicly abuses, insults, cast aspersions etc on me, my wife and members of my family, daily? Is that how a follower treats his Leader? It’s cheap and indeed shameful political sophistry for Abe to stand in the APC secretariat and deceitfully say I am his Leader, while all he has done, both privately and publicly in recent times is to undermine me, the APC and desecrate the APC in Rivers State. As a matter of fact, it is indeed very doubtful if Senator Abe is still in the APC. He mouths APC but his actions belie his words and clearly tell a different story.”
Amosun’s ambition unsettles Tejuoso
For politicians with inner eyes, the raging battle for the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket of Ogun Central Senatorial district started immediately after the 2015 general elections. The political turf of the senatorial district is currently seeing a battle of wits between the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and his estranged political godson, Senator Lanre Tejuoso. Amosun’s interest in Tejuoso’s seat started after the last general elections, but it became a public knowledge early 2016 and expectedly, it caused a stir within the ranks of the party.
To douse the tension, the immediate past chairman of the party, Tajudeen Lemboye, convened a caucus meeting on December 23, 2016, to appease to all and sundry. The former chairman posited at the caucus meeting that Amosun deserves the respect and support of all stakeholders, because of his track record in the senatorial district. Of course, after all the twists and turns, the governor eventually opened the lid on his senatorial aspiration early in the month thereby foreclosing any chance of Tejuoso picking the ticket. Amosun announced his intention to run for Senate at a stakeholders’ meeting of the party in Abeokuta. “By the benevolence of God, I want to say I am running for Senate in 2019,” he told his audience which incidentally included Tejuoso, who is just completing his first term in the Red Chamber.
The Ogun Central zone comprises Abeokuta North, Abeokuta South, Odeda, Obafemi-Owode, Ewekoro and Ifo local government areas. Expectedly, the aspiration has pitched him against his longstanding associate, Tejuoso, who is also interested in returning for a second term. Amosun had represented the senatorial district between 2003 and 2007 on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) before he later became governor in 2011. Since he became governor in 2011, he has been diligent in working to entrench himself as the godfather of the Egba politics, in the hope of using the numerical strength of the Egbas (Ogun Central) as a bargaining tool with the two other districts. The governor’s political structure, which is a carryover from that of the defunct ANPP, seemed intact. Tejuoso was one of those who made the structure tick pre-2015.
Tejuoso, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health is the first son of the Osile Oke-Ona Egba, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso. In his political trajectory, he has enjoyed a good relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and Amosun during their membership days of the ANPP.
The Oke Ona Egba prince joined active politics in 2007, when he made an attempt to represent Ogun Central Senatorial District on the platform of the ANPP during the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as president, but lost to the latter’s daughter, Mrs. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello of the PDP. That same year, Amosun contested as ANPP gubernatorial candidate, but lost to the then incumbent governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel. At the formation of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2010, Tejuoso became a force to reckon with in the party and was made the chairman of the 2011 National Convention Committee at which Buhari emerged as the party’s standard bearer. It was Tejuoso who raised the hand of Buhari as CPC’s presidential candidate for the 2011 presidential election at the party’s national convention at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
Tejuoso later joined the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which merged with the CPC, ANPP and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to form APC. Prior to his election as a senator in 2015, Tejuoso served as commissioner in the Amosun administration, handling three different portfolios of Youth and Sports, Environment and Special Duties. To show support for his begotten political son, the governor allegedly manipulated the Ogun APC primaries in 2015 to favour Tejuoso’s emergence as against the thenpopular choice of party members, Hon. Ganiyu Hamzat. Signs that all was not well began when Tejuoso moved to defect from the APC, citing alienation from the party in his home state. He announced his defection alongside 15 senators on the floor of the Senate. Amid the attendant drama, Tejuoso made a detour 24 hours later and announced his return at a meeting between 43 APC senators and President Muhammadu Buhari held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
But it appears the feud still persists. During Amosun’s declaration, Tejuoso was practically given cold shoulders by some chieftains loyal to the governor. At the meeting, the senator engaged in a war of words with the state APC chairman, Chief Derin Adebiyi, over his membership status within the party. An obviously enraged Adebiyi dared the senator to go back to Abuja and secure his senatorial ticket for 2019 if he was not ready to respect the party hierarchy. Drama started when a party leader from Abeokuta South Local Government, Olawale Azeez aka Willy Kay, drew the attention of the gathering to the presence of Tejuoso at the meeting. Following Azeez’s observation which was seconded by another stalwart, the state chairman asked Tejuoso to clarify his status, apologize or leave the meeting venue.
An embarrassed Tejuoso countered him, saying he was duly invited to the meeting via a text message by the party secretary. The senator insisted that there was no time he formally communicated to the party that he had defected. But after some altercation, Tejuoso complied with the order by the chairman to apologize, saying:
“To all our people in APC that feel offended that I was trying to express myself, I apologize.” While the altercation lasted between Tejuoso and the chairman, Amosun, who was in attendance, did not speak. He would later declare his interest in the senatorial seat to the shock of the incumbent. Clearly, the wrestle for the Ogun Central senatorial district ticket has ended a cordial political relationship between a godfather, Amosun, and his godson, Tejuoso.
Succession battle pitches Yerima against Yari
The name, Ahmad Sani Yerima, is a household name in Zamfara State. He has made kings and dethroned kings. He has been the de-facto of Zamfara politics since 1999 deciding the political fate of over 4 million people. He decides who gets what, when and how in the state. As the doyen of state, he gives direction as far as politics is concerned in the North West state. This explains why whatever political party he is, controls the affair of the state. Yerima, a stalwart of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), was an ex-governor of the state, has been in the Senate since 2007. When he completed his eight years as governor, he used his influence to install Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi as governor in 2007. But when the centre could not hold between them, Shinkafi defected to the PDP in 2008.
That move cost him his second term as Yerima moved his structure against him and backed Yari who eventually became governor in 2011. Like the proverbial cane used on the first wife, Yari started having issues with his godfather and out of nowhere developed new teeth to bite his political benefactor. Speaking with newsmen at his declaration for the Zamfara West senatorial seat where Yerima has held for almost 12 years, Yari said he was contesting for the seat because of the interest he has in legislative process, and to serve his people.
“You know, I was from the National Assembly before I became a governor, in fact my colleagues from the National Assembly used to say I am here on sabbatical. So, my going to Senate is like I am going back home, some people are asking me why I want to go to Senate? In fact, even some people in the presidency are asking me why I want to go to Senate. I told them it’s just an interest. You know National Assembly politics is different from that of executive.” Yari was a member of the House of Representatives for Anka/Talata-Mafara Federal Constituency from 2007 to 2011.
Interestingly, while he is seeking to upstage his political godfather, it was learnt that Yerima on his part is seeking to produce Yari’s successor and at the same time retain his senatorial slot. But some other sources said Yerima is ready to concede his senatorial ambition to be allowed to pick the next governorship candidate of APC (Yari’s successor) in Zamfara State. Yerima is said to be interested in the current Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala Muhammad, who was his former Commissioner for Religious Affairs. But Yari favours his Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Muttaka Rini, who is from Zamfara West. With what is on the cards, Yari and Yerima, who are members of the APC may lock horns in the end.
Akpabio squares up against Emmanuel
Heading to the 2015 general election, ex-governor Godswill Akpabio, who was then rounding off his second term, broke political friendship and defied convenience to install his political godson, Udom Emmanuel, as his successor. Akpabio handpicked Emmanuel, a former executive director in Zenith Bank, appointed him Secretary to the State Government (SSG), groomed, and later helped him become governor of Akwa Ibom in 2015, despite opposition within his party, the PDP. But the political climate of the state and the relationship between the duo went south following the formal defection of Akpabio from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on August 8. Prior to his defection, the former governor resigned his position as the Senate minority leader. Seen as one of the arrowheads and respected member of the PDP, Akpabio’s defection attracted huge celebration from the APC members but left PDP supporters shell-shocked especially in Akwa Ibom because it posed a major threat to Governor Emmanuel’s 2019 re-election bid. “No man is God. Senator Akpabio’s migration to the ruling APC, at the centre, would not stop my re-election.
I would work with the people to continue with our superior performance,” Emmanuel said to those expressing fears about the sudden ditch of his erstwhile godfather less than seven months to the general election. “I decided to join the APC at this time because I am a nationalist. In times like this, everybody should support to bring peace to our dear nation; to stop the killings and ensure employment for our teeming youths. “With my declaration, uncommon change has come to Akwa Ibom. We believe that South-South cannot stand alone on its own. “We need to collaborate with others. I consulted. What I have done today is to take the people of the South-South to the centre.
“Whatever I do is in the interest of Akwa Ibom. I want to leave a legacy in the national interest. With my exit, this is the end of PDP in Niger Delta Delta’’, Akpabio said. But firing back at his estranged political godfather, Emmanuel said, “We are not surprised at Akpabio’s move; we are happy that he is leaving the People’s Democratic Party for any party he likes. We wish him well in his political decision. It is even our joy that he is leaving because he has, in recent time, become a thorn in our flesh.”
As expected when two elephants fight, the grass is always the casualty. Two commissioners in the Akwa Ibom State Executive Council who are loyal to Senator Akpabio have already fallen victims of the raging battle between the two bigwigs. Victor Antai, the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism and his counterpart at the Labour, Productivity and Manpower Planning Ministry, Ibanga Akpabio , were immediately sacked for joining the jubilant crowd who thronged the Uyo Airport to welcome Akpabio ahead of his public defection to the APC. One of the sacked commissioners, Akpabio, is, in fact, a family member of the senator. (New telegraph )