Less than a year before next year’s general elections, politicians in Sokoto state are having goose pimples especially those aspiring to take over from incumbent governor, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko. However, the main reason for this fear to declare early is because he has done well and whoever takes over from him next year has a Herculean task ahead of him. The fear to come out to express intent is more pronounced in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) than in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come out with the time-table for the 2015 general elections and political observers are yet to witness the excitement, the drama, the surprises and anxiety which follow the kick-off of every election time-table.
So far, only one aspirant in APC is being speculated to have shown interest in Wamakko’s position while the PDP appears to be having about five contestants. Recent survey conducted in the 23 local government areas has shown that the APC under Gov. Wamakko is far ahead in terms of popularity and acceptance but the PDP is however not relenting in ensuring that it springs a big surprise in next year’s elections knowing fully well it is not going to be easy to capture Sokoto. The apathy by aspirants to declare their intentions to vie for the Lodge Road job as earlier stated may not be unconnected with Wamakko’s big shoe’ which those wanting to succeed him are very afraid to dare to wear. What they are afraid of is that of his performance in office.
To this end, he does not need to campaign for any future elective position especially the senate. All he needs to do is to show interest and it would be his for the taking. Although, many believe the senate is his next destination which is very much in order. Some of the PDP aspirants are already asking questions like can I perform like him? Will I be accepted the way he was accepted in 2007? How do I justify to the electorate that I can perform better looking at what he has so far achieved in office and where would his great stride reach by May 29, 2015 when I intend to succeed him? These are some of the questions being put forward by PDP aspirants while in the APC, the big question still remains who will Wamakko anoint to continue from where he will stop next year?
In the last six months, the name of the commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state, Alhaji Farouk Malami Yabo has been on the lips of most APC supporters as the only aspirant who has dared Wamakko to wear the shoe he is leaving behind in the next 12 months but how popular is he and how does the APC intend to sell him to the electorate compared to the likes of the state deputy governor, Barrister Shagari and former sports minister Yusuf Suleiman who have been in politics since the return to democracy in 1999? Politics is about grass-roots grip and has always been an investment which requires long term planning.
Apparently aware that the next governor should be a politician with overwhelming support to be able to match the Wamakko record of 2007, a group in the state is planning to launch a million man march from Sokoto to Abuja to prevail on House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, to return home to take the baton from Wamakko because, according to the group, the Speaker has the best political credentials.
Apart from the group which has no political affiliation with either the APC or PDP, there are speculations that some APC chieftains and supporters have nursed the idea of drafting Tambuwal into the party to give a platform on which to run for the gubernatorial seat. Although, Tambuwal is a PDP member, with recent defection saga from one party to another, it would not be difficult to draft Tambuwal into the APC to serve his state. Already, the PDP has been accusing him of playing hide and seek with the party and recently a former Senate president labeled him as a mole in the PDP. There are those who see Tambuwal as an APC sympathizer who has more interest in the APC than the PDP but the next few months will be exciting because the country will witness more defections and that is when the nation will know whether the PDP will be able to retain power or not.
While we are waiting for Tambuwal to make his choice of staying with the PDP or defecting to the APC or perhaps declaring for the presidency under any of the two parties or return home to contest for the governorship race that no candidate can dare him going by his political popularity nationally, a brief citation on those who have already shown interest will shade some light on who will be where by May 29, 2015. Starting with the opposition PDP, the race is a two-horse affair between the deputy-governor, Mukhtari Shagari and former sports minister Yusuf Suleiman. The deputy-governor has all that it takes to succeed his boss considering that he is well educated, intelligent, smart and accommodative but his only minus as a politician is his resolve not to part with money. Politics is an all round investment but the most important ingredient is human capacity building which Wamakko used in winning the hearts of the electorate. As a deputy-governor for seven years, he has the best opportunity to invest and reap but his refusal or inability to invest in building bridges with the electorate may cost him what he has been yearning for in the last eight years.
The former sports minister, Yusuf Suleiman dared Wamakko in 2012 and chickened out at the eleventh hour but with Wamakko now out of the race, will he be able to get the needed support in the PDP to win the ticket that may eventually lead him to Lodge Road on May 29, 2015? Unlike Shagari, he has been investing in terms of human capacity building and is likely to snatch the PDP ticket with free and fair contest. However, there are strong speculations that he may defect to the APC and contest for the Sokoto East Senatorial District seat. Senators Abdallah Wali and Abubakar Gada do not have the capacity to beat Shagari and Suleiman in the PDP primaries but are in the race to prove a point.
In the ruling APC, the only aspirant so far is the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, Farouk Malami Yabo. He began his political career in 2006 in the defunct ANPP with an ambition to be a Reps member but the merger between PDP and the ANPP cost him that ambition. He was appointed finance commissioner in 2007 until 2012 when he was moved to his present position. As an international business tycoon he is well connected business-wise but lacks the political ingredient to mobilize people.
Aminu Mohammed wrote in from Sokoto