As the nation gradually approaches the 2019 general elections, the gubernatorial contest in Borno State is already displaying signs of a contest between virtually only two parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the mainstream opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), unless any other party musters an exceptional energy and speed to spring to the front row.
The main fact about next year’s Borno State governorship race, as evident in the emerging scenarios, is that it promises to be a fierce encounter among three groups of aspirants – the veterans, few-timers and the new entrants.
Some aspirants are glaring, others are still not too open, but ruffling feathers, not only for their respective party primaries where they hope to secure their mandate for the actual contest.
From the APC tent, aspirants reportedly mentioned for the governorship contest include Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai who represents Borno Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Senator Abubakar Kyari, the son of retired Brigadier Abba Kyari, the governor of the defunct North-Central State who represents Borno North at NASS, Alhaji Adamu Lawan, popularly called Zau Fanjimba, the current Commissioner for Works, Alhaji Mala Modu Sheriff and Alhaji Mai Modu Sheriff, the younger brothers of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
Prominent names so far mentioned from the PDP camp include; Mohammed Babagana, a former FCT minister, Alhaji Mohammed Imam popularly called Mamman Million, Alhaji Gambo Lawan and Senator Abba Aji.
“I cannot tell you confidently that we have any concrete aspirant now in the PDP because the party is in crisis, and there is still a pending court case over its leadership,” Umar Sanda, a former youth leader of the party, said.
Sanda added: “But I can tell you that after the court case, many aspirants who have been waiting in the wings and watching happenings in the PDP from vantage positions will cross to PDP from APC if they are cheated out of the race.
“Both Mohammed Imam and Gambo Lawan may be ruffling feathers to jump into the ring for the party’s candidature contest. Imam contested in the mini primary with Gambo in 2015, which was clearly won by Gambo but after 14 days, we heard that Imam was the PDP governorship candidate, but just about five days to the governorship election, the Supreme Court declared Gambo as the authentic candidate but the party and its teeming sympathizers were already in disarray and confusion over the candidature, and five days was too short a time to put things in order towards a victorious contest.
“I can tell you confidently that the state PDP BoT, comprising Arc. Ibrahim Bunu, Engr. Mohammed Abba Gana, Senator Sanusi Daggash, Dr. Shettima Mustapha and Inna Maryam Ciroma, as well as former Governor Mohammed Goni and Amb. Babagana Kingibe are sympathetic to Baderi, and Baderi is not in good terms with Mohammed Imam for allegedly being instrumental to the current court case,” Sanda maintained.
However, an impeccable PDP source said Sen. Mohammed Abba-Aji, who left PDP along with Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume and the late Sen. Ahmad Zanna Khalifa when Sen Ali Modu Sheriff joined it, may clinch the PDP governorship candidature if he ‘returns home’ because, the PDP faithful in the state strongly believe he possesses the clout, the cash and the commitment to snatch the seat from whoever Kashim Shettima fields, unless Sheriff and Shettima join forces against the PDP, which may not be, depending on the state of the established convenience and ‘amity’ between the two men since 2011.
According to the source, the PDP is set for a coalition of forces to fight for whoever emerges as its candidate.
Names mentioned in the veterans class are; Kashim Imam (Mutawallen Borno) who has been contesting since 2003, Alhaji Umara Mustapha Kumshe who contested in 2007, 2011 and 2015 on the UNDP and KOWA party tickets, Alhaji Gambo Lawan and Engr Ibrahim M. Ali.
In the class of the few-timers are: Barr. Umara Kumalia, a former member of the House of Representatives on the defunct All People’s Party (APP) ticket who was said to have stood down for Mohammed Goni after the 2011 primary, Mustapha Babba Shehuri who contested on the platform of the defunct CPC, now a minister, Mala Modu Sheriff, a brother of Ali Modu Sheriff and Mohammed Imam, who started contesting in 2015.
In the class of new entrants are; Senator Abubakar Kyari whose posters are visible in parts of Maiduguri and the social media, Abdurrasheed Maina whose posters are visible in Biu, Alhaji Attom Mohammed Magira who is believed to be the candidate of the Shuwa socio-cultural group, Al-Hayat, and whose ‘war songs’ composed in Shuwa, Kanuri and Hausa are played in Jere Local Government Area and the social media, Senator Bashir Garbai now Commissioner for Works, Alhaji Adamu Lawan, popularly called Zau Fanfimba and now Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Kaka Shehu Lawan who is rumoured to be eyeing the House of Representatives seat.
Governor Shettima who has continued to keep mum, watching all the scheming in all camps within and outside his party, the APC, with amusement or bafflement, is swimming in the logic of holding the ace to determine who succeeds him on whatever platform.
He is reported to be secretly disposed to Alhaji Mai Modu sheriff, one of the younger brothers of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, under whom he served as commissioner and who handed over governorship to him. PDP’s Mohammed Goni, was widely acclaimed to have actually won the governorship election in 2011, and even fought unsuccessfully to reclaim his victory at the Supreme Court.
“Do you believe that this could be the pay-back time in the Shettima-Sheriff deal? Don’t trust both of them yet,” the source said, adding, “Kashim could just be testing the waters, feeling the pulse of some political forces and the public over who should become governor, whether he actually did that in Mecca or not, whether he means it or not, I may not wholly trust him now, because I cannot see a politically mature and very wise Kashim Shettima anointing his successor this long before the elections, he would be exposing that person to the whirlwind of political treacheries which may blow him out of the race, but take note! I am not saying that what he was reported to have done in Mecca is not plausible.”
Analysts who see the pendulum swinging between Senators Garbai and Kyari present their arguments on the basis of the rumours that Governor Shettima indicated his wish to contest the Northern and Central senatorial seats where Senators Kyari and Garbai now hold fort, at separate times recently.
Those who see Shettima roaming in the vicinity of the Borno Central Senatorial seat say he will ‘demand’ it from the serving Senator Garbai, his ‘intimate friend’ to whom he gave it in 2015 to keep it ‘in trust’ in 2019. It is argued that he does not expect any opposition from Senator Garbai with regard to their ‘gentlemanly upholding’ this arrangement, just in case there ever was any such arrangement.
That, it is argued, was why he ensured the election of Garbai in the bi-election to fill the position rendered vacant by the death of the then Senator Ahmad Zanna Khalifa.
Some of them also see Shettima sniffing around the Borno North senatorial seat which he will ‘demand’ from the incumbent Senator Kyari, a former commissioner and Chief of Staff. They recalled him ‘claiming’ his father hailed from Gajiram in Guzamal Local Government Area in Northern Borno when he went there to inspect community reconstruction projects for the return of IDPs and they, perhaps in a desperate search for what to lean on, now found that ‘claim’ sufficiently durable to lean on to substantiate their forecast.
That, they argue further, is made more plausible and possible by what analysts describe as the emerging bid to present Abu Kyari as the next gubernatorial candidate, which means they would merely swap positions in the implementation of the arrangement that he ‘gave’ Kyari the senatorial seat to keep for him ‘in trust’.
However, many others dismiss that bid as unattainable for Shettima, arguing that although Abubakar Kyari was once his commissioner whom he trusted to the point of appointing him his Chief of Staff, both are SAS’s ‘boys’ and ‘protégés’, and SAS, who is arguably ‘the sole financier’ who commits every resource to ensure that his ‘lackey’ contestants win their stakes in every election gamble, will determine who becomes governor, and Kashim Shettima dare not say him nay.
It is argued that SAS is still ‘revered’ as maintaining his firm grip of Borno politics to determine who gets what on the state’s political turf.
Governor Shettima, it is argued, may utilize whatever clout and power of incumbency has earned him now to ensure who becomes what on the state’s political turf, but power of incumbency is ephemeral, and he may not possess the weight to square up to whoever the ‘heavyweight’ SAS fields for whatever contest.
If this argument albeit described as ‘too infantile’ by some analysts is anything to go by, then whoever SAS favours, Garbai, Kyari, Mai Sheriff, or any other person now being ‘preserved in the cooler’ to sprint from the rear at an appointed time, becomes governor, whether recommended by Shettima or not.
The Shuwa-Arab majority grassroot population constitutes another factor in the governorship contest. It is argued that the Shuwa are disgruntled over what they describe as the domineering attitude of and their ‘permanent’ domination by the Kanuri who have been producing the governor since the creation of the state.
“Two organizations of the Shuwa – the Kash-Kash and the Al-Haya, at the majority grassroots level, not at the elite level, seem decisively in support of power shift from the Kanuri domain to anywhere else,” a source said.
He said the Hausa-Fulani population constitutes another formidable force.
“500, 000 votes can give any candidate the victory in the governorship election and the Hausa-Fulani population is about two million in a state with a little over four million population, and the Hausa-Fulani are resolute on who becomes governor, they have been hoodwinked severally in the past, they will not allow that now, they are now determined to wrestle participation in the state’s governance commensurate with their population and economic strength,” he said.
“An alliance forged by the Southern Borno, the Shuwa and the Hausa-Fulani will determine who becomes governor of Borno State in 2019,” he maintained.
Whoever can ensure that no such alliance is forged, or perfects the art of manipulating according to his whims and caprices if forged, may determine who becomes governor.
An unknown candidate now ‘preserved in the cooler’ by Governor Shettima, SAS, or both, or any other force that may sprint forth from the rear and win the race, as often in electoral contests.