Ahead of the forthcoming general elections, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH writes on a number of senators that are having a face-off with their state governors
On March 25, 2018, the three senators, Gbenga Ashafa, Oluremi Tinubu and Solomon Olamilekan representing Lagos East, Central and West Senatorial Districts respectively passed a vote of confidence and endorsed Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for a second term in office, saying that the giant strides of his administration were being felt across the State The Senators who paid a visit to the Governor at Lagos House Ikeja, said they were proud of his achievements and the renewed vigour he had brought to bear since he assumed office. Reading a letter of endorsement on behalf of his colleagues, Senator Ashafa said that Governor Ambode had beyond reasonable doubt proved his mettle to lead the State to greater heights, citing massive infrastructural development, strategic solutions to traffic gridlock as well as key interventions in various sectors in the State in the last 33 months. One may be tempted to conclude that the three Lagos state senators all belong to the same APC party with Governor Ambode. But that’s not the case in many states especially in the northern Nigeria where APC senators to APC governors are disaster, with relationships cuddled by ‘’iron and blood’’ politics. By the way things are now, one wonders if there won’t be ‘’shoot-outs between some of them at the election period
In contrast to unity of purpose demonstrated in Lagos state, barely four days later, two APC senators and a PDP senator from Kaduna state joined hands together to mobilize their colleagues to halt the $350 million foreign loan quest of their state governor, Nasir El-Rufai at the senate plenary. Senator Suleiman Hunkiyi (Kaduna North, APC), Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central, APC) and Senator Danjuma Lar (Kaduna south, PDP) told their colleagues at the plenary that Governor El-Rufai is not fit and proper to manage such humongous foreign credit facility; and that he would throw generations yet unborn into regret. Consequently, the Senate on March 29, 2018 rejected the request for a $350 million World Bank facility for Kaduna State, on grounds that the state is already highly indebted to the tune of $232 million; most importantly as a result of the Senator Shehu Sani-led Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts report. While briefing the senate correspondents later, Senator Suleiman Hunkiyi and Senator Shehu Sani said they stood against the loan request because the state government did not follow the pre-conditions listed for such loans, and was not clear on the purposes for which the loan was being sought. They further said to approve the loan, would constitute a huge debt profile on the state, which would burden the finances, adding that the $232 million was accrued from loans obtained by the state from 1960. Hunyuyi, whose building was recently demolished in Kaduna allegedly on the orders of Governor Nasir el-Rufai, said the $350 million facility is supposed to bedrawn over a period of four to five years. Senator Shehu Sani who was suspended from the APC disclosed recently that his constituency office was attacked eleven times by thugs in the state, and it is all because Senator Sani is also interested in Governor El-Rufai seat, comes 2019.
Meanwhile Sani, speaking at a press conference after plenary, warned the federal government against circumventing the National Assembly to obtain the facility for the state. The Debt Management Act, he said, clearly provides that any application for a loan by a state must be submitted by the president, to the National Assembly, and must be approved by both legislative chambers. KOGI STATE At the instance of Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi west, APC), on October 25, 2017 with the support of Senator Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi central, PDP) and Senator Attai Idoko Aliyu (Kogi East, PDP) 40 senators donated 1260 bags of rice to civil servants in Kogi State. This was against the backdrop of news of a director in the Kogi State civil service who allegedly killed himself over unpaid emolument. Well, five months after the hoopla of rice donations, not even a grain of such rice purportedly donated, including Ogembe’s 20 bags Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu’s 100 bags, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan’s 30 bags of rice have been taken to Kogi state till date. Dino Melaye had even on the floor of the Senate, described Kogi workers as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Of course, all they succeeded at doing was to make grotesque or laughing stock of the state. The story later has it later that the Director committed suicide when his wife asked the pastor who actually impregnated her to give name for their newly born baby child. Again, Senators from the three senatorial districts of Kogi state on February 26, 2018 inaugurated a Save Kogi Group, ahead of the 2019 general elections. Senator Dino Melaye was appointed Chairman, Board of Trustees with Friday Makama as Director General of the group, while former Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Dr. Tom Ohikere was appointed as Director of Media. The group urged the governor, Yahaya Bello, to rescind his decision to sell the state properties, while asking him to embark on infrastructural development of the state. The save Kogi project vowed to resist moves to trade away the common patrimony of the people of Kogi state under the guise of a privatization policy they believe is ill-fated and designed to steal from the people. On March 7, 2018, Senator Ahmad Ogembe moved a motion on the floor of the senate on the disruption of his empowerment programme on Saturday March 3, 2018 in Okene, Kogi State. In his motion, Ogembe told the upper chamber that on Saturday, March 3, 2018 he organised an empowerment programme for his constituents, but lamented that the event was disrupted by hoodlums and miscreants, who unleashed violence on his constituents, ostensibly sent by his state government. The lawmaker lamented that the political violence, kidnappings, killings, assassinations of people in his constituency and political supporters in Kogi Central Senatorial District had become the order of the day, Contributing to the motion, Ekweremadu described the situation as worrisome, warning that with the present state of affairs in the country where political violence was going on unchecked, there was a possibility of military takeover and a total destruction of the hard-earned democracy. In his remarks, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who presided over part of the plenary, said that the incidents in Kogi, Kano and Kaduna were great threats to democracy and insisted that the National Assembly must rise to the occasion and ensure that democracy was not truncated. Senator Dino Melaye had reported that some assailants attacked his home in Ayetoro-Gbede, Ijumu local government area of Kogi State on April 15, 2017 with attempt to assassinate him. He said not less than 200 bullet holes were marked on his house, even though no rat was killed at the end of it all. Melaye who is now standing trial for raising false alarm staged another drama that the FCT High Court in Maitama was surrounded by SARS sent by Governor Yahaya Bello with attempt to arrest him for an offence he’s yet to disclose weeks after, except the narration of how he played ‘’James Bond’’ to escape. Nigeria Police are trying him for his Ayetoro-Gbede home attack hoax stories. The Kogi State Police Command has declared Senator Dino Melaye and Mohammed Audu wanted for allegedly failing to honour the invitations given to them to explain their involvement in an arms supplies allegations levelled against them by two suspected thugs now on the run. The Police Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood had on March 19, 2018 paraded the duo of Osama and Small with two AK-47 and five pump action guns allegedly supplied to them by Melaye.
On Aug 20, 2016, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara led a delegation to the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, accusing his state governor, Mohammed Abubakar of squandering about N8.6billion bail-out fund extended to the state by the federal government. Those that accompanied Dogara for the hurtful mission included the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi North), the late Senator Ali Wakil (APC, Bauchi South) and other members of the national Assembly from Bauchi state. The National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegu, and the National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni however received Dogara’s team. Though Isa Hamma Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) was not there, but he too has not been on the same page with Governor Abubakar. Five days later, precisely on August 25, 2016, mild drama ensued at the APC National Secretariat when youths who claimed to have come from Bauchi State, stormed the premises in protest for and against the Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar. While some of the youths demanded the suspension of the governor by the party, others called for sanctions against Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
The frosty relationship between Governor Abubakar and Speaker Dogara, began when the latter was elected speaker in contravention of the zoning principle of the governing APC, Dogara have been annoyed with the governor he is nursing ambition to over throw in 2019 that he failed to support him for his speakership quest then. During an interview with a national daily in May of 2017, Dogara admitted that there was a cold war going on between himself and the governor. He however said he had fallen out with the governor over non provision of democracy dividends to the people. “It wasn’t because he refused to support me to be speaker, it wasn’t because anybody had reported him”, Dogara said. In Bauchi, the moment Ahmadu Muazu left governance, development stopped in Bauchi.
Clearly no new district has been opened, the whole capital is crammed up, there’s no water, challenges left, right and centre, we cannot continue like that. This is not a struggle between me and Governor M.A Abubakar because I want to contest for Governor, it is a struggle between forces of good and forces of retrogression, between who wants to see advancement in Bauchi State and those who say they are offering leadership while they are just filling their pockets”. On October 9, 2016, the late Senator Ali Wakili, accused Governor Mohammed Abubakar, of inciting the people of the state against members of the National Assembly. Wakil said the governor had been blackmailing members of the National Assembly by making false allegations against them, which were becoming scandalous.
He said the governor recently alleged that his grouse with some members of the National Assembly was a result of his refusal to buy exotic cars and houses for them, pointing out that the allegation was aimed at inciting members of the state against them (lawmakers.) “It is very unfortunate and scandalous that this kind of allegation is coming from a chief executive officer of the state that is expected to be circumspect than all of us because whatever he says can trigger a chain of reactions. “On my own part, I have never discussed the issue of any vehicle with the governor. I have never either alone or in consultation with the party caucus requested for any vehicle. I feel this is his way of blackmailing us” Reacting to the allegation, the media aide to the governor, Sabo Mohammed, said members of the National Assembly in the state had abandoned their responsibilities and were focusing on how to hijack power from the government in 2019.
Almost three weeks after the Niger State chapter of the APC endorsed Governor Abubakar Sani Bello for a second term in office, Senator David Umaru (Niger East, APC) said on March 15, 2018 that the governor does not deserve such endorsement. Umaru who is eyeing the seat too and had been at daggers drawn with the governor since 2016 over some of his (governor) policies which he described as “anti-people” said that the poor performance of the governor did not “justify his rush for second term.” “The APC administration in Niger State has performed terribly badly to the extent that we should not be talking about second term. There is virtually nothing on ground to justify second term for the administration. Today I feel ashamed for working to enthrone this administration because of its highest level of un-seriousness.” But on March 18, 2018, Niger state Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ahmad Muhammad Ketso said Umaru’s statement was self-serving and divisive; adding that the senator has penchant for not seeing anything good in any other politician but play divisive and ethnic cards to gain cheap political gain.
On August 29, 20176 there was a showdown in Ekiti state as supporters of Governor Ayodele Fayose and those loyal to Senator Olubunmi Olujimi (Ekiti south, PDP) engaged in a fisticuffs over attempts by a faction to advance Fayose’s interest during a meeting by the two factions. Report had claimed that she had rebuffed the governor after Fayose allegedly warned her to back down on her governorship ambition. Senator Olujimi, had in July 2017 accused Fayose of plotting to kill her, she stressed that governor Fayose became hostile towards her, having cautioned him on contracts he is fond of awarding to his family and cronies.
The jaw-jaw war between the Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central, APC) assumed another dimension when Senator Marafa called his state governor an alien. Governor Yari had written a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari in March 2017 and copied the Senate leadership, alleging that the nominee for the position of Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ahmad Bello Mahmud for the state was not an indigene of the state. Consequently, Senate had based on recommendation by its committee on INEC refused confirmation of nomination of Mahmud as REC nominee for the state on the strength of that petition However, on that December 20, 2017, Senator Marafa made spirited attempts to ensure that the Senate changed its position, saying, “the Governor himself based on available records on his ancestral roots, is not an indigene of the state but elected as governor because he was born and brought up there the same way the rejected REC nominee was born and brought up in Gusau , the capital of the state “. On January 31, 2018, while contributing to Senate debate on insecurity in Nigeria, Senator Marafa alleged that governor Yari and his deputy run criminal gangs who have been laying siege on the state, adding that the criminal gangs and militias had kidnapped some persons in his community. Gov. Yari, he said is romancing with criminals causing insecurity in Zamfara State. Governor Yari’s spokesperson, Alhaji Salisu Isah at a press conference in Kaduna on February 1, 2018 responded to the alarm raised by the Senator that if anything happened to him, Governor Yari should be held responsible. “Yes we are going to kill him politically, we are going to bury his political ambition in 2019. He wants to be governor, he is not going to get it, and even the Senate he is not going to return.”
The squabble between Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and his erstwhile deputy now Kano state Governor Ganduje with the appointment of state executives by Ganduje. None of the commissioners in Kwankwaso’s executive was retained by Ganduje, with the exception of Nasiru Gawuna, who was commissioner for agriculture under Kwankwaso. However, Kwankwaso has not visited Kano since May 2015. In January when he decided to do so, the feud got a renewal. The rift got to a head when two rival political camps, Kwankwasiyya and Gandujiyya, fixed rallies for the same area on the same day. Clashes between supporters of both camps had left many injured but Kwankwaso refused to shelve his ‘grand visit’ despite police warning. He later jettisoned his planned visit, saying he wanted to allow peace and security prevail.
The 2019 gubernatorial ambition of the Senator representing Lagos West, Solomon Olamilekan Adeola has brought him at loggerheads, not with his current state governor, but with the governor of the state where he aspires to govern. Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun is rounding off his two terms with the race to the Ogun State government house becoming fiercer by the day. In tacit reference to Adeola, Governor Amosun, in November 2017, vowed for the second time that he would not hand over to a ‘stranger’ in 2019. Although Amosun is disposed to someone from Yewa part of the state succeeding him, he opposes Adeola who is from that part. The governor said it would be an insult to the forebears of Ogun State if an ‘Atohunrinwa’ (stranger) should succeed him when there are true sons and daughters of the soil in abundance. Despite that, Adeola has vowed to contest with or without the governor’s support. This subtle bickering has split the leadership of the party into two, with Aeola’s faction enjoying the full support of a national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, while Amosun wants to be allowed to determine his successor.
Though the leadership of the APC in Ondo state has tried to dismiss the existence of cold war within its ranks, there are indications that all is not well between the Ondo North senator, Ajayi Boroffice and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. Senator Boroffice did not support Akeredolu’s election in 2016. After the election, the governor and his supporters said they did not consider the senator a member of the APC and that he would have to reapply to the party to become a member. Mr. Boroffice, however, fired back saying he never left the APC and remains a full member of the party. The APC in Ondo is currently making moves to resolve its internal crisis with a former governorship aspirant, Olusola Oke, returning to the party. Oke left the APC after Akeredolu won the party’s governorship primaries. He later contested against Akeredolu on another platform. Despite the reconciliation within the Ondo APC, there are however still indications that the differences between Akeredolu and Boroffice remain unresolved.
BENUE, DELTA AND PLATEAU STATES
Senator David Mark’s remark in Rivers state on May 24, 2017 that while Governor Nyesom Wike was commissioning roads and bridges, his state Governor Samuel Ortom was busy distributing wheelbarrows as empowerment projects for the youths was enough to tell that all was not well between Mark and Ortom. This was just as Ortom called Mark a stark liar in reply to Mark’s remark. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta central, APC) is neither having it easy back in the state for decamping from the PDP and at the senate where he risks suspension for supporting President Buhari Following petitions by the plateau state Governor Simon Lalong, EFCC on January 16, 2018 interrogated Senator Jonah Jang (Plateau north, PDP) for alleged fraud of over N10bn. Jang, who was two-term governor arrived at the Abuja office of the EFCC around 10am and was grilled for several hours after which he was released around 8pm.