The campaign season may still be a few weeks away, but the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kano appears to have found its mojo at an apt moment, with not only the return of a former governor of the state, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, but also with the three-day presence of its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the state.
Atiku, a former Vice President of the country, arrived in the state capital on Sunday with majority of who-is-who in the party in his entourage. Until their departure Wednesday evening, Bristol Hotel, where they lodged and held meetings, was a beehive of activities and almost a tourist centre.
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Some of the PDP bigwigs in his company include Atiku’s running mate and governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; former Vice President Namadi Sambo; the party’s national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu; the chairman of its Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin; governors of Sokoto and Taraba, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Darius Ishaku.
Others include former governors of Jigawa (Saminu Turaki and Sule Lamido), Sokoto (Attahiru Bafarawa), Kaduna (Ahmed Makarfi), Adamawa (Boni Haruna), spokesperson of Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Team, Senator Dino Melaye; and a chieftain of the party and media mogul, Raymond Dokpesi.
From Sunday night when they arrived till their departure Wednesday, it was observed that access to the hotel became very difficult with the heavy presence of security operatives, especially officials of the Department of State Services (DSS), who kept watch at the entrance and screened everyone attempting to gain access to the main lobby of the hotel.
However, the main reason for the visit, which has boosted the morale of not just PDP members in the state but across the country, was the official defection of Shekarau at his Mundubawa residence on Monday. The event witnessed a huge turnout of party members and loyalists of the former Kano governor despite the over four-hour heavy rainfall and the attending flood that was witnessed in the state metropolis.
This, according to Atiku and other speakers at the event, was a testament to the acceptability of Shekarau among the people and was thus heralded by the PDP bigwigs and the supporters as a signal for good fortune for the party in the 2023 general elections.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that prior to the defection of Shekarau, the PDP had been embroiled in a battle of supremacy between the faction led by the now-ousted party chairman in the state, Shehu Wada Sagagi, and the faction led by the Vice Chairman of the party for North-West zone, Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo. While Sagagi is believed to be loyal to a former governor of the state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who is now the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Gwarzo leads the group loyal to a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali.
The crisis had led to parallel party primaries which produced two governorship candidates: Mohammad Sani Abacha for the Sagagi group and Sadiq Wali for the Gwarzo group. However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had published the name of Wali as the candidate submitted by the national headquarters of the party, despite the Kano office of electoral umpire having said it only monitored the primary election that produced Abacha.
But with the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja sacking the Sagagi-led executives on Monday, party faithful loyal to Gwarzo said this might have put the matter of the crisis to rest, especially with the chain of stakeholders’ meetings held between Monday and Wednesday with Atiku and his entourage. Sagagi is however yet to comment on the court judgment and efforts to make peace. He was not available for comment when Daily Trust reached out on Thursday.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that Atiku’s presidential ambition also received a boost when hundreds of support groups in the state pledged their loyalty and support to his candidature, according to a statement by AbdulRasheed Shehu, special assistant to Atiku on Media and Broadcasting.
Atiku and the party chairman, Ayu, however, insisted that regardless of the chain of endorsements as well as several interactive sessions with the business community, women, labour and trade unions, among others, the visit to Kano was not for campaign, promising to return when INEC officially declares the campaign season open later in September.
Atiku’s visit, Shekarau’s defection of little significance – APC, NNPP
But members of the ruling APC as well as those of the NNPP have insisted the visit and reception given to Shekarau and Atiku in the course of the week were of little significance to the political permutations in the state.
Reacting, the Secretary of the APC in Kano, Ibrahim Zakari Sarina, said the party could not be threatened by Atiku’s visit to Kano or the defection of Shekarau to the PDP, insisting that “traditionally, Kano belongs to the APC.
He added that “even Kwankwaso cannot capture Kano State not to talk of the PDP. You know this APC group is the same set of politicians that defeated the late Bashir Tofa for MKO Abiola in 1993. It is the same group; so definitely, APC is not threatened (by Atiku’s visit or Shekarau). The whole north, including Adamawa, is for APC.”
While the chairman of NNPP in Kano, Umar Haruna Doguwa, could not be reached for comment, a member of the party, Abdullahi Namama, said the good thing from the defection of Shekarau was that most of the political bigwigs that came with him to the NNPP in May refused to join him in PDP, insisting that the reception given to Atiku was nothing bigger than what a chairmanship candidate under the NNPP will get.
“From what we saw on social media, the turnout for Atiku was like a chairmanship candidate and not a presidential candidate. Even Atiku knows that most of the few people turning out for him are just after his money because Kano politics is all about the grassroots,” Namama, a former aspirant for House of Representatives for Kumbotso Federal Constituency, said.
More work is needed for PDP’s success in Kano – Fage
Commenting, renowned political scientist and analyst, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage, said Shekarau’s defection should not be waved off as insignificant by the other parties while also noting that Atiku’s presence and what he did in Kano in the three days he was around will add votes for the PDP but these alone should not be construed as a magic wand for a PDP success in Kano.
“Even though there is still a long time before the campaign season, it will go on well with some of the affected victims he reached out to while here. There was the flood and he went to Kantin Kwari as a person and he even donated N50million to the affected traders; so, I think he may get some sympathisers among them,” he said.
Prof Fage of the Department of Political Science in Bayero University, Kano (BUK), added that Atiku’s meeting with several stakeholders will also add to the fortunes of the party in Kano, but added that “this should not however be taken for granted that it will substantially help the PDP. It will add some votes here and there but a lot of work has to be done if PDP is to make a strong outing in Kano.
“One, PDP has to mend its already broken fence in Kano, and two, PDP has formidable challengers like the APC which is the party in government with its resources and incumbency factor but most especially the issue of NNPP. Kwankwaso has huge support among the youth, and the low performance of the APC at both state and national levels and the current disasters that we have in Kano, floods and the collapse of a building will all add up to the protest against APC and then it will raise the profile of NNPP. As soon as campaign starts, you will see how they (NNPP) will come out to harp on these issues.”