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Borno gov’ship: Can Sheriff, Shettima strike a deal?

As the country glides towards the 2019 general elections, the Borno State governorship contest is already exhibiting some traits.  While some of these traits are…

As the country glides towards the 2019 general elections, the Borno State governorship contest is already exhibiting some traits.  While some of these traits are ingrained as rituals in the electoral contests, others are to Borno state.

As expected in every other State, aspirants have emerged and are still emerging. Some of them are reportedly slugging it out with one another within their respective parties’ platforms. As each of them perfects his grisly moves against the others, they still seem veiled to the public in an atmosphere of uncertainty over their aspirations. They have continued to shield from one another their individual grisly moves in a pervading atmosphere of deceit and treachery.

There are two visible parties in Borno State: the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the ‘near-absent weakling’ Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which does not seem constituting any threat to the APC at any tier of government in the ‘near-absent’ opposition it plays.

From the APC sanctum, aspirants reportedly mentioned for the state 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, Governor of the defunct North-Central State, who now represents Borno North; Alhaji Adamu Zau Fanjimba; and Alhaji Mai Modu Sheriff, the younger brother of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.

Prominent names so far mentioned from the PDP camp include Mohammed Babagana, a former FCT Minister; and Alhaji Mamman Million, a former Chairman of the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council.

Other emerging aspirants without any known party platform include the embattled former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina. Striding like a gladiator from Southern Borno, his campaign posters do not show any party platform. Although one of his posters pasted on some structures at Biu read, “The Clarion Call, Hope 2019, Maina Abdulrasheed for Governor Borno State” But it is printed on the background colours of the APC flag.

“Emergence of aspirants for whatever elective posts without indicating any party platform is a strategy so decisively deployed by some of the aspirants, especially from the Southern Borno,” a reliable APC source told Daily Trust.

“This is deliberate. The Southern Borno, the domain to most of the tribes populating the state, seems more resolute than ever before on their quest to wrestle the governorship seat from the Northern and Central Borno, the domain of the Kanuri and the Shuwa. They want to pool their aspirants first, perfect their permutations and moves, weigh all emerging possibilities of alliances with other political forces, then place the aspirants on a durable platforms,” the source said.

“Politics is a game of numbers, and so long as it remains so, no Southern Borno candidate can become governor unless with the support of disgruntled sections of the Central and Northern senatorial districts; and I don’t foresee this now,” he also said.

“As usual, you should know that it is an age-old strategy for a part of an entity to agitate for a political office, even though it knows that it cannot practically get it. It is just to scheme for other lucrative appointments. I think this is what the Southern Borno is doing. But this is only my thinking, because in politics, calculations, based on emerging realities and considerations, can always change at any time up to the last minute before the collation and announcement of the votes cast and the declaration of the winner emerging through any nice or nasty process,” the APC source said.

Governor Kashim Shettima, who, in one of the entrenched traditions of succession, has continued to keep mum, watching all the sundry plots emerging from all camps within and outside his party, the APC. Pundits say the governor has kept swimming in the complacent logic of holding the ace to determine who succeeds him on whatever platform in the political poker game.

He is reported to be secretly disposed to Alhaji Mai Modu Sheriff. He is said to have even informally presented him to a group of leading politicians from Borno in Mecca during the last Hajj exercise. The choice of the man is seen as a payback to Senator Ali Modu Sheriff (SAS), under whom he served as commissioner, and who handed over the gubernatorial mantle to him by ‘arm-twisting’ the old guard, PDP’s Mohammed Goni.

“Do you believe that this could, therefore, be the payback time in the Shettima-Sheriff deal? Don’t trust both of them yet,” the source said.

“Kashim could just be testing the waters, feeling the pulse of some political forces and the public on 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 sinister winds which will down him out of the race. No! Kashim should be too wise and politically civilized in the Nigerian political context to do that. But take note, I am not saying that what he was reported to have done in Mecca is not plausible,” the source added. 

Politics of senatorial ticket

Political watchers, 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 the incumbent governor 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 in 2015 ‘in trust’ ahead of 2019. 

It is also argued that he does not expect any iota of opposition from Senator Garbai with regard to their ‘gentleman arrangement’.

That, it is argued, was the reason why he ensured the election of Garbai in the by-election to fill the position rendered vacant by the death of Senator Ahmed Zanna Khalifa.

Some analysts, however, see Shettima sniffing around the Borno North senatorial seat, which he will ‘demand’ from the incumbent Senator Kyari, his former commissioner and Chief of Staff. They recall him ‘claiming’ that 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 home.

Those, in a desperate search for what to lean on, now find that ‘claim’ sufficiently durable to lean on to substantiate their forecasting.

That, they argue further, is made more plausible and possible, by what arguers describe as the emerging bid to present Abu Kyari as the next gubernatorial candidate. To these people, the duo will merely swap positions since the governor allegedly ‘gave’ Kyari the senatorial seat to keep for him ‘in trust’. 

However, many others dismiss that bid as unattainable for Kashim, arguing that although Abubakar Kyari was once his commissioner, whom he trusted to the ultimate point of appointing him his Chief of Staff, both him and Kyari are SAS’ ‘boys’ and ‘protégés’.

SAS, who is seen as ‘the sole main financier’ who commits every resource to ensure that his ‘lackey’ contestants win their stakes in every election gamble, will determine who becomes governor because Shettima can’t dare him.

It is argued that SAS, who is still maintaining his firm grip of Borno politics, can determine who gets what on the state’s political turf.

Governor Shettima, it is argued, may unleash whatever clout and prowess incumbency has earned him now to ensure who becomes what on the state’s political turf, but power of incumbency is ephemeral. He may, therefore, not possess the weight to flex muscle with whomever the ‘heavyweight’ SAS fields.

If this argument, albeit described as ‘too infantile’ by some arguers, holds water, then whoever SAS favours, Garbai, Kyari, Mai Sheriff, or any other person now ‘preserved in the cooler’ to sprint from the rear at an appointed time, becomes governor, by the grace of God, whether recommended by Shettima or not according to some pundits.

In the PDP camp, Mohammed Abba Gana is said to be favoured by his fellow old guards, while Mamman Million, who is said to be mentioned more in casual conversations, is the youth favourite.

“They may have done that in their inner circles, but to be frank with you, no aspirant, including Maina and others whose posters have been pasted in some parts of the state on their own approval or not, has publicly declared his ambition with the required seriousness,” another reliable source said.

The Shuwa Arab majority grassroots population constitutes another factor in the governorship contest. 

Pundits says that the Shuwa are disgruntled over what they are reported to have described as the domineering attitude of 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 constituted another formidable force.

“Only 500, 000 votes 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. The Hausa-Fulani are resolute on who becomes governor. They have been hoodwinked severally in the past. They will not allow that now,” 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 also said.

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