What seems to be a concealed political dispute between Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje and his erstwhile godson, Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, was blown open on Friday, November 5, 2021, when thugs blocked Goje from entering Gombe town.
Goje, who had been away from the state for some months, visited to attend the wedding of his granddaughter. But he was kept for hours by thugs, who insisted that he would not enter the town. This led to the death of one person, while over 40 vehicles, including Goje’s SUV, were vandalised.
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Before the dust generated by the attack on the former governor’s convoy could settle, his daughter, Dr Hussaina Goje, resigned her position as commissioner and member of the State Executive Council, “citing personal reasons.”
How the relationship started
Governor Yahaya, a successful businessman, came to the political limelight in 2003 when he was appointed by Goje as commissioner for finance and economic planning, an office he occupied for seven years.
Yahaya wanted to become governor in 2011, but after studying Goje’s body language, he shelved his ambition and waited until 2015. He contested against Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo but lost by a slim margin.
Again, in 2019, Senator Goje rallied all the eight aspirants that lost the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket to Yahaya and supported him, a strategy that worked and culminated into the party’s victory and ended the 16-year rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
It is, therefore, believed that when Governor Yahaya was forming his cabinet, he ‘rewarded’ Goje by appointing his daughter, Dr Hussaina and son-in-law, Ibrahim Dasuki Jalo Waziri, as commissioners. They were posted to ‘juicy’ ministries – Environment and Forest Resources, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs respectively.
In December 2019, about seven months after Yahaya’s assumption as governor, Senator Goje, who is representing the Gombe Central senatorial district in the National Assembly, called for a mega rally, where he announced his decision not to contest for an election again.
He cited old age and the need to give the younger generation the opportunity to also grow and showcase their God-given talents, especially in politics.
Like Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State, whose loyalists used a condolence visit by the senator to the governor at his hometown when he lost his mother in March 2016 to pitch them against each other, those in Yahaya’s camp used the same strategy to stoke crisis at Kumo during Sallah celebration. It was learnt that supporters of Goje clashed with those of Usman Bello Kumo, a member representing Akko federal constituency.
Party chieftains from Akko Local Government Area paid a solidarity visit to Governor Yahaya, urging him to be wary of Goje’s moves to take over the party from him.
They alleged that Goje was trying to hijack the party structure and deny him the opportunity to pick candidates for different elective positions in 2023, or even deny him a ticket for a second term.
Political observers said the governor bought the idea and started scheming to ‘get rid’ of Goje and take full control of the party. But he kept pretending that all is well between him and his former boss.
Governor Yahaya made a strong speech, warning politicians to stop instigating violence in the state, saying his administration would not tolerate political thuggery.
He said the state government would not fold its arms and allow politicians to connive with criminals in the name of politics to disrupt the relative peace being enjoyed in the state.
The governor further vowed to deal with any individual or groups, however highly placed, found to foment trouble in the state.
Goje’s camp saw the governor’s remarks as insulting; hence his loyalists, including some commissioners and other aides of Yahaya, organised a mega rally in Kumo town and called on the senator to rescind his earlier decision not to contest.
Thereafter, during the ward, local government and state congresses, all perceived loyalists of Goje in his stronghold, Gombe Central and other parts of the state, were replaced with those loyal to the governor.
With that action, the governor felt he had consolidated his grip on the party at the state.
Also, APC stakeholders across the three zones of the state organised a meeting and denounced Goje as the leader of the party.
At the respective meetings in each zone, all political officeholders and government appointees who were present affirmed their loyalty to Governor Yahaya as the “authentic leader” of the party in the state. They also pledged to return him for a second term in 2023.
Traditional rulers also took turns to pledge their loyalty to the Yahaya administration and thanked him for “all the development projects he is executing in their respective domains.”
Who will blink first?
Political pundits are of the opinion that Goje has a ‘well oiled’ political structure in the state, “because he virtually had a hand in the progression of all the present political officeholders in the state, starting from the governor.”
On his part, Governor Yahaya has the power of incumbency, as well as various road projects across the state, renovation of hospitals and schools, and prompt payment of civil servants’ salaries.
When contacted, the commissioner for information and culture in the state, Mr Julius Ishaya Lepes, denied any crack or friction between his boss and Senator Goje.
He said each of them as respected leaders in their own rights had their jobs cut out for them.
Lepes said, “The government has no business stopping Goje from coming into Gombe. Many ‘big men,’ even from other parties, visited the state in the past and nobody stopped them. What would we gain if we stopped him?
“As an elder statesman, he is respected by all and sundry. Why did he mobilise thugs to disturb the relative peace being enjoyed in the state? We are not in the campaign season, so why the large crowd that received him from the airport?”
On his part, a special assistant to Senator Goje, Sa’idu Mu’azu Kumo, a lawyer, accused Yahaya’s aides of creating the feud in order to get relevance from the governor.
“Goje is a political leader in Gombe, irrespective of party affiliations. The governor’s boys planned the attack because they were disturbed by the cordial relationship between their boss and our leader,” he said.
Ahead of the 2023 elections, a battle line has been drawn for political supremacy between Governor Yahaya and his erstwhile political godfather.
Meanwhile, Goje has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Police Service Commission, seeking the probe of the aide-de-camp and other aides of the governor over the attack on his convoy.
But the APC in the state tongue-lashed the former governor, telling him to apologise for disturbing peace in the state. As the fight between the two political gladiators continues, the question on the minds of the people of the state is: Who will blink first?