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LG chairmen battle Shekarau over choice of successor

Gwarzo and Takai have some similarities. The likely flagbearers of the party were once local government chairmen and commissioners of Water Resources in the state.…

Gwarzo and Takai have some similarities. The likely flagbearers of the party were once local government chairmen and commissioners of Water Resources in the state. Both are humble and reserved. Both are also loyal to the governor.

 Before the political permutations got complicated, feelers had it that the governor might either pick his close friend, Sheikh Ibrahim Khaleel or his deputy, Engineer Gwarzo.

 “Remember, Shekarau handpicked Engineer Gwarzo to be his running mate and Gwarzo has been loyal to him ever since. So, if absolute loyalty is what Shekarau wants, definitely Gwarzo will be the candidate,” a top party official told Sunday Trust.

But like events, politicians change rapidly. The governor is said to have strengthened his political romance with Takai over time and the place of Gwarzo in his gauge of preference is no longer absolute and reliable.

Indeed, although there is no public declaration from the party or from the state governor as to who they will support in the 2011 election, Sunday Trust reliably gathered that Governor Shekarau has made up his mind to support Takai against all odds.

The party leadership may side with the governor when the chips are down. Speaking at a forum organised by the Kano State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the two-term chairman of the ruling party in the state, Alhaji Sani Hashim Hotoro, said, consensus arrangement was part of the party’s guidelines.

Hashim stated, “We don’t want to go for primaries to pick our candidate for the 2011 governorship race except it becomes very necessary. We first want to try the consensus option and if it fails, we go for primary election.”

The chairman also denied ever receiving any letter from any of the governorship aspirants protesting the party’s purported decision to support one of the state commissioners in the 2011 governorship race. He said the ANPP in Kano should strive to prevent a division as unity is the only way it can sustain the existing peace in the party.

 With the power conferred on Shekarau last year to make the choice of his successor, Shekarau may bypass the selection procedure and declare the “final choice” before the party supporters. And sources say that whoever opposes the governor’s decision may risk expulsion from the party.

 The governor’s apparent support for Takai suddenly increased the presence of his posters and billboards across the state. Even on radio political programmes, Takai’s name dominates discourse.

 Observers say that since the powerful Political Adviser to Governor Shekarau, Abdullahi Sani Rogo, was seen openly bearing the badge of Takai, then Takai definitely is the governor’s choice. Rogo, a close confidant of the governor, is a member of the governor’s kitchen cabinet.

But outside the support he enjoys from top party chieftains, Takai’s candidature may suffer a setback because of the perceived revulsion of his ambition by grassroot power brokers. Most members of the party in the grassroots who spoke to Sunday Trust said they oppose the candidature of Takai because of his ’frugality and unavailability’.

Besides, most of them say they prefer to see the party allowing people to choose their best rather than adopting anybody based on the interest of a particular individual however prominent that individual may be.

But supporters of the deputy governor argue that the party may face a tough opposition if it decides to go against him. Gwarzo who was the chairman of the Kano State chapter of the Association of Local Government Chairmen of Nigeria (ALGON) when he was the council chairman of the Gwarzo Local Government Area, was in that position before he was picked as deputy governor. He still has the support of his former colleagues who are still serving as local government chairmen.

But opposition against handpicking the governorship candidate for the ANPP for the general election next year remains strong. Some councillors from the party say that they are ready for a showdown should the party impose any candidate on them. “We want the primaries conducted in a free and fair manner so that we will have a candidate who is accepted by all,” they said during one of their meetings recently.

When Takai’s supporters shout themselves hoarse highlighting his achievements, the deputy governor’s own supporters are quick to counter them by reeling out his achievements as a local government chairman in the early 1990s and in 2007 when he was handpicked by Shekarau to be his running mate and were subsequently elected governor and deputy governor respectively.

An ANPP local government chairman who spoke under condition of anonymity, told Sunday Trust last Monday that the governor had declared to them his intention to support Takai.

“Let me tell you, it is no longer secret that His Excellency wants Takai to succeed him. After all, he has made his intention known to us. But it will be political suicide for him to do that because we are ready to oppose the move,” the council chairman said.

Going by reliable information, some of the local government chairmen are rooting for Gwarzo. Their resolve is that despite their loyalty to the governor and the party, whenever the party decides to impose any candidate they don’t want, they will be ready to oppose the move.

In their view, the governor’s decision to anoint Takai despite growing opposition will not help the party in the coming elections.

“The major implication of imposing any unpopular candidate is that such an action is anti-party. So when a party faces opposition within, definitely our chances of winning will diminish,” one of the council chairmen said.

Humble, meek, religious and unassuming, Takai had a humble beginning before he started his career in the state civil service. “Takai is a very humble person. I could remember how he converted his Toyota Cressida to a taxi. After he returned from work, he would go round the town in search of passengers,” said a neighbour who lived with Takai for some years at a housing estate on Sulaiman crescent.

As the situation portrays right now, there is no stopping Shekarau from anointing Takai, not even the Ume-Ezeoke-led national leadership of the party, which, like Takai and Gwarzo, has always been loyal to the governor.

But the ANPP as a party will need to sort itself out fast enough. Internal rancour of whatever nature could shove its gladiators completely aside.

Feelers indicate that the party will face a tough fight when the Congress for Political Change (CPC) finally takes firm roots around the state. Many believe that once General Muhammadu Buhari anoints a candidate from the CPC, the candidate might give any party a run for its money in the governorship election. However, the CPC is now embroiled in a serious leadership crisis that creates division in the party. If they get over it early enough, political office seekers and leaders of the party will be difficult to beat.

 On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state is waxing stronger despite the existence of opposing factions. The party’s strongman, Engineer Rabiu Kwankwaso, is widely believed to be working towards becoming the party’s flagbearer given his firm grip on the PDP’s structure at all levels. Although Sunday Trust learnt on good authority that a dark horse may finally emerge to pick the ticket, Kwankwaso has been in a series of local government tour in the past few months. Even the ruling ANPP seems fazed by the pace the PDP has been going in the grassroots tour.

Officers and promoters of the ANPP have however, sworn to match the PDP and other parties raw strength for raw strength. The state chapter chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Alhaji Danladi Isa Kademi, says the ANPP is ready to deploy thousands of supporters should the opposition parties deploy hundreds during the forthcoming elections.