Midway to 2019, many serving senators have directly or indirectly shown interest in crossing over from the National Assembly to various state government houses. Daily Trust takes a look at the growing trend.
While some senators are planning to navigate their way to government houses because the incumbents are rounding off second terms, many of the legislators are actually taking the proverbial bull by the horns in a bid to oust first-term governors, who are obviously angling for second terms.
While the dream of most second-term governors is to ‘retire’ to the Senate on completion of their tenures, the aspiration of many, including some first-timers, is to ‘step-up’ to state government houses, in what many political analysts see as “incoherent role reversals” in Nigeria’s political scheme of things.
Daily Trust reports that the ambition of the lawmakers, to a certain extent, is said to be chiefly responsible for the unending crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the affected states. Curiously, even before 2019, the serious competition has manifested, most recently in Anambra State, where Senator Andy Uba (APC, Anambra South) and Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North) vied for the tickets of their parties ahead of the November elections in their states.
Their ambitions were, however, truncated following their defeat at the primaries of their respective parties. Uba defected from PDP to APC in February this year in an apparent move to clinch the party’s ticket. His defection cost him the juicy Public Accounts Committee in the Senate, which is traditionally chaired by an opposition lawmaker.
“But lucky them, the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended and the 1999 Constitution ‘forgot’ to have a clause that would compel them to resign from the Senate before aspiring for another office,” said Ahmed Suraj, a political analyst. He said many senators would “gamble” their seats in 2019 because of the lacuna in the electoral laws.
“And that is why the competition for power will always be vicious,” he said.
As it is, Senator Andy Uba and Stella Oduah are already back in the Senate without any eyebrows raised, even as many other senators are gearing up for 2019 to try their luck in becoming first citizens of their respective states. The following, are some of them:
Malam Ali Wakili
Wakili, a straightforward and easygoing lawmaker chairs the Senate committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Welfare. Speaker Yakubu Dogara is one of his constituents in Bauchi South Senatorial District and there is no disputing the fact that there is mutual respect between them.
Although the body language of the retired Customs officer is unclear as to a governorship ambition, pundits feel that the feud between Bauchi federal lawmakers, including Dogara, with their state governor, Mohammed Abubakar, might not be unconnected with what would happen in 2019.
For so many obvious reasons, Dogara might not contest for the governorship but observers believe that he might use his intimidating posture at the national level, coupled with his acceptability in Bauchi to support Wakili or any other lawmaker from the state to oust Governor Abubakar.
All efforts including the one by the Presidency and the national headquarters of the APC to settle the dispute between the governor and the federal lawmakers have yielded no result. The lawmakers are said to be all-out to oust the lawyer-turned-politician from Bauchi Government House come 2019.
Wakili is said to have a firm support of the powers that be in his Senatorial District, as he meets weekly with them.
Kabiru Garba Marafa
Marafa, a ‘second-termer’ at the Upper Chamber was the lone critic of Senate President Bukola Saraki until he was made the chairman of the Senate Committee on Ptroleum (Downstream). Considered a ‘party man’, Marafa represents Zamfara Central Senatorial District at the Upper chamber. His constituency is yet to produce a governor since the creation of the state in 1996, and many see him as the game-changer come 2019.
While Zamfara West has been occupying the seat for about 16 years (Ahmad Sani Yarima, 1999-2007 and Abdulaziz Yari, 2011 to date), the Zamfara North Senatorial district had occupied it for four years (Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi 2007-2011).
For the people of Zamfara Central Senatorial district, 2019 is their turn to produce the governor and the pendulum is said to be swinging on Marafa and the incumbent Deputy Governor, Malam Ibrahim Wakala, a loyalist of Yarima.
Out of the 10 Principal Officers of the Senate, Olujimi is also said to be warming her way to the government house of Ekiti State, where she was a deputy governor. She is the Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate. Born in 1958, she was first elected into the House of Reps in 2003, and is now angling to succeed her former boss, Ayo Fayose, whose second tenure elapses next year.
Her biggest threat is Governor Ayo Fayose, who has shown his open resentment to her ambition and the two politicians have since thrown caution to the wind in confrontation after confrontation. In August, several persons were reportedly wounded when supporters of Fayose and Mrs. ‘s clashed, allegedly in Kota-Ekiti, during a PDP meeting.
The crisis reached a crescendo when Olujimi’s ambition suffered a serious setback when stakeholders of the party in Ekiti, at the instance of Fayose, last month endorsed the Deputy Governor of the state, Prof. Kolapo Olusola as the most preferred candidate for 2018 election. But Olujimi is still nursing her ambition, and a source said she will still go ahead.
Our correspondent reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed July 14, next year, for the Ekiti governorship election.
Senator Shehu Sani, who chairs the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, has been having a running battle with the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai. Sani, alongside other members of the APC in Kaduna who are aggrieved with El-Rufai’s policies and conduct, last year formed a splinter group of the party called ‘APC Akida’ in the state. He represents the Kaduna Central Senatorial District at the Senate.
Recently, Sani’s posters for the 2019 governorship election have been spotted at strategic locations in Kaduna State. Like all others, he has not declared his intention to contest but people around him are often heard referring to him as ‘ Your Excellency’, and this might not be unconnected with the fact that he is planning a move for governorship.
The selling point of Hunkuyi, a first-timer at the Upper Chamber, is his firm control of the Kaduna North Senatorial district where he represents. For many years, the former commissioner under the Makarfi administration, has been struggling for the Kaduna State governorship.
Our correspondent reports that even though he has announced his intention to join the governorship race, the swift manner he dissociated himself from the recent endorsement of El-Rufai for a second term, is an indicator that he is still nursing the ambition.
Another senator who is said to be having a governorship ambition is Ademola Adeleke, who succeeded his elder brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke who died in April this year. The elder Adeleke was the first executive governor of Osun State from January 1999 to November 1993, and was planning to return to Osun State Government House before he died.
The younger Adeleke was in the APC until when he could not secure the party’s ticket for the Osun West rerun following the demise of his elder brother. He therefore decamped to PDP and won.
Popularly known as ‘the dancing senator’ on social media, Adeleke is said to be all-out to actualise the unfulfilled dream of his elder brother. INEC has fixed the governorship election of the state for 22nd of September, 2018.
He is representing Osun East and has shown interest to contest for the governorship election in Osun State. This is the first time he is contesting governorship race.
His elevation to the position of the Senate leader in January this year raised his political profile in both Yobe and across the country.
Lawan, 57, has been a federal lawmaker since 1999. He served at the green chamber twice (1999-2007) and now he is a third-timer at the Senate (2007-date). He is said to be very close to the Yobe State governor, Ibrahim Gadam at the state level while at the centre, both President Muhammadu Buhari and a section of the APC leadership are comfortable with him.
Because of his cordial relationship with the governor, some believe he might get the blessing of Gaidam even though other sources said the political complexity in the state is changing.
Though Senator Lawan, who represents Yobe North Senatorial District, has not declared his intention to run, it was gathered that any of the governor’s ‘candidates’, depending on circumstances, might get the nod come 2019.
Like Lawan, Hassan is also from Yobe State. While Lawan is of APC, Hassan, a banker-turned-politician is of the PDP. He won the election to represent Yobe South Senatorial District in 2015 in a state considered to be a stronghold of the APC.
Hassan, who is the Vice Chairman of the Senate committee on FCT, is said to enjoy the support of Yobe Zone B. He recently redefined constituency projects when he built an eighty-bed hospital reportedly from his savings, and donated it to the federal government. The gesture has been earning him accolades.
Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai
He was Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in Governor Kashim Shettima’s administration in Borno State but moved to the Senate following the death of Senator Ahmad Zannah, in May 2015 before the inauguration of the 8th Senate. The prince from the Borno Emirate Council won the by-election conducted by INEC in late October, 2015 and he was sworn in by the Senate president, Bukola Saraki on November 3rd. He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business.
The level-headed politician’s background and closeness to Governor Kashim Shettima, as well as his relationships with senior politicians in Borno, might make his ride to Borno Government House smooth. And for the fact that he is from Borno Central, as is Shettima, they might likely switch roles come 2019.
Another potential candidate for the Borno State Government House is Senator Abubakar Kyari. He served as commissioner in some ministries in Borno during ex-Governor Ali Modu Sheriff’s time, and then Chief of Staff to Governor Shettima between 2011 and 2015 before he left for the Senate. His father is General Abba Kyari, and he is from Borno North and analysts believe that his relationship with Shettima is equally cordial. And for the fact that Borno Central has been on the saddle for long, if rotational factor plays out, then Kyari, who is the chairman of Senate Committee on INEC, might have an easy ride.
At the moment, he represents Lagos West Senatorial District at the Senate but he is gunning for the Ogun State Government House, come 2019. Olamilekan, born in Lagos, is one of the diehard ‘boys’ of the APC leader, Senator Ahmad Bola Tinubu at the Senate. He is said to rely solely on the strength of his political godfather to actualize the ambition.
‘Yayi for Ogun Gov 2019,’ is everywhere in Ogun State. A Facebook account has been created for this purpose. The first-time Senator who stepped up from House of Reps to the Senate chairs the committee on local content.
He is a lawyer and second-time lawmaker at the Senate. He defeated a sitting governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, who indicated interest in the Senate in 2015 on expiration of his second tenure in office as Niger State governor.
Umaru, who chairs the Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, is said to be scheming to oust the incumbent governor, Abubakar Sani Bello.
John Owan Enoh
Born in 1966, Enoh, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, decamped from PDP to APC in May this year. His defection, according to sources, is for him to contest for the governorship election in Cross River State come 2019.
Enoh, who has been in the National Assembly for over 14 years, has a serious task ahead of him going by the slim popularity of APC in the state.
He is from Kwara North Senatorial district and is eying to become the governor of the state in 2019. Senator Lafiagi has embarked on underground works especially through his contacts back home. He is a former governor of the state and part of the Kwara political structure, and they are known for not openly showing interest.
He is a PDP senator representing Taraba South and is said to be eying the seat of the governor, Governor Darius Ishaku, who is also of the PDP and now in his first term and obviously planning to contest once more.
Nafada is believed to be nursing a longtime ambition of becoming governor of Gombe State. He is said to be planning to take over from Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of the PDP, who will be rounding up his second term in 2019.
Nafada represents North Senatorial District under APC and is yet to show any signs like printing of posters or holding political meetings. In fact, the last time he publicly visited the state was in October 2016, when the state celebrated its 20 years since its creation.
However, political observers in the state opined that for the two times he attempted to vie for the governor’s seat, he always entered the contest late, towards the party’s primary elections.
Senator Philip Aruwa Gyunka
He is representing Nasarawa North Senatorial zone and is planning to vie for the governorship position in Nasarawa State under the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The senator’s billboard for the 2019 governorship position is placed at entrance of the PDP secretariat in Lafia, while his posters have flooded walls in and around the state. Also, current and former house of assembly members from the PDP held meetings and resolved to support his gubernatorial ambition.