As second term governors gear up to retire to the Senate amidst a grand plan by PDP to give them automatic ticket all is not well in the game plan, writes James Obute
Recently members of the People Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan to run for the 2015 election few days after Jonathan reportedly met with some principal officers and told them that if he is returned as president, the current principal officers will be brought in during the 8thlegislative session as principal officers. However, this president position does not go down well with some 2nd term governors who are preparing to retire to senate by 2015.
The current senate has 10 former governors in its fold. These including Senator Bukola Saraki (Kwara), George Akume (Benue); Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Shaba Lafiagi (Kwara), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Chris Ngige (Anambra), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe) , Ahmad Rufai Sani Yerima (Zamfara) and Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna).
No fewer than 15 second term governors of the PDP, who will round off their terms of office on May 29, 2015 believed to be aspiring for the senate seats include Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom; Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta; Theodore Orji of Abia; Gabriel Suswam of Benue; Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu of Niger and the governor of Bauchi State, Mallam Isa Yuguda.
Others are Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers; Sullivan Chime of Enugu; Martin Elechi of Ebonyi; Jonah Jang of Plateau; Ibrahim Shema of Katsina and Saidu Dakingari of Kebbi State. There are indications that Nigerians may soon begin to witness the formation of such interest blocks as “Former Governors Forum,” in the upper chamber of the National Assembly. All ready there is northern senators forum.
Some quarters said the implication of this is that if the trend is not checked as was witnessed in not-too-distant-past with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, they will be the ones to determine the leadership of the Senate, who becomes the Senate President and his deputy or, indeed, the rest of the Senate leadership.
With this development, the former governors will ensure that the occupants of the offices of the presiding officers of the Senate, including the entire leadership of the red chamber must come from their stock.
Governor Chime of Enugu State aspires to retire to the Senate after his tenure expires next year and this has already created crisis in the state. He is to contend with the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the current senator representing Enugu-West senatorial zone.
Though it is not very clear what Ekweremadu’s next political move is between wanting to give a shot at the Enugu Government House and returning to the Senate. However, it is believed that the governor is neither disposed to allowing Ekweremadu return to the Senate nor become a tenant at the Government House. With the promise from Mr president that status quo should be maintained in respect of National Assembly leadership in 2015, there is that belief that he will contest for the senate.
The travail of Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi may not be unconnected with his close relationship with the Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu. Impeachment moves against Sunday by the state house of assembly commenced when Chime reportedly observed his closeness with Ekweremadu.
Governor Suswam, whose two tenures as governor will end in May next year, has not left anybody in doubt that he would seek election into the Senate. The governor, who hails from the Benue North-East or zone A senatorial district of Benue State will be slugging it out with former National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Barnabas Gemade, who is the current senator representing the senatorial zone at the Senate. There are indications that the governor is deploying every advantage at his disposal, including the incumbency factor to ensure that he emerges successful.
Already, the governor has received a number of endorsements for the senatorial project from key political stakeholders in the zone. For instance, the PDP elders in Benue North-East recently announced the endorsement of the governor for the senatorial seat. The PDP zonal leader, Atodza Ihidan, who announced the endorsement at a reception for Suswam explained that having served the people well at the National Assembly and as governor, the elders hoped Suswam would do well at the Senate.
Also, some PDP stakeholders and youths in Kwande and Ushongo local government areas of Benue State reportedly endorsed Suswam recently for the Senate ticket of the Benue North-East senatorial district. It was reported that the people of Sankera, where Suswam comes from had brought the governor to Kwande to ‘borrow’ the senatorial seat that is zoned to the people of the area. The Kwande people, according to the report, readily accepted the request and quickly offered the senate ticket, urging Suswam to run against the incumbent, Gemade in 2015. On his part, Gemade is not folding his arms and allowing the governor to run him over.
There are reports that the former PDP National Chairman who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on National Planning has sounded it loud and clear that he is not chickening out of the race like that, but is determined to give Suswam a good run for his money. Observers of the state politics have predicted a battle royale for the senatorial seat.
From all indications, it is perhaps only God and time that is standing between the Abia State governor, Orji, from transcending to the Senate after his eight year tenure as governor of the state. There appears to be little or indeed no serious opposition to the actualisation of the ambition of the governor in this regard.
Already, the present senator representing Abia Central senatorial district, where the governor comes from, Senator Nkechi Nwogu, has issued a notice that she would not be returning to the red chamber. She will instead be giving a shot at the Government House, Umuahia come 2015. This move, thus further clears the coast for the governor to have a smooth sail to the National Assembly.
As part of the build-up to the Senate project, Governor Orji is alleged to be responsible for the mobilisation of all manners of interest groups from the senatorial zone and beyond in what political pundits in the state described as new gale of endorsements for the governor, “to appeal to His Excellency to heed the call of the people to go to the Senate to serve them,” after his tenure as governor of the state.
Governor Uduaghan, who was for many years Secretary to the State Government, SSG, of Delta State under former Governor James Ibori, has never left the people of the state in any doubt that he wants to end up at the Senate at the end of his tenure as the governor of the state.
Already, the political battle line appears very well defined between Senator James Manager, who is the current senator representing Delta South and Governor Uduaghan, who also hails from the same senatorial zone. Manager, currently serving his third term in the Senate has since sounded it loud and clear that he was not ready to concede the seat to the governor, a situation that is generating bad blood between the two political heavy weights in the state.
While the governor will be counting on his incumbency advantage to unseat Manager for the slot, Manager on the other hand is said to be counting on his popularity with the people, particularly with the former militants in the zone to do battle with the governor. While political observers are looking forward to how the political chess game will eventually end, some stakeholders are spreading the sentiment that having spent three terms at the Senate, it was high time Manager stepped aside to enable other people take a shot at the senatorial seat.
It was gathered that all entreaties to reconcile the two political titans for the office has not yielded any results as both of them have decided not to yield grounds on the matter.
Perhaps, of the entire governors wishing to retire to the Senate after their current tenures in office, Akwa Ibom State Governor Akpabio is the one with the surest and best opportunity to actualise that ambition. The governor, who enjoys a lot of goodwill from both within and outside the state, is also a very close confidant of President Goodluck Jonathan.
This is also besides the fact that he is the current Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. The governor also maintains total control of the political structures of the party in his state. Last year when he hosted the Senate correspondents at their yearly retreats in the state, he used the opportunity to tell his visitors about his ambition. At the forum where the Senate President, Senator David Mark, was the chairman, Akpabio received the blessing of Mark, who pledged his total support to the governor’s ambition, even as Mark assured Akpabio that the Senate would be very glad to receive him as one of their own.
It is against the foregoing that political observers in the state have described the threat by Senator Aloysiu Etok, the current senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West, where Akpabio hails from, that he would give the governor a good fight as mere empty political ranting, is the governor continues to receive several endorsements, both from within and outside the senatorial zone for the project.
Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu
Governor Aliyu, the current chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, NGF, has already declared his intention to retire to the Senate at the end of his current tenure as governor of Niger State next year.
An astute administrator, Aliyu was for so many years federal Permanent Secretary in the Federal Civil Service and within these years served as Permanent Secretary in many choice ministries, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The governor was one of the about seven PDP governors that threatened to cross over to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, last year at the peak of the crisis in the PDP, but he made a detour at the last minute.
The decision not to defect to the APC by the governor was interpreted by political pundits a very wise political move in a state that is predominantly a PDP enclave. The chance of Governor Aliyu, who comes from the Niger-East senatorial district of the state, appears to be further brightened by the death of Senator Dahiru Kuta in June. The governor is alleged to be playing a very critical role in who emerges as the replacement of the late Kuta in the August 16, senatorial election so as not to jeopardise his chances in the eventual next year election into the senate.
Governor Yuguda is also reported to be eyeing the Senate at the end of his second tenure as governor of Bauchi State and if this rumour turns out to be true, he stands to do a great battle with Senator Adamu Gumba, the current senator representing the Bauchi- South senatorial district in the Senate. Fortunately for the governor, Adamu, who is the Senate Committee Chairman on Sports, is not one of those star senators who have given effective representation to their people and therefore, lacks the necessary credentials to challenge the governor seriously at the polls.
However, the greatest challenge the governor may face will come from the current FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, a one-time senator, who enjoys huge access to resources, which he made while serving as the FCT minister in the last three years.
Mohammed is said to be having frosty relations with the governor who is opposed to the minister’s reported gubernatorial ambition in the state. Mohammed also enjoys the backing of the presidency for his alleged loyalty to the First Lady.
There are also reports that the Plateau State governor, Jang will join some of his colleagues upon the expiration of his second tenure as governor to seek election to the Senate. If that is true, the retired air force general, who celebrated his 70th birthday earlier this year may not have much qualms actualising that ambition.
The governor who hails from Plateau- North and is the leader of the PDP in the state is not bound to encounter any serious opposition. This is more so because the current senator representing the senatorial district and former Chief of Staff to Jang, Senator Gyang Pwajok, is also rumoured to have gubernatorial ambition. Indeed, it is alleged that Pwajok is the anointed successor to the governor. If that is so, then, it will be a win-win situation for Jang.
The report that Governor Elechi of Ebonyi State is interested in retiring to the Senate after his tenure in May next year came to political observers as a surprise. The governor, who is one of the most elderly governors in the country currently, was expected to call it quits with politics after his present tenure. However, political observers in the state believe that if indeed Elechi is interested in the senatorial seat, he might not really encounter serious challenge in actualising that ambition.
Elechi is believed to be in firm control of the PDP structures in the state. In 2011, he single-handedly frustrated the ambition of the three senators from the state from returning to the Senate and ensured that three fresh candidates represented the state at the red chamber. With such a record, it is doubtful if anyone can stand in the way of the governor if he decides to ride the high horse himself. Elechi will be representing Ebonyi-North in the Senate.
It is believed in so many quarters that the influx of retiring governors to the Senate is an indication that their (s)election into the National Assembly complex are for reasons far from the nudge of the people for qualitative representation based on antecedents and the believe that their candidature can deliver democracy dividends.
DSP Alamieyeseigha, former Bayelsa State Governor, an ex-convict. who jumped bail in the UK, disguised as a woman to evade British officials for money laundering charges was granted Presidential pardon by Jonathan, ostensibly, to pave way for him to contest for the Senate in 2015. There are reports that His posters has since surfaced in Bayelsa with a slogan: “Pardoned to serve.”
The Senate is revered for its ambience of dignity and honour, only deserving of men of no less virtue. But a situation where politicians struggle to get to senate in order to evade justice is quite unfortunate. Former governors turned senators with cases with the EFCC keep the anti-graft agencies at bay as their cases remained inconclusive till date.