By Our Political Correspondent
There was a grand reception for former Governor of Sokoto state, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, a two term governor and household name in the state, who prides himself as a “leader” and “father” of Sokoto politics. The grand reception drew President Goodluck Jonathan to Sokoto where he declared that with the entry of former Governor Bafarawa into PDP with his supporters and pairing with the state’s Deputy Governor, Muktari Shagari the party will win the state in 2015.
In his remarks then, Bafarawa had said – “Mr. President, as far as Sokoto is concerned just go and sleep, you have no problem. We have been winning elections in the past, but we were rigged out. But now that we are in PDP, there is no party that will win even a councilor seat in Sokoto.
However, now about seven months of Bafarawa’s entry into PDP, crisis has begun to plague its fold. Two factors inform the crisis, they include Bafarawa’s domineering posture in the party and the issue of from which zone would the governorship candidate of the party emerge.
An interim caretaker committee constituted by the PDP national headquarters, under the chairmanship of Alhaji Abdullahi Shatali conducted ward, local and state congresses on June 14, 21, and 28 in the state where leaders at all levels emerged by the consensus.
However, some stakeholders of the party noted that the outcome of the consensus arrangement favored the former governor and they became disenchanted, particularly with the emergency of Bafarawa’s lieutenant, Alhaji Ibrahim Milgoma, as the state PDP Chairman. A respondent who pleaded anonymity said Bafarawa has become a problem for the party as he has all the party structures at the local and state levels firmly under his grip at the detriment of the “old” members of the party who labored to build and sustain it.
A PDP Chieftain, Alhaji Ibrahim Magaji Gusau had lamented that, “this is injustice and unacceptable to us. Bafarawa wants to dominate us because of his inordinate ambition”. Gusau filed a suit at the Sokoto State High Court asking it to declare the congresses unlawful and of no effect.
“To the best of my knowledge none of the executive members across the state has been given any waiver, and most had not attained the minimum of the 18 months membership of the party and minimum educational qualification of Secondary School Certificate.
Another party chieftain, of the party, Alhaji Yusuf Abdullahi, who also accused Bafarawa of creating disaffection in the party, said , “As far as we are concerned there is no election in Sokoto PDP … we have gone to court to challenge the imposition and seek redress. “PDP cannot win the 201 election in Sokoto on a divided platform. So I am appealing to the national leadership to intervene in order to save the party from imminent collapse”, Abdullahi noted.
Fielding questions from journalists at his residence, Bafarwa had replied: “As far as I am concerned I am not in PDP to bring confusion. I am a leader and a father to all aspirants in the party and as such have no cause to take sided or support a particular aspirant. I have never involved myself in any consensus arrangement of the party or ask any aspirant to step down for anybody. I am not looking for any position but to see that our people are united to face the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Another burning issue in the party is the agitation for zoning by the Southern Senatorial zone. Fielding questions to journalist while in Sokoto, Nigerian Ambassador to Morocco, Senator Abdallah Wali had said – “the Sokoto East had its turn through former governor Attahiru Bafarawa who governed the state for eight years and the Sokoto Central is now having its own which is almost eight years now. It is only Sokoto South that has not produced a governor”.
But in a swift reaction, Malam Yusuf Bakura, the spokesman of the former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman, dismissed claims by proponents of zoning, describing their claim as “distortion of facts”.
Fielding questions from newsmen, he replied, that the zone had been benefiting from the party’s tickets since 1999. “Mode Yabo was elected the PDP governorship candidate in 1999 but lost to Bafarawa. In 2003, it was the same Abdallah Wali who clinched the ticket but he too was defeated by Bafarawa. Then, Muktari Shagari, who won the primary election in 2007. But because of his unpopularity, the then President (Obasanjo) asked him to step-down for the incumbent governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, who was a decampee to the party. All these personalities I mentioned are from Sokoto South Zone”, he recalled.
Asserting that Sokoto East, where the former Minister of Transport hails from has a right to contest the governorship ticket of the party, he alleged that Wali was sent by Wamakko to destabilize the party.
Political observers are of the view that apart from the division within the PDP in the state, which the party needs to be put in order, and form a united front against the ruling APC in the state, PDP also, even if united, has a challenge of dethroning the seemingly united and solid APC, which has the advantage of incumbency, and popularity – even the former Vice President Atiku
Abubakar testified and said: “In most states when governors are in their last lap, when they became lame ducks, they become less popular, but the opposite is the case I find in Sokoto state, where you (Wamakko) are increasingly becoming more popular and the people are showing their appreciation for the good work you have done”.
Also addressing journalists at a PDP stakeholders forum held at Dankane Guest Inn, Sokoto, Senator Abubakar Umar Gada, another PDP bigwig in Sokoto admitted – “It is certainly a big challenge, but the ability is there”, while fielding questions from journalists.