Sokoto: Why Wamakko Should Back Shagari's Ambition

When I read a report on the politics of Sokoto state Governor Aliyu Wamakko’s succession in a recent edition of Thisday newspaper, the first thing that came to my mind was: Déjà vu!alt

Not being a fan of the People’s Democratic Party, discussing the party’s internal politics is a task I sacrifice my convenience to engage in. And one of the PDP states that have consistently caught my interest is Sokoto state. At the risk of boring readers of my past articles, let me quickly rehash how I became so interested in the state’s politics.

Fresh from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in South West Nigeria, where you can’t help being politically conscious, I wheeled my bags into Sokoto state NYSC camp in March 2007, weeks to the general elections of that year. Political activities were at their peak in the period. Incumbent Governor Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa was bent on installing his SSG, Maigari Dingyadi, as his successor. His estranged former deputy, Aliyu Wammako (popularly known as Sai Alu), was the beautiful bride commanding suitors from other parties. He had the goodwill, Bafarawa had incumbency factor. PDP had earlier given their ticket to Mukhtari Shagari, but they were able to substitute his name with that of Wammako, whom they had lured from ANPP. Mukhtari was relegated to running mate to Wammako. By the time all the frenzy subsided and the electorate decided at the poll, Wammako, who was clearly the most popular, won the election.

Few months into Wamakko’s tenure, most of us youth corps members still had soft spot for Bafarawa. I was personally impressed with his success in terms of road construction. Most importantly to us, our state ‘allawi’ weren’t flowing as they were during Bafarawa’s tenure and there were also rumours that the monthly pittance will be slashed by 50%. As someone that was used to expressing political grievances on the opinion pages of newspapers since my Ife days, I picked my pen and did a brief letter to the editor, echoing the displeasure of the youth corps members on the turn of things since Wamakko took over. The letter was published in Sun newspaper of August 19, 2007 and it landed me into trouble with the Wamakko government. Since then I have actively followed the state’s politics, even from my post-NYSC base in Lagos.

Although I had issues with Wamakko’s government in its early years, a re-appraisal at the end of his first tenure won me over and he is today one of the very few PDP governors I rate above average.

As is usual in Nigerian politics, political intrigues and horse-trading have begun on who takes over from Sarkin Yamman Sokoto when he quits in 2016. Again, it is a well-known fact that Wammako, due not only to incumbency but more to his popularity, holds the ace on who succeeds him.

According to the Thisday’s report, Deputy Governor Shagari may not get his boss’ nod in his quest to succeed him in 2016. Rather, the report stated, Governor Wamakko is throwing his weight behind his Finance Commissioner, Farouk Malami Yabo. If this is true, then I believe this is not well thought-out of the governor. I will outline my reasons.

First, Shagari did what was unthinkable in Nigerian politics by stepping aside for Wammako in 2007 despite having been given the ticket earlier. He could have gone to court and challenge his party’s decision. Personal honour dictates that Wamakko should pay this man back for such sacrifice.

Second, some of us had thought that, due to the circumstances that brought Wamakko and his deputy together, it was only a matter of time before they fell out. We had expected personality clashes in the quick marriage but we were wrong. Shagari, to the best of my knowledge, has been very loyal to his boss. He doesn’t deserve the ‘unusable tyre’ treatment many governors have accorded their deputies.

Third, fairness dictates that the next PDP guber candidate (and almost surely, governor) should come from the camp of the old PDP – the group of PDP members that were in the party before Wamakko and his supporters’ defection from ANPP. This is Shagari’s camp. The camp have sacrificed enough and Wamakko should respect that.

Fourth, is Wamakko afraid of continuity? Why is he unwilling to back his deputy, who should be in pole position to carry on his good works?

Fifth, why is the governor interested in having the man that managed the state’s Finances under him since the beginning of his tenure as his successor? While I’m not saying the fact that someone was a Finance commissioner precludes him from pursuing a bigger ambition, in Nigerian politics, it is just too curious when a governor decides to put his treasury manager as his successor.

Sixth, although I am aware that Shagari doesn’t have the grassroots support Wammako had prior to 2007, the governor should not forget that the sympathy arising from improper treatment he received from his own boss when he was deputy governor was instrumental to his widespread popularity in 2007. Ditching his own number two man appears ill-advised to me.

All these said, I do not believe in the politics of installation even if it is a reality we cannot feign blindness to in Nigerian politics. I also do not believe that Shagari must be backed if the people feel he is not the best man for the job. But from my reading of the man from afar, and going by his performance as Minister of Water Resources under former President Obasanjo, he appears decent enough to do good jobs in Sokoto state.



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