Bauchi — From a swooping birds eye perspective, Sunday Trust takes the reader on a tour across five different states in the North as their helmsmen indulge in subtle competition to undo each other in the race for 2015 presidency. They are beginning to pair up with some of their allies from the South in order to gain advantage in the forthcoming contest.
Three years to the next general elections, the battle line for the 2015 presidential race appears drawn. Barely a year into the life of President Goodluck Jonathan's administration, talks had started about who succeeds him in 2015. Though President Jonathan is yet to declare his intention to seek re-election, each of these second term governors, namely, Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) and Babangida Aliyu (Niger) is pushing his agenda surreptitiously.
Out of the 19 states in the North, the PDP controls 14 - Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto and Taraba.
Out of the 14 PDP states, 12 of the governors are serving their second term in office. Only four, which are those of Kaduna, Gombe, Kwara and Kogi are in their first term.
Among the northern governors who are in their second terms, only the governors of Gabriel Suswan (Benue), Danbaba Suntai (Taraba) and David Jang (Plateau) have not let out their intentions.
Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu, at a recent Northern Governors' Forum meeting in Kaduna had counselled that the North should not allow the 2015 presidency to elude it.
"We must be united more than ever to go into the 2015 elections as one entity with the aim of producing the President," he had told his colleagues.
Indeed, the president's and governors' every move, action or inaction, body language or mannerisms and utterances on 2015 politics have, of late, become an issue for analyses and commentaries. However, the recent hefty endorsement of a Lamido/Ameachi Presidential ticket by former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida has raised the ante and possibly heightened the debate.
A member of the PDP National Working Committee, told our correspondents, that, "The frequent travels of some northern governors across the country are part of the subtle moves in the race for the Presidency."
But it seemed almost impossible for the five governors to work together in actualising a Northern presidency in 2015 on the platform of PDP in the event Jonathan decides not to seek a second term.
Though three of the five governors are believed to be members of the Obasanjo camp, they are scrambling among themselves. Not so fierce, it seems for now. However, nobody knows who the last man standing will be when the curtain is raised in 2015.
Nyako: Can he stop Jonathan?
Though close aides and family members have kept sealed lips on the Adamawa Sate Governor Murtala Nyako's presidential ambition, feelers indicate that the retired naval officer is among northern governors scheming to succeed President Jonathan in 2015.
Recently, the governors and three other states from the North met in and came up with a resolution to form a group that will halt the growing divide in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Nyako recently visited his counterparts in Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi and Taraba to discuss issues related to the 2015 presidential contest.
One of Nyako's aides, who pleaded anonymity, said the governor is only striving to reach out to other colleagues and stakeholders in a move to restore intra-party cohesion for the sake of national unity and stability.
Observers say that Nyako is keen on having the North united politically by 2015 and perhaps himself as the standard bearer. The retired naval officer is working assiduously and making contacts to actualize his presidential dream. The Adamawa governor has been visiting traditional rulers, leaders of thought and retired military officers in this respect.
"Yes, I can assure you that Oga, Baba Mai Mangoro (Nyako) is the man to watch, comes 2015. He has the support of most governors," said Muhammadu Abubakar Baba Ladan, a former presidential aspirant in the defunct SDP.
However, in spite of the repeated denials by Nyako's aides, political foot soldiers are already at work, roaming the northern and other southern states to rally support for a possible an Nyako/Ameachi ticket.
Though Nyako is banking on the support of former President Obasanjo to clinch the PDP presidential ticket, the recent purported endorsement of his northern rival and Jigawa counterpart, Sule Lamido pairing with the same Ameachi had jolted the Adamawa governor's camp.
According to a source inside Nyako's camp, Obasanjo's purported endorsement of a Lamido/Ameachi ticket was part of the Otta farmer's usual antics of deceit and treachery.
"It may not stand the test of time. This is because Nyako's candidature was said to be blessed and encouraged by Obasanjo. I believe he did what he did to test the waters and study the pendulum to see where it's swinging which at the end, the three governors and the grand planner will decide whom to pick," he said.
Lamido, too, banks on Obasanjo
Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido has persistently said that he will retire to his village, come 2015 after the expiration of his second term in office but the media reports credited to Obasanjo last week that he endorsed Lamido/Rotimi Ameachi ticket in 2015 has punctured that stance.
Of late, Lamido's body language and flurry of activities organised by the state government in Dutse are indicators that he is strategically positioning himself for 2015 presidential election as the North hopes to fight for its turn.
Right now, it is highly evident that Lamido is indeed interested in the 2015 presidential race as a candidate, should President Jonathan keep to his promise of running for only one term in office. Barely a fortnight ago, Obasanjo was reported to have told journalists that he endorsed Lamido/Ameachi ticket for 2015. In addition, the same Obasanjo while as a guest of Governor Lamido in Jigawa during the Democracy Day celebration, chided President Jonathan over his failure to tackle the security challenges in the country.
Recently, Lamido rolled out the red carpet for ex-military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida as part of the celebration of the 21st anniversary of the creation of Jigawa state. Most political watchers in Jigawa saw it as part of the move for the governor's 2015 presidential ambition. The climax of Babangida's visit was marked by his publicly endorsement of Sule Lamido for 2015.
All these activities point to something beyond 2015.The strength of Lamido is the Obasanjo factor which is still relevant in the PDP. The calculation is that if President Jonathan fulfils his promise of doing one term as he promised during the campaign, Obasanjo can use his influence within the PDP to clear the way for the Jigawa governor. Lamido's years at the foreign ministry are also a plus for him.
The waves of subtle manoeuvres that characterised the politics of 2015 have seen Lamido, like his other co-governors organising social events, forums and political meetings as well as hosting prominent Nigerians.
First, the Jigawa governor hosted members of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party led by Senator Onyobo Obi, Ojo Maduekwe, Senator Stella Omu among others in November last year. They went round Dutse, to inspect projects. Senator Obi, who spoke on behalf of the BOT members, said "Lamido is among few Nigerians that have the quality to rule the country in 2015, considering his progressive ideologies and commitments in uplifting the socio-economic well-being of the common man."
Not long after that the Northern Speakers Forum was also in Jigawa for a two-day meeting at the end of which they were taken round project sites. The Forum, led by its chairman, Hon. Goni Modu Ali, after going through the completed projects and the ongoing projects also praised the governor for his wonderful accomplishments.
Barely three weeks after the Northern Speakers Forum visit, had Conference of the 36 PDP state chairmen led by Dr. Emmanel Agbo followed suit. They also praised the governor for his good work. The Governor at that meeting went down the memory lane and spoke about how they formed the PDP and the sacrifice they made to enthrone democracy in Nigeria.
Similarly, the Northwest zone of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties at the end of their election in Dutse, recently declared that Lamido should contest for the presidency in 2015. Between April and May 2012, Lamido has hosted a number of high-powered delegations in the state. First, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar led 40 first class traditional rulers across the country including the Shehu of Borno, Emir of Zaria, representative of the Emir of Kano, representative of the Lamidon Adamawa, Emir of Gombe, Bauchi, Katagum, Dass, Obi Cletus Ilumonya, Chairman of South-East Traditional Council among others to commission guest houses for the five first class emirs in the state.
Then came the Governor of Rivers state and Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, Rotimi Ameachi to commission the College of Nursing and Midwifery in Birnin-Kudu. The governor of Katsina also followed. He came to commission Deputy Governor's lodge and completed road projects.
Is Aliyu warming up for the Presidency?
Though, Niger State Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu has never made any public pronouncement on whether he is nursing the ambition of vying for the country's Number One job, but by looking at his actions one can deduce his stance and conviction.
Aliyu is adequately making use of his vantage position as the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum (NGF) to make himself the spokesperson of the region. Other words it is spurring his plans toward becoming the presidential flag bearer of his party from the Northern region.
His recent outburst in championing the cause of the region, by calling for a revisit of the issue onshore/offshore dichotomy takes a populist line.
Sunday Trust gathered that the surfacing of Niger State governor for the second term as NSGF chairman was ardently contested. Some powerful elements with close links to the State House in Abuja were hell-bent on ensuring that the chairmanship did not go to him again.
A close aide to the Governor Aliyu said, his boss had to fight the forces from the powers that be with the arsenal at his disposal to retain his position.
The source said, "Having crossed this hurdle by securing another mandate as the chairman of the NSGF, it is a clear pointer that the path toward actualizing his dream of presidency is becoming promising."
According to the source, the grand plan to ensure Aliyu was not re-elected was perfected and hatched in collaboration with one of the most prominent sons of the state.
The source added that the re-election of Aliyu as the chairman of the NSGF did not only indicate his firm grip on the forum but also showcase the level of his popularity he enjoyed among his colleagues.
Indicators are becoming more glaring that plans are in the offing for him to declare his ambition in no distance future, considering not only at the frequent at which he attends public functions, but also sponsored live coverage for such occasions across the country.
Pundits were of the opinion that he was not only committing the huge resources of his states for sponsoring such occasions but make some popular policy statements.
In the last five years that he has been at the helm of affairs in Minna, Aliyu had delivered speeches and lectures across the all the regions of the country, which is seen as an attempt to build bridges ahead of 2015.
Analysts are quick to imply that the brief remarks made by Aliyu during the burial rites of Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu sometime early this year suggest, the leader of NSGF has signified his intention to contest for the coveted seat at the expiration of his second term of eight years tenure.
Governor Aliyu said in Zungeru, Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger State, the venue of the burial rite that "If Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state says they had produced the first President, Niger State is saying we have produced three Presidents namely, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, by virtue of his birth in Zungeru, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar. And we are praying for the fourth one. We have told all our mallams and our pastors to keep praying for the fourth one".
Aliyu's penchant for acquiring numerous traditional tittles from across the country was not without a conceived plan, having known the huge investment that is synonymous with acquiring such titles as well as for the award of honorary degrees.
Apart from the traditional title of Talban Minna, Aliyu also had two more titles from the western part of the country and another one from the far north, in Daura emirate. He was also awarded with an honorary doctorate degree from Abia State University, Uturu.
Aliyu's policy of equality in his style of leadership among the people living in Niger state, irrespective of their ethnicity and state of origin him has made popular among the state's non-indigenes and by extension to their kinsmen across the country.
It is this policy of equality that gave a room for appointment of over 10 personal aides to the Chief Servant of Niger State and who are mainly from states across the southern part of country, as well as his policy of payment of final examination fees for all Senior Secondary Schools students in the state, irrespective of their states of origin.
Although, Governor Aliyu is among the few governors who are not members of the Obasanjo camp, it still remain ambiguous on who would likely be his running mate should he decide to run for the presidency in 2015. But observers say that if his close ties with South West are to be in cognizance, he is more inclined to pick someone from that region. It might be Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola.
Shema: Preparing ground for 2015?
Although there has never been a time when Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema mentioned his political ambition to contest for presidency in 2015, going by his body language, there are huge indications that the governor would throw his hat into the political ring to contest for the presidency when the time comes.
Shema, is among the three northern governors believed to be members of the former President Obasanjo camp.
According to a reliable source close to the Shema, the consensus from the Obasanjo camp is that if the PDP agreement was to produce a Hausa/Fulani president in 2015 then the ticket should go to the Katsina governor.
The source disclosed that Governor Shema is ahead of Lamido and Nyako in the pecking order.
Other governors not interested in contesting for 2015 presidency but aware of the plans are Patrick Yakowa (Kaduna) and Jonah Jang (Plateau), the source added.
Similarly, Shema, whose wife Hajiya Fatima, may be using his better half to campaig support, earnestly for the South East particularly among women politicians who are influential, both at the federal and South East zonal levels.
Politicians in the state, including the influential and the inconsequential are gradually espousing the political ambition of the governor. It has become a norm that whenever the governor attends a public function, politicians could be heard calling him the president of tomorrow, which means Nigeria's next president.
Sunday Trust investigations revealed that Governor Shema, who is purportedly inclined to picking his running mate from the South-East, has been making contacts with traditional leaders in both northern and southern parts soliciting their support ahead of the big tussle in 2015.
"The turbaning may not be unconnected with governor's political ambition to contest presidency, come 2015. The emirs involved wanted to promote the governor to the Hausaland and beyond it," our correspondent learnt.
Reflecting on his boss purported presidential ambition, Katsina State's chief of staff, Alhaji Salisu Yusuf Majigiri said the issue of 2015 presidential race is purely God's affairs because He is the giver of power and only Him knows what is going to happen in 2015.
He said, "No one can predict what will happen in 2015 because it is something that is beyond human power."
Majigiri added that "Governor Shema is presently committed to the development of Katsina state. He was mandated by the people of Katsina state to man the affairs of the state for another four years and therefore his major task at present is to move the state forward.
"The issue of 2015 general election is just a matter of time and when the time comes, we will all witness what is going to happen but for now Governor Ibrahim Shema is concentrating on the development of Katsina state," he concluded.
Will Yuguda contest in 2015?
Of late, Bauchi State Governor Isa Yuguda has been courting the political spectrum of the South West in what seemed to be a veiled move to register himself as a contender for the presidency in 2015. Though the Bauchi governor, like his other colleagues, who are nursing the same aspirations, has kept sealed lips regarding his plans to contest for the presidency, observers say he is playing the wait and see approach.
The soft-spoken and calculative Yuguda has taken some latent, but pragmatic positions recently especially on matters relating to North/South political dynamics.
He broke away from the ranks of 19 Northern governors who clamoured for the review of the controversial onshore/offshore dichotomy and the disproportionate allocation of funds from federation account.
However, there are mixed feelings among the Bauchi political continuum over the governor's purported ambition to contest the country's Number One seat.
When asked about Governor Yuguda's desire to contest for the presidency, his spokesman, Mr Ishola Michael Adeyemi did not deny or support the allegations.
He said, "For 2015, we are leaving things to God to decide but for now we are making effort to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Bauchi state."
Political Analyst Mohammed Jibril Sogiji said there is no smoke without fire, as many of the governor's recent endeavours clearly showed that he harbours plans to run for the presidency in 2015.
"You can see that in his effort to win the heart of the people of southern and western part of the country," said Sogiji, pointing out that Yuguda had received many awards and traditional titles from all parts of the country and he also donated millions of naira to people in southwestern part of the country.
But one of the governor's aides, Abdulmumini Mohammed Kundak, was quick to dismiss the speculation as baseless.
Kundak said: "As far as I know Governor Isa Yuguda has never declared or told anybody that he wants to contest for the presidency."
Kundak said the true positions of things for now is that Yuguda is busy working round the clock towards ensuring sustainable peace in the state so that foreign investors will come and invest.
A PDP stalwart in the state, Bashir Bukar Rimin Zayam said only God knows who will be president in 2015 because going by history the people expected to win where not the ones that emerged.
"In 1999 we went to vote for Alex Ekweme, Obasanjo came from the prison and took over. In 2007, nobody expected Yar'adua will contest but he beat pronounced candidates. Even though we wish Isa Yuguda well he did not tell us that he wants to contest the presidential seat in 2015.
Defending the governor, Kundak and Rimin Zayam said separately that there are two different things between giving the governor awards or traditional titles and the quest for presidency.
Written by Ismaila Lere & Ibrahim Abdul'aziz,Yola; Abdullahi Anako, Dutse; Aliyu M. Hamagam, Minna; Yusha'u a Ibrahim, Katsina; Ahmed Mohammed