Just before the 2019 general elections, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was expected to enjoy the same winning bandwagon effect, which it enjoyed maximally in the 2015 elections. The party, after the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari, as winner over erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan, went ahead to clear majority of the states in the gubernatorial elections across the Northern and Southern parts of the country.
However, the scenario did not play out in the last election. The major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) put up surprising performances in some states especially in Sokoto State where the odds favoured APC. But the party failed to defeat the incumbent governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal.
In the first instance, it was expected that the ruling party would deploy federal might, just as it is also expected to harp on the 'myth' surrounding President Buhari's popularity across the North to overrun Sokoto State in the presidential, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections. Although the ruling party succeeded in trouncing PDP in the legislative elections in the state but failed to maintain the same success in the gubernatorial poll.
As a matter of fact, the result of the last gubernatorial election in Sokoto was one of the outcomes that dismissed such myth and popularity associated with Buhari and APC in the North. The state, being one of the core northern states and the seat of Caliphate, has always aligned with the government in the centre since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule until former governor and now Senator representing Sokoto North Senatorial District, Aliyu Wamako, defected along with some PDP governors to APC just before the 2015 general elections.
In the Second Republic, Sokoto was ruled under the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which controlled the Federal Government from 1979 to 1983 before military intervened in politics. Prior to February 23 and March 9 when the presidential/National Assembly and gubernatorial elections were conducted, it was expected that APC would overrun the entire north including Sokoto as soon as Buhari was reelected. It was, however, a different scenario in the gubernatorial election.
Tambuwal, from PDP to APC, back to PDP
THE incumbent governor came into national political prominence in 2011 under PDP to emerge as the Speaker of House of Representatives against the preference of the erstwhile ruling PDP, which at the time zoned the speakership position to the Southwest. But with the support of lawmakers from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Tambuwal was able to emerge Speaker. He defected along with other PDP members to APC before the 2015 election on which platform he contested for the governorship of Sokoto State and won.
As Speaker, Tambuwal consolidated his position, but his relationship with ACN members in the House was not too cordial. They (ACN) members complained of being sidelined in the distribution of chairmanship of juicy committees in the House under Tambuwal. But as governor, he still retained strong control in the House, which of course enabled him and others to sway the election of the outgoing principal officers of the 8th House of Representatives in favour of the incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara against the preference of APC's party leadership which at the time favoured Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila. It was the crisis of leadership of the National Assembly coupled with other unresolved internal wrangling in the ruling party that pushed Tambuwal and others to return to PDP before the last general elections.
Odds against the incumbent
Since his (Tambuwal) defection to PDP, it was insinuated that he might lose his return bid due to the 'myth' associated with Buhari's popularity, which APC was banking on to overrun the northern states, especially the core North like Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna and others.
Former governor and now lawmaker representing Sokoto North, Wammako, who helped Tambuwal after he decamped from PDP in 2014, was expected to be a strong factor for the incumbent. But not long after the governor decamped to pursue his presidential ambition on the platform of PDP, he started having issues with the senator to the extent that when Tambuwal organised a rally to formally decamp to PDP, not all the key political actors in the state, including the senator and his supporters, came on board. Tambuwal's chances were compounded when many of the members of Sokoto State House of Assembly refused to jump ship with him to PDP.
At a point, Wamakko expressed satisfaction over the gale of defections that hit PDP under Tambuwal. Before the election, Wamako boasted openly that Sokoto is completely APC state.
According to him, "President Buhari, himself and the party's gubernatorial candidate, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, as well as his running mate, Alhaji Faruku Malami Yabo would win the state in the last election."
Considering these developments, political pundits concluded even before March 9 that APC would overrun Sokoto while Tambuwal might not get reelection. Indeed the incumbent governor's defection to PDP was regarded as nothing but a serious miscalculation. Another setback, which was expected to have stopped Tambuwal's reelection, was Saraki's defeat in Kwara State.
Hurdles Tambuwal surmounted
That the incumbent governor was reelected was not just a miracle; it was against all odds. For instance, in the presidential election, Buhari dusted Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP with 490,333 votes to 361,604 in the state. The incumbent president obtained higher votes in 19 local governments while the former vice president got votes in just four of Sokoto local governments. Incumbent Senator Wamakko of APC retained his seat by defeating his archrival in the zone, former Senator Ahmed Maccido of PDP with over 34,000 votes. He polled 172,980 as against the 138,922 secured by Maccido.
In a similar vein, incumbent Senator Ibrahim Gobir of APC retained Sokoto East Senatorial District with 170,665 votes to defeat the incumbent Speaker of the Sokoto State House of Assembly, Salihu Maidaji, who got 140,322 under the PDP umbrella.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation and Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ibrahim Danbaba of PDP lost his seat to first timer, Abubakar Shehu-Tambuwal of APC. Mr. Shehu-Tambuwal scored 134,224 votes as against the 112, 546 secured by Mr. Danbaba.
Bala Abubakar III, the current member representing Sokoto North/South Federal Constituency, retained his seat with 71,486 votes. Abubakar III defeated archrival, Abubakar Abdullahi of PDP who got 52,148 votes.
Incumbent member representing Shagari/Yabo Federal Constituency, Aminu Shehu-Shagari who contested on the platform of PDP lost his seat to Umar Abubakar who polled 33,193 votes against 24,932 votes scored by Shehu-Shagari.
Going by the results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, little chance was given to Tambuwal to retain his seat as governor. The election was, however, declared inconclusive. Unfortunately, the bandwagon effect and the myth of Buhari's popularity could not stop Tambuwal's reelection even though the governorship election was initially declared inconclusive.
When the election was adjourned, the incumbent was leading with a margin of just 2,000 votes. At the time the governorship election was declared inconclusive, Tambuwal had secured 489,558 votes, while APC's Aliyu came a close second with 486,145 votes. At the time, the margin of lead was 3,413 votes. There were cancellations in 136 polling units across 22 local governments, which had 75,403 registered voters.
Although, APC has raised issues concerning the result of Sokoto gubernatorial elections but PDP responded by claiming that the opposition's hope of taking Sokoto despite its winning streak in the National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections was hallucination.
In an effort to take a pound of flesh from Tambuwal, National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, allegedly moved to Sokoto between when the election was declared inconclusive and the rerun to repeat the Osun magic. It was a move probably designed to repay the incumbent governor for the betrayal of 2015 when Gbajabiamila lost the speakership due to Tambuwal's involvement in the House politics. Tinubu's magic wand, however, failed as the people rose in support of the incumbent.
Publicity Secretary of PDP in Sokoto, Abdullahi Yusuf Hausawa, who commended the people for supporting the party in the gubernatorial election despite all odds also pointed out the rude harassment and intimidation meted out to their supporters throughout the period of re-run election. Hausawa claimed in the statement that PDP had already won the election in the first ballot. He noted that that the hope of APC manipulating the result in the rerun like it happened in Osun State did not work out.
He further alleged, "With the declaration of the election as inconclusive as a favour to the opposition APC, the party used the period to garner the support of neighbouring states and source over N5 billion through the treasuries of two states of Zamfara and Kebbi as well as some selected Federal Government agencies. These monies were used to facilitate the vote buying spree of up to N30,000 and a bag of rice per vote, which is unprecedented in the history of elections, not only in Sokoto State but also in the whole country. The vote buying phenomenon created and started by the APC, a party claiming to be fighting corruption, further testified to the fact that APC and its government are aiding and abetting corruption up to the grassroots level.
"The unsubstantiated, outright rigging by PDP as claimed by the opposition APC; the question here is, who rigged who? With the massive deployment of 10 units of Mobile Police from Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, Lagos States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and in addition to about 250 DSS personnel in favour of APC to harass, intimidate and instill fear in the minds of peaceful and good people of Sokoto state, there is no way our party can even attempt to rig an election in which we have confidence only in God."
He added that this was in spite of hiring of political thugs from the neighbouring states of Kebbi and Zamfara, who publicly brandished dangerous weapons to endanger the lives of innocent voters in Kebbe, Tambuwal, Rabah, Tureta and Goronyo Local Government Areas. With PDP and its candidate's victory, the 'Alu Phenomenon' has finally been demystified and given final, befitting burial by the people of Sokoto."