Ahead of the 2019 general elections, governors are plotting to retire many senators including their predecessors who are calling the shots at the Senate.
The situation is responsible for the bad blood and crises between many senators and their respective state governors, according to findings by our correspondent.
Interactions with lawmakers revealed that the development involved both first time governors and second timers who are eyeing the Senate at the end of their tenures.
While some of the governors are gearing up to retire to the Senate, others are plotting to install their cronies in the Red Chamber with a view to having firm control of the political machinery of their states.
The just concluded ward, local government and state congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) gave the upper hand to the governors. In many states, the governors used the opportunity to establish their political structures by installing their cronies.
The situation is not different in states being governed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). For instance, the allocation of the seat of Senator Nelson Effiong of Akwa-Ibom South Senatorial District to a female politician by Governor Udom Emmanuel forced him out of the PDP in January last year. He is now in APC maneuvering for 2019.
Similarly, the feud between Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna Central Senatorial District ballooned when it became glaring that the governor was supporting the bid of his political adviser, Uba Sani, to take over Shehu Sani’s seat at the Senate in 2019.
Uba Sani’s posters have dotted strategic locations in Kaduna metropolis. If it is the wish of El-Rufai, all the three senators, Shehu Sani, Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC,Kaduna North) and Danjuma La’ah (PDP,Kaduna South) should be retired come 2019.
The same scenario is playing out in Bauchi State where Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar is at loggerheads with the federal lawmakers from the state including two senators.
In Imo, Governor Rochas Okorocha is not on the same page with the lone APC Senator from the state. Benjamin Uwajumogu who represents Imo North Senatorial District belongs to the camp of the National Organizing Secretary of the APC, Osita Izunaso.
The camp recently uprooted Okorochas’s structure in the state and installed theirs. Feelers from the state said the governor is plotting Uwajumogu’s removal next year.
The governors have issued red cards to many of the senators. The battle lines have been drawn between the lawmakers and the governors.
Also to be affected in the retirement plot are former governors. At the moment, there are 16 former governors in the Senate, wielding enormous power, chairing juicy committees and directing the legislative arm of government through one of them.
They are in three categories and on inauguration of the 8th Senate in June 2015, they rallied round one of them, Bukola Saraki, to become the Senate President.
The first set of former governors who have been in the Senate since 2007 are George Akume (Benue), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe), Ahmad Sani Yerima (Zamfara) and Kabiru Gaya (Kano). They are third timers at the Upper Chamber.
In the second category are: Danjume Goje (Gombe), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Joshua Dariye ( Plateau), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa) and Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara). These are the second timers.
Former governors who are first timers in the Senate include; Theodore Orji (Abia), Goodswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso(Kano), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto) and Sam Egwu (Ebonyi).
Except for Lafiagi and Gaya who served as governors briefly (January 1992 to November 1993) in Kwara and Kano respectively , their colleagues came to the Senate after completing their second term as governors in their respective states.
The trend of governors crossing from the executive arm to the legislature (the Senate) started in 2007 when the likes of Yerima, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi among others on completion of their second terms ‘retired’ to the parliament.
Yari set to retire Yerima
Regarded as the father of Zamfara politics, Yerima, 58, has been directing the political scene of the state since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999.
At 39, he became the Governor of Zamfara state and reigned for eight years and at the end of his tenure, he installed his deputy, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, as his successor in 2007.
Not long into Shinkafi’s administration, his relationship with Yerima turned sour. Shinkafi dumped the then ruling party in the state, the All Nigeria Peoples Party(ANPP) and crossed to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Yerima vowed to sack Shinkafi and in 2011, he sponsored Abdulaziz Yari who defeated Shinkafi at the polls. In 2015, Yerima ensured that Yari retained his seat at the Zamfara State Government House.
All this while, Yerima has been at the Senate representing Zamfara West Senatorial District since 2007. He is a third timer at the Upper Chamber and a very powerful ranking lawmaker who nominated Saraki for the senate presidency when the Senate was inaugurated on June 9, 2015.
However, his seat is being threatened by the ambition of Yari who represented Anka/ Talata Mafara federal constituency of Zamfara state between 2007 and 2011 in the House of Representatives.
Sources said Yari who began his political career in 1999 as the secretary of the ANPP in Zamfara State is not leaving any stone unturned in his bid to actualise his senatorial ambition.
Although, he has not formally declared for the race, in many political fora he has indicated his interest to snatch Yerima’s seat.
A ranking lawmaker told our correspondent that Yerima has confided in him that he would not return to the Senate in 2019.
Kwankwaso: Lado in proxy fight for Ganduje
It is no longer news that the relationship between Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his predecessor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, has turned sour.
The news is the plot by Ganduje to replace Kwankwaso with Senator Bashir Garba Lado come 2019. Kwankwaso had after losing the presidential ticket of the APC to President Muhammadu Buhari grabbed the ticket for Kano Central Senatorial District.
Lado represented Kano Central Senatorial District between 2011 and 2015. He was sacked by Kwankwaso who polled 758, 383, against his 205, 809 votes. Lado contested under the platform of the PDP.
In February this year while receiving Lado and thousands of his supporters who defected to the APC, Ganduje described him as Kwankwaso’s replacement. Raising Lado’s hands, Ganduje said in Hausa: “Kano ta Tsakiya,” and the crowd replied, “Sai mun chanja,” meaning “Kano Central, we must change him.”
Gaidam, Ibrahim: It’s a fight to finish
If a statement of Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East) on the floor of the Senate is anything to go by, the battle between him and the Yobe state governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, for Yobe East Senatorial District is a battle of life and death.
Without mincing words, Ibrahim, 68, stood up on the floor of the Senate in September last year and told his colleagues that he would remain there till death, a statement that punctured his previous statement that he was ready to hand over his seat to Gaidam.
In an apparent signal to Gaidam who is completing his last term as governor, Senator Ibrahim said: “Let me categorically say Mr. Senate President that I will stay in the Senate until death do us apart. Everybody tells me that I’m senator for life. I’m going to be in the Senate for life.”
Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim who was Yobe governor between 1992 and 1993 as well as 1999 to 2007, has been in the Senate since 2007. He was sworn in as governor thrice and recorded same feat as a senator.
Until late 2015, his wife, Khadija, was in the House of Representatives before President Buhari made her the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Like Ibrahim, Gaidam would be spending his 10th year as governor of Yobe State by next year, having completed the remaining two years of his boss, Senator Mamman Bello Ali who died in 2009 while serving as Yobe governor.
The battle for the Yobe East Senatorial District will be interesting as Ibrahim and Gaidam are political titans in their own rights. Will the godsons succeed in retiring the Senators ? Only 2019 will tell.
Analysts, lawyers speak
A political strategist, Dr. Abbati Bako, described the development as lawful and one of the beauties of democracy.
“The controversy between former governors and their successors on the issue of Senate seat representation from their respective states is lawful and is one of the beauties of democracy, that is competition.
“Competition is one of the principles of democratic practice, hence, it is the electorate that will decide otherwise. But as far as I’m concerned, a sitting governor has an upper hand for incumbency factor than the former ones. So, I see this democratic competition as normal, healthy, and as a beauty of democracy,” he said.
Also speaking, a Kaduna based legal practitioner, Barrister Aliyu Umaru, Esq. described the development as a good omen for the country’s democracy.
In a phone interview, he said: “One interesting point to note is that in the past all serving senators who tried for their selfish reasons to contest and become governors of their states failed.
“I think it is a good idea for former governors to contest and become senators because that will help a great deal in improving the quality of the National Assembly, thereby strengthening the process of transition from civil rule to democratic rule, which in reality commenced in 2015 following the outcome of that year’s general election.
“I do not think serving governors are looking for retirement home in the Senate because many of them are now serving as ministers.”
On his part, the Executive Director, Friends in the Gap Advocacy Initiative (FGAI), George Oji, said the number of former governors who end up in the Senate after their tenures in the states had continued to increase with attendant negative impact on our political system.
“In 2007, following the expiration of the tenure of the first batch of governors who were elected into office in 1999, seven of those ex governors found their ways to the Senate. That number was to increase to 11 in 2011. Later in 2015, the number grew to 16. If this trend is anything to go by, then come 2019 and beyond, many more former governors are bound to people the red chamber of the National Assembly.
“Experience has however shown that these former governors who in most cases perpetrated bad governance in their various states, retire to the Senate not with the intent of participating in active legislative activities, but to seek political relevance or political cover from prosecution from their criminal deeds.
“Unfortunately, the legislature is such a very critical arm of our democracy to be peopled by retiring elements who lack the necessary energy, intellect, zeal and human capacity to drive the required checks on the activities of the executive.
“Even though the governors enjoy all the constitutional rights to seek election to the National Assembly after their tenures in the states, there are serious moral and political reasons why the electorate must oppose their continued quest to proceed to the Red Chamber thereafter,” he said.