Strengths and Weaknesses of Parties
From inception of the current political dispensation in Yobe, there have basically been two parties – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC, which to the Yobean was formerly the All People’s Party – APP and then the All Nigeria People’s Party – ANPP). Therefore, if you desire to win anything, it has to be on the platform of one or the other.
The Action Congress of Democrats (ACD), formed from a part of the Action Democrats (AD), that contested the 2007 and 2011 General Elections as the Action Congress (AC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) respectively, but which is now subsumed in the APC, could have been an alternative platform. The political naivety and lack of self-confidence of some of its founding members from the state however hindered this.
The Death of an Alternative
The ACD became a party with a national outlook when the then Vice President, Atiku Abubakar jettisoned his PDP and decided to run under the flag of the party, then seen as a foremost Yoruba irredentist movement. In the beginning the party promised to take the nation’s political landscape by storm, but it fizzled out like a flame from a matchstick held up in the breeze.
This may have been as a result of the chickening out of some sitting governors and members of the National Assembly, who had sworn by Heaven and Earth to follow Atiku wherever, even blindfolded. This also attests to Olusegun Obasanjo’s leadership skills, political manoeuvring ability and dexterity at using the ‘carrot and stick’.
Read 2019 and Yobe: Who takes over from Gaidam? (1)
While it may be Obasanjo’s tactics and strategies that killed off the 2007 threats of the ‘father’ of the APC at the national level, it was its presidential candidate, Atiku’s bumbling in Yobe that sounded its death knell.
In the first instance, his preferred gubernatorial candidate for the AC was the late Mamman Ali (who was battling for the more assured ANPP ticket), a man whom he saw as a ‘fellow Adamawa brother’ (Mamman Ali grew up in Yola), as against Tijjani Musa Tumsah, the man who brought the party to the state and funded its spread. Tumsah was the preferred candidate at the grassroots and he was at that time better known and accepted politically.
Taking that as a cue, some Yobe members, notably Kafayos, Garba Abari, Barrister Baba Dala and Bashir Machina, who had access to Atiku and some influence at the National Secretariat, conspired to put stumbling blocks along the path of Tumsah.
Mrs Zainab Boni Haruna, a political Amazon if ever there was one and who Atiku fondly calls ‘my daughter’, would have been the needed arbiter, but she decided to pitch her tent with the disgruntled group and take as companions political braggadocios and parrots, who told her what she wanted to hear. These costly mistakes made her lose the senatorial seat that was there for her to pluck.
The AC was threatening the routed ANPP and PDP and knocking on Government House’s door, but its momentum was rudely halted by the forces mentioned above when, in cahoots with their state counterparts, they conspired to remove the name of the gubernatorial candidate, Tumsah and supplanted it with his deputy’s, Barma Shettima. The idea was to await the outcome of the ANPP crisis over who would fly its flag. If Albishir had reclaimed his ticket, the stage would have been set for Mamman Ali to take over from Barma.
Earlier, Architect Mohammed Saleh, a Mamman Ali acolyte, had come to me in my office at The Informant, my newspaper in Potiskum and had begged me to speak to Tumsah and facilitate his becoming the State Secretary of the AC. He lay out his plans to make the AC strong and in a manner Senator Ali Modu Sheriff had promised to lead the PDP back into the Villa, with his long cap. Architect Saleh, brandishing his credentials and embellishing his stature, swore that with him as the State Secretary the AC would form the government.
But I knew of the late Mamman Ali’s Plan B and I knew of the intrigues that had been going on right from the launch of the party and I was in the party. I was active in politics (I had a brief stint in politics, which is a story for another day), specifically because of Tumsah and was then the first State Secretary.
So, I listened to him, knowing full well where he was coming from and what he wanted to execute. Well, they succeeded in removing me and that was when they brought in Barma Shettima as what they termed Dummy Candidate.
We had to leave Yobe at night when the news filtered out (we had some ears to the ground at INEC) and throughout the night and over the subsequent days, we battled to restore the status quo. Dr Almajiri Gaidam, Alhassan Gaidam, Babagana Taiduma and some others were very helpful at the time.
The intra-party wrangling continued until election day when Zainab Boni Haruna, the Senatorial candidate and Barrister Baba Dala, the House of Representatives candidate, told their supporters to vote for ANPP’s Mamman Ali, because they had a ‘pact’ that ANPP supporters would return the favour.
This was the height of desperation, a lack of self-confidence and political naivety, because ANPP stalwarts just listened to their plans and said yes, knowing that their party was organised and disciplined and that no individual can sway a party with a life of its own.
This made us to ‘retaliate’ in like manner. Even though Tumsah would have preferred the ANPP, because of his relationship with Ibrahim Gaidam, Mamman’s deputy, to whom he had offered the senatorial ticket of his zone when Bukar muscled him out, I told my AC faction to vote for the PDP’s Gwargwar and Mammadu Kori.
The APC vs. the PDP
The APC (as were the parties it evolved from) is the dominant party in Yobe and except you are very courageous, the easiest way to clinch a political office in the state is through its deeply rooted machinery. Potiskum is the only exception and it is Potiskum that generally produces the senator for the zone comprising Fika, Fune and Nangere. It is also Potiskum that determines the member of the House of Representatives for the Potiskum/Nangere Federal Constituency.
Potiskum is the home base of Adamu Maina Waziri, a blueblood who inherited and built on the goodwill of his father, the late Maina Waziri, a First Republic parliamentarian who, unarguably, is the greatest grassroots mobiliser to have ever come from that area.
However, this is not to say that it can be taken for granted that the APC wins elections without breaking a sweat or having to fight tooth and nail despite being well grounded, with virtually all the Emirs and District, Village and Ward Heads as its unofficial agents, while every cadre of the civil service and business class also openly work for its electoral success. In more cases than one, promotions, patronage and retention of office have been tied to how active one is in promoting the fortunes of the party.
For instance, the worst result the PDP had in Yobe in a gubernatorial election was in 2011 when the ANPP’s Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam beat the late Usman Albishir of the PDP 436,998 votes to 195,449, at the same time losing all the State and Federal Legislative seats it had, except the Potiskum/Nangere Federal Constituency seat.
In 1999, the party (PDP) had 10 out of 17 local government chairpersons and about 70 per cent of the state’s 178 councillors. Of 24 House of Assembly members, the PDP had 11. However, the party’s then gubernatorial candidate, Engineer Babagoni Machina, was defeated by Bukar Abba Ibrahim of the then APP by just about 5,000 votes.
In 2003, the PDP’s candidate, Adamu Maina Waziri lost by a margin of about 170,000 votes, while in 2007 he lost by a margin of about 14,000 votes. Even at that, he was able to deliver his senatorial zone to the party, his federal constituency and five members of the State House of Assembly. Later on, two more House of Representatives members cross-carpeted from the ANPP to the PDP.
In the 2015 elections, while President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the PDP lost woefully by 25,536 votes to the APC’s Muhammadu Buhari, who had 446,265 votes, Waziri had 179,700 votes, losing to Governor Gaidam who garnered 334,847.
The reason why the APC (APP or ANPP) has always found it easy to trounce the PDP may not be far-fetched from the fact that those the party entrusts to do its legwork look no further than the state. For them, life begins and ends there and therefore, they would rather be dead than lose their world.
The PDP has very faithful, committed and hardworking foot soldiers, but its ‘middlemen’ have always been soldiers of fortune. They withhold what should go to the foot soldiers and frequent Abuja to be known, so as to get Board appointments. Therefore, hardly does the elite ever come together to work for the electoral victory of one amongst them, ‘because he may get Abuja’s recognition’. Everyone thinks and acts like a king with each trying to carve out a fiefdom for himself.
In 2015, as in almost every election year, there were about three other ‘kings’ who all went through the election and afterwards went on to lay political and legal landmines along the path of their candidate.
This is compounded by the pleasure the candidate takes in welcoming political jobbers who have no electoral value beyond wearing a starched babban riga. But he is a blueblood and northern royalty always gives recognition to its seemingly well-off subjects.
He is a politician with massive, genuine support and an almost cult-like following, who gives his all in the pursuit of his vision. But this weakness always affects his political fortunes, as these political lightweights make hay at his expense and then revert to their natural nests after the elections.
The APC derives its strength from its cohesion, even if forced, because it has the government and by that, ability to dispense or withhold patronage. But above all, in no matter how little the way, their foot soldiers always feel they are being carried along.
Make or Mar
The APC may end up shooting itself in the foot if it fails to reconcile all the contending forces spoiling for a showdown over who contests for what. This time around, those who have been forced to the fringes are not the run-of-the-mill politicians the PDP is used to receiving. These are not politicians who feel they cannot survive without crumbs from the table of the governor. No, these are politicians who have established themselves politically and financially and have a real following back home.
Their case will be different from Usman Albishir’s in that they will openly hold the party by the jugular, from the primary elections when the party is at its weakest and the Governor a lame duck, until the general elections. Albishir did not do so openly and by the time he joined the PDP the game was over for him, because the government had stabilised.
If the party is able to stitch, in time, the threatening tear in its fabric, it will coast to victory no matter who its candidate is.
The PDP, in the throes of death a few months ago before a Supreme Court judgement gave it another lease of life and a chance to redeem itself, is in the process of reinvention. It is resuscitating itself in Yobe and could be a big beneficiary of any miscalculation the APC may make, and that might be the stimulus it has lacked all these years that would give it the most sought after electoral victory.
Having laid this as a foundation, we will next look at the likely aspirants and distinguish between the wannabes and the serious contenders.
Readers are welcome to express their views and opinions, but in a civil manner please.
Well said. However it is my view that the party and the government which are one and the same thing must open up and pursue an all inclusive strategy to win the forth coming election and lift our state from where it is today to higher level of development in all social and infrastructural sectors. The state has tremendous experienced human resource both internally and externally. Bringing this mix together will transform the state in to the envy of others. But this can only be possible if we jettison tribal politics and make the whole state as our focus. Taking advantage of the high levels of illiteracy and poverty of the people and subjecting them to perpetual servitude is immoral and unGodly. It is my prayer that this mistake be corrected by quickly summoning a stakeholders meeting in Damaturu to discuss this and other matters that would strengthen our unity and chart a course to improve on what has so far been achieved.