Hurdles before Buhari’s ministers eyeing Govt Houses
OLUSOLA FABIYI examines the chances of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers who are eyeing governorship seats in their respective states
Politicians are known as schemers and patently ambitious. The fact that they are occupying a juicy office does not stop them from desperately dreaming of another. They nevertheless deny or feign ignorance of their open-secret intention whenever they are confronted by journalists, even a few days to their public declaration.
For some ministers serving in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, it is time to confirm their exact ambition. The days and months of denials of aspiration are over. Now is the time to openly throw their hats into the ring.
Convinced that they have acquired the needed experience and financial muscle to become the chief executives of their states, some of the Buhari’s ministers are prepared to give all it takes to achieve their political intention.
Relying on their self-acclaimed popularity at home and with the hope of having the federal might behind them, the ministers also see themselves as the next governors of their respective states.
The federal cabinet members in this category are the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu (Oyo); Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan (Taraba); Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Usani (Cross River) and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali (Zamfara).
Although there could be others, who are secretly nursing similar ambition, our correspondent gathered the men and woman listed above have made up their minds to contest the election unless political calculations in their respective states changed.
Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti)
Fayemi was voted out of office by the electorate in his state in 2014 when they preferred to return to the shade of the umbrella, instead of holding on to All Progressives Congress broom.
Before the final declaration of the outcome of the governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Fayemi called his major challenger, Ayo Fayose, and congratulated him. Now, Fayemi has returned to the political sod in the state and is ready for a fight that could make him return to the seat he vacated more than three years ago without any fanfare. But there are challenges ahead of him.
First, he has to contend with more than 30 other aspirants in his party, the APC, who are equally jostling for its ticket. Chief among them are an ex-governor of the state, Segun Oni; a presidential adviser, Babafemi Ojodu; a former Lagos State Commissioner, Opeyemi Bamidele; and ex-House of Representatives member, Bimbo Daramola.
In an interview with our correspondent, the Special Assistant to Governor Ayodele Fayose on Communications and New Media, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said Fayemi would also contend with the people of Ekiti over his alleged non-performance during his first term in office.
“His first hurdle is the Ekiti people. He has the people to contend with over his actions in office,” Olayinka stated.
Apart from that, the governor may also have to make peace with the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Two of the leading aspirants in the party are believed to be very close to Tinubu. It is believed that if he fails to reconcile with the APC godfather, Fayemi’s aspiration might still fail even if he wins the party ticket. Fayemi’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Yinka Oyebode, however, told our correspondent that his boss was ready for the task ahead. “Fayemi is a man loved by all. He is a team player and I can assure you that he will carry everyone along when he wins the party’s ticket,” he said.
Adebayo Shittu (Oyo)
The task ahead of Shittu is said to be gargantuan. The minister is obviously not on the same political page with his state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, who is also said to hold the ace in choosing and installing the next governor of the state. With the way he is said to have been superintending the affairs of the APC in the state, it is certain that the governor’s candidate will pick the party’s ticket. A chieftain of the APC in the state, who is a former chairman of the Oluyole Local Government Area of the state, Alhaji Kehinde Olaosebikan, in an interview with our correspondent, said Shittu was not in any way connected with the running of the party in the state. This, he said, would work immensely against him.
“He is not in any way connected with the party in his ward. He has no hold on the party anywhere in the state. He has not been able to hold the position he is currently holding to the satisfaction of members of the party in the state. All his personal aides have publicly risen against him,” the ex-LG boss stated.
To prove his alleged aloofness in the party structure in the state, Shittu was unable to attract any member of the party’s leadership when he opened the Buhari’s campaign office in Ibadan. The event, which was attended by outsiders from the South-West, was also boycotted by Tinubu and other APC governors. This logically formed the basis on which a former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Kalu, who attended the occasion, appealed to Buhari and the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to resolve the feud between Ajimobi and Shittu. Our correspondent, however, gathered that even if the feud is resolved, Ajimobi might not support any aspirant from Oke-Ogun where Shittu hails from.
Olaosebikan added, “For political expediency, the APC may have to pick its candidate from Ibadan, the state capital, because if we don’t do that, Ibadan people may capitalise on the recent feud between the governor and the Olubadan and vote for the PDP if it chooses its candidate from the state capital.”
That notwithstanding, Shittu told our correspondent that he would contest the party’s primary and win because he would not want to be handpicked by anyone.
“I want to contest a primary and if I lose, I will be happy. I can assure you that the primary would be fair,” he said.
Aisha Alhassan (Taraba)
Popularly called Mama Taraba, Aisha Alhassan almost made history as the first woman governor from northern Nigeria in 2015 until the final results released by the INEC gave the victory to the incumbent governor, Dairus Ishaku of the PDP. Her uncommon courage earned her a cabinet position in Buhari’s government as Minister of Women Affairs. It is believed that she would still join the race to the Government House in Jalingo in 2019 as she is still said to be popular among the leaders of the party in the state.
Conversely, her professed loyalty to a former chieftain of the party who is a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, may work against her. Some are still wondering how she is able to keep her job despite a leaked video where she claimed that Buhari promised to be a one-term President and that her loyalty was with Atiku.
Asked whether she will still contest the governorship seat on the platform of the APC, Alhassan said, “Yes, I am in the race in Taraba under the APC. Only God can determine my chances but I will try my best like I did in 2015.”
Usani Usani (Cross River)
The hurdles before the Minister of Niger Delta in the race to the Cross River State Government House are numerous. On January 28, despite being the highest-ranking political office holder in the state APC, the leadership of the party rose against him by suspending him from the party. Usani, who is a former chairman of the party in the state, was alleged to be nursing a governorship ambition. His aspiration was alleged to have caused a division in the party.
The acting chairman of the party in the state, Mr. John Ochala, pronounced Usani suspended from the party at the end of what he called “a critical meeting” in Calabar.
The minister was accused of “indiscipline, anti-party activities and insubordination,” just as the party in the state said the minister was also recommended to the National Executive Committee for subsequent expulsion from the party. “By the powers vested in the state working committee, we have no other choice but to invoke the tenets of the constitution, which is the suspension of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and recommend his expulsion to the national (executive committee of the APC),” Ochala had said.
Quiet and unassuming, Usani had yet to openly declare his governorship ambition but he is said to have the backing of a former governor who is also a serving minister in a quest to wrestle the state from the PDP, using Usani as the instrument.
Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali (Zamfara)
Retired as a brigadier general in the Nigerian Army, the current Minister of Defence, Dan-Ali, is believed to be secretly nursing the ambition of governing Zamfara State. Although he is not known to be involved in the politics of the state, if seriously interested, Dan-Ali may have to learn how to pay homage to a former governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Yerima, who, after leaving office in 2007, has since been installing his successors.
Despite rumours swirling that the current governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, is plotting to install his loyalist as his successor, the structure of the party in the state is still believed to be in the hands of Yerima. The former governor is also said to be in charge of the state House of Assembly. Born in 1959, Dan-Ali retired from the Nigerian Army in 2013 and has been one of the backbones of the Buhari government since his appointment into the key ministry.
He was recently criticised for blaming the killings in Benue State on the blockage of grazing routes for herdsmen
For now, these aspirants, like their political party at the national level, are waiting for direction from the President, who as the undisputed national leader of the ruling party may give direction on their political future.
The Special Adviser to the Minister on Political Affairs, Ahmad Abdullahi, however, said only Ali could determine whether he would contest the 2019 governorship election in Zamfara State or not.
Abdullahi said, “Anything that has to do with the 2019 governorship election is a question for the minister. I may not be able to answer that. He nevertheless enjoys lots of supports at home based on his contributions to the social, political and economic development of Zamfara State.”
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