An alleged plan by Governor Atiku Badugu to impose the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, as the governorship candidate has been blamed for a crack in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kebbi State.
Opponents of the move have now congregated in a faction of the party with a former governor of the state, Adamu Aliero, as their head. Mr Aliero is currently serving as the senator for Kebbi Central.
The crisis was aggravated recently when Mr Aliero and the Senate Majority Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, representing Kebbi North, attempted to open a state secretariat of the faction in Birnin Kebbi, rejecting the state executive committee of the party loyal to Governor Bagudu.
Interestingly, the proposed factional secretariat is located in a building belonging to Bello Bagudu, an elder brother of the governor, on Emir Haruna Road in the state capital. However, security agents dispersed the gathering and stopped the unveiling of the facility.
Agitation for Direct Primaries
Mr Aliero, who was welcomed to the ceremony for the opening of the facility by a large crowd of animated members before it was disrupted, said APC would use direct primaries for electing party officials and for nominating candidates for elections. He said the politicians afraid of the mode were afraid of the people at the grassroots because they have not offered any service to them. Although he did not mention them by name, party members and observers say Mr Aliero’s jabs were targeted at Governor Badugu and Mr Malami.
On the occasion, Mr Aliero’s comments largely focused on his own achievements as governor and as a senator. But he also obtained a ringing endorsement of the audience for direct primaries, as stipulated by the National Assembly in the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill it passed late last year.
The Kebbi event was after President Muhammadu Buhari rejected the Bill because of the stipulation of direct primaries as the mandatory mode of nomination of candidates for elections. The National Assembly has now removed the clause to appease the president to assent to the Bill. While federal lawmakers mostly endorsed direct primaries, state governors prefer indirect primaries. Observers said this is because governors control the selection of delegates who elect candidates in indirect primaries, unlike the case under direct primaries where all registered party members vote to nominate their party’s candidates for elections.
After security agents dispersed the gathering, the spokesperson of the faction, Sani Dododo, told PREMIUM TIMES that the party crisis has its roots in the feeling of marginalisation by many party members in the ward and local government congresses conducted in the state.
Mr Dododo said that ahead of the party congresses, the APC at a stakeholders meeting attended by Governor Bagudu, his deputy, the three senators and eight members of the House of Representatives from the state, state lawmakers and other party leaders from across the state had agreed on consensus arrangements for the ward and local government congresses. He said the meeting also agreed to retain the existing excos, except if needs arise to fill vacancies created by death, incapacitation or defection from the party.
“The names of those that are dead or incapacitated and or defected from the party should be brought to the state party’s office for vetting, that was the agreement reached at the stakeholders meeting,” Mr Dododo said.
He said despite the agreement, the governor tampered with the list of the party’s executives. For instance, he said, in Argungu Local Government Area, the names of 101 party leaders were omitted, including the local government party chairman, secretary and treasurer. He said those omitted are loyalists of Mr Aliero.
Mr Dododo said the development pushed the aggrieved leaders to the decision to open their own secretariat.
“We notified the security agencies of our intention to open the new office but we met with resistance from the security personnel who besieged the proposed office building with an armoured vehicle.”
Mr Dododo said the faction moved to another location and opened the new APC office to avoid fracas.
The group accused the police of violating its members’ “right to peaceful assembly and coming together to express, promote, pursue, and defend their collective political right.”
The police spokesperson in the state, Nafi’u Abubakar, said he could not immediately comment on the incident.
However, the spokesperson of the APC in the state, Isah Assalafiy, said all 225 political wards in the state conducted their congresses by consensus. On the claim that some executive members’ names were missing in the list, he said this was based on arrangements reached by party stakeholders at the wards, local and state levels.
Mr Assalafiy said those executives who were replaced had issues with the party stakeholders at their levels and were replaced by their people and not on the order of the governor.
Mr Assalafiy said in the case of Mr Dododo, he voluntarily resigned his position in the state’s executive. “But people like Bala Kangiwa, Ali Bature, Garba JJT were found wanting following a petition against them, that was why they were replaced.”
Mr Assalafiy also said the agreement reached at the stakeholders’ meeting was that all party members should go back to their respective council areas and wards to work out a consensus arrangement. He said all the executives were elected by consensus by party stakeholders at their respective wards, local government, and state levels.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the factions have also submitted to the state’s electoral commission, names of their chairmanship and councillors’ candidates for the forthcoming local government council elections in the 21 local government areas slated for February.
Perfecting the game plan
The fight for control of party structures at the different levels in the state is believed to be part of the succession battle for 2023. Governor Badugu is believed to support Mr Malami as his successor. But Mr Aliero’s faction prefers the Senate Majority Leader, Mr Abubakar.
Leaders in the camp said they opposed Mr Malami’s ambition he is from the same senatorial district and ‘Gwandu Emirate’ as Mr Bagudu. They want power to shift to another zone. The governor and Mr Malami are from Birnin Kebbi, the state capital.
Neither the governor nor the minister has publicly announced his intention for the 2023 polls, but unfolding events and political statements by those close to the two leave no doubt that Mr Malami wants to be Kebbi’s next governor after serving eight years as Nigeria’s chief law officer in Abuja.
For example, the Chairman of the APC Elders’ Forum in the state, Sani Zauro, in September declared, as reported by the Guardian newspaper, that Mr Bagudu would hand over to Mr Malami in 2023.
“Governor Bagudu has assured us that Malami is the best candidate that will succeed him, and we are also in support of that because Malami has done a lot for the people of Kebbi.
“We are satisfied with the new leadership of the party, and anybody who failed to join our movement should leave the party or if you file a court case against us, we are going to remove or sack you from the party,” the newspaper quoted Mr Zauro as saying.
The removal of the state chairperson of the party, Muhammad Kangiwa, has also been cited as part of the plot to smoothen Mr Malami’s path to the nomination. Mr Kangiwa was removed for alleged corruption. But he is challenging his removal in the federal high court in Birnin Kebbi and seeking compensation for alleged damage to his reputation with the allegation of financial misappropriation made against him.
In December, he told reporters ahead of the party congresses that: “because they knew I will not compromise, so they removed me to pave the way for what they did.”
PREMIUM TIMES also reported in August how the Kebbi State House of Assembly impeached its speaker, Isma’il Kamba, and his deputy, Muhammadu Aliyu. The clerk of the house, Usman Ahmed, announced the impeachment after 20 out of the 24 members endorsed it. The lawmakers later elected Muhammad Lolo, member representing Bagudo West, and Muhammad Zuru, member Zuru constituency, as the new speaker and deputy respectively.
Following the impeachment, the chairperson of the house committee on information, Muhammad Tukur, told reporters that the impeached speaker was not indicted of “any wrongdoing.”
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that, like the party chairperson’s removal, the speaker’s ouster was part of Governor Bagudu’s move to purge the party’s leadership of potential obstacles to Mr Malami’s nomination.
Kebbi political structure and emirates
Kebbi has many ethnic groups but has a record of political, religious and cultural tolerance strengthened by intermarriage among the various groups. The state has four emirate councils namely; Gwandu, Argungu, Yauri and Zuru, some of which cut across senatorial districts.
Kebbi Central Senatorial District consists of eight out of the 10 local government areas in Gwandu Emirate. These are Birnin-Kebbi, Kalgo, Gwandu,Bunza, Jega, Aliero, Maiyama and Koko-Besse.
Kebbi North has six local government areas. Four of these are in Argungu Emirate, comprising Argungu, Augie, Arewa and Dandi. The other two, Bagudo and Suru, are in Gwandu Emirate.
Kebbi South has seven local government areas spread across Yauri and Zuru emirates These are Yauri, Ngaski, Shanga, Zuru, Fakai, Sakaba and Danko-Wasagu.
At the beginning of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic in 1999, Mr Aliero from Aliero Local Government Area (Kebbi Central) was governor from 1999 to 2007. He was succeeded by Usman Dakingari from Suru Local Government Area (Kebbi North) who was governor from 2007 to 2015. However, although the first two governors are from different senatorial districts and local government areas, they are from Gwandu Emirate.
Governor Bagudu too is from Birnin Kebbi (Kebbi Central). He was elected governor in 2015 and reelected in 2019. He will conclude his second term in May 2023.
Based on the unofficial rotational arrangement, the 2023 governorship ticket should move to Kebbi South. This district has two emirates – Yauri and Zuru. It has not produced the state governor since 1999.
Mr Bagudu is backing Mr Malami from his own senatorial district while Mr Aliero’s faction is rooting for the Senate Majority Leader, Mr Abdullahi, who is from Kebbi North.
The politics of succession has reopened ancient rivalries among the four emirate councils of the state.
Badamasi Sa’idu, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science at Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the APC crisis can bring an end to the decades-long cry of marginalisation by Kebbi South senatorial district.
Mr Sa’idu said residents of the state have little to show as their dividend of democracy, compared to other states created at the same time. He said that may be due to confinement of political power to a particular area of the state.
“When you encourage popular participation in democracy, you are giving everyone the chance to contribute to development. Kebbi State is developmentally backwards compared with other states that were created together or even those created after,” the political scientist said.
Mr Sa’idu said some emirates and senatorial districts in the state have been crying of marginalisation since they were under the old Sokoto State, and the cry has continued under Kebbi State.
The academician said although power rotation has no constitutional basis, it can engender political inclusiveness, fairness and justice in a society with multiple ethnic and cultural groups and emirates like Kebbi.
“The APC can make a change to that effect if they want to do so,” Mr Sa’idu
The spokesperson for Mr Malami, Usman Gwandu, said he could not speak on politics in Kebbi State as the subject is outside his remit.
Also, the spokesperson for Mr Bagudu, Yahaya Sarki, did not respond to calls and messages sent to him.