Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko and his predecessor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, who are again in different camps, now have a reason to test their strengths in 2015, writes Ndubuisi Ugah
For anyone visiting Sokoto State- the seat of the Caliphate- for the very first time, February 8, will remain indelible in the mind of such a visitor and by extension, the people of the state. It was the day President Goodluck Jonathan visited the state to formally welcome former governor Attahiru Bafarawa and his supporters into the PDP.
Being a Friday, which is observed for Jumat service, the atmosphere in the state prior to the visit was that of mixed feelings given the political colouration and permutations that had enveloped the state.
The day preceding the visit, some stern-looking security personnel had taken over strategic locations within the Sokoto metropolis ahead of the presidentâ€™s visit. The event which began casually would later manifest into a major political carnival.
Ahead of the visit, Governor Aliyu Wamakko, who is an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, had allegedly accused the president of demonstrating his hatred for the north, especially the Fulani ethnic group through the recent statements of the minister of Information Labaran Maku.
The governor had premised his allegations on the fact that President Jonathanâ€™s administration promoted impunity against the north, especially the Fulani ethnic stock.
The emerging politics of the state equally played out at the Airport reception of President Jonathan and his entourage, whose airplane touched down about 11 a.m.
In order of protocol, many had expected that the Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, would be on hand to welcome President Jonathan. However, he was conspicuously absent in the brief ceremony at the airport. But the deputy governor, Alhaji Muktari Shagari, enjoyed the opportunity that the event presented him.
His boss had defected from the PDP to the APC but Shagari declined to go with him and chose instead to remain with the ruling party. Many believe that apart from Bafarawa, who was the real reason for President Jonathanâ€™s visit, Shagari was another person whose political profile was accorded prominence at the event.
With President Jonathan to welcome Bafarawa were Vice-President Namadi Sambo, the new Chairman of the PDP, Adamu Muâ€™azu, Senate President, David Mark, and eight serving governors, including the chairman of the PDP Governorsâ€™ Forum, Godswill Akpabio, Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Idris Wada (Kogi), former Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Mahmiud Shinkafi, former Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Kure, members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and National Assembly members among others.
With the airport reception over, the real drama shifted to the expansive Shehu Kangiwa Square, which was the venue of the event. It turned out a beehive of activities as dignitaries from all walks of life had thronged the venue to welcoming the president and his team.
And when he finally arrived the venue, amidst tight security, the atmosphere changed dramatically. He could not hide his excitement at the sight of the crowd, obviously in solidarity with the PDP.
From the moment he stepped into the venue of the event, an excited Jonathan went round the square, greeting the mammoth crowd of supporters and PDP members. For the discerning however, the colourful event was a sign of what to expect in the 2015 elections.
Prior to his defection to PDP, Bafarawa was the arrowhead of the APC in the state. By the decision, he had abandoned the APC structure for Wamakko to explore better political prospects in the PDP.
The Wamakko-led faction of the APC and that of Bafarawa had been embroiled in a battle for the soul of party in the state, until the national leadership of the party handed over the party structure to the governor.
Even with the crowd that thronged the Shehu Kangiwa Square, the rumour mill had it that over 50,000 people from various parts of the state were stopped by agents sympathetic to the opposition from reaching the venue of the event.
According to the story, when the PDP officials got wind of it, they intervened but it did not help matters because the event was almost over. There were reports that some PDP members and supporters of Bafarawa in desperation to attend the event trekked several kilometres to get to the venue.
The speculation in many quarters now is that the Sokoto governor did not envisage that Bafarawa who is considered a leftist would join the PDP.
The thinking among Bafarawaâ€™s supporters is that if the governor knew that he would take such a radical decision, he (Wamakko) would not have left his former party, the PDP. In the estimation of Bafarawaâ€™s supporters, the political development in Sokoto has unsettled the Wamakko camp.
One of the issues that dominated discussions at the event was the conspicuous absence of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, who is from Sokoto State. Even though the masters of the ceremony never made mention of him, it was observed that among the top hierarchy of PDP members, only Tambuwal was missing.
Many of those who witnessed the event said it was a further proof that Tambuwal has long left the PDP in principle, regardless of his denials.
The event was not one of long speeches as the main programme was for the PDP to celebrate the entry of a big fish into its waters ahead of the elections.
From President Jonathan to the Senate President and other high ranking PDP officials that spoke, it was obvious that Bafarawaâ€™s entry into the ruling party was a good omen. Their message was unequivocal; that the PDP would win the state and even the presidential election in 2015.
Bafarawa made real his promise to deliver the state to President Jonathan and the PDP in 2015, when he told him to â€˜go to sleep concerning the projectsâ€™, adding that the task of delivering the state to the PDP was already a foregone conclusion.
â€œToday is a great day, not for me alone and my supporters but to Sokoto State too. This is because we are here to enjoy and not to sleep. I am urging everyone here present to respond positively to this PDP task as a concluded assignment which we are going to deliver in 2015,â€ he said.
The PDP chieftain noted that he decided to join the ruling party due to his belief and passion to grow democracy, noting that his decision was spiced up by his supporters who endorsed his defection.
â€œI joined PDP because my supporters instructed me to do so. I am acting on their instructions, which is why I am assuring Mr. President that he should not worry about 2015 because my people are with me and I know that we will never fail. President Jonathan does not have any problem about my state.
â€œHe should forget about those who betrayed him. He is not the first to be betrayed. I was also betrayed. Most of the National Assembly members today came through me and what is happening today? So, he (Jonathan) should not be disturbed. We are ready to deliver this state to PDP,â€ he added.
Earlier, Shagari had urged Jonathan to vie for the 2015 presidential election, adding that the people of Sokoto want him to continue the good work he was doing in the state.
He enumerated projects done in the state under the Jonathan administration, including the N1billion relief funds to flood victims, establishment of Almajiri Model School and construction of the Sokoto-Kontagora road, among others.
Associates of Bafarawa who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the defection of their principal has re-launched his political structure and political career, adding that by joining the PDP, better days were ahead of the Bafarawa team.
Clearly, it is evident that Sokoto State, being strategic to the PDP is a promising battleground state in 2015. Besides, it is believed that the president would provide the needed support for the party to win in 2015 and with the formal admission of Bafarawa into the PDP; the die is cast for the political soul of the seat of the Caliphate