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After weeks of speculation, President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday made a strategic move to bolster his chances at the 2015 presidential election with the nomination of former Governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, for a ministerial post in his cabinet.
Kano, the most populous state in northern Nigeria and with the highest number of registered voters in the region, is key for any candidate contesting the presidential election.
With Shekarau’s nomination, the former governor would be expected to reenact his battle for the soul of Kano with the incumbent governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Both men have met head-to-head in two past elections – in 2003, when Kwankwaso lost his re-election bid to Shekarau, and in 2011, when the candidate handpicked by Shekarau to succeed him lost to Kwankwaso.
Shekarau's nomination is a confirmation of THISDAY’s report in February that the initial nominee from Kano State, Mrs. Jamila Salik, who had been nominated alongside Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, now Minister of State for Defence, would be replaced by Shekarau who had just defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at the time.
Other nominees on the list that was sent to the Senate yesterday are Prince Dayo Adeyeye (Ekiti), Dr. Abdul Bulama (Yobe) and Mr. Stephen Oru (Delta).
The names of the four nominees were contained in a letter addressed to Senate President David Mark. In the letter, the president appealed to the Senate to expeditiously confirm the appointments.
Shekarau, a two-time governor on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) before the party’s dissolution into the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year, defected to PDP in February in protest over the defection by Kwankwaso to APC and the handover of the state’s party structures to the latter.
The rivalry between Shekarau and Kwankwaso stretches back to the time when the latter demoted the former from the post of permanent secretary to that of a principal officer during his first term as governor of Kano State.
The humiliation of Shekarau in the hands of Kwankwaso later earned him the sympathy of Kano people who encouraged him to join the 2003 governorship race on the platform of ANPP against Kwankwaso.
In a twist of fate, Shekarau defeated Kwankwaso at the 2003 general election and also proceeded to become the first governor in Kano State to be re-elected in 2007.
However, Kwankwaso who returned to the seat of power in 2011 after the expiration of Shekarau’s two terms of eight years, later became the arrowhead of the rebellion in PDP which led to his defection along with four other governors to APC from PDP, in November last year.
The other governors who defected with him are Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).
The defection of Kwankwaso to APC unsettled Shekarau and his supporters who defied several pleas from the national leadership of APC to remain in the party.
He eventually defected to PDP in February in rejection of Kwankwaso's leadership in view of APC's decision to hand over the party structures in each of the five states to the defecting governors.
On his part, Adeyeye is a former National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere and governorship aspirant on the platform of PDP.
He was also chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) during the administration of Chief Segun Oni in Ekiti State from 2007 to 2010.
His nomination to the cabinet yesterday marked the second time that Adeyeye would be nominated for a ministerial post having been once nominated by the President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua administration in 2007.
After the list of ministerial nominees had been made public at the time, Adeyeye's name suddenly disappeared from the list.
It was learnt that he was dropped as a result of pressure brought to bear by acolytes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who had informed the late Yar'Adua that Adeyeye was a vociferous critic of the government of Obasanjo and PDP in his days as the publicity secretary of Afenifere and therefore did not deserve to benefit from the same platform he once maligned.
Adeyeye is believed to have been compensated with a ministerial nomination this time following his decision to accept the candidature of Mr. Ayo Fayose who recently emerged the PDP governorship candidate for the forthcoming June 21 election in Ekiti State.
Oru, who is the current Vice-Chairman of PDP, South-south, will replace Mr. Godsday Orubebe, who until recently was the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs while Bulama is a former Commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He was Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Enugu State in 2006. He was also the returning officer at the 2008 re-rerun election, which returned Governor Murtala Nyako as Governor of Adamawa State.