POLITICS TODAY

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Tambuwal’s 2023 ambition and the Wamakko factor

By Ibrahim Umar Rigasa

One fact that is absolutely undeniable is the towering influence of Senator Aliyu Magatakardan Wamakko in the Sokoto State political firmament. The more Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s camp works to persuade Sokoto electorate to put Wamakko in the dustbin of history, the more the lawmaker’s admirers and supporters increase astronomically.
If there is any daunting challenge that has been an Archilles heel for Tambuwal and his supporters, it is how to dim the light in Wamakko’s political space.
With talks of 2023 already growing in the media, the uncertainty that confronts Tambuwal in the face has refused to go away, as analysts continue to measure the size of the challenge awaiting the governor. The conclusions are almost unanimous, with the daunting question: what will Tambuwal do about the Wamakko empire, full of the Senator’s die-hards and their voters cards?
Well, for now the governor has begun to invent excuses for his inability to build a structure strong enough to upset Wamakko’s. At first he started complaining of being sabotaged by people in Abuja, a veiled reference to Senator Magatakarda. Isn’t it strange that a ‘leader’ fully in charge of his domain thinks that someone from far away is capable of stoppinghim? I used to think that the Chief Executive of a State, should always be capable of calling the shots and not looking for any low-hanging grip. It is uninsipiring that five years after, he is complaining of being sabotaged. I smell a strategy for hiding his incompetence. Even more ridiculous was the charge by the governor that his State has not been adequately represented at the federal level. But the people are turning this lamentation into yet another question: What has Tambuwal, as a leader done, to reverse this?
While the governor’s seemingly endless excuses and lamentations continue, his spin doctors are busy creating new narratives about his ambitious but imaginary projects. Some observers even insist that these projects are white lies too. You keep hearing a long list of questionable projects at every turn. It is so obvious that none of such projects may truly see the light of the day. Let us take a second look at a few of them and the reality on ground.
There are two flyovers, billed to gulp N10bilion and that of a Teaching Hospital, for which N6 billion was said to have been set aside. The deceptive narrative being bandied by his foot-soldiers in the public domain is that he has given 30 percent mobilization fee. It did not take long before the company that was said to be awarded the contract revealed that nothing was given to them. Those very close to the company openly stated that they were asked to go for bank loans, in order to execute the project. Again, the question is: How can you award a contract to a company and ask it to collect bank loan for the project? When that happens, how does the company get back its money?
The scenario I am seeing right now is that these funds are for his 2023 presidential campaign. Simple! So, it seems his true agenda is to take the people for a ride. But what is equally critical to his 2023 presidential ambition will ultimately be his records of performance in office as a governor.
Apart from spending five years in power with nothing to show, the Tambuwal administration has put a stranglehold on the Sokoto state University built by the preceding administration under Wamakko. The institution, which is a landmark in the history of the state is gradually becoming a “political victim” as staff, both academic and non-academic now have their monthly salaries delayed while necessary teaching materials are reportedly in very short supply. Both academic and non-academic staff now have to wait for more than six weeks before being paid. This is a departure from the normal four weeks. And to add salt into injury, some staff would have to wait longer because their names have been omitted on the salary voucher. In terms of allowances, the situation is worse and to cap it all, junior non-academic staff are sacked on regular basis, leaving the university with fewer labourers who cannot cope with the workload.
A visit to students hostels would reveal an eyesore as the hostels lack sanitation and maintenance. Apart from lack of adequate manpower to clean the environment, shortage of water always compounds the problem as hostels are left dirty, smelly, thereby rendering the dormitories almost totally inhabitable.
The poor state of the university is apparently a deliberate political move, because it was built by Wamakko and so it should not prosper. The Tambuwal administration believes if the university should be a success story, all the credit shouldn’t go to Wamakko, therefore the institution must not be allowed to have a smooth sail. This is the kind of political game the present administration in Sokoto is indulged in, just to discredit Wamakko. Meanwhile, this negative political thinking is putting a stranglehold on the university, deliberately setting it on a backward slide. Isn’t it ironical that in a state which is struggling to catch up with its peers, those who claim to prioritize it are the same people taking Sokoto a decade backwards? Anyway, this is a topic for another day.
Now, something that puzzled Tambuwal has happened in Sokoto recently – when his pointman – Bafarawa bumped into Senator Wamakko at the airport. Puzzling to Tambuwal was what they would have discretely discussed impromptu during the airport encounter.How come no negative media report about the encounter so far? Is Bafarawa now a Wamakko man? Has Tambuwal lost it again? The anxiety about the Wamakko/Bafarawa encounter is still fresh inside Tambuwal’s camp because it could mean the governor’s 2023 calculations may have to be taken back to the drawing board. What is very clear however, is that because of their desire to see Sokoto develop Wamakko and Bafarawa appear to have set aside their political differences for the good of the caliphate.
What is unmistakable is, for Tambuwal to confidently and comfortably actualize his presidential ambition, he needs both the two former governors more than any force on the Sokoto democratic space.
Wamakko, who has a firm grip of the Northwest zone means a lot to the 2023 political fortunes of Tambuwal. Twice, Wamakko gave president Buhari the overwhelming majority from the Northwest, which has the highest votes. The role of Wamakko in Tambuwal’s 2023 project is very crucial. The governor needs to woo Wamakko from the home front, before outsiders do the damage.
Bafarawa too, has his own advantage and in politics generally, you don’t underate anyone who has a headstart over you, even if he or she is on ‘retirement’.
I recently saw a highly patronizing article in ThisDay, apparently by Public Relations specialists. They made what was a desperate move to market Tambuwal as a superman who was once a Speaker of the House of Representatives, now a governor and trained lawyer and his age bracket. They bandied these as the “credentials” that makes Tambuwal the “unbeatable” presidential aapirant for 2023 in the opposition People’s Democracy Party (PDP). They also added that he tags baking with all PDP governors. No single mention was made of his tangible achievements, as serving governor big a State with pitiable levels of mass poverty, infrastructural decay and worsening banditry. It is only in Nigeria that a man of Tambuwal’s political records would be pushed willy-nilly down the throat of people as achiever, when opposite is the case. Sad.
On the whole, the 2023 presidential ambition and current strategizing by Tambuwal has too many pitfalls capable of truncating itself. The governor would do well to reflect on the nexus between the past and present. You can’t build the present or the future by abandoning the past, even in politics. There is the popular Hausa adage that says, whoever goes to bed before you has higher chances of waking up earlier than you will.

Umar Rigasa wrote from Kaduna

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