By Felix Nwaneri
It is battle royale ahead of the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as eight state governors, who have declared interest to contest for senatorial seats in the 2019 general elections, have moved against serving senators for tickets of their respective parties.
The governors, who would be serving out the constitutional allowed two terms for states chief executives by May 29, next year, are up to stop the senators, who are seeking to return to the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
They are Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Ibrahim Shetima (Borno), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Tanko Al-makura (Nasarawa) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara). Unlike others, Al-Makura, who is gunning for Nasarawa South senatorial district seat would not be facing an incumbent senator in his party’s primaries.
His senatorial district is currently represented by a senator elected on the platform of the PDP. Should the governors succeed, they will swell the number of former governors in the Senate, which stands at 16 at the moment. However, victory for the governors in the primaries may be of great political consequence for their parties, particularly the APC.
The leadership of the ruling party had, in the wake of the recent crisis that rocked the Senate over the defection of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, promised its senators automatic tickets for the 2019 elections, apparently to curb further defection of the party’s lawmakers.
Against this backdrop, there is likely to be defection of the senators, whose return bids are being threatened by the ambition of the governors to other political parties. They include Hope Uzodinma (Imo West), Lanre Tejuosho (Ogun Central), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe East), Soji Akanbi (Oyo South), Ahmed Yerima (Zamfara) and Baba Kaka Garbai (Borno Central).
Particularly, APC governors, who are in majority among their peers seeking the senatorial tickets, have opted for indirect primaries rather than direct primaries approved by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. But, the affected senators have turned down the option, insisting on direct primaries, where all party members will vote during the nominations. They argued that indirect primaries would give edge to the governors as they are in control of party delegates.
New Telegraph learnt that some of the senators are already discussing with the PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
The PDP is also likely to experience similar fate as Governor Ahmed seeks to dislodge incumbent Senator Rafiu Ibrahim from the Kwara South senatorial seat. The case of Senator Suleiman Adokwe (PDP, Nasarawa South) is different, as he would only face Governor Al-Makura of the APC in the main election if they are able to secure the tickets of their respective parties.
For Okorocha, who has declared his ambition to represent Imo West senatorial district, he would have had incumbent Senator Hope Uzodinma to contend with for the ticket of the APC, but report has it that the lawmaker has opted for the governorship position.
The senator understands how desperately Okorocha wants the Senate seat as well as to produce his successor, so bidding for the governorship of the state, is seen by many as a ploy to bargain for his return to the Senate.
Uzodinma was elected on the platform of the PDP, but he made a switch to the APC, when his faction lost out in the PDP’s leadership tussle. However, his entry into the APC was apparently a good gambit, which perhaps could have offered him some grounds to negotiate a comfortable compromise with Okorocha, but it did not pan out as expected.
Governor Amosun has moved against the incumbent senator, Lanre Tejuosho, for the Ogun Central ticket. The governor represented the senatorial district between 2003 and 2007 in the Senate. Tejuosho had earlier moved to defect from the APC, citing alienation from the party in his home state.
He announced his defection alongside 14 senators on the floor of the Senate in July. But he made a detour 24 hours later, when he announced his return at a meeting between 43 APC senators and President Muhammadu Buhari held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. As the clock ticks to the primaries, Tejuoso, who recently claimed that President Buhari prevailed on him to stay back in APC, faces a Herculean task securing the APC ticket as Amosun seems to have practically taken over the party in the state.
A similar battle is in the offing in Oyo State, where Governor Ajimobi’s bid to return to the Senate is likely to cost the incumbent senator representing Oyo South, Akanbi, his seat.
Ajimobi, who served as senator on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) between 2003 and 2007, before becoming governor, is poised to return to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly after his tenure.
Though he had, immediately after winning re-election as governor in 2015, said he would retire after his tenure elapses, he made a detour few months ago, when he declared for the Oyo South senatorial seat, a move that unsettled Senator Akanbi, who is a first-timer in the Senate.
In Yobe State, the battle for the APC Yobe East senatorial ticket promises to be an interesting one as the incumbent governor, Ibrahim Geidam, battles Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, who is a former governor of the state. The senatorial ambitions of both men have ruptured their longstanding political relationship.
While the governor’s camp said it is time Senator Ibrahim retires politically having failed to do anything tangible for the people of his senatorial district and the state in almost 12 years at the Senate, the senator’s camp dismissed Geidam’s claim, saying the governor is only banking on indirect primaries, which he is plotting to manipulate, for him to pick the APC ticket.
Another contest between a sitting governor and incumbent senator of the same party is in Borno State, where Governor Shettima is seeking to take the APC’s ticket for Borno South senatorial district from Senator Baba Kaka Garbai. Garbai is from the royal family of Borno Emirate and he is a brother to the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garbai, as well as a close associate of Governor Shettima, before they parted ways due to the governor’s bid to succeed him.
Garbai is said to have indicated interest to vie for the governor of the state, but later jettisoned the ambition, after facing stiff opposition from some political leaders in the state, who argued that if given the opportunity, it would mean that the Garbai family would have both the head of the traditional leadership and government of the state. In Kwara State, Governor Ahmed will slug it out with incumbent Senator Rafiu Ibrahim for Kwara South PDP senatorial ticket.
Both are loyalists of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. Although the winner of the ticket is expected to be determined majorly by a consensus arrangement popular within the Saraki political structure, supporters of the incumbent senator are of the view that he has shown enough maturity and commitment to earn him the party’s ticket.
While both camps are optimistic ahead of the primaries, feelers indicate that Ahmed may have the upper hand as party stakeholders, as well as the traditional institution in the state, are disposed to his candidacy.
In Zamfara, it is less of a contest as Senator Yerima has offered to relinquish the seat for his political godson, Governor Yari. New Telegraph gathered that the reason why Yerima is giving up the senatorial position to Yari is as a result of loyalty and respect he enjoys from the governor, as there has never been any feud between them since Yari became the state governor in 2011.
Yerima’s media aide, Junaidu Dosara, who confirmed the development to New Telegraph, said Yerima has already stepped down for Governor Yari to represent Zamfara West in the Ninth Senate on the platform of the ruling APC.
“The former governor and political leader of Zamfara, Ahmed Sani Yerima, has conceded to Governor Abdul’azeez Yari, the senatorial ticket to contest the next 2019 general elections to represent the zone in the National Assembly,” he said.