KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE, in this report, reviews the emergence of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State as the new chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and what it portends for the former ruling party in the future
There is no gainsaying that the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, is a force to reckon with in today’s Nigeria politics. He is really a familiar face among power brokers in the country.
Many still remember how he became the toast of the town before his eventual emergence as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the seventh National Assembly against the preferred candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mrs Mulikat Akande.
One of the factors that worked in his favour then was that members of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria and Congress for Progressive Change endorsed him as their candidate against the PDP’s preferred candidate, Akande. Like Akande, Tambuwal was also elected into the House as a member of the PDP.
In a surprise move that caught the powers that took many by surprise, Tambuwal emerged victorious in the election of presiding officers for the House of Representatives and led with royalty without any scratch from his wounded political party. The rest, they say, is history.
His manner of leading the House to the admiration of the opposition parties must have laid the foundation for his eventual choice as the governorship candidate of the then newly-formed All Progressives Congress in Sokoto State.
He won the main election landslide defeating the PDP candidate in the election. But the scheming for power control among the founding members of the APC later made him to dump the party and return to the PDP.
Many politicians, political followers and analysts have said so much about his political qualities and mannerism, with reference to the manner he presided over the seventh House of Representatives with no controversy against his name.
Arguably, today, he is one of the less criticised political leaders in Nigeria, with wide admiration for his humility and decorum. He is presently the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum which is chaired by the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi.
On Monday, he was unanimously elected as the next Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum. He is replacing the outgoing Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, whose tenure would lapse on February 3.
But this is indeed a trying time for Tambuwal to bring his leadership qualities to bear on the fortunes of the PDP and the PDP Governors’ forum. The forum is currently enmeshed in a political supremacy battle partly between Dickson and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike.
An insider told our correspondent that the duo rivalry came to its head in the days leading to the governorship primary of PDP in Bayelsa state. While Dickson supported the Senator representing Bayelsa Cetral, Douye Diri, it was learnt that the former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, Timi Alaibe, enjoyed the backing of Wike. Diri eventually won the primary but lost to the candidate of the APC, David Lyon, in the governorship election.
A media report also said the recent visit of Dickson to the Amanyanabo of Kalabari kingdom, King Theophilus Princewill in Rivers State, also did not go well with Wike, who felt his colleague breached protocol by not informing him before visiting the state.
This is one of the factors that made many to believe Tambuwal is inheriting a divided governors’ forum.
Some leaders of the party are also interested in seeing how Tambuwal will be able to unite aggrieved members in the PDP considering the fact that he also contested in the 2018 presidential primary of the party alongside former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who eventually won the ticket of the party. There were concerns that Tambuwal developed cold feet and didn’t show enough zeal in the presidential campaign activities of the party.
But in all these, the National Vice Chairman in the South West, Eddy Olafeso, believed the party has moved beyond the events of the last presidential primary.
In a chat with our correspondent, Olafeso said the party hierarchy believe in the political credentials of Tambuwal as the rallying point now as the party rebuilds ahead of 2023.
He said, “He (Tambuwal) is already working. He is uniting members, rallying everybody and mobilising the forces we have. He is galvanising the energy towards building the party ahead of 2023.”
Making reference to the 2018 PDP presidential primary, Olafeso said, “That one is gone forever. This is a new phase, a new beginning, a new responsibility. I don’t think that has anything to do with his capability.
“Remember, Tambuwal was a speaker for four years in the House of Representatives. I don’t think it is going to be any difficulty for him to deal with any issue that has to do with leadership or uniting the people. I have absolute confidence in him.”
The Secretary of the PDP Board of Trustees and former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, while congratulating Tambuwal for ‘‘a well-deserved honour and new role in the party’’, said stakeholders believed so much in him.
He said, “He is very much experienced to occupy that position even though I’m not a governor. Our PDP governors in their wisdom elected him in a transparent manner. That brings a lot of burden on his shoulders to ensure that the PDP is reinvigorated. As secretary of Board of Trustees, we have enormous respect for our governors and we are happy that a person in the calibre of Tambuwal is their chairman today. We believe he will do his best to strengthen the party.
“We are in the opposition for the first time in the history of our party and we are doing well as the opposition party. We support constructive criticism the party has embarked upon, we are together and we believe he will do well.”
Wabara also played down the events surrounding the 2018 presidential primary, saying the party has overcome the challenges.
He said, “We don’t have any problem in the party. What happened during the last presidential primary is in the past. We have put that behind us now.
“You will appreciate that our candidate went to the tribunal and we were all together as the case went up to the Supreme Court for its final determination. The PDP is one big family and everybody has the right to aspire to whatever position. Once the result is known, everybody comes together to support the candidate that emerges.
“I do not think… and I speak with all authorities that there is no faction in our party as a result of the presidential primary. There is nothing like that. Even during the primary when the aspirants were campaigning there was no acrimony; everybody campaigned like a family. As soon as Atiku emerged we all queued behind him.
“While the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, we were on the same side fighting for the party. Like I said earlier, members of the governors’ forum in their wisdom elected an experienced man, who also knows why and how we lost. So he is now here to lead the governors and guide them right so that come 2023 we will return to the seat of power at the centre.”
Wabara believed the emergence of Tambuwal would add the necessary bites to the efforts of the PDP to regain power from the ruling APC at the centre.
He added, “The battle for 2023 has just begun. I wouldn’t know what his programme is but the legal battle over the 2019 has ended. We will now look forward to how we can make amends and outsmart our opponent in 2023.
“There is nothing Tambuwal or the governors will be looking at now other than 2023. Any politician worth his onions, even in the APC, will be looking ahead to 2023.”
The former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, also believed Tambuwal leading the PDP governors’ forum will rub on the fortunes of the party.
He said, “It portends good things for the party. He is a forward thinking progressive leader who we can trust. He is selfless, courageous, totally de-tribalised and liberal in his thinking and outlook. He is a very good man indeed and I know with him as the chairman of the PDP governors’ forum the party will come alive and grow from strength to strength.”
Fani-Kayode supported the view that the PDP had started repositioning itself for power control ahead of 2023 with Tambuwal in the saddle.
“We have put that (2019 presidential election) behind us now. Tambuwal has always been a force for unity. He has always tried to bring people together as one. He is eminently qualified to lead. We really need that now more than any time. For us to forge an established formidable opposition we need to do that now. We need to that quickly. I believe strongly that his leadership of the governors’ forum will inspire many of us to participate more actively in the affairs of the PDP and to rise up to challenge what I can describe as the most evil government that has ever ruled Nigeria in our entire history.
“We are still a long way to 2023. I don’t think we have to talk about that now. We have so much work to do. If we are serious about defeating the APC in 2023 then we have a lot of work to do in the PDP.
“We have all agreed about that and that is what we are concentrating to doing now by exposing the ills of this government and also to establish a formidable broad-based opposition not just the PDP, there are lots of other opposition parties that will come and join hands with us. With a man as Tambuwal leading the governor, that will really happen.”
From: The Punch