All contestants for various positions would be allowed to pay for their forms on Monday.
For the second time, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Borno State has shifted its ward congress date, even as the party’s unity in the state is being threatened by the simmering war of supremacy between Governor Kashim Shettima and his erstwhile political godfather, Modu Sheriff.
The congress has been scheduled for Tuesday.
“Leader of the party”
On Sunday, the chairman of the Borno State Congress Committee, Faruq Aliyu, explained, at a pre-congress meeting of party stakeholders in Maiduguri, that the delay and subsequent shift of the wards congresses had to do with the late arrival of the material needed to execute the exercise.
“The material needed for the congresses just came into Maiduguri on Saturday, and by our constitution requirement for elections, candidates vying for any party position must pay for their nomination forms through designated bank accounts before they are issued the forms.
“Since the materials for the elections only arrived on Saturday, we have to wait till Monday for the banks to open before we begin issuing the forms. All contestants for various positions would be allowed to pay for their forms on Monday. Accreditation would be concluded in the evening and election would take place on Tuesday in places where consensus could not be reached,” he announced.
Mr. Shettima, who was repeatedly hailed as “the leader of the party” during the meeting, emphasised in a brief speech that despite public perception he had no grudge against former Borno State governor, Mr. Sheriff.
“Power comes from God and nobody can say he or she has the ability to give power. I and former Governor Sheriff are not better than any one of you here. Anybody can aspire for any office and attain it if God so pleases. I am a child from a humble background, just like Senator Ali Sheriff was. Senator Sheriff’s father and my father were ward councillors in 1976 when Elder Shettima Ali Monguno was the chairman of the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council. My father was the councillor for Lamisula, while his father was the councillor for Ngala. No matter where they are operating from, a councillor is a councillor. So we just have to humble ourselves and know that this power comes from God! Let it be on record that I have no grudge against Senator Sheriff, he remains our boss and our leader in Borno State,” Mr. Shettima said.
Though Mr. Shettima’s speech was greeted with applause, it still did not go down well with some of the party members who insisted that Mr. Shettima was the leader of the party and not his predecessor.
All is not well
A very senior political office holder in the state government who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES said, “There is no need for pretence that all is not well between Governor Shettima and former governor Sheriff.”
The politician who spoke under anonymity as he was not cleared to speak officially explained that the former governor had pushed the incumbent to the wall. The politician added that Mr. Shettima had no option but to do what he is doing now.
“There is no way Governor Shettima would continue to be loyal and taking all the insults and embarrassment being heaped on him by Senator Sheriff, simply because he was the one that assisted him to become governor. Fine, Sheriff played a greater role in the political life of Shettima, but that does not mean he should be subjected to a figure head, that somebody elsewhere would be dictating to him on how to run his government. A governor is a governor, no matter how lowly or inconsequential one tries to look at him,” the politician said.
The source went further to explain how a once happy relationship went sour, when Mr. Sheriff wanted Mr. Shettima to dissolve his cabinet and sack a few commissioners who the former governor did not like.
“Governor Shettima had always told Senator Sheriff that he would do everything to obey him, but he cannot be dictated to on the issue of managing his cabinet. How can he be ordering him to dissolve the cabinet as if he is just some lackey that was installed to do his bidding? His Excellency, Governor Shettima, had taken his time to explain to him that it would be wrong to sack these commissioners who had not even enjoyed their office because of the on-going Boko Haram conflict. He pleaded that they should be left to tarry for some time, till when it would be considered okay to fire them. The governor stood his ground, and Senator Sheriff was not happy about it; that was the beginning of their conflict,” said the top politician.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sheriff, who was expected at the pre-congress meeting on Sunday but failed to show up, later arrived Maiduguri via his private jet at about 8:30 p.m. He arrived alongside Kashim Imam, another top leader of the APC in the state.
Messrs Sheriff and Imam were the key players that orchestrated the victory of Mr. Shettima and his deputy, Zannah Mustapha, in the 2011 election.
Weeks to the 2011 general election, Mr. Imam, a top chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and two-time governorship candidate of the party in the state, staged a massive pull out of his supporters from the PDP in protest of what he described as skewed governorship primaries in favour of flag bearer, Muhammed Goni.
Mr. Imam, who had been a major financier of the party since 2003, felt undermined by the action of his party men. He then moved to the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, where the ever-willing Mr. Sheriff, then an outgoing governor, struck a horse-trade that led to Mr. Imam’s two-time running mate on the PDP ticket, Mr. Umar (now the deputy governor) to pair with Governor Shettima.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mr. Imam who has been silent on the political happenings in the state could play a key role in seeing that Messrs Sheriff and Shettima come to a common ground and save the party from an imminent implosion.
Though those in Mr. Shettima’s camp have boasted of having the majority of the support from the elected stakeholders, who are going to be automatic delegates in the forthcoming primaries after the ward congresses, some quarters still fear that should Messrs Shettima and Sheriff fail to find a common ground, it might lead to the two godfathers ganging up against the governor.
“We hope for an amicable settlement amongst them, but if they fail to settle, we should know that the battle will turn out dirtier, and many on both sides would come out with bloody noses,” said a serving commissioner who pleaded anonymity for fear of being victimised.
However, some others within the APC have also ruled out any form of settlement. It is believed that Mohammed Imam, a former state chairman of ANPP, who also served as commissioner in various capacity under Mr. Sheriff may not yield to dropping his ambition of becoming the next governor of Borno State.
Mohammed’s campaign posters have flooded the nooks and cranny of Maiduguri indicating that he is gunning for the governorship. He is believed to have the support of Mr Sheriff and was part of Mr. Sheriff’s delegation that came into Maiduguri on Sunday night.
Also, those in Governor Shettima’s camp would prefer the governor parts ways with Mr. Sheriff if the latter does not discourage Mohammed from eyeing the governor’s seat. They believe that as an incumbent, Mr. Shettima has majority of the support within the party and across the state.
“We have the 26 members of the House of Assembly on the side of His Excellency, Governor Shettima. We have eight out of the 11 members of the National Assembly on our side. We have the local government chairmen too. Sheriff only has three National Assembly members,” said one of the loyalists of Mr. Shettima.
But those speaking for Mr. Sheriff feel they are capable of rocking the boat and even denying Mr. Shettima a chance at the 2015 elections.
“Senator Sheriff ruled for eight years and had served three times as senator before the 2003 election that brought him in as a governor. It will be childish to think that in just three years you could uproot him from the system, given his larger than life political carriage,” said the source speaking for Mr Sheriff.
The Sheriff loyalist also said, “Reconciliation might turn out to be very difficult because Governor Shettima had drawn the battle line when he sacked the state commissioner for Information, Mr. Inuwa Bwala and two other Senior Special Assistants, simply because they had sympathy for former Governor Sheriff. What other direct affront could be worse than that action?”
The atmosphere in Maiduguri, as at the time of filing this report, was tense as hundreds of supporters either flocked to the home of Mr. Sheriff or were seen around the Government House, holding different meetings, as party members prepare for the ward congresses on Tuesday.
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