They might belong to the same political party, and enjoy perks of offices based on their positions, but there is no love lost between them. At least eight senators, elected on the platform of Nigeria’s ruling APC are having serious battles with their state governors, also members of the ruling party.
In some of the cases, the conflicts are geared towards the 2019 elections. In others, it is simply a battle for supremacy and ego. While lawmakers elected on platforms different from those of the state governors are reasonably expected to challenge the policies of the rival parties, the highlighted APC crises show that it may be worse within the party’s own leaders. In most of the cases, there appears no way of resolving the crises despite the various efforts of the APC and the presidency.
Listed in no particular order, PREMIUM TIMES highlights some APC senators and governors who are currently at loggerheads.
KOGI: Dino Melaye Vs Yahaya Bello
The unending political feud between the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, and Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has become a familiar episode in Kogi politics. The major political attack was the move to recall Mr. Melaye by members of his constituency. Thousands of signatures were collated and sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission which made arrangements for verification of the signatures, the recall process later became a legal battle. Even though Mr. Bello has repeatedly denied his involvement, the senator has continued to finger the governor as the sponsor of his planned removal from the National Assembly.
The crisis reached another height in April 2017 with the reported assassination attempt on Mr. Melaye in his country home in Ijumu Local Government Area. The police later arrested the sole administrator of Ijumu, Taofiq Isa, and released him on bail over the incident. The case is also in court.
Similarly, in November 2017, the two politicians almost had a bloody clash when the convoy of Mr. Melaye was attacked after he delivered a speech at the Kabba Day celebration.
In other times, Mr. Melaye has unapologetically called Mr. Bello names; ‘olodo governor’, ‘daft’ and suffering from ‘verbal diarrhoea’. In early 2018, he posted a video where he claimed he saw Mr. Bello dressed in prison uniform. Firing from the other end, Mr. Bello has accused the senator of lacking ‘home training.’
Except the APC is able to resolve the crisis, which looks unlikely, one of them, most likely Mr. Melaye, is expected to leave the APC before the 2019 election.
KADUNA: Shehu Sani Vs El-Rufai
The altercations between these two have recently become more frequent than when it started. The crisis dates back to 2015 when, after the elections, El-Rufai made some appointments from the party, APC, in a manner perceived as unconstitutional by Mr. Sani and others. In his defence, the governor said the nominees Mr. Sani sent to him for appointment were dropped because of lack of necessary academic competence and capacity to function as commissioners. In the heat of the altercations between these two, Mr. El-Rufai dropped a bombshell in 2017 when he warned his political opponents not to fight him, saying when late President Umaru Yar’Adua fought him, he died.
Mr. Sani has not been silent. He criticises a lot of the policies of the state government and the governor’s party activities he perceives as wrong. When he was suspended from the party in 2017, he accused the governor of masterminding his ordeal describing him as a ‘parasite to PMB administration.’ At several other occasions, he described the governor as ‘dubious progressive,’ ‘lunatic,’ ‘irresponsible.’ Mr. Sani was at the fore-front of opposing the governor when he announced an education reform that would lead to the sack of 21,000 Kaduna teachers and employment of more ‘better qualified’ ones.
Already, partly based on the crisis, the APC in Kaduna is split into different factions although the one loyal to the state governor is recognised by the party leadership in Abuja. It is not clear how or if the party will be able to resolve the crisis especially as Mr. El-Rufai’s political adviser, Uba Sani, is already gearing up to take the senator’s seat come 2019.
KADUNA: Hunkuyi Vs El-Rufai
Still in Kaduna, Suleman Hunkuyi representing Kaduna North has also in recent times taken on the governor. The genesis of their disagreement is difficult to trace given the fact that Mr. Hunkuyi’ younger brother was appointed commissioner and his elder, Idris Othman, was for many years a close associate of the governor.
Although it has not been as rough as the battle between Mr. El-Rufai and Shehu Sani, all indications point that there is love lost between the two. Just recently, as in many other occasions, Mr. Hunkuyi vowed to “do everything possible” to vote Mr. El-Rufai out in 2019. Even though the governor has been silent on this, there is no doubt that the two have scores to settle ahead of next year elections.
The conflict with Mr. Hunkuyi will make Mr. El-Rufai arguably the only APC governor in conflict with all his party’s senators from his state. Mr. Hunkuyi now has the support of another faction of the Kaduna APC.
ZAMFARA: Marafa Vs Yari
The struggle for political space in Zamfara State has brought the governor, Abdulaziz Yari, and senator representing Zamfara Central, Kabiru Marafa, at loggerheads in recent times.
The political quagmire took an interesting dimension in November 2017, when the senator alleged that the governor was not an indigene of the state. This followed the senate’s refusal to confirm the nomination of Ahmad Mahmud as REC nominee for the state as a result of a petition written to the committee on INEC by Mr. Yari. In another appearance at plenary, Mr. Marafa alleged that the governor and his deputy know the militia laying siege on the state.
Mr. Yari in his response to the allegation said in a statement by his Special Adviser, Salisi Isah, said that the senator’s comments were ‘mischievous, callous and misleading.’ The governor went further to threaten Mr. Marafa’s 2019 ambition. “Yes we are going to kill him politically, we are going to bury his political ambition in 2019. He wants to be governor, he is not going to get it, even the Senate he is not going to return,” he said in a statement.
The feud continues as Mr. Marafa’s support for the REC nominee is yet to yield its desired result just as the security crisis in Zamfara State has not abated.
KANO: Kwankwaso Vs Ganduje
For the two terms they worked together as a governor and deputy, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Abdullahi Ganduje, stood out among other political office holders for a harmonious working relationship. Things however started getting sour some months after the 2015 elections which saw Mr. Ganduje emerge as the state governor and Mr. Kwankwaso as the senator representing Kano central.
On October 21, 2015, during the 59th birthday of former Mr. Kwankwaso, which is usually marked in Kano as Kwankwasiya Day, instead of the allies of the two politicians to come together to mark the event, the pro-Ganduje elements celebrated it at the Government House, while those who identified themselves as loyalists of Mr. Kwankwaso, led by his former Chief of Staff, Yunusa Dangwani, held theirs at Mambayya House in Kano. Another perceived genesis of the feud is the appointment of state executives by Mr. Ganduje. None of the commissioners in Mr. Kwankwaso’s executive was retained by Mr. Ganduje, with the exception of Nasiru Gawuna, who was commissioner for agriculture under Mr. Kwankwaso.
Meanwhile, for reasons many have described as political, Mr. Kwankwaso has not visited Kano since May 2015. In January when he decided to do so, the feud got a renewal. The rift got to a head when two rival political camps, Kwankwasiyya and Gandujiyya, fixed rallies for the same area on the same day. Clashes between supporters of both camps had left many injured but Mr. Kwankwaso refused to shelve his ‘grand visit’ despite police warning. He later jettisoned his planned visit, saying he wanted to allow peace and security prevail.
BORNO: Kyari Vs Shettima
Their 2019 ambitions appears to be putting Governor Kashim Shettima and Abu Kyari, the senator representing the northern senatorial district of the state, against each other.
The senator who is currently nursing an ambition to occupy the state government house is not in the best of relationships with the governor who, many believe, is eyeing the northern senatorial seat in 2019.
To neutralise Mr. Kyari’s ambition, Mr. Shettima is said to have initiated moves to draft the senator representing the central senatorial district, Baba Garbai, into the governorship race to succeed him.
Even though they are both in the same APC, the former allies appear not to be comfortable with their 2019 ambitions.
OGUN: Olamilekan Vs Amosun
The 2019 gubernatorial ambition of the Lagos West senator, Olamilekan Adeola, has brought him at loggerheads, not with his current state governor, but with the governor of the state where he aspires to govern.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun is rounding off his two terms with the race to the Ogun State government house becoming fiercer by the day.
In seeming reference to the senator, Mr. Amosun, in November 2017, vowed for the second time that he would not hand over to a ‘stranger’ in 2019. Although Mr. Amosun is disposed to someone from Yewa part of the state succeeding him, he opposes Mr. Adeola who is from that part.
The governor said it would be an insult to the forebears of Ogun State if an ‘Atohunrinwa’ (stranger) should succeed him when there are true sons and daughters of the soil in abundance. Despite that, Mr. Adeola has vowed to contest with or without the governor’s support. This subtle bickering has split the leadership of the party into two, with the Yayi faction enjoying the full support of a national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, while Mr. Amosun wants to be allowed to determine his successor.
ONDO: Boroffice Vs Akeredolu
Though the leadership of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo state has tried to dismiss the existence of cold war within its ranks, there are indications that all is not well between the Ondo North senator, Ajayi Boroffice and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
Mr. Boroffice did not support Mr. Akeredolu’s election in 2016. After the election, the governor and his supporters said they did not consider the senator a member of the APC and that he would have reapply to the party to become a member. Mr. Boroffice, however, fired back saying he never left the APC and remains a full member of the party.
The APC in Ondo is currently making moves to resolve its internal crisis with a former governorship aspirant, Olusola Oke, returning to the party. Mr. Oke left the APC after Mr. Akeredolu won the party’s governorship primaries. He later contested against Mr. Akeredolu on another platform. Despite the reconciliation within the Ondo APC, there are however still indications that the differences between Messrs. Akeredolu and Boroffice remain unresolved.
To resolve these crises and others within the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari set up a committee headed by Bola Tinubu, the former Lagos governor.
Mr. Tinubu, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, is already meeting with some of the aggrieved parties.
Kemi Busari is a senior reporter covering the Nigerian Senate for PREMIUM TIMES. He has interest in human rights and has won awards for his works, including the Hans Verploeg Award and the PwC Business reporting award. Twitter: @kemi_busari