A list of cleared candidates released by the leadership of APC on Thursday showed that nine aspirants were cleared to contest Sunday’s governorship primaries in Zamfara State.
They are a former Executive Director of First Bank, Dauda Lawal, the state commissioner of Finance, Mukhtar Shehu, Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, current Deputy Governor, Ibrahim Wakala.
Others are a Senator, Kabiru Marafa, former governor Mahmud Shinkafi, a member of the House of Representatives, Aminu Jaji, a former federal permanent Secretary, Abubakar Magaji and a former director at Federal Capital Development Authority, Mohammed Hamidu.
The former bank executive is coming with both a controversial past and a financial war chest to challenge the existing status quo in the state.
Checks in Zamfara state reveal that Mr Lawal does not have a solid political structure badly needed in Nigerian political circles.
However, he was known for coming to the aid of the underprivileged in the past especially in terms of providing scholarships to the children of the downtrodden.
He is also known for “constructing or renovating Mosques” in the state, an action considered noble in the maiden official sharia state.
However, Mr Lawal was strongly linked to former Minister of Petroleum resources, Diezani Allison-Maduekwe.
He was accused of being one of the fronts used by the ex-minister to launder money to fund the 2015 general elections.
Indeed, he had trouble with anti-graft agency, EFCC and it was reported that he was forced to forfeit $40 million (N9.08bn) “suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Mr Lawal’s major strength is his apparent acceptance by the ordinary folks in the state as well as the availability of cash to prosecute his aspiration.
Media reports also indicate that he may benefit from “ïn-fighting” among the political gladiators in the state because he does not belong to any of the traditional camps.
His major weakness is the lack of solid political structure. While, the controversy regarding the “Diezani Affair” may be a factor in other places, there is no sign it has any negative implication in Zamfara politics.
The Commissioner of Finance, popularly known as “Koguna” is the preferred candidate of outgoing governor, Abdulaziz Yari.
Mr Yari did not hide the fact that he wants Mr Shehu to succeed him even though, his deputy, Ibrahim Wakala, for over seven years, is also in the race.
Mr Yari even convened a meeting of powers that be within Zamfara APC and had his aspirant of choice endorsed.
The governor told the media after the endorsement parley that the decision was a “tradition in the state’s politics of the APC.”
He added however, that this, does not, however, mean that an individual has no right to go on his own and purchase the nomination form.
“As you know, under democratic conditions, everyone can exercise his right, but any of such persons would not have the backing of either the party or the state government”.
Mr Shehu’s greatest strength therefore, lies in the backing of Mr Yari. The governor has absolute control of APC structure in Zamfara state.
However, another factor that may affect the finance commissioner is that the Yari administration is largely seen as a failure.
The governor is known mainly for his absence from the state which badly needed his attention to tackle the menace of bandits that have killed thousands of citizens.
Also, many view the decision of the NWC of APC to approve the use of direct mode of primary as being targeted at the governor and his preferred candidate.
While he controls the political structure, Mr Yari does not have the support of ordinary party members who are now in the majority.
The decision of the Minister of Defence to seek for the governorship of the state shocked many political observers in Zamfara state. This is because the retired army general did not show any “serious sign” of political aspiration by aligning himself with the political structures in the state.
He was often seen as someone who is more concerned with carrying out his duties to the satisfaction of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Although, he is at times blamed for the escalation of insecurity in the state as the Minister of Defence, sources in Gusau informed PREMIUM TIMES that he is actually now seen as a “messiah”.
“The governor tried to blackmail the minister and president by saying he lacked the power to do anything to tackle the menace of bandits, and decided to resign as the chief security officer.
“However, the governor continued to approve huge sums of money as security votes. What the minister did eventually came to the aid of the people.
He personally made it possible for the president to come and see things for himself.
“He also made it possible to set up military formations and as you must know by now, the story is not as it used to be,” said a source who asked not to be named because he is a civil servant.
While these “laudable” efforts may help the cause of the minister, it may not be enough to give him the ticket mainly due to his “political inexperience”.
Mr Wakala is the current deputy governor of Zamfara State who felt he should succeed his boss because of his eight years of loyalty.
Unlike Mr Yari who is always away from Gusau, Mr Wakala is the one many in the state know as their “governor. This is because he is the one always “in charge”.
He, therefore, has a fair share of control of APC loyalists as well as the support of the “father of Zamfara politics” ex-Governor Sani Yerima.
For many, the real battle for the ticket of Zamfara governorship ticket is between Mr Wakala and Mukhtar Shehu because of the backing of traditional “kingmakers” in the state.
Mr Marafa is the current Senator representing Zamfara Central. He is also one of the strongest contenders for the APC ticket.
The Senator, known for his “stubborn streak” appears to deliberately ignore the existing order in the state by establishing his own.
The Senator is one of the loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari and rather than Mr Dan-Ali the Defence Minister, he is seen as the face of “Buharists” in Zamfara state.
In fact, sources said he single handedly “defeated” Mr Yari by ensuring that APC adopts the direct mode of primary election.
When it became apparent that the state APC officials were completely loyal to Mr Yari, Mr Marafa factionlise the party and funded his own faction forcing the national headquarters to take note and “do the right thing.”
What will work for Mr Marafa is his “generosity across board” and his alignment with Mr Buhari. Despite the security challenges, the president still command huge following in the state, especially among party faithful.
A source also told us that “no politician has provided employment to the indigenes of Zamfara state to date, go and check.”
Mr Shinkafi is a former governor of the state. He lost to Mr Yari in 2011 after only one term in office. He defected to the PDP in 2008 over difference with his former principal, Sani Yerima.
He lost to Mr Yari for the second time in 2015 and joined the APC November last year.
While Mr Shinkafi still enjoys the support of his loyalists, spending less than one term does not appear enough to upstage existing APC structure.
Mr Jaji is the member representing Kaura-Namoda/Birnin-Magaji constituency in the House of Representatives.
Mr Jaji said he decided to join the governorship race to “clear the mess of previous administrations and reform Zamfara state.”
Like Mr Marafa. Mr Jaji is also a “Buharist”in the House of Representatives. He also enjoys the support of APC faithful in the state, especially the youth.
Mr Jaji also is hoping to take advantage of the ïn-fighting” among the elite to penetrate the existing structure.
Mr Magaji is a freshly retired civil servant. He retired as a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Interior three months ago. Mr Magaji did not waste time because even before he retired, he wrote to the Zamfara state chapter of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) telling them of his intention to join politics as soon as he retires from service.
In his letter, Mr Magaji said he was being urged to join politics by his people.
“The purpose of this letter is to formally inform you that in recent times, I have been receiving calls and invitations from individuals and groups that I should join politics after my retirement from public service.
‘In their wisdom, they believe I will make a positive contribution towards the development of our society.
“In compliance with our religious teaching and our good tradition both of which recommend listening to good advice, I decided to consider the invitation and have decided to answer the call of the people,” he said.
Checks by this newspaper in Gusau however shows that the retired technocrat has an uphill task ahead of him.
Apart from having of lot of money, I don’t know what else he is bring to the table,” a Zamfara-based journalist said.
Mr Magaji is well known for his role in the reinstatement of the controversial former chairman of Pension reform task team, Abdulrasheed Maina.
He had confessed to the House of Representative Ad hoc Committee investigating the back door reinstatement of Mr Maina that he was responsible for “erroneous reinstatement and promotion of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform.”
Mr Hamdu is also a retired civil servant. He was the Director, Special Duties at the Federal Capital Territory.
He, like Mr Magaji, lacks the requisite political structure, but, it was gathered he also has the financial muscle to prosecute his ambition.
He was investigated by the EFCC for selling a parcel of land with “Fake Titles.