PDP Governors versus Senators: Automatic (tickets) for the people
In February 2015, 20 governorship seats will be up for grabs, with 16 of those coming from the PDP. This is significant because so far, there has not been this kind of turnover at that level since 1999. For the APC, it would present an opportunity to grab some governorship seats, especially in the North where they are competitive, and further expand their footprint across the country.
A good showing at governorship level, even in the event of a Jonathan re-election, will set things up nicely for 2019. Governors have significant resources available to them, and as a governorship seat goes, so do the political structures, and often, elected officials, in the state.
Another reason why the vacant governorship seats will be interesting, is where the former governors will end up, and an increasingly popular destination is the Senate. Former governors like Joshua Dariye, Chimaroke Nnamani, and Bukola Saraki have traded their respective government houses for the hallowed chamber, and some or all of the following outgoing governors have the intention to join them: Theodore Orji (Abia), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Martin Elechi (Ebonyi), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Aliyu Dakingari (Kebbi) and Jonah Jang (Plateau).
Ordinarily, securing the tickets of their party would not have been a problem, but the governors are much less powerful than they used to be a couple of years ago, and this is because the Governors Forum has been successfully divided by the Executive branch. In a bid to reduce the influence of Rotimi Amaechi, the forum was factionalised through the creation of the PDP Governors Forum, with Godswill Akpabio at its forefront.
In exchange for their support for his re-election, the President is said to have agreed automatic tickets for those governors who want to go into the Senate. Now, having secured his party’s ticket, and the deadline for any other challengers to indicate their interest having elapsed, it appears the governors have been hoodwinked.
The Senate ambitions of some governors put them on collision course with serving senators, who would not be able to match the resources of the governors in the ward congresses. In addition to running for some of these seats personally, outgoing governors also have their favoured candidates for both legislative and governorship seats, and the ward congresses held on November 1st saw some serving senators lose out.
In response, the PDP senators threatened to withdraw their support for the President and shut down legislative business, if the results of the ward congresses were not cancelled and automatic tickets given to them as well. The senators have gotten their wish.
This latest squabble within the PDP ranks could disrupt the cohesion brought by Adamu Muazu, since he became PDP chairman in January, after Bamanga Tukur’s disastrous tenure. The resources and the patronage networks of the governors remain crucial for any success at the polls, and their interests must be taken into consideration.
There are a number of issues here. First, this idea of the Senate becoming a retirement home for ex-governors is an odious one, but it is fuelled by our environment. In Nigeria, you are only popular when you have patronage to dispense. Once outside the corridors of power, you are gradually less important until you fade away into oblivion, so the imperative is to move from one elective position to another by hook or crook. It also reduces the possibility of being probed for past misdeeds.
Some have also decided to pass laws that guarantee them hefty pensions after they leave office, draining the resources of their states.
Secondly, the issues posed by a lack of internal democracy are apparent. Rather than a transparent process where everyone with an ambition can contest on the proverbial level playing field, and thus be content with whatever the outcome may be, this urge to impose candidates and ‘guarantee’ victory by manipulating the process will always cause bad blood.
It started from the top. President Jonathan did not want anyone to run against him, and made sure those who wanted to, like Babangida Aliyu in Niger and Sule Lamido in Jigawa, were silenced. Not surprisingly, others in the hierarchy have followed suit, and want their own ‘automatic tickets’.
In life, we do not always get what we want, and the outgoing governors and their associates who will lose out must now plot their next move in fulfilling their political ambition. Unlike before, there is now an alternative platform looking to spread its tentacles across the country. The next few weeks will definitely be interesting.