Shettima vs Sheriff

Adventures of Dan Fulani

Email: Twitter: @dan_pullo

Dan FulaniFormer Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, created a buzz last week when he announced that he would defect to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after the Muslim Ramadan fast. He announced his decision in Maiduguri shortly after the military, in one of its brazen disregard for its rules, opened the town’s airport to allow him land his private jet.

The very fact that both the security agencies exhibited a level of partisanship when they allowed Sheriff free passage through a closed airport should make all of us worried about the immediate and long-term effect on the war against the insurgency in the country.

This much was reiterated when the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NCSIA) advised the Federal Government to avoid using security agents for persecution. In a press statement signed by its acting director of publicity, Muhammad Qasim, the apex Muslim body said the same Maiduguri airport was shut against Muslim pilgrims taking their flight to Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj, despite an earlier clearance to use the airport.

“Apart from denying the pilgrims the use of the facility, the Muslims were subjected to physical and psychological trauma as a result of their grilling by the Nigerian security apparatus; the pilgrims were subsequently forced to embark on agonising travel by road to Kano,” the statement said. The NSCIA warned the Federal Government that it is perilous to use the security establishment to persecute Nigerians, and that a situation in which religious profiling is camouflaged as part of security measures does not bode well for the country.

Sheriff’s decision to abandon the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), of which he was a principal actor in its formation, came about as a result of the seeming irreconcilable differences between him and his chosen successor at Borno Government House, Governor Kashim Shettima. Incidentally, what is happening between the duo is nothing new in these climes. We have continuously seen how former governors fell out with their successors few years after leaving office.

Since 1999 and in virtually all states of the federation, we have been treated to one form of absurd altercation or another between the governors and (mostly) their chosen successors. It is perhaps understandable if there was any friction, or policy misunderstanding, if and when an opposition politician succeed any governor; but what can we say when most of the crisis happens between an ex-governor and his chosen one?

Now that a new frontier of the very familiar crisis has opened in Borno, what should we expect from the principal actors with elections approaching? If what happened in other states is anything to go by, expect more crises to follow. Unfortunately, for a state that is the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, Borno people will now have to brace themselves for a very different kind of tension, one unrelated to what they had been used to since 2009 when the Haramites began their reign of terror on the otherwise tranquil state.

Sheriff’s supporters see their principal as the most important politician in Borno State. If not for the devastating loss he suffered during the 2011 elections when he failed in his bid to return to the Senate, many of the supporters saw him as the arrowhead of the then ruling All Nigeria Peoples Party  (ANPP) in the entire North East. They foresaw him as the Bola Tinubu of the North, a man who could use Borno as a springboard to capture the North East the same way Tinubu used Lagos to spread his tentacles all across the South West, and into Edo State in the South-South. However, the 2011 elections halted that grand design, and restricted Sheriff to maintain some grip in only Borno State.

If lessons from other states are anything to go by, then Sheriff may well begin to rethink his strategy. In more than three-quarter of states where an ex-governor fell out with his chosen successor, the successors tend to find a way to trounce their former bosses at elections. Let us consider one case per geopolitical zone.

In Enugu in the South-East, Sullivan Chime sent Chimaroke Nnamani to political oblivion. In Akwa Ibom in the South-South, Godswill Akpabio has not only crippled Victor Attah politically, he has made it difficult for the former governor to now visit the state. In Sokoto State in the North-West, Attahiru Bafarawa has not recovered politically since his former estranged deputy, Aliyu Wamakko, wrestled both the party and state power from him.

Closer to Borno in the North-East, Jolly Nyame has regretted his decision to handpick Danbaba Suntai to be his successor. If not for the accident of fate that has not pitched them in the same political party, Nyame’s bid to be a Senator was truncated by forces marshalled by his former protégé Suntai. In the North Central, the political differences between Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam and his predecessor, George Akume is still boiling. 2015 may yet provide new battle frontier between the otherwise former comrades.  The same situation applied in South West where there is no love lost between virtually all the former PDP governors and their successors from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which later joined the APC.

However, if Sheriff needs some lessons to comfort him, he can study the case of former Zamfara governors Ahmad Sani Yarima and Mahmud Shinkafi. Upon succeeding Yarima in 2011, Shinkafi went his separate way. Yarima endured four years of humiliation from his chosen successor, and by the time 2011 polls came by, he bared his fangs by leading the onslaught that booted Shinkafi out of office.