Sokoto 2007: Who The Cap Fits?


M. M. Gatawa



In almost all states of the federation, and of the Presidency, the battle over who succeeds the incumbent State Governors and President has began. In this regard, I salute the maturity being exhibited by the people of Sokoto State for the way and manner they are handling this sensitive issue. For, while it is logical to prepare for the future well in advance, it is also imperative that such a debate should not derail our attention from the present. In some states, and even at Presidency, the race to 2007 is not only creating division and increasing the level of acrimony among the aspiring contenders and incumbents aspiring to contest, but is also affecting the performance of governance. Thus, instead of addressing issues at hand and planning effectively for the citizens, attention is now turned towards 2007.


In Sokoto State, the incumbent Governor is in second and (in accordance with current Constitution in operation) in his final term. Thus, come 2007, he shall be replaced by another democratically elected person as the state governor. So, the questions are: who does the cap fits? What are qualities expected of Bafarawa’s successor? What must the electorates do to ensure that only the person of their choice is given the mandate to govern them?


To start with, one needs to know that despite the ‘official’ silence, there are informal movements propagating for quiet a number of individuals to contest the seat. For instance, news (or is it a rumour?) has been going on in many quarters of the state that Alhaji Umaru Kwabo and the incumbent Deputy Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko are both aspiring to contest for governorship come 2007.


The Umaru Kwabo story is very common among the youth within Sokoto metropolis. However, as at now, one missing element in the advocacy is the absence of elite backing. Hence, the advocacy for Umaru Kwabo is yet to be associated with any well-known elite or politician. Interestingly, Umaru Kwabo knows that, as it was the case in 1999, the elite backing may not be a necessary condition for securing that seat. Whether or not Umaru Kwabo is interested in the contest, time will tell. Surely, he must be studying the situation knowing fully the intricate nature of Sokoto politics. He must be equally aware that besides meeting the requirements of the Constitutional provisions, persons contesting such a position has cross a wide range of hurdles; is it not they, the politicians, who overnight create political ‘tsunami’. In all, he must deeply reflect events of the last few days to Gubernatorial election in Sokoto State in 1999.


It is, however, among the advocates of the Deputy Governor that one finds elites, politicians and civil servants. In fact, the advocacy group surfaced during the 2003 contest, when news spread that, should Bafarawa decline the invitation to re-contest, Magatakarda would have simply fill in the vacancy. Unfortunately, Bafarawa’s second coming cooled down that tension, at least for a while.

The Magatakarda factor is visible in the civil service and political matters. It is therefore no wonder that the Magatakarda ‘boys’, with membership drawn from civil servants and local politicians 9most especially those that could not secure ticket for the second term in 2003, are canvassing for their mentor to succeed Bafarawa.


I have never had the oppoturnity of meeting the Deputy Governor face-to-face, save in 1980 when as a Principal Assistance Secretary (?) zurmi LGA, he volunteered to guide us (as students of GTC Zurmi) on the study of English Language. Since then, however, events have shown that he has not changed: he remains gentle, matured, cool-tempered and peace loving. These qualities are no doubt required of a leader, more so one to lead a whole state.


Realities on the ground, however, show that there is need for someone who can readily adjust to the dictates of those realities. For instance, if it were Magatakarda in control now, the political hawks might have utilized his cool-tempered nature to their advantage to effect squandering of the state resources.


The point here is that while Magatakarda possesses the necessary qualifications to contest the post in question, the truth must be told that he needs to be more bolder and authoritative in handling issues as situations may demand. To the Magatakarda advocates, this is the first challenge.


Of recent, however, new entries to the contest are speculated. The one most often considered serious is a member of National Assembly; contenting rivals fear his rising popularity, exposure, and ability to put forward and depend issues affecting the state at the National Assembly. His supporters constantly refer one to the landmarks their mentor secured during the National Assembly/Presidency Rift when the likes Ghali Na’abba and late Okadigbo were there. But the greatest advantage for their candidate, and what makes other aspiring candidates to shiver, is the alleged cordial relationship he has with the incumbent Governor. But does that make any difference? To answer this question, we need to consider the main issues behind the whole 2007 project in Sokoto state.


Here, we need to be straightforward and frank to ourselves. The first detemining element in the exercise remains the Bafarawa factor. Any one who is conversant with the dynamics of local politics in the state knows that the incumbent governor is, and for some time to come, central force to reckon with in such a sensitive an issue. After all, it will remain difficult for our state governors and president to keep aloof from the process of the choice of their successors.


In his own case, Bafarawa may not necessary use his incumbency factor to influence the said process. Rather, I foresee the ‘interference’ as a means of ensuring continuity in the developmental projects executed or planned to be executed some years to come. It may sound debatable, but the electorates may be tilted towards any candidate that secured the incumbent’s support. Any way, those who witnessed how he was able to mobilized the electorates with a handful of diehards in 1999 know that he can do it even better come 2007.


This is even more so for candidates wishing to contest in Bafarawa’s party/camp. Undoubtedly, he is an acknowledged politician with excellent mastery of mass mobilization. He has established large follower ship in all corners of the state. In this regard, his followers must seek his guidance on the shape of things to come 2007.


At this stage, we need to ask: who does the cap fits? Ordinarily, the prospective governor may be from any registered political party. But the chances are high that the successor may be from Bafarawa’s party/camp. Let us note that the landscape of party membership as we approach 2007 is gradually changing and the new affiliations may witness cross carpeting and convergence of formerly opposition groups into one camp or the split of the present camps into a number of opposing ones.


The above notwithstanding, the electorates are likely to be carried away, not by party appeal (after all, Nigerian political parties lack ideology so to say) but individual personalities. Among the qualities the electorates would expect contesting candidates to have, besides meeting the constitutional requirements, are: awareness of the societal needs and values, fear of God, trustworthiness, sincerity, exposure, boldness, gentleness, hardworking, dedication and experience.


Who then among the rumoured contenders meet these requirements and can pass the hurdles highlighted above? Reflection on the aforementioned issues needs thorough brainstorming by the advocates of Magatakarda, Umaru Kwabo and host of other names storytellers daily mention. What I personally foresee is the elevation to the Post of Governorship of that emerging and charismatic young National Assembly member that is semi-officially christened ‘successor’.


I have never had the opportunity of meeting the person politicians are scheming to become my state governor. If, however, the man continues along the same pattern as was the case during the Na’abba/Obasanjo tussle, the party mediation roles played, exposures in National debates, press interviews and ability to relate with the grassroots, all I will say is: May it be as speculated!


M. M. Gatawa