The decision by the Sokoto State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Muktari Shehu Shagari, to remain in the Peoples Democratic Party, following the defection of his boss, Governor Aliyu Wamakko, to the All Progressives Congress, may have begun to ruffle feathers in the state, writes Mohammed Aminu
A cold war seems to be brewing between Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko and his deputy, Mukhtari Shagari, following the refusal of the latter to defect to the APC. This, largely, has created uneasiness in the seat of the Caliphate. In fact, Shagari's audacity to remain loyal to the PDP has pitted him against his boss and is fast threatening the cordial relationship between them.
It is no longer news that the deputy governor, a nephew of the former Second Republic President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, had decided to swim with the sharks and go against the tide by taking his political future into his hands rather than relying on a 'mysterious godfather' to anoint him as the next governor of Sokoto in 2015.
Shagari's position was hinged on the belief that it is only God that gives power to whomever He wishes and at the appointed time.
Pundits were however not surprised when Shagari decided to stay back in the PDP, that gave him the opportunity to rise to national prominence, especially when he served for six years as the Minister of Water Resources during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Shagari's romance with the PDP started in 1998 when he and other members of the Sokoto Democratic Association joined the party, following the return of democracy to the country after about two decades of military intervention. It was on the platform of PDP that he was appointed a minister by Obasanjo before he later resigned in 2006 to contest the governorship election in Sokoto.
Shagari contested and won the PDP governorship primaries with a landslide. But the PDP national leadership was desperate to bring Sokoto, which was in the hands of the opposition (Democratic Peoples Party) into mainstream politics as at 2006 and therefore invited Wamakko of the All Nigeria Peoples Party to join PDP.
The PDP national leadership prevailed on Shagari to step down for Wamakko and serve as the deputy governor while the ticket was given to Wamakko whom they believed had public sympathy and had the perceived grassroots support to deliver victory to the ruling party.
Consequently, Wamakko left ANPP and became the PDP standard-bearer with Shagari as his deputy. He went on to win the 2007 governorship polls by defeating the DPP candidate, Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi, a lieutenant of former Sokoto Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa.
Barely two years in office, there was acrimony in the Sokoto PDP between loyalists of Wamakko who left ANPP for the PDP in 2007 and old members of the PDP who had been in the party since 1998.
The 'old PDP' who were mainly members of the party since 1998, had accused Wamakko of favouring the 'new PDP' who are his loyalists in terms of juicy appointments to their detriment. They claimed that they were not being carried along in the scheme of things and as such marginalised by 'newcomers' in a party they laboured to build over the years.
The acrimony reached a crescendo last year when the old members petitioned the national headquarters of the party, seeking the disqualification of Wamakko from contesting the last February 2012 governorship election in the state. Led by Senator Abubakar Gada, Ambassador Ladan Shuni and other chieftains, they accused Wamakko of anti-party activities and asked the PDP national leadership to disqualify him from seeking re-election.
But in spite of the petition, Wamakko escaped being disqualified and was re-elected last year for a second term in office. Since then, the seed of discord had been sown in the Sokoto PDP while the acrimony between the two factions remained.
This notwithstanding, the deputy governor remained silent over the issue. He refused to be drawn into the imbroglio but rather remained steadfast and loyal to Wamakko.
Observers believed that Wamakko's defection to APC took the deputy governor by surprise because he had believed that the aggrieved governors would reach amicable resolution with President Goodluck Jonathan through dialogue.
THISDAY gathered that the governor had during a recent stakeholders’ meeting at the Government House intimated the deputy governor of the decision to join APC, which was wholly supported by all the commissioners, special advisers and the 23 local government chairmen in the state.
But Shagari was taken aback by Wamakko's decision to move to APC and told the governor that he was not consulted on the matter before the meeting and as such should be given the opportunity to consult with his supporters and family members before taking a decision.
Speaking with journalists at his residence in Sokoto recently, Shagari said he was still a loyal member of PDP and would not defect with Wamakko to the APC. He maintained that he had no problem whatsoever with Wamakko but would remain loyal and committed to the ideals of the PDP.
The deputy governor asserted that he joined PDP not because of any individual but based on principle and as such would remain a bonafide member of the party.
He insisted that he was not consulted by the governor on the issue, adding that it was only during a stakeholders' meeting that he was informed by Wamakko of the direction and the decision taken on the need to move to APC.
"Today, a new dimension has come in and the possibility of people going to another party looms in Sokoto. I want to make it clear that in all these processes, nobody consulted with me. I was only told at this moment of the new direction. People should understand that I have a family, supporters and respected leaders and I owe these people the responsibility of speaking with them about my decision.
"It is only today that I was informed by the governor during a stakeholders' meeting of the new direction and that we should move to APC. Everybody that knows me knows that I am very principled and that I don't jump from one party to another. I joined politics and PDP based on principles and not because of any individual.
"The truth of the matter is that I won the PDP governorship primaries in 2007 but after that, Wamakko was invited by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to join PDP.
“So, I was prevailed upon by Obasanjo and my uncle, former President Shehu Shagari, to step down and the governorship ticket was given to Wamakko. Thus, I accepted to serve as his deputy and sacrificed so that our party will win the election in Sokoto. And since then, I have been loyal to Wamakko and never quarreled with him," he said.
He expressed optimism that at the end of the day, the process of reconciliation would go through in the PDP and all parties to the conflict would settle their differences.
"My membership of the PDP since 1998 has not changed. I remain with PDP and with the hope that at the end, the process of reconciliation that has started by party leaders will be fruitful," Shagari said.
Certainly, the battle line has been drawn between Shagari and Wamakko and things are no longer at ease. The deputy governor's refusal to join Wamakko in the APC indicated that both may have parted ways and are no longer on the same page.
Pundits argued that Shagari's decision to remain in PDP might not be unconnected with his quest to contest the governorship election in 2015. This Shagari believed would be a herculean task to attain if he moves to APC, as Wamakko's body language indicated that he might anoint the state Commissioner of Local Government and Community Development, Faruk Yabo, as his successor in 2015.
As a result, Shagari had no other option than to seek for a haven by remaining in the PDP. The situation thus remains dicey at the moment in the state, but observers believed that the deputy governor might take a step further by leaving the government, following his decision not to follow his boss to APC.
Although, the deputy had debunked any rift with the governor, claiming that their relationship was cordial, the situation on the ground has shown that Shagari was compelled to remain in PDP in order to save his political career. Therefore, the current political scenario has rekindled the buried animosity between them and may determine the political direction in the state ahead of the 2015 polls.
Nevertheless, as things continue to unfold in the political scene, the question on the lips of many people is: will Shagari's refusal to join APC bring an end to his career as the deputy governor of Sokoto?