Theirs is a classic instance of the instability of human relationship. They start out as dotting fathers and submissive sons only to end up as foes with rivalry as fierce as that of the biblical David and his rebellious son, Absalom.
From Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Aliyu Wamakko to Senator George Akume and Senator Musa Kwankwaso, it has been the case of a seemingly affectionate relationship turning into a nightmare as godsons and godfathers engage one another in fierce battles for power and influence.
The recent gale of defections by politicians across party lines has acted as a reminder for a tradition that dates back to the nation’s political history as political godfathers are pitted against their godsons ahead of the 2019 general election.
From Akwa Ibom to Kano, Sokoto and Benue, the line is being drawn for supremacy battles as godfathers appear determined to prove that they are still in control of their respective states by deploying every weapon in their arsenal towards wresting power from their estranged godsons.
Their godsons, on the other hand, are bent on proving that they are no longer the political neophytes they once were by deploying the political weapons at their disposal to teach their erstwhile benefactors some bitter political lessons if that is the only way to maintain their hold on their domains.
With the political atmosphere now charged in the aforementioned states, all is set for a tough battle for power, pride and relevance.
Prior to the 2015 election, former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel, enjoyed a relationship that was the envy of many. Their relationship had begun in 2013 when Akpabio, who was then the governor of Akwa Ibom State, sacked the Secretary to the State Government, Umana Umana, after the latter declared his ambition to contest the state’s governorship election in 2015. In Umana’s place, Akpabio appointed Emmanuel who until then was an Executive Director on the board of Zenith Bank Plc.
Their cordial relationship saw Akpabio endorsing Emmanuel as the PDP candidate in the 2015 governorship election, which he eventually won. The days immediately following Emmanuel’s inauguration as the governor of the state saw him displaying incredible loyalty to his boss. In his inaugural speech, Emmanuel showered encomiums on his benefactor, describing him as an uncommon achieve. Thereafter, he renamed the Akwa Ibom State International Stadium previously named Nest of Champions, as Godswill Obot Akpabio International Stadium.
A few months after, however, cracks began to emerge in their relationship. This was after an invasion the Department of State Service (DSS) carried out on the Government House in Uyo where they claimed to have found a stockpile of dollars allegedly belonging to Akpabio. The development was said to have generated a lot of bad blood between the two as Akpabio believed that he would not have been so accused without the sitting governor knowing about it.
While they were able to manage the ensuing crisis, Akpabio, at a public function earlier in the year, came down hard on his godson when he gave conditions upon which he would support him for a second term. Akpabio said he would only endorse Emmanuel’s re-election and rally support for him if the policies and programmes of the administration were not discriminatory against the Ikot Ekpene geo-political zone.
“2018 is less than one year to election. All is not well. Don’t allow anybody to deceive you that all is well,” Akpabio had said. “If the hotel in Ikot Ekpene rots after so much money had been expended on the project, would that be a good thing? That road from Uyo to Ikot Ekpene is still the way it was. In the 2018 budget, what is the percentage for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District?”
He charged the governor to remove the wedge that stifles development in his zone or get prepared to face the consequences of his action in 2019.
Indications that the next governorship election in the state would be a hot contest between the ex-governor who recently defected to APC and his former godson became more glaring on Wednesday when Akpabio received into the APC by the party’s leadership.
While the event was going on, loyalists of the incumbent governor also reportedly held rallies across the Ikot-Ekpene Senatorial District to show solidarity with Governor Emmanuel and the PDP. The party loyalists who gathered at Ritman College denounced Akpabio’s defection as they affirmed their support for the governor.
Emmanuel had on Tuesday sacked two commissioners from his cabinet for joining the welcome airport in Uyo when the latter arrived the state for the rally where he was received into the APC.
An elder in the state, Emmanuel Ekpeyong, on Monday signed an advertorial in this newspaper where he alleged that the campaign DG of Governor Emmanuel, Idongesit Nkanga, called on the governor to prepare for war because of Akpabio’s defection.
“Nkanga’s speech follows a clear pattern of the PDP in previous elections, and is a pointer to yet another mayhem and violence that the party would adopt in the 2019 elections… so, when Nkanga issued his war cry last night at the PDP stakeholders’ meeting, asking Udom (Emmanuel) ‘to prepare for war’, he was directly urging the governor to go back to the 2015 playbook and procure more guns, machetes, AKTC branded buses and fake army uniforms in preparation for the 2019 elections,” the advertorial partly reads.
From the fore going, it is crystal clear that the 2019 elections in the state would be a political war.
KANO Kano is another state where an intense political battle between a former godfather and his godson is brewing. The former governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and his former deputy cum godson, Abdullahi Ganduje, had enjoyed a robust working relationship while their tenure lasted. Ganduje was deputy to Kwakwanso for eight years as both men steered the ship of the state between 1999 and 2003 and were re-elected in 2011.
Following the cordial relationship they had, Kwakwanso, in 2014, anointed Ganduje to succeed him in 2015. But signs of a crack in their relationship emerged almost immediately Kwankwaso’s tenure ended as Ganduje, the incoming governor of the state, allegedly rejected a parting gift from his exiting godfather. While other aides of Kwankwaso were said to have accepted his parting gifts, Ganduje, a man noted for his Spartan lifestyle, turned it down.
Their relationship later took a turn for the worse when members of Kwankwanso’s Kwankwasiyya Movement issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Ganduje to remove his red cap, which they said was a trademark of the ex-governor. Speaking at the 6th anniversary of the movement and 60th birthday of its founder, the Chairman of Hannun Karba, Alhaji Sharu Garba Gwammaja, said Ganduje had betrayed the group.
He said: “We appeal to the people of Kano to forgive us for presenting Ganduje to them as governor. We are regretting our action and God willing, we will ratify it in the next general election. We hope our apology would be accepted.”
In a swift reaction to the ultimatum, Ganuje dismissed the threat of legal action against him by the movement if he failed to stop wearing the red cap within 48 hours as “the most laughable, pathetic, clear indication of their ignorance of the law and history of political struggle in Kano.”
The Commissioner of Information and Culture, Alhaji Muhammad Garba, added that Kwankwaso’s penchant for peddling unsubstantiated allegations might put him on a collision course with the state government. “This deliberate distortion of facts and spreading of falsehood is capable of provoking the government to drop its non-confrontational stance and institute a commission of inquiry to probe the previous administration, particularly on illegal land deals, education and infrastructure,” he said.
Ganduje’s loyalists thereafter dismantled the structure of Kwankwaso, known as Kwankwasiyya Amana, and substituted it with Gandujiyya Akida. The goal was to enable Ganduje take full control as the leader of the APC in Kano, following what they described as Kwankwaso’s undue interference in the affairs of the state.
The Special Adviser to Ganduje on Print Media, Alhaji Bala Kudu, said the legacies of Kwankwaso, including the group known as Kwankwasiyya, and its symbol of red-cap, had been defaced in the government house, adding that the main problem between his boss and the ex-governor was that Kwankwaso wanted to be totally in-charge. He does not want to come to terms with the reality on ground that he is now a senator and not the governor of Kano State. “He wants to be dictating to Governor Ganduje,” he said.
In a recent newspaper interview, Ganduje shed light on why he parted ways with his ex-boss.
He said: “When I was nominated and after I won the elections in 2015, before handing over, I started seeing some elements of undercuts from his body language.
“He didn’t attend my swearing-in; he just handed over and left for Abuja because he claimed he had something to do. I said okay and went for the swearing-in.”
Hopes that the former godfather and his godson would be reconciled was completely ruled out by Ganduje recently when he declared that he had no plan to reconcile with his predecessor.
Prior to Kwakwanso’s defection to the PDP, Ganduje had said that he was not under any obligation to strike a deal with the Kwankwasiyya faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said he was completely disillusioned with the unfolding events as well as the level of mudslinging against his leadership at the time he mounted the saddle of leadership as the duly elected governor. He regretted that his administration had been maligned as well as taken to task without justification.
Ganduje said: “We have had enough of such vendetta which had been raging with no end in sight. We have parted ways with Kwankwasiyya forever. Even the red caps we are wearing had started changing its colour. We are on the road to shedding the red cap toga because we have realised the fact that we have ruled out the possibility of compromise.”
Late last month, Kwakwanso defected to the PDP to pursue his ambition of contesting for the position of the president in 2019. But Ganduje dismissed his remark that he could defeat President Buhari should the PDP give him its ticket, saying that Kwankwaso’s political structure had been dismantled in Kano such that he had lost grip of the realities of Kano politics.
Even though Ganduje does not see Kwakwanso as a political threat, political observers believe that his defection to the PDP would pave the way for severe battle between him and his predecessor in the coming election.
Benue, the state that prides itself as the food basket of the nation, will be the cynosures of all eyes in the coming election with the frosty relationship that has developed between the former governor, George Akume and the incumbent, Samuel Ortom.
Akume who is the godfather of APC in Benue State, had foisted Ortom on the party after the latter lost the PDP primary election to Emmanuel Jime. From that moment, the godfather and his anointed candidate, Ortom, entered into a political pact that saw the APC sweeping the PDP out of power in the state. While the partnership appeared like one that would endure eternally, developments in the state began to throw spanner in their relationship.
The rift between the once jolly friends further nosedived when Ortom reshuffled his cabinet and allegedly flushed out perceived Akume’s loyalists. The governor retained four commissioners and seven advisers who were not known to be in any way linked to his predecessor.
About 48 hours after sacking the commissioners loyal to Akume, Ortom dealt another blow on his benefactor when he fired the Executive Chairman of Benue Internal Revenue Service (BIRS), Mrs. Mimi Adzape-Orubibi, and his Urban Development Board counterpart, Richard Agwa, who are close associates of Akume.
It was learnt that Ortom’s clampdown on Akume was borne out of speculations that the ex-governor had preference for another person ahead of 2019 elections. Before his defection to the PDP, Ortom had accused Akume of issuing him a red card to leave the party.
The crack in their relationship widened when the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Terkimbi Ikyange, said to be loyal to Akume, was impeached. The development left Akume with eight loyal lawmakers and Ortom with 22.
Political observers believe that the removal of the speaker was meant to consolidate Ortom’s firm grip on the political structure in the state ahead of his defection to the PDP and the coming election.
In a move to get back at the governor, the eight lawmakers loyal to Akume served an impeachment notice on Ortom. The plot to oust him was reportedly coordinated by the sacked speaker. But the move hit a brick wall after a Makurdi High Court presided over by Justice Theresa Igoche issued an interim order restraining the eight lawmakers from going ahead with their impeachment process against the governor.
Experts in political matters believe the battle for the soul of the state would get fiercer in the coming days with the ex- godfather and the estranged protégé going for each other’s jugular to win the election. Last Sunday, the state APC, in an advertorial in this newspaper, signed by the party chairman, asked Ortom to focus on issues and stop distractions in the state.
“The All Progressives Congress in Benue State has called on Governor Samuel Ortom to attend to the main issues contained in the preliminary report released by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday, July 31, 2018. The governor was linked to an alleged fraud to the tune of over N22bn by the report,” the advertorial read in part.
The lingering battle between former Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Wamakko, and his successor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, has remained a subject of concern in the Northwest state. It is one of the states where the godfather and the godson will vigorously lock horns to determine who takes control of the state’s political machinery.
Before their relationship went awry, both of them had enjoyed an unalloyed friendship and good working relationship, which made Wamakko to describe Tambuwal in the build up to the 2015 elections as a “patriot who is religiously committed to the even socio-economic development of the state.”
Speaking on the choice of Tambuwal as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the state, Wamakko said back then: “Was never a misplaced priority and the people of the state will not regret.”
Few years after paving the way for Tanbuwal to become the governor of the state, Wamakko has begun to sing a different tune as his relationship with his godson has turned sour. While Tanbuwal has defected to the PDP, to enjoy some political freedom and consolidate his control of the state, according to political commentators, Wamakko insists that Sokoto remains an APC state and that he is still in charge.
Tambuwal returned to the PDP with 18 state lawmakers, leaving Wamakko with 12. But political analysts strongly feel the number of lawmakers loyal to any of the politicians does not guarantee who will control the state in 2019.
The crisis between Tambuwal and Wamakko, it was learnt, led to the governor’s dissolution of the State Executive Council (SEC). The SEC political brickbats between the two leaders. Fifty per cent of the dissolved council was said to be loyal to Wamakko.
The cold war reportedly blew open at the National Convention of the APC when Wammako’s man, Abubakar Makama Mainasara, contested against the National Vice Chairman of the party, Alh. Inuwa Abdulkadir, backed by Tambuwal.
It was learnt that shortly after, a rally allegedly sponsored by the state was staged in Sokoto against Wammako, who got wind of the plot and hurriedly left the state. A top government official in the state was reported to have said: “It is time for the governor to draw a line between him and Wammako. The SEC had to go because 50 per cent of the commissioners were foisted on Tambuwal. Those who want to remain with Tambuwal can conveniently pledge their loyalty and those for Wammako should follow him. The two leaders are certainly no longer on the same page politically.”
With the tumultuous crowd that welcomed Wamakko to the state recently, and Tanbuwal’s dislodgement of his ex- bosses’ footprint and supporters in the state, pundits are left in a quandary as to where the pendulum of election victory will swing to in 2019. Will it be Wamakko or Tanbuwal? Only time will tell.
Breakdown in relationship between godfathers and godsons is not a new phenomenon as there have been such cases even in the republics before the current one.
KALU VERSUS ORJI
If there is any political relationship that anybody could wager that it would not crash, it was the one between two former governors of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu (the godfather) and Theodore Orji (the godson).
As the governor of Abia State, Kalu had made Orji his chief of staff and subsequently anointed him as his successor. In the build-up to the 2007 elections, the ex-governor had, following his fallout with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, left the PDP to form Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) on whose platform he and his successor contested the presidential and the governorship elections.
Few weeks to the 2007 elections, Orji was arrested and detained by the EFCC for what his supporters called spurious charges. He was not on the ground to campaign and seek the support of the people, but his benefactor adequately filled the gap for him.
The elections held and Theodore, who was in detention, emerged victorious, thus making history as the first Nigerian to win an election in detention. But no sooner had he been sworn in than crisis erupted between him and his godfather. Theodore and his loyalists accused Kalu of wielding too much influence on him and consequently did not allow him to carry out his duties.
Theodore, popularly called Ochendo, subsequently broke ties with his former boss and returned to the PDP. He reportedly frustrated his separated godfather from returning to the PDP when the latter attempted to return to the party.
Theodore was also reported to be behind the withdrawal of the Bachelor’s degree awarded to Kalu by Abia State University. Kalu had described the action as the latest in the failed attempts by Theodore to silence him.
Kalu’s failure in the senatorial election in a state where he was governor for eight years is attributed to the complete effacing of his footprint in Abia politics by his former godson.