Photo: Ali Sheriff, former Borno gov. while handing over power to Kashim Shettima, May 29, 2011
BY YERWA EXPRESS NEWS, FEATURED | AUGUST 25, 2017
In 2010, when Ali Sheriff, former Borno state governor, was looking for a successor, Kashim Shettima was not, at least, according to what was known, his best man for the job. But following a very rigorous political muscleflexing and calculations, he emerged.
There seems to be hundreds of persons penciled down by the then governor to succeed him. Some were his commissioners and closest political associates. The list kept slimming down until it got down two people.
The best man was indeed late Modu Fannami Gubio who was gunned down at the eve of the 2011 elections by unknown gunmen, who though were suspected to be Boko Haram members, is still seen to have some political underpinnings. He had already won the party nomination and started scheming on how to beat the then relatively powerful PDP where a former governor, Alh. Mohammed Goni was the party flag bearer.
Earlier, Awana Ngala, one of the most influential politicians in the state went down the same way. Barr. Zannah Mallam Gana, seen to be the closest person to Ali Sheriff, was rumored to be the likely replacement to his boss but was also met with Boko Haram finisher-gun.
In all the intrigues, Kashim Shettima, then a commissioner like the assassinated Gubio, looks then to be the second best man in Sheriff's political book and who until 2015 flaunts as an accidental politician, became the luckiest man.
YERWA EXPRESS NEWS (YENews) comes up with a list of people likely to succeed Kashim Shettima in the 2019 general elections. A note is to be made that the list as arranged has no any special order.
Sen. Babakaka Bashir Garbai
Before he became the senator representing central Borno senatorial district, Garbai, a prince of Borno emirate, was a member of the state executive council as commissioner for local government and emirate affairs. Garbai proved to be one of most powerful associates of the governor.
This became clearer when late Senator Ahmed Zannah passed away in 2015 immediately he was reelected for the second time. His exit created a vacuum. Amidst series of political permutations, colliding interests, Garbai, believed to be enjoying the governor's support, succeeded in piping all other party men in the All for Progressive Congress, APC, to the finishing line.
Garbai, it was rumored, was nursing ambition to become the governor of the state even before the opportunity could come for the post of senator. Political analysts have since concluded that he was the likeliest person to succeed Kashim.
Coming from central Borno, where, along with the northern part, produced all civilian governors of the state, his strength is not just that he is a prince of the Borno emirate, a possible successor to the throne, it is rather in the fact that the governor is likely to contest for his office. Though Kashim is yet to pronounce this, it is the tradition in most states. However, in Borno there's a bad precedent in the case of Ali Sheriff who succeeded in enthroning a replacement of his choice but woefully failed to enthrone himself.
Unless he tries the Bukar Abba Ibrahim's card, and chooses to contest the Borno north slot where he is likely to face less difficulties, in which case the senator of the zone gets more or corresponding opportunities to exchange the baton, Garbai stands a great chance.
His major weakness is the load of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds on his head. Garbai has to deal with this widespread rumours--perhaps not as if they are true--to make his chances even higher.
Senator Habu Kyari
Kyari is the senator representing Borno north senatorial district. Previously, he was Governor Shettima's Chief of Staff. Many see him as a worthy replacement to the governor even though there are no specific reasons as to why.
Unlike Garbai, and perhaps not as much as Sen. Ali Ndume, Kyari is more visible in the political landscape possibly in view of his active participation in debates and matters that affect the North East at the National Assembly. Kyari is highly tactical in identifying with sensitive issues that affect the state such as Boko Haram, IDPs, reopening of roads, etcetera.
Kyari has no or little cases or allegations of mismanaging public funds or corruption hanging on his neck compared to other members of his party. If people have 'complained' so sternly about his attitude and personality, it's that he does not splash out money as do most Borno politicians. His major threat so far is his colleague at the National Assembly and the rising campaign for zoning by southern Borno activists.
Where Kashim Shettima chooses to seek Borno north senatorial ticket, he is likely to succeed the governor in exchange--perhaps, more than anything, this will be his greatest opportunity.
Adamu Lawan Zaufanjimba
Adamu Lawan is Gov. Shettima's long-time friend and replaced him at Zenith Bank following the latter's sojourn to public office. Shettima did to him as was done to him by Ali Sheriff by making him his commissioner of works, housing and transport, one of the 'meatiest' ministries. Many thought he was the one, in view of their closeness, to earn Shettima's support for the Borno central senatorial ticket. And that he was not, it was still believed that he was reserved for a bigger offer in the future.
The commissioner has so far performed not badly in completing feet-dragging projects of the state government that were stuck for several years. On assumption of duty, he saw to it that the renovation works at Lagos Street bridge that had been on for five years was completed in less than a year. Similarly, in less than two years, he built another bridge that is so far 90% completed in Fori.
Adamu Lawan, for unclear reasons, has some appreciable political clout in Borno. Should he manage his opportunities well, with the performance so far, he may be the second Kashim Shettima--a transition from banking industry to public/governor's office.
Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum
Prof. Umara, Shettima's highly decorated commissioner of reconstruction, resettlement and rehabilitation has also been mentioned as the top men likely to succeed the governor. An engineer by training, he carries out most of the state's reconstruction works in areas affected by Boko Haram. However, until displaced persons return to their communities and access roads reopened, it is hard to pass any judgement about his level of performance. But one thing that earned him trust and great public confidence is his tenure at the state-owned Ramat Polytechnic. The institution was almost dead when he took charge; but he did not leave until it was back in shape both in quality of teaching and infrastructure.
It forms part of the reason Governor Shettima assigned him the heavy task of rebuilding, resetting and rehabilitating highly battered communities. It is not out of point therefore to believe that he is also in the almighty political book of Shettima.
For him, according to what was gathered by our correspondents, the task is having to deal with political top-shots. It is alleged that the relationship between them is bitter because they see him as highly educated and he sees them as uneducated.
But in any case, should he become the governor's choice, at the end of all the arithmetic, the governor will as well find a way to make peace between the two parties. And by this, also teach him Politics 101 since he has never been known to have joined active politics.
Also, his another opportunity is dependent on his performance in his current assignment: rebuilding destroyed communities.
Kaka Shehu Lawan
Lawan is also a likely face to see in 2019 political landscape for many obvious reasons. Of course, one thing with Shettima is that it seems everyone is very close to him--or so he pretends; and therefore it is weak to base any judgement on that.
One thing our sources have said is that, he is one of the people, if not the only, who the governor truly trusts and could risk anything with. In fact it was said that whenever the governor is traveling out of the state, he issues Lawan, along with the deputy governor, Usman Mamman Durkwa and Hon. Usman Zannah, commissioner of local government and emirate affairs, marching orders to never leave the state for any reason. Should such become necessary, the governor has to return immediately.
Upon the passing away of Waziri Imam, former Borno state commissioner of environment, in 2016, Lawan who has been Shettima's attorney general and commissioner of Justice was immediately handed down the ministry to oversee. And on assumption, he immediately also swung to action, ensuring that almost all blocked roads were reopened. He went on a demolition crusade where buildings on unauthorized locations are taken down.
In Borno, this means stepping on many people's toes. It has been said that many people had come to the governor to seek exemption from the ministry's no-nonsense crusade but were told point blank that there's nothing he could do so long as it's overseen by Lawan. These accounts may not be necessarily true but in it, one can reach some tentative conclusions that Lawan is at least among the few the governor is so sure of their loyalty.
However, he has so far not shown interest in contesting any political office--the very reason, it is said, the governor is so sure of his loyalty. It is not therefore unlikely for Shettima to hand over the baton to him on completion of his tenure especially if the governor, as he had once said, decides to retire from politics to return to the academics. His chances will remain dim if the governor decides to contest for other posts, which is highly likely, because of the political bargaining and compromises he will have to do.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume
The suspended lawmaker, and former majority leader of the 8th National Assembly, Ali Ndume is another person to watch as 2019 politics draws nearer. His suspension, widely believed to be unfair, has already earned him some sympathy. Should the campaign jacked up now by Southern Borno activists for rotation of power succeed in turning the tide of Borno politics, there's hardly anyone to beat the lawmaker who has been visible in Borno politics for more than a decade. He has a grassroot following that is difficult to be matched by any politician from his constituency. It seems also that he has a good relationship with his party at state level, and even better, with Shettima.
Where he is likely to face difficulties is his relationship with the party at national level. The party has been in a cold war with all its members at the national assembly who, against its wish, supported Sen. Bukola Saraki to become the Senate President. Even though they later fought with Saraki, the relationship with the party is not very clear yet. Ndume had tried to play a double card in a situation that only one could work.
If he has not already made amends with the party, though it seems he did, it is in his best interest to work it out especially while he enjoys some party.
Mustapha Baba Shehuri
Now, this is the most dramatic case. Shehuri became a minister in President Buhari's cabinet based on loyalty. Borno was one of the states where Buhari actually made a choice of who to appoint a minister without what used to be traditional consultation with the state government. In 2011 he was CPC's flag bearer for the governorship election. But those in the know have dated their closeness as far back to 2003.
Although he appears to have cut off connection in the state, he still has a very reassuring opportunity should Buhari support him. Till date, he has not shown interest in contesting, or at least, done anything to suggest that. Should he indicate interest, it is difficult to see how Buhari will refuse to support him even though the president has a bad record of supporting associates in state politics as was seen in the case of Jafaru Isa in Kano.
In any circumstance, his case is an awaiting clash to occur because state leadership of the party will not easily allow him access. If, like in 2015, the national party leadership empowers state governors to decide for it, he will therefore have to test his loyalty with others before Shettima who is already impenetrably surrounded by an army of loyalists.
Mohammed Kyari Dikwa
The auditor general of the federation, Alh. Muhammad Kyari Dikwa is indeed a little known figure in political circles in Borno particularly at grassroot level. However, among elites, he has always been remembered as a strong force to reckon with. He is, in principles at least, not a politician but he has been seen to be a well cut-out material for Borno governorship by many. Many have been lobbying him to come back to Borno and contest the governor's office since 2015.
As a strong businessman well before joining public office, Dikwa has the financial stamina to dare the spending that contesting elections in a typical Nigerian settings require, unnecessarily though. Dikwa is a philanthropist and has helped many people, in addition to his competence, but it seems he is being lobbied because of the resources at his disposal. It was said that he once told a group who went to see him for the same reason that he is being used as a proxy to fight a political war because he has money.
It is not clear whether he has interest himself or not because in his case, it looks like people have more interest in dragging him to contest than he has ever shown. It was however said that he is making underground moves and is seriously looking forward to genuine calls by Borno stakeholders to make a final decision. And right now, groups have been meeting to the effect.
But should this work out well, it remains to be seen the party on which he will contest since by Borno stakeholders, he has deemphasized the role of political parties. Going by the fact that he's a public servant under an APC government, with whom there seems to be a good working relation, it is highly unlikely for him to contest on a different platform. And as much as Shettima may have his preferences, it is difficult for him to place anyone above such a great addition to his political stamina. For Dikwa therefore, if at all he is willing to contest, his success or failure is heavily dependent on the party he chooses to join.
Hon. Usman Zannah
Borno state commissioner for local government and emirate affairs, Usman Zannah, is another person likely to succeed his boss in the government house come 2019 even though he has not made pronouncements about his intention to contest any election yet, at least, to the knowledge of this newspaper. In Borno, one is only posted to Usman's ministry as a commissioner or permanent secretary when one is truly a trusted loyalist. Besides this, it is on record that Zannah does and executes most of Shettima's special assignments.
With the way things are going, it is not surprising if Shettima decides to give him the mandate of the party to contest. He seems to have good relationship with politicians and almost all party members. If he takes advantage of this, he needs little more task to do to earn the support of stakeholders in the state. He has a great opportunity to build strongholds at grassroot level since he is directly in charge of all the 27 local governments of the state and the traditional institutions.
Engr. Kabiru Wanori, FNSE
Another person to expect in the Borno state government house come May 29, 2019 is Engr. Kabiru Wanori. Currently building and consolidating a grassroot connection through his new philanthropist foundation, Wanoriyya Amana Foundation, a movement to support the vulnerable and poor members of the society, Engr. Wanori is indeed a strong force to also reckon with.
Also a long-time friend to Shettima, Wanori has been a visible face in Borno politics since 1995. But besides, he is remembered more for ABG Communications. If satellites communication penetration in Borno is high today, you will give the credit to him. Now a member of the Borno emirate council as Zannah Ngamzaima, he is at an advantage of securing the backing and following of the traditional institution, especially where Shettima chooses to lift the hands of his worthy friend up. But whether their friendship worth that, it remains to be seen--perhaps, Shettima's decision will tell us.
At least two years ago, it was circulated that party members and other highly placed politicians around the governor have already felt threatened with the mounting closeness of the two friends. But whether this is still the case, as has been noted above, it still depends on Shettima.
Deribe, who is now the caretaker chairman of Jere local government and son of late Alh. Mai Ahmed Deribe, multi billionaire businessman and one of the highly placed elder statesman of Borno, is said to be a top factor in Shettima's political arithmetic. It was said that Shettima is highly impressed with his performance and how he pilots the affairs of Jere.
Deribe joined politics in 2012 but has never been fully active until 2015 and his subsequent appointment as caretaker chairman by Shettima. 39, Deribe is master's degree holder in Management Information Technology and a businessman for at least a decade and half. Many informants have said that he is upright and level headed. His feats in rebuilding destroyed schools, water systems and other public utilities has already endeared him to the public and many are therefore surprised not when he won an award as the best caretaker chairman in the state, beating 26 others to it.
Like Kaka Shehu, so far his chances depend on the governor's decision--to remain in politics or not.