By Andy Asemota
In this report, ANDY ASEMOTA captures the discordant tunes that trail the primaries of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Katsina State towards the 2019 general elections.
With no fewer than five out the eight contestants for the governorship flag of the PDP in Katsina State openly condemning the process that threw up the eventual winner, Senator Yakubu Lado, the ambition of the party to return to the Government House, to many political pundits, appears very delicate.
Truth is, Lado was the favourite of PDP stakeholders which saw him defeating other co-contestants such as the Deputy Governor under late Yar’Adua administration, Abdullahi Garba Aminchi; one time Deputy Governor under Ibrahim Shema administration, Abdullahi Garba Fasakri; former Secretary to the Government of the State, Aminu Ahmed Yar’adua; erstwhile speaker of the state house of assembly, Ahmed Kabir Kofar; 2015 governorship candidate of the PDP, Musa Nashuni; and governorship candidate of APGA, Umar Abdullahi Tata, among others with a wide margin.
The main opposition party has been sailing in turbulent waters since its controversial mock primary organized by the party advisory committee for the contenders. The emergence of Lado as the “consensus candidate” in that exercise rekindled intrigues and cracks in the party structure.
The promise that the party would conduct its official primaries to correct anomaly or injustice done to any aspirant was swiftly rejected by nearly all of Lado’s co-contestants, leaving the party in a difficult situation.
Expectedly, the declaration of Lado as the preferred candidate for the ticket in the governorship race quickly altered the political configuration in not only the party but in the state with some of his rivals in PDP taking him as a common enemy and defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), saying the PDP will lost the election if it chooses Lado.
Out of the five aggrieved governorship aspirants, Nashuni and Tata promptly defected to APC to press home their reservations against Lado candidature.
Those that expressed consternation that Lado was unduly favoured to beat other aspirants by the state secretariat of the party ahead of the formal primaries included Aminu Yar’adua, Abdullahi Garba Fakari and Sada Ilu.
Immediately after the mock primary, Yar’adua, Faskari and Ilu expressed petitioned the national secretariat of the party over the implications of giving the party’s governorship ticket to the former senator. In a joint statement by two of the gubernatorial aspirants through the Director General of Abdullahi Garba Fasakri (AGF) Campaign Organisation, Dauda Kurfi, on behalf of the Faskari and Ilu, they roundly rejected Lado as the party’s consensus candidate.
“We agreed on the process to be followed in selecting a consensus candidate by the party before the primaries. We agreed on, among others, that there will be no voter inducement, financial or otherwise from anyone of us. We realized that the conditions were breached with active connivance of some of the party officials,” they stated.
They declared their loss of confidence in the leadership of party at the state level, adding that they were not comfortable to participate in the primaries unless there was strong intervention by the PDP national headquarters to ensure transparency, justice and fair play.
“Finally, we are by this press release urging the PDP national body to intervene in the interest of the party members in the state and people of Katsina State in general,” they maintained.
Their 2019 governorship dreams came to an abrupt end as they reportedly resolved to shun the primaries when their protest made little or no headway.
On the other hand, Aminu Yar’adua participated in the party primaries that was virtually boycotted by other aspirants. But the outcome of the primaries, as political watchers expected, only gave Lado the legal backing to fly the party’s flag.
But Yar’Adua did not minced words in his protest before the primaries to PDP national leadership, saying the party was at risk of being defeated again at the general elections if its process of choosing its governorship candidate lacked transparency and fairness.
In this wise, the former SGS of Katsina had prayed the party to give him a fair chance to make his dream possible, describing the process the led to Lado’s emergence as unconstitutional and illegal.
Next year’s governorship battle is the third Lado is facing. He is arguably one of the most formidable gladiators whose political career spans local government chairmanship, House of Representatives to Senate with about seven years in governorship battle from which many shied away. His ceaseless ambition led him out of CPC, after Appeal Court ruled in favour of Masari, who eventually lost the 2011 governorship election.
Some political analysts fear that his serial defection may count as a disadvantage for his 2019 ambition. His supporters were however quick to counter that point, saying the impunity of national leadership of CPC compelled Lado to defect from that party to pursue his ambition.
Some members of PDP believe that Lado’s contributions to the party’s chances of winning the state back in 2019 are immeasurable. The PDP governorship candidate, according to political watchers, has the capacity to reset the war chest of the party for next year’s polls, following its lean finances that had been a source of concern to many of its faithful.
Meanwhile, Lado is said to have dangle very big carrots before his former co-contestants for the party’s flag to ensure that the PDP would not be further polarized. To win the confidence of the former governorship aspirants, he had reportedly refunded the amount they spent on the nomination and expression of interest forms besides his pledge to ensure they were carried along towards the 2019 general elections.
Some observers think that in light of Lado’s record, he deserved the honour which the PDP electoral college that conducted the party’s controversial mock primary extended to him. He is seen by many as a governorship candidate feared by APC because of his dominance of Katsina political terrain until his candidature was nullified barely three days to the 2011 governorship election by the court.
His supporters also maintained that PDP required a governorship standard bearer in the mode of Lado that would hit the ground running with a clear focus to beat the incumbent APC led administration in the home state of President Muhammdu Buhari.
As Lado refused to be held back by doubts he can’t beat Governor Aminu Bello Masari, he is re-shaping the permutation of interests in the governorship race and the state. What the ripple portends for the chances of PDP as it takes another shot at the governorship it lost in 2015 after 16 years in power is anyone’s guess until next year’s polls.