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…'He’s a betrayer, not to be trusted' •Tension over Majority Leader

Akani Alaka

When it comes to exploiting the cloak and dagger politics for personal interest, the immediate past governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal can be regarded as an experienced veteran. Tambuwal, in 2011, displayed his mastery of the intrigues of Nigerian politics when, against the desires of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, he emerged as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In alliance with the then-opposition Action Congress, he completed his four-year tenure as Speaker despite stiff opposition. Just before his tenure as Speaker ended, he defected to the then All Progressives Congress, APC, contested for Sokoto governorship and won.

However, ahead of the 2019 general elections, Tambuwal dumped the APC for PDP where he contested for the presidential ticket of the party. He lost the ticket to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar but swiftly returned to Sokoto to snatch the governorship ticket that facilitated his return to the Government House.
Yet, in 2023, Tambuwal, in fulfilment of what some had described as a ‘vaulting ambition’ again attempted to become Nigeria’s president, with his participation in the presidential primary of the PDP.

He withdrew from the contest at the venue of the primary, having seen that his chances of getting the ticket were practically nil with the presence of two heavyweights – Atiku and the then Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike in the race.

Tambuwal endorsed Atiku who eventually emerged as the presidential candidate of the PDP. He went back to Sokoto, where he was again able to snatch a ticket for the Senate and get elected as a senator.

Backed by Atiku

But given his nature, it was clear that the former Speaker will not be contented with just remaining one of the over 100 senators at the Red Chamber. Hence, it was not a surprise that he emerged as the frontline aspirant for the position of the minority leader of the Senate.

Now as the National Assembly resumes tomorrow, all eyes will again be on the former Sokoto governor who seemed determined to retain his prominence in national politics with his bid to emerge as the minority leader.

Reports indicated that Tambuwal had already secured the support of Atiku who had written the leadership of the party to forward his name to the leadership of the National Assembly as the PDP endorsed Senator for the position.

But in what looks like a throwback to the faction crisis that jeopardized the chances of the party in the 2023 election, other senators of PDP are opposing Tambuwal’s ambition for various reasons. For one, it was learnt that some PDP Senators had accused Atiku of failing to consult them before he endorsed Tambuwal as Senate minority leader.

Some of the senators had thus said they would vote for any other person other than the former Sokoto governor. However, some of the senators had also based their opposition to Tambuwal on his alleged penchant for the betrayal of his political benefactors.

A Serial Betrayer

Different reasons are being advanced against the former governor’s ambition including the possibility of using the position to negotiate and apologise to President Ahmed Bola Tinubu who, they claimed, he betrayed after making him Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011.

This was about Tambuwal’s refusal to support Femi Gbajabiamila who was endorsed by Tinubu for Speakership of the House in 2015 and the former Sokoto governor’s activities during the 2023 election.
Speaking in this vein, a group which described itself as  Concerned PDP League (CPDPL), said it was opposed to any attempt to present Tambuwal, as Senate minority leader because he could not be trusted based on his antecedents.

They alleged that as chairman of the PDP Governors Forum Tambuwal could not speak against the suppression and sufferings of Nigerians as a leader of the opposition party. They also accused him of using and dumping the party.

Chairman of CPDPL, Mr Daboikiabo Warmate, alleged in a statement on Saturday that the group was not in support of Tambuwal, based on his actions as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“That his ambition is dead in its imagination, how much more arrival; nevertheless, the past has caught up with him,” the group said while urging the acting National Chairman of the party, Amb. Umar Damagum, not to sign any letter introducing Tambuwal as the Minority Leader of the 10th Senate.

“It is with great disappointment and shock to have read in the papers that Tambuwal, the former governor of Sokoto State and PDP Governors Forum chairman, wants to be the minority leader of the 10th Senate. Somebody that in 2014 took the House of Representatives Speakership we gave to him and defected to another party. This same person eventually came back to the party. Now, he wants to be the minority leader of the 10th Senate; we will not give support to you,”  Warmate added in the statement.

Tambuwal Fit for Minority Leader

On the contrary, a group which described itself as the Generation Next Collective (GNC) said the attack on Tambuwal over the Senate position was part of the plot to hijack the National Assembly.
“These same forces have already taken over the Minority Leadership of the House of Representatives, and have vowed to replicate their authoritarianism in the selection process in the Senate. It should be noted that more than ever before,  there is palpable apprehension among the people, over the quality of service delivery the 10th senate would offer to the people.
“But the unnecessary intrigues, bitter conspiracies and campaign of calumny surrounding the Senate minority leadership selection process, is rather unfortunate, and a sad pointer that the will, voice and interest of the people and development of our democracy,  stand the threat of being mortgaged, to feed the ego of some individuals in cahoot with the ruling party that ought to be put on its toes by the opposition, in fidelity to democratic norms,”  the group said in a statement signed by its co-conveners, Ruth Edehemon and Malam Rufai Abdulahi.
It noted that the role of the minority or opposition leadership in a parliament is too critical to the integrity of the legislature, democratic practice and accountability, to be allowed to be pocketed by external interests.
According to the group, Tambuwal has the required firmness, reach, emotional intelligence and maturity to provide an effective opposition leadership that would add value to the Legislature.
Yet, another group which described itself as PDP Action 2023 in a statement by its Chairman, Rufus Omeire, dismissed the allegation of serial betrayer levelled against Tambuwal as one of the reasons he is not deserving of the position.
“They alleged that he (Tambuwal) once betrayed some people and PDP. Behind these allegations is an attempt to re-litigate the 2022 PDP presidential primaries. They have consistently tried to pin on him the issue of the betrayal of some of his friends because of the patriotic role he played during the PDP national convention. We cannot hold brief for Tambuwal, but at the appropriate time, the relevant question would be asked: Who betrayed who? He didn’t betray the PDP or the nation in his eight years as Sokoto State governor.

Wike’s Hand 

However, sources in the camp of Tambuwal said behind the opposition to his ambition was former governor Nyesom Wike who, according to them, is not yet done with exacting his pound of flesh from the former Speaker and Atiku over what he believed was their conspiracy against him in the 2023 election. Wike is said to be backing  Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe (PDP, Cross River North) for the position.
A recent meeting between Wike and the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio has led to speculations that the former Rivers governor is in league with the APC to ensure that Tambuwal is kept out of the leadership loop of the National Assembly.
There are fears that if Wike, with the assistance of the APC leadership of the Senate, succeeds in dividing the PDP senators, the former Sokoto State governor may not realize his ambition. Will Tambuwal who was beaten in his bid to produce a successor he endorsed as governor in Sokoto navigate his way out of the opposition to maintain his national prominence by clinching the Senate seat? The answer blows in the winds.

Tension Over Senate Majority Leader

But there is also the battle for the Senate majority leader in which former leader, Senators Ali Ndume, Opeyemi Bamidele and Abdulfatai Buhari, have been mentioned as the front runners.
Ndume is from the North-East, and Bamidele and Buhari are both from the South-West. While the APC has not decided which geo-political zone will produce the Senate leader and his deputy, it was gathered that the contest has assumed an ethnic dimension with the tension between the South-West and Northern senators on where it should be zoned to.
However, it was learnt that the lawmakers are waiting for the direction of the president and the party on the issue.