From Ali Abare, Gombe
Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo was first elected as governor of Gombe State in 2011 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). By 2019, he is expected to end his second tenure having been re-elected in 2015.
Already, political gladiators from both the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) have began to emerge and to indicate interest in occupying the Gombe Government House, come 2019.
This is coming however, on the heels of a warning issued by Governor Dankwambo, threatening to deal with supporters as well as principal actors defacing public buildings within the Gombe city with political campaign posters.
In his Sallah message to the people of the state, he said he has directed the Commissioner of Police to arrest anyone caught defacing public buildings with political campaign posters.
As if to challenge the governor, more political campaign posters appeared overnight on major streets of the city, proclaiming the individual aspirations of gladiators seeking to replace him.
Though the PDP won the recently concluded local government election, winning all the 11 councils, the party has continued to suffer loses as its membership continue to flock to the opposition APC.
Despite this apparent challenge staring the party in the face, stakeholders in the PDP are said to be gearing up to retain the seat of power, come 2019.
Those in the forefront of the battle to replace Dankwambo from the same PDP include among others, Alhaji Ahmed Yayari, Chief of Staff to the governor, Alhaji Ahmed Abubakar Walama, state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Mohammed Nasir, state Commissioner of Finance, Bala Tinker, a businessman said to be a close associate of the governor and Alhaji Awwalu Lawal, businessman and also son in-law to former President Ibrahim Babangida.
Others are Muhammad Bello, businessman, Alhaji Yahya Ahmed, retired banker and former MD of the Federal Mortgage Bank and Ambassador Haruna Garba.
For the opposition APC, which is still grappling with internal wrangling, those gunning for the position of governor come 2019 include among others; Alhaji Habu Muazu, former youth leader of the PDP, Senator Abdullahi Idris, former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo, former FCT Minister, Senator Saidu Ahmed Alkali, Alhaji Farouk Bamusa, Senator Bayero Nafada and Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya, who was the 2015 governorship candidate of the APC.
Interestingly, intense rivalry to replace Dankwambo has allegedly led to a scuffle between the Chief of Staff, Yayari and Bala Tinker, a school dropout but who later became a successful contractor, when the duo were said to have exchanged harsh words recently at an official function.
Tinker was alleged to have stampeded a public function and made to sit on the seat earmarked for the governor where the state Deputy Governor was expected to represent Governor Dankwambo. The action was said to have irked top government functionaries, which led to the verbal altercation between the Chief of Staff and Bala Tinker.
Ahmed Yayari is said to be waiting in the wings for Governor Dankwambo to anoint him as his successor, with political observers in the state saying even though the Chief of Staff has been loyal to his principal, political expedience may work against Yayari’s governorship ambition.
Pundits are also quick to dismiss the chances of Alhaji Walama, the state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs because he is “tight fisted” and hardly “opens his palms” even to members of his immediate community. They say Walama, though sufficiently wealthy, lacks compassion for the less privileged.
Observers however say Ambassador Haruna Garba has the right temperament to occupy the position of a governor. They said the former envoy has the common people at heart and that he could go to any length to attend to their needs. They however lamented that Ambassador Garba has been facing a health challenge that could as well pose a threat to his ambition.
Those leading the pack in the race to take over from incumbent Governor Dankwambo from the opposition APC include, Alhaji Habu Muazu, former ally of Senator Danjuma Goje and prominent state youth leader when the latter was governor.
Alhaji Habu is said to enjoy tremendous support especially from the youth and across the strata of society. He was said to have used his position under Goje to positively impact on the lives of mostly youths that formed the fulcrum of the Goje administration.
He is also said to enjoy tremendous support from traditional rulers in the state because being a prince and son to the District Head of Kashere, they see him as their son. Alhaji Habu is said to have close ties with prominent traditional rulers in the state such as the Emirs of Gombe, Dukku and Funakaye among others.
Not only that, having committed enormous time and resources towards philanthropic activities, sinking boreholes, giving scholarship to indigent students as well as supporting both Muslim and Christian religious activities, Alhaji Habu enjoys enormous support from both community and religious leaders.
In spite of his glowing credentials and soaring popularity, Alhaji Habu who comes from the same electoral ward with Senator Goje faces a stiff opposition from his former boss, mostly because of political expedience since it is not possible for a governor and senator to emerge from the same ward.
Senator Goje in what may appear a deft political move was alleged to have drafted Senator Abdullahi Idris from the PDP to join the guber race on the platform of the opposition APC. Sources however say Goje was only being politically smart in a bid to remove further threat posed by Senator Idris who is also from the same senatorial zone and who has the resources to threaten Goje’s seat under the PDP.
But while serving as youth leader under Goje, Alhaji Habu was said to have initiated the dreaded Kalare youth militia group, which even today torment the peace loving people of the state. Close political allies of the former youth leader are however quick to point out that he has since renounced the alleged role he played in the emergence of the Kalare group.
Alhaji Habu was said to have gone public to ask for forgiveness and personally went round making peace with aggrieved persons. He remains the only politician with grassroots support and appeal as he was said to have traversed the length and breadth of the state while serving under Goje making useful contacts that could now positively influence his ambition to become governor.
Senator Abdullahi Idris, former minister under the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is said to possess enormous wealth at his disposal. He is also said to enjoy total support from Senator Danjuma Goje who was said to have persuaded him to dump the PDP for the APC.
However, pundits are quick to point out that Senator Idris never used his position to attract a single project to the state. They said even after Boko Haram wreaked havoc on some communities in the state, while he was still a minister, Senator Idris did not find it expedient to personally visit and sympathize with the affected communities.
Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya was the APC governorship candidate in 2015. Even though he is said to enjoy support from the party, he is however accused of spearheading the internal discord within the APC. His supporters, who mostly feel threatened by the surge into the party by those defecting from the PDP, deliberately create obstacles that have so far succeeded in fostering disunity in the party.
For Alhaji Yahya Ahmed, former MD of the Federal Mortgage Bank, pundits say he has stupendous wealth also at his disposal. But that he was yet to demonstrate seriousness towards joining the gubernatorial race. Despite that, his flyers could be seen across the city proclaiming his mission to replace Dankwambo.