Anyone could be forgiven if he or she mistakes Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s Machiavellian political strategy for benevolence. For years, Tambuwal has applied a series of different but closely-nit political tactics of emasculation on opponents or unsuspecting friends. One amongst many of Tambuwal’s unsuspecting political friends is the former governor of Sokoto state, Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa. This man, a dogged political fighter and strategist himself, must have been taken off-guard, this time, by Tambuwal.
It all started with a prurient rumour that a cold political war between Tambuwal and Bafarawa has been raging on in the Sokoto political firmament. On August 31, 2020, the bubble burst and the two cats released their fangs going for each other’s jugular. At a PDP stakeholders meeting, Bafarawa sent the first punch by baring his mind on how Tambuwal has been sidelining chieftains of the party, particularly, he Bafarawa. In a swift response, Tambuwal also gave the sucker punch and since then the PDP family in Sokoto has never seen peace. Some doubting Thomases are now in for a big surprise too, that the cold war between the duo has already reached alarming proportions and now an open secret.
What was obvious, before the just-concluded PDP congresses was an internecine war between Bafarawa and Tambuwal loyalists. It did not take long before the melting pot blew over to the top. Tambuwal clearly had his game neatly cut out: to strip Bafarawa of all ligaments of influence within the ruling party in Sokoto state. The much-awaited PDP congresses are over and Tambuwal has dealt a heavy blow on Bafarawa’s political future, stripping him of influence – something Bafarawa has built in recent years in the party. Bafarawa’s structure from within, was actually being methodically demolished by Tambuwal’s foot-soldiers, ahead of the just-concluded PDP congresses.
Indeed, in all the congresses, Bafarawa lost out from the ward to state levels. All his loyalists have been yanked off sensitive and lucrative positions. It is undeniable that the biggest casualty, after the entire exercise is Bafarawa. But why would Tambuwal inflict such humiliation on his new political ally, after running away from Senator Aliyu Wamakko, who gifted him the governorship seat on a platter of gold? The answer is simple: to avenge the 2007 and 2018 Port Harcourt PDP presidential primaries humiliation by Bafarawa. Tambuwal had told the world that Bafarawa was guilty of sabotaging his presidential ambition in Port Harcourt. He alleged that Bafarawa betrayed him by selling the Sokoto delegates to Atiku who, as a consequence, floored Tambuwal.
There are two major reasons Tambuwal has been waiting to take his own pound of flesh on Bafarawa. Firstly, in 2007 when Bafarawa formed his own political party, the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), he denied Tambuwal a serving Tambuwal/Kebbe member the ticket for House of Representatives. And Tambuwal has had to run to Wamakko for a ticket under the PDP, which enabled him to return to the House. The Port Harcourt incident was the climax where Bafarawa refused to step down for Tambuwal even when it was evident that Bafarawa was a mere contender; and he eventually became a spoiler against Tambuwal, who lost to Atiku. In politics, nothing is certain, an ally today could turn to a deadly opponent tomorrow, and vice versa. Now that Tambuwal has severed political ties with Bafarawa, are we expecting a new Wamakko/Tambuwal alliance to end Bafarawa’s era or would Bafarawa turn to Wamakko for a political salvation in a bid to cripple Tambuwal’s politics of divide and rule?
Question is, now that Tambuwal has taken his own pound of flesh on Bafarawa, is the game even or the plot to outwit each other will take a new twist? The drama and the blame game has just started and only time will tell who will laugh last between the two. What is certain is that the PDP will be the grass that will suffer in the end.
With the stage already set for the next round of open, big fight between Tambuwal and Bafarawa, the future of the PDP in Sokoto state is pregnant with multiple possibilities. It is unavoidable that Bafarawa, being the dogged political warrior he has always been, would maintain the tempo of his offensive against Tambuwal. Bafarawa is likely to hit back with even greater ferocity. And Tambuwal, who prides as the ‘leader’ of the party in the state, would like to prove he is no match for Bafarawa. Tambuwal’s relatively new team of foot-soldiers will confront both the older and new political horses of Bafarawa. In such a charged atmosphere, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for stability to reign in the party. And history has proved that infighting is the fastest means of weakening the support-base of any political party. And wherever such happens, anti-party during primary and secondary elections remains inevitable. Torn by anti-party by warring factions, no political party gets anywhere near victory against its opponents. It is sure means to self-destruct.
It remains to be seen how Bafarawa would hit back, what the immediate reaction of a Machiavellian Tambuwal would be and how the national headquarters of PDP would respond to a potentially divided Sokoto constituency which is a signal to a PDP disaster in 2023.
Rigasa writes from Kaduna