For Nigerian governors who have spent two terms in office, it’s becoming fashionable to find a soothing nest in the senate. Since the constitution doesn’t allow third term, the red chamber is for them the right place to wield influence and maintain political relevance. The senate is already seen as a retirement home for a litany of former governors, their ranks might swell up in a few months.
Currently, the former governors in the red chamber are Jonah Jang (Plateau), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe), George Akume (Benue) and Theodore Orji (Abia).
In this piece, we look at the governors who, like President Muhammadu Buhari, will slug it out at the polls on Saturday.
Ajimobi was elected governor of Oyo state in 2011 under the Action Congress of Nigeria which metamorphosed to All Progressives Congress (APC). He broke the second term jinx in the state in 2015, becoming the first governor to be re-elected for a second term. At the expiration of the second term on May 29, he is set to return to the upper legislative chamber he was a member from 2003 to 2007, serving as the deputy minority leader.
The 69-year-old Ibadan-born politician is the APC candidate for Oyo south, having displaced the initial occupant, Adesoji Akanbi, to clinch the party’s ticket. Akanbi later decamped to African Democratic Congress (ADC) where he hopes to give the governor a run for his money.
At a stakeholders’ forum in Ibadan, the state capital, Lamidi Adeyemi, the alaafin of Oyo, tipped Ajimobi as the next senate president if he succeeds in his bid.
Okorocha has maintained a strong presence in the political scene and become a force to be reckoned with even before he was elected governor of Imo state. The 56-year-old astute businessman had contested for governor in 1999 and lost, contested for presidency and was special adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has also enjoyed unfettered movement across parties, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), APC and also formed the Action Alliance (AA), under which his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu is contesting as a governor.
He was elected governor of the state in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. With the end of the second term in the offing, Okorocha won the APC primary election to represent Imo west senatorial district. According to him, it would be a disservice to the nation if he failed to contest considering his “wealth of experience” as a governor for eight years.
“I have decided to run for the Imo west senatorial zone because if I don’t, bad people will take the position,” the governor said.
Amosun, the senator for Ogun central district from 2003 to 2007, lost in his bid to become governor in 2007. But fortune smiled on him in 2011 and he was re-elected for a second term in 2015. With just a few months to the end of his tenure, the 61-year-old politician is set to go back to the senate to represent Ogun central.
However, the governor’s ambition has pitched him against Lanre Tejuosho, who is the present senator for the district. Tejuosho had announced his defection alongside 14 senators on the floor of the senate in July but he made a detour 24 hours later when he joined 43 APC senators for a meeting with Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja.
Even with the tense political atmosphere in the state as a result of the crisis that ensued during the presidential rally on Monday, Amosun might face less hurdle in achieving his ambition.
Dankwambo rose through the ranks in his professional and political careers. He worked at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 1988 to 1999 when he was appointed accountant-general of Gombe state. He held that position till 2005 when he became accountant-general of the federation. Two years later, he was appointed governor of Gombe under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), serving out his second term.
He had joined the presidential race but lost the party’s ticket to Atiku Abubakar. While he picked the presidential form, Mohammed Ribadu, one of his commissioners, obtained the senatorial form for Gombe central district. After losing the presidential primary, securing marginal 111 votes far behind the 1,532 votes of Atiku, Ribadu held a rally to welcome Dankwambo back to the state. There and then, he announced that he had stepped down for the governor.
Ribadu said Dankwambo deserves to contest the senatorial election because of his achievements in the last eight years. While he could have picked the ticket easily, he has a tough race ahead. Danjuma Goje, whom he succeeded as governor, is currently representing the district in the upper legislative chamber. Goje is running on the platform of APC. Having also ruled the state for eight years, he is not in anyway a pushover.
Dankwambo is the only PDP governor contesting the senatorial election.
With the governor’s declaration to run for the Zamfara west senatorial district, Yari is ready to unseat his godfather Ahmad Yerima, a former governor of the state serving a third term in the red chamber. Yari was a member of the house of representatives from 2007 to 2011 after which he was elected the governor under the platform of ANPP. He was re-elected in 2015 under APC. Yari is the chairman of Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum (NGF).
“You know, I was from the national assembly before I became a governor. In fact, my colleagues from the national assembly used to say I am here on sabbatical. So, my going to the senate is like I am going back home,” the 51-year-old governor said in an interview.
But Yari has a hurdle to cross before the day of the election. Except the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lifts the ban on APC candidates in the state, his senatorial dream will end on the day he was supposed to seal it. The internal crisis in the state chapter of the APC led to the fiasco. Yari’s fate as far as the senate is concerned, is still hanging in the balance.
With the end of his tenure in May, Geidam has his eyes on the Yobe east senatorial seat having displaced Bukar Ibrahim, the present occupant who is a three-term senator and three-time former governor of the state.
Geidam was deputy governor until the death of Mamman Ali, the state governor, in 2009. He was sworn in as governor and re-elected for a second term in 2011.
With the APC having a strong base in the crisis-ridden state as the ruling party, the 62-year-old politician is a man to look out for at the polls.
Shettima had declared his intention of running for the Borno central senatorial district without mincing words and he has been on a campaign trail to achieve his ambition. The senator representing the district, Baba Kaka Garbai, stood down for him, making the coast clearer for the governor on Saturday.
The 52-year-old former banker and commissioner of finance will complete his second term as governor of the state in May. He escaped a Boko Haram attack just four days to the senatorial poll but at least three people in his convoy were not that lucky.
AL-Makura, governor of Nassarawa state, is also going to the polls hoping to win the seat for the southern senatorial district of the state under the APC. With the end of his second term tenure in a few months, he is battling to unseat Suleimam Adokwe, who has been representing the district under the PDP since 2007.
“I am more prepared for the senate than the incumbent to be frank with you, because if you look at what we have done in the past seven and a half years compared to the twelve years of the current occupant of the seat, you would have every reason to support us than vote for what is best described as wasted years,” the governor told his supporters at a campaign rally.
At the moment, the battle is between APC and PDP, we’ll be on the lookout to see if the incumbency factor would help the outgoing governor.
Additional reports by Temitope Yakubu