Against the odds; the rise and rise of Aminu Tambuwal! by Buchi Obichie (Opinion)

Against the odds; the rise and rise of Aminu Tambuwal! by Buchi Obichie (Opinion)

Editors’ note: Following the result of the Sokoto gubernatorial election, the writer, Buchi Obichie, analyses the rise of Governor Aminu Tambuwal. She notes that in spite of great challenges, the governor has managed to keep winning and posits that he still has his eyes set on even greater glory.

In February 2019, the governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, made a heartfelt appeal to the US government. During a visit by the US ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, the governor appealed to the global superpower to prevail on the Nigerian federal government to let the will of the people of the state stand in the March 23 supplementary elections.

Tambuwal claimed that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in Sokoto had been hounded and arrested by security operatives and accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of engaging in violence and attacks on citizens.

Many saw that as the cries of a man whose days were numbered as governor…a man whose world was crumbling all around him and had resorted to grasping at straws.

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A day before the March 23 polls, the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, said just as much when he issued a stinging rebuttal against claims that he had met with the INEC chairman to ensure the APC won the governorship election in the state.

Tinubu referred to Tambuwal as a “drowning man clinging to the limp of a tree”. He said the governor feared that his political career was crumbling and that if Tambuwal lost the election, he would have lost everything.

Well, Tambuwal did not lose the election. Against the odds, he would go on to defeat his rival, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto of the APC, who ironically, happened to have been his former deputy!

The Aminu Tambuwal story is about an individual who has risen in spite of stiff opposition. His travails in the murky waters of politics can be traced from his reemergence as speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011.

As Segun Adeniyi details in his book, ‘Against The Run of Play’, there had been an unwritten agreement by former president Goodluck Jonathan and then leaders of the National Assembly, that they (the NASS leaders) would return to their positions as principal officers, if won their elections.

All went as planned in the Senate where David Mark and Ike Ekweremadu kept their positions as Senate president and deputy Senate president. However, in the green chamber, it was a different affair as Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha somehow managed to outsmart the presidency and get themselves elected as speaker and deputy speaker by a wide margin!

After that, Tambuwal became a marked man.

Critics, opponents and even observers came to see him as a politician with ‘too much ambition’ and the president’s wife, Dame Patience, would even allege that he (Tambuwal) was gunning for her husband’s seat.

However, to those who love the man and are intrigued by him, Aminu Tambuwal is a political gladiator with few equals.

The Sokoto governor has been described by Kassim Afegbua, as a “suave, dogged, rugged and quintessential political player” with a “Midas touch that has continued to confound his oppressors and followers”.

I would add that the man seems to have a mind which reads the political terrain quite well.

As the PDP was on the brink of imploding in 2014, he was among lawmakers who jumped ship and defected to the APC. It was on the APC’s platform that he would emerge as governor of Sokoto state in 2015, when he still enjoyed the support of his former godfather, Senator Aliyu Wammako.

However, the political romance did not last for too long as the governor once again abandoned his party and returned back to the PDP in 2018; claiming the latter had ‘learnt some bitter lessons’.

The move placed him squarely at war with Wammako who basically said the defection was Tambuwal’s “biggest political mistake.”

But Aminu Tanbuwal kept moving…

True to the words of Mrs Jonathan, Tambuwal would eventually show that he was indeed gunning for the presidency - just not Goodluck Jonathan’s - as shortly after he returned to the PDP, he ran for the party’s presidential ticket.

He didn’t win.

The ticket would eventually go to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; however, something happened which definitely proved that the Sokoto governor was a man to watch. He came in second.

Despite only just returning back to the PDP and not having firmly consolidated his position within the party, the man managed to get the backing of enough delegates to take second place…ahead of the other strongmen gunning for the ticket!

But if his love affair with the PDP was certainly off to a good start, back home, trouble awaited.

The tug-of-war continued between the governor and his former godfather (Wammako), creating a political divide in Sokoto state, as loyalties were shifted and alliances broken.

Tambuwal’s deputy had remained in the APC after his boss defected, and would subsequently resign from his seat. And though 18 state lawmakers had defected with the governor, over 200 political appointees refused to do so!

The tension in the state was palpable. So palpable that as the governor returned back to a hero’s welcome, his convoy was attacked by hoodlums and one person would eventually die in the fracas!

It was clear that trouble lay ahead…but still, Aminu Tambuwal ploughed on.

He would go on to reclaim his governorship ticket; setting the stage for what was sure to be an epic contest between him and his former deputy.

Many thought that Tambuwal would not survive. Despite the fact that he had the power of the incumbency, there were fears that the APC would use federal might and intimidation tactics via the security agencies - there have been allegations of ‘militarisation’ of the 2019 elections - to oust him from his position.

It also didn’t help matters that just two days before the March 23 supplementary polls, the military kicked off its ‘Show of Force Exercise’ in the state!

However, the man survived.

Aminu Tambuwal would go on to win the election by the slimmest of margins – just 342 votes. However, a win is a win. And in a show of unusual magnanimity in the face of defeat, his nemesis, Senator Aliyu Wamakko and rival, Ahmed Aliyu, would call to congratulate the governor.

Wamakko who had previously declared, “Sokoto state, where I come from, is an APC state…when I get back to Sokoto, you will see who is really in charge of Sokoto,” was forced to come to terms with the fact that his protégé had become a master in his own right!

The story of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is one of great tenacity, (subtle) stubbornness and defiance…and it’s a lesson worth studying by those who hope to also dip their feet in the waters of Nigerian politics at some point.

Aminu Tambuwal will always be an ‘ambitious politician’; but with the 2023 presidential ticket supposedly out of the reach of the North, he may have to wait his turn. Maybe seek a chair in the Senate when his second tenure as governor comes to an end?

Whatever the case may be, however, Tambuwal will certainly raise his head again, at the highest level; and he would be employing every trick in his arsenal to achieve his goal. Only time would tell whether he succeeds or not. But make no mistakes; he still has his eyes set on the presidency!

And as he guns for higher glory, Tambuwal will certainly do well to apply lessons learned during the tough 2019 governorship battle into practice. Already, he seems to have acknowledged this fact.

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At a recent meeting with members of the Sokoto State Executive Council, he said: "We have learnt our lessons, we have learnt a lot, we have seen a lot and the benefit of experience is for one to use it.

“If you have an experience and you don’t use it, then you have not benefited from it and I assure you that we have benefited immensely from the experiences in the last one to two months and we shall use those experiences.”

He may have been speaking within the context of Sokoto state; but he will also do well to apply lessons learnt from the experience in future political battles.

I would conclude by saying this: The game of politics is not for the faint of heart. It requires ‘balls’ to go up against presidents, powerful godfathers and parties. But Aminu Tambuwal has shown, time and time again, that he is up to the challenge…he may feel scared and intimidated but he won’t back down…and he plays to win!

This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of ( -> Same great journalism, upgraded for better service!

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