Only one out of the six ministers in the federal cabinet who got the blessing of President Muhammadu Buhari to run in the ruling party’s primaries for the 2019 elections realised their ambitions. Two were disqualified by the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and three others were defeated.
However, erstwhile Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi, earlier picked the party’s ticket and won the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti.
Aisha Alhassan, former Minister of Women Affairs, and Adebayo Shittu, the Minister of Communications, did not even make it to the primaries as they were screened out by the national leadership of the APC.
Mrs Alhassan wanted to run for governor in Taraba State while Mr Shittu was interested in the same office in Oyo State.
The governing party disqualified Mrs Alhassan on the ground that her loyalty was in doubt. The former minister was caught on tape pledging her loyalty to former vice president Atiku Abubakar (while he was still in the APC) should he choose to challenge Mr Buhari for the party’s presidential ticket. Mrs Alhassan made the pledge at a time she was a minister under Mr Buhari.
The National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, said unlike Mr Buhari, he has no patience with disloyalty.
Mrs Alhassan eventually resigned as minister and as a member of APC. She has since joined the United Democratic Party (UDP) and is the party’s governorship candidate.
On the other hand, APC disqualified Mr Shittu on account of his failure to undergo the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme as exclusively reported by PREMIUM TIMES
Mr Shittu said he did not serve because he was elected a state lawmaker in the Second Republic after graduating.
Speaking on the disqualification of the Communications Minister, APC chairman, Mr Oshiomhole said, “he admitted that he did not do the mandatory NYSC as provided for under the law and in his own judgment, his being a member of the House of Assembly in the state and now as a minister of the federal republic, that these were enough sacrifices.
“But for us as a party, we know that NYSC is a mandatory scheme. It is not something you may elect to do or abstain from doing. And my understanding of the NYSC Act is that no employer of labour is permitted to employ anyone who graduated under 30 years and who did not obtain an exemption for reasons as provided for in the NYSC Act.
“So, for us, not participating in the NYSC raises very serious moral issue as well as legal issue. Anyway, we were convinced that if he did not do NYSC, that for us was enough to disqualify him and we had to find the courage to do so.”
Mr Shittu, however, remains a minister under the APC administration.
The Minister of State for Works, Power and Housing was one of the 21 aspirants who sought to pick the governorship ticket of the APC in Borno State.
At the end of the primary election on October 2 in Maiduguri, Babagana Umara-Zullum, a professor and the preferred candidate of Governor Kashim Shettima, emerged as the winner.
Ten of the 21 aspirants had before the election stepped down for Mr Umara-Zullum who eventually polled 4,432 votes.
Trailing far behind were Idris Durkwa who scored 115; Kashim Imam, 20; Mustapha Baba-Shehuri, one; Gambo Lawan polled two votes; Atom Magira got two votes; while Baba Ahmed Jidda, the Nigerian ambassador to China, got one vote.
Shortly after the results were announced, the 10 aspirants who took part in the governorship primary called for the cancellation of the exercise.
Mr Baba-Shehuri, who addressed a press conference on behalf of the aggrieved aspirants, said the primary “was fraught with several irregularities…and did not meet the barest minimum of criteria required for a free, fair and credible election.”
He said they were denied a level playing ground from the outset. According to Mr Baba-Shehuri, “the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima’s announcement of a preferred candidate ahead the conduct of the primaries compromised the entire process of governorship primaries.”
He alleged that the governor on the eve of the primaries instructed the state party chairman, Ali Dalori, to summon most of the aspirants and inform them of the governor’s decision to pick a preferred candidate for whom all should step down.
Like Mr Baba-Shehuri, the Minister of Defence, Manir Dan-Ali, also failed in his ambition to emerge as the governorship candidate of APC in his native Zamfara State.
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it is not expecting the governing party to field any candidate in the 2019 elections after it failed to hold primaries within the stipulated time, the party said it has actually conducted a selection process.
Zamfara APC was thrown into confusion during the primaries when the national headquarters of the party announced the dissolution of the state executive committee and also barred incumbent governor, Abdulaziz Yari, himself a senatorial aspirant, from participating in the exercise.
However, the state chapter of the party said having observed that time was elapsing with no end in sight to the crises generated during the primaries, the dissolved executive officials organised an election to elect a governorship candidate.
After the exercise, the sacked chairman, Lawali Liman, announced Mukhtar Idris, Mr Yari’s preferred candidate as the winner of the election.
He said Mr Idris polled 310,380 votes, followed by a serving senator, Kabiru Marafa, who came second with 54,607.
A former governor, Mahmuda Shinkafi, got 5,514 votes, while deputy governor Ibrahim Wakkala scored 517 votes.
Other results are Sagir Gusau 102 votes, Aminu Jaji 12,039 votes, Abu Magaji 340 votes, Dauda Lawal 5,396 votes and Mr Dan-Ali who scored 292 votes.
The APC national headquarters, however, insisted it would not recognise that primary as it was not conducted by the right officials.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Uguru Usani, also got the nod of President Buhari to seek the governorship ticket of the APC in Cross River State.
However, the minister was roundly defeated by the senator representing Cross River Central Senatorial District, John Owan-Enoh.
The chairman of the seven-member governorship primaries committee sent by the APC headquarters, Ali Magaji, announced that Mr Owan-Enoh scored 82,272 votes to defeat four other aspirants to the ticket of the party.
Other contestants in the election, which was done through the direct primary, were a former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Edem Duke, who came second with 7,367 votes; Etim Nyong (5,786); Upan Odey (3,892) and Mr Usani (1,778).
Two of Mr Buhari’s Minister were, however, successful in their bids. Former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, had earlier picked the governorship ticket of APC in Ekiti State and won the governorship election held on July 14. He was sworn into office on October 16.
Also, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijah Ibrahim, defeated her son-in-law, Mohammed Ibrahim, to pick the House of Representatives ticket for Damaturu/Tarmuwa/Gujba/ Gulani constituency of Yobe State.
The minister scored 1,295 votes while her stepson got 15 votes.
Not the first time
Checks by this newspaper, however, showed that this is not the first time that ministers who sought elective offices failed to fulfil their ambitions.
In the build-up to the 2015 elections, five out of the seven ministers who resigned from the cabinet of then PDP administration of President Goodluck Jonathan failed to pick the party’s tickets.
The seven were then information minister, Labaran Maku; the then minister of state for education, Nyesom Wike; minister of state for industry, trade and investment, Samuel Ortom; health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu; and minister of state for defence, Musliu Obanikoro.
Others were the minister of state for Niger Delta, Darius Ishaku; and labour minister, Emeka Wogu.
Only Messrs Wike and Ishaku were able to win the PDP primaries. But Mr Ortom defected to the APC, picked the party’s governorship ticket and eventually won the general election.
In the same vein, only one out of the three ministers who resigned from the PDP cabinet of President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for governor in their states succeeded in winning the party’s ticket.
The late Olusegun Agagu, who resigned as minister of power and steel before the 2003 election successfully picked the party ticket and was elected governor of Ondo State.
However, Mustafa Bello, who resigned as commerce minister in 2002 to run for governor under the PDP in his native Niger State failed to realise his ambition. He was forced to leave the ruling party for the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) to run under its ticket. He accused then governor Abdulkadir Kure of hijacking the PDP in the state.
Murtala Aliyu also resigned as minister of state for power and steel to contest for the governorship seat of Gombe state under the PDP in the 2003 election. He lost in his bid.
Implication for 2019?
In most democracies, cabinet members are an added electoral value to their presidents.
President Buhari has already emerged as the presidential candidate of the APC in the February 2019 elections.
With the performance of his ministers who ran in the party primaries and failed woefully, it is, therefore, not likely that they will give him the needed confidence to “deliver” their states.
This is also coming on the heels of public perception that Mr Buhari jettisoned the idea of picking a high number of technocrats in his cabinet and chose to favour politicians.
The results garnered by the few ministers who threw their hats into the ring has shown that the president cannot rely on his ministers in their states, although, the elections in which they ran were purely internal party matter.