There are two significant qualities that citizens often seek in their leaders, namely, competence and integrity. The ability to deliver change and promise – in terms of potential excellence and campaign pledge – is both the stuff of good leadership and people’s expectations.
From his current performance at the wheel of executive power, to the eminence of his previous legislative representations, to the shrewdness of his judgments on national issues, and his ability to make necessary changes when needed, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal is certainly the epitome of the perfect leader. There are plenty of reasons to support this assessment.
Tambuwal’s political trajectory has seemed to follow the belief that democracy and excellence are more important than political convenience and expedience. He has moved according to his convictions regarding the opportunity to show excellence.
The governor, who will be 56 on January 10, started his political career in 1999, when he worked as Personal Assistant on Legislative Affairs to then Senate Leader, Senator Abdullahi Wali. In 2003, he was elected into the House of Representatives on the platform of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to represent Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency in Sokoto State.
Tambuwal, a lawyer, was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015, when he contested and won the governorship of his state. He was Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011, and Minority Leader of the House in 2005. He is currently the Chairman of PDP Governors Forum and Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum.
Those who have worked closely with the governor, as minority leader in the House of Representatives, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sokoto State governor, chairman PDP Governors’ Forum and vice chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum (NGF) will not only attest to his ingenuity but speak highly of his capacity to manage the most complex political issues effectively and proffer workable solutions. Little wonder the erudite lawyer has defied persistent zoning arrangement at every step of the way to emerge leader in different capacities.
For those who are yet to be familiar with Tambuwal’s political trajectory, the Sokoto State-born politician was a member of the House of Representatives in 2003 representing Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency on the platform of the All Nigeria’s People’s Party (ANPP). At the time, ANPP was a minority party in the House and the minority caucus defied the existing zoning arrangement in 2005, changed its leadership and made Tambuwal the minority leader. ANPP had zoned its principal officer positions as follows: Leader – Kano/Kaduna/Jigawa; Whip – Sokoto/Kebbi/Zamfara; Deputy Leader – Borno/Yobe and Deputy Whip to the South-south. Based on these, leaders of the ANPP emerged in 2003, but when members felt the need for a change, they altered the zoning and paved the way for Tambuwal to emerge as the leader. Upon his reelection to the House in 2007, he was also elected the Deputy Chief Whip.
A similar situation also occurred in 2011, the PDP zoned speakership position to the Southwest and preferred Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola who later became the majority leader of the House. But members of the House of Representatives wanted Tambuwal, they mobilised themselves across political party divides and delivered the leader of their choice as a speaker.
During his tenure as Speaker, he was able to douse the raging rivalry between the upper chamber and lower chamber. It was a conflict that had popularised previously unknown nomenclatures, like Red Chamber and Green Chamber, in the country’s political lexicon. But Tambuwal steered the House to a regime of harmonious relations with the Senate, which has endured till date.
On October 28, 2014, Tambuwal defected from the then ruling PDP to the opposition APC. He had joined some key members of PDP then, who felt frustrated by what they believed were undemocratic practices, with potentially devastating consequences, taking hold in the party. As a political bridge builder and advocate of inclusive politics, the 7th Assembly was stable under his leadership and when he moved to APC, as speaker, he worked harmoniously with a PDP deputy.
He won the governorship of Sokoto in 2015 on the platform of APC but returned to PDP when he felt his new party was not meeting his democratic expectations and the yearnings of Nigerians.
With a sound sense of politics in 2019, Tambuwal turned an otherwise precarious political situation into a perfect example of civil governance in the modern Nigerian era. He defied doomsayers.
His re-election in 2019 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), following his defection from All Progressives Congress (APC), had pitted him against an opposition-dominated legislature. With 16 APC members of the House of Assembly to 14 members of the governor’s PDP, conjectures were rife about hyper-partisanship capable of rendering the state ungovernable. This was more so in view of the deep-rooted rivalry between the two major political tendencies at the general election in the state. The expectation that Sokoto State was going to be plunged into a hot weather of political uncertainty and battles was heightened by the experiences of other states that had similar political equations.
It was a difficult situation to overcome. But Tambuwal pulled through. Bringing his uncommon capacity for political negotiation and principled compromise to bear, he was able to douse the tension, working closely with major stakeholders in the state to ensure the emergence of a Speaker he could work harmoniously with.
Aminu Achida (APC/Wurno) emerged Speaker of the House of Assembly after defeating the APC nominee, Abdullahi Garba Sidi, representing Gwadabawa South constituency. Achida reportedly got the support of all PDP members of the Assembly, in addition to some APC legislators. He won by three votes, getting 16 of the 30 votes cast, while Sidi secured 13 votes. One vote was voided.
His political dexterity brought about a perfect arrangement that effectively addressed the delicate political equation in the state legislature. Not many are aware that in Sokoto, an APC member is the Speaker of the House while a member of the PDP, Abubakar Magaji, representing Bodinga North, is the deputy speaker. Currently, the PDP has 16 members in the House after the death of an APC member and PDP won the bye-election, yet the speaker is still a member of the APC and the House is stable. This can only happen under the watch of a true democrat who respects the choices of people and independence of the legislature. The story is unpleasantly different in some other states. But for Tambuwal, managing diverse political tendencies is an integral part of democratic practice.
With his record so far, there is no doubt that the Sokoto State governor is fit for higher political responsibilities at the national level. He put up a brilliant showing in 2018, emerging one of the four aspirants widely expected to win the PDP presidential ticket in 2018. He was runner-up at the keenly contested presidential primaries in Port Harcourt. But Tambuwal maintains an impressive political record that continues to count for him. With age on his side, unblemished record devoid of corruption indictment, and political experience, he is one politician pundits would continue to watch closely.
The successful conduct of the PDP national convention in 2021 has also been attributed to his leadership of the PDP governors forum, which rallied all tendencies within the party for a rancor-free exercise.
His moderate political views and exceptional capacity for building bipartisan support are legend.
Since the spate of heightened insecurity in the country resulting from insurgency and banditry, the Sokoto State governor has maintained his stance on state police as the effective solution to the menace. He has also recommended some form of control over the powers, activities, and operations of security agencies in states by the governors.
Tambuwal has gone ahead to initiate a project intended to permanently solve the clashes between herders and farmers, which have killed hundreds of people across the country. The Sokoto State Cattle Breeding Project, being executed in partnership with investors from Argentina, involves the designation of areas for cattle rearing to end encroachment on farmlands, which often precipitate the frictions.
Other states and even the federal government are studying the project for possible adoption. Just as the Sokoto State governor’s record of performance in other key sectors is being watched in the state and nationally.
The country would certainly need to pay a lot more attention to Tambuwal as it searches for answers to crucial development and security issues.
*Hon Muhammad Bello Aliyu Goronyo is Chairman of Sokoto PDP