With only twelve seemingly long days remaining before the much-anticipated February 25 presidential election, the political rumble in the North which has pitched the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, against the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and members of the latter’s Presidential Campaign Council, has continued to make headlines.
And similar to what the World Wrestling Entertainment’s pay-per-view event, Royal Rumble, does to the eventual winner of its annual showpiece, the political rumble between the Tinubu Camp and Dogara is on the cusp of throwing up requisite answers as to which of the two political gladiators carries more bragging rights and clout in the North. Taking a trip down memory lane, Dogara, in 2007, became a House of Representatives member for Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State.
And under the APC, he became the Speaker of the House from June 9, 2015 to June 12, 2019, before he handed the Speakership baton to the current Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila. Dogara has been celebrated for sponsoring many bills and heading many committees in the House. But for the incoming tenth National Assembly, he had opted not to seek re-election for a sixth term in the House.
That said, 2019 was a watershed year in his political life as, alongside former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and some governors, he left the APC for the PDP ahead of the general elections that year.
In 2020, however, he retraced his political steps as he briefly dumped the PDP to fraternize once again with the APC. While in the APC, Dogara thought that he was in a place where he shared the same ideology and value system with other party bigwigs, but realised that the same-faith presidential ticket of the party didn’t align with his visions and expectations for the party which came to power in 2015, and, in his submission, was at the heart of the reasons for his U-turn.
On these grounds, Dogara, together with the Northern Elders Consultative Forum, including Christian leaders of the APC in the North, eventually declared their support for the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The PDP, aware of Dogara’s pedigree, quickly appointed him as a member of their Presidential Campaign Council and equally granted him all the appurtenance associated with the office, and most definitely also charged him to go forth and capture Northern votes for the party.
In the course of doing that, Dogara had a major dust-up with the APC as he verbally exchanged scathing remarks with the ruling party’s presidential campaign council spokesperson, Festus Keyamo.
Trouble started after the president, Muhammadu Buhari, had appealed to Nigerians to vote for Tinubu because the former Lagos governor would give his best in office to the country. Dogara took exception to the president’s appeal, and sent a tweet where he said that he didn’t know that Buhari would “escalate what he thought was a joke to the level of satire”.
Not wanting to be left out of the unfolding drama, Keyamo came out with guns blazing and called Dogara, in a viral tweet, a political prostitute, wanderer and backstabber, even though he (Keyamo) started his tweet by calling the ex-Speaker “my brother”. Unfazed, Dogara said that Keyamo may have been his mate at the law school, but was not politically his mate. He advised the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, to go and contest and win a councillor seat before they could be at par politically.
And Keyamo, being one not to give up a “jostling” contest without a proper fight back, likely went home and rummaged in the archives of their alma mater, and had an eureka moment after he discovered that he (Keyamo) was actually a “senior” to Dogara at their prestigious law school. Of course, he didn’t fail to bring that piece of information to the notice of the general public.
Away from the dogfight between Dogara and Keyamo , the former had also insisted that former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan ruled for a combined period of 16 years.
But presidents of northern extraction, the late Musa Yar’Adua and incumbent president, Buhari, would have ruled for only 10 years at the termination of the current administration. Dogara said it was fair a Northerner got the nod at least for the next four years to even the counts.
An Edo-based stalwart of the PDP, Anselm Ojezua, while reacting to the influence Dogara could bring to the table for the PDP, noted that the ex-Speaker enjoys “instant status” by virtue of the office he once held.
Ojezua noted that Dogara did quite well as Speaker and that there was something about him which must have enabled him to lead a House of over 300 members.
How Dogara’s support for Atiku could count against Tinubu in the North, Ojezua said that in a predominantly Muslim part of the country like the North, the former Speaker’s status as “a very influential Christian leader” could likely sway the majority of Christian votes in Atiku’s favour.
He argued that “Yakubu Dogara was once Speaker of the House of Representatives. That gives him instant status. There has to be something about him to have been able to lead a house of over 300 members, to be accorded that status. “And if his tenure was anything to go by, I think he did quite well as Speaker….at least during his tenure. So, to that extent, I think he must be of some value to him.
“The first thing you have to consider is that Dogara is a very influential Christian leader in an environment set-up to be predominantly Muslim. So, there could be a balance to a point where the Christian votes become very critical and if they sway one way or the other, that could count heavily,” he added.
However, Ojezua noted that Dogara’s contributions shouldn’t be considered in isolation from the contributions of other influential people from the North, as any victory at the polls was the result of a collective effort. “Victory for Atiku in Bauchi State where Dogara hails from or even in the North generally will not be because of Dogara.
It will be a collective effort…because quite a number of (other) influential people also come from Dogara’s neck of the woods. “So, it is not something you can arrogate to an individual. (It is) very, very rare to find an individual stand-out to a point where you can say ‘this is the reason (in an election) why it (victory) has gone this way or that’. But my experience tells me that usually when you have a conglomeration of influential people putting their influences together collectively, it can give you victory,” he added.
Asked for his opinion why he thought Atiku would have the upper hand over Tinubu in the North, Ojezua said that one of the two reasons why such scenario would play out in the north was because of the activities of the members of the G5 who have been raising a lot of dust over the emergence of a Northerner as the candidate of the PDP. He said this had begun to sensitise northerners to Atiku’s “victimisation” for coming from the region.
According to Ojezua, the North was beginning to be sympathetic to the cause of the former Vice President, and would “rally round their brother”. Speaking further, Ojezua said that the second reason why Atiku would trounce Tinubu in the North was because, unlike in 2015 when he contested against another heavyweight from the north, Atiku would have the luxury of not having to compete against another northerner in the mold of Buhari this time around. A situation, according to Ojezua, that would “leave an entire North available to Atiku.
“So, the tendency is for Atiku to get the majority of the votes from the North, and still share from the South….because he will likely win the South-South. He will get a share of the South-West and will certainly get a share of the South-East, too.
By the time you put all of them together, you will find out that he may even have a landslide.” Another analyst, Sylvester Enefeli, in his own submission agreed with Ojezua that Dogara had some influence in the North, but disagreed with him on his ability to deliver the North to Atiku.
He thinks that the exSpeaker’s status as a Christian would work against him in the North. Moreover, Enefeli, who is a staunch supporter of the presidential candidate of the APC, said that Tinubu would be unstoppable up North because the average northern Muslim man always “has preference for a bad Muslim over a non-Muslim”.
Continuing, he also said that Tinubu’s charitable works in the north had endeared him to the people there, unlike Dogara, whom he said hadn’t done much for his own region.
“I agree that Dogara has some influence in the North. But you see, what may work against him is the fact that he is a Christian. Assuming he was a Muslim man, he would have unruffled a feather or two. “Again, it is alleged that a Northern Muslim man would always choose a “bad Muslim” over a non-Muslim.
Tinubu is a Muslim and I strongly believe that he will be unstoppable in the North. “So, as far as I am concerned, Tinubu’s political clout in the North is legendary.
I mean, look at the man. He has been assisting Northerners monetarily. He has made so many donations to them there because of poverty and disasters there. And if Dogara has done something of similar nature, I have not heard about it. “Also, look at Asiwaju’s campaign rallies in the North. You will never find any stadium or campaign ground empty. The people in the North love him and they will register that sentiment with their votes on election day,” he told our correspondent.