Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, has perfected plans to be the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for Sokoto South following the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the party’s presidential candidate, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
Mr Tambuwal, whose statutory second-term as governor ends next year, had sought to be his party’s presidential candidate but stepped down and endorsed Mr Atiku just before the commencement of voting during the primary.
Mr Atiku went on to win the primary election scoring 371 votes.
Though he did not contest in the Sokoto South senatorial primary in his state, PREMIUM TIMES learned that Mr Tambuwal has concluded plans to replace the winner of the contest, Aminu Bodinga, as the party’s candidate during the national Assembly election next year.
Mr Bodinga, the immediate past commissioner for land and survey, was elected unopposed.
Sources close to the Sokoto State government told this newspaper that Mr Tambuwal asked the former commissioner to stand as a proxy while he contested to be the party’s presidential candidate.
“Wasn’t it surprising that only Aminu Bala Bodinga contested for the seat? All the other aspirants refused to buy the form when they learnt that His Excellency had a plan B,” a chieftain of the PDP from Shagari Local Government told PREMIUM TIMES.
He insisted that most of the cabinet members were aware of the “arrangement.”
The source said Mr Tambuwal co-opted the former commissioner to help execute his plan because Mr Bodinga is one of his staunchest loyalists.
“They’re close friends and I can tell you no one knows the depth of their friendship”
The source said when the time comes, Mr Bodinga will notify the party of his decision not to contest the election which will give Mr Tambuwal the chance to replace him as the party’s candidate.
When contacted for comment on the issue, governor Tambuwal’s spokesperson, Muhammadu Bello, said he was not aware of the arrangement.
He sent a terse reply thus: “I don’t know”
Mr Bodinga didn’t respond to several calls and an SMS sent to him by this reporter. After attempts to get his response failed, the phone number stopped connecting.
How is it possible?
While the time for the primary election for National Assembly members of the PDP has elapsed, Mr Tambuwal still has the chance to contest in the general elections.
But this can only happen with the help of the candidate holding the ticket.
Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2022 as amended states that a candidate can withdraw and the party can replace him with another candidate.
The section reads: “A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing signed by themselves and delivered personally by the candidate of the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the commission not later than 90 days to the election.”
Section 33 of the Electoral Act then provides for how such a candidate should be replaced.
“A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute a candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of this Act except in the case of death or withdrawal of a candidate.
“Provided in the case of withdrawal or death of candidates, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit to the commission for the election concerns.”
Not the first time
Mr Tambuwal explored this loophole in 2019 when he was finishing his first four years as governor and decided to contest to be his party’s candidate.
After he failed to clinch the party’s ticket, his deputy, Manir Dan Iya, whom he used as his proxy, wrote to the party withdrawing his candidature.
Since there was no other participant in the party’s primary election, the party was asked to present another candidate to replace Mr Dan Iya.
Mr Tambuwal is not the only politician to have explored the loophole. A former governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, who also contested the PDP presidential primary in 2019, used a proxy, Muhammad Ribadu, to retain the Gombe North Senatorial ticket for himself.
After Mr Dankwambo failed in his bid to be the party’s presidential candidate, Mr Ribadu organised a political rally to welcome him and handed over the senatorial ticket to him.
He, however, lost during the general election.