The recent general elections in Borno State has tumbled the once powerful and dreaded political dynasty of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
His words were law in Borno state. Dubbed the new ‘Czar of Borno politics’, ‘The Power Broker’ and the ‘Strong man of Borno Politics’ and the ‘Lion of the Desert’, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff yearned and earned such names. Indeed, nobody dared challenge his decisions. His words were final.
With a childhood which knew no penury, owing to the wealth of his father – Mai Modu Sheriff, a prominent businessman, Sheriff never lacked as he got all he needed. Life was rosy for him.
It was only a matter of time for the young Sheriff to take the shine off his famous father and he did it in style, earning many firsts.
When his peers were struggling to find their footings, Sheriff had begun earning multi-million naira contracts. He was in the Senate thrice, and moved on to become the first son from the Dikwa Emirate to ever attain governorship in Borno state. The speed with which he sent late Governor Mala Kachala packing in 2003, after the relationship between the duo soured, was remarkable.
Seizing the then All Peoples Party (APP) party structure in the state from the national headquarters, then incumbent Kachala was left with no option but to defect to the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Sheriff was too weighty for him as with just few hours into the election, he knew his stay in the government house had expired.
The years between 2003 and 2007 became years of ‘enforcement’ as he left no stone unturned in asserting his authority, forcefully whipping politicians into line while those who dared challenge him were overrun. In 2007, he simply consolidated his stay in power. For Sheriff, his was a dynasty whose political prowess was second to none in the state. He ensured that he was in charge until he handed over to Kashim Shettima, a young politician, who had been a university don and banker.
On the morning of Saturday (Election Day) April 11, at exactly 10:45am, a convoy of few cars drove to the Shettimari Ward in Lawan Bukar area of Maiduguri, where Governor Kashim Shettima’s ward is located. Driving himself, the crowd which had come for accreditation as well as children and youths in the area suddenly went gaga on sighting the governor alight from his car and move on for accreditation.
Immediately shouts of ‘Borno sai Kashim’, ‘Borno sai Kashim’, rent the air as the governor made his way with his security aides having a hard time guiding him through the cheering crowd. No sooner had he finished accreditation and thought of going to his family house which was just a stone throw to wait till voting time, than was he advised to go back to the government house or risk getting mobbed and make the area chaotic as a mammoth crowd had gathered, screaming at the top of their voices, encircling him.
Later in the evening when the governor came to vote, it was same story as again the crowd went bananas forcing his security to practically whisk him away upon him voting. It then became the waiting time. The defining moment was here: the moment that the people of Borno state had waited for to finally rewrite the course of history.
By Sunday afternoon, the results that had streamed in suggested that a landslide was in the offing. The massive voting and support of the APC by the electorates in Borno was terrifying as some polling units had APC scoring 400 to PDP’s 0.
Kashim Shettima of the APC scored 649,913 votes to beat his closest rival, PDP’s Gambo Lawan who polled 34,701 votes. This was a landslide victory. In the history of elections in the state, there had never been such margin recorded. For Borno people, it was an emphatic show of strength, resilience and character by Shettima.
But beyond Shettima’s overwhelming popularity and victory at the polls as clearly manifested by the results is also the political implication of the result for the PDP and Senator Sheriff, who defected to the PDP several months ago.
Despite bragging that he was going to remove Shettima from office, no single member of the entire Borno state House of Assembly, is from the PDP, ditto for the House of Representatives seats as well as the three senatorial districts seats. Indeed, it is clear that Sheriff has not only lost steam but lacked the political suavity of the past. He is now a lone ranger and even his own action says it all.
During the presidential election when he turned up to vote at the IDP camp in Maiduguri which encompasses Ngala where he hails from, Sheriff was rebuffed by voters that were keen on seeing whom he was going to vote for between Buhari and Jonathan. He was alleged to have voided his ballot paper by thumb printing more than five places before raising it up and dropping it. For the governorship election, he simply stayed away. Indeed, for Sheriff, the chickens have come home to roost. His is a dynasty that has crumbled.
In an opinion page article recently, Abdulrafiu Lawan noted that , “ like a man cursed by his generation, every step he took in the last two years amounted to a misadventure which further dented his bad reputation. Like leaving his party to the party of his people’s oppressors, going to Kano to inspect the seized aircraft shortly after being linked with Boko Haram by the Austrian negotiator, accompanying the president to Chad and substituting the name of Gambo Lawan, who won the Borno PDP gubernatorial primaries with that of his boy, Mohammed Imam, until a federal high court rubbished him three weeks ago, thereby deepening the 16 years old internal crisis that has rocked Borno People’s Democratic Party.
“Sheriff knew what money could do but due to his limited capacity for intellectual expression, he forgot that no-one can win judgment against his clan (apologies to Chinua Achebe) and that indeed, after hardship comes relief. The insurgency was a great opportunity for Sheriff to erase his sins by being on the side of his people, but bungled it forever”, Lawan had remarked.
In what looked like a subtle message to Sheriff after being declared winner of the election, Governor Shettima promised not to ever play God, noting that his was a social contract with Borno people that he was bent on fulfilling.
“I am very much in constant minder, that power can be very dangerous to the soul of its beneficiary. From my experience, when one is in power and things go his way in highly competitive elections, his first task is to fight his own mentality and resist the slightest element of negative pride.
“Pride can be positive when one protects and preserves his own honour and integrity. But negative pride is when someone thinks he is all in all, he is the almighty and sole fixer within his environment. It is that kind of pride that grows to a level where someone in power begins to equate himself with God, he begins to think he is the one who determines the destiny of others and who makes decision as to who is poor, who is rich and who ascends to power.
“I know and believe that whoever assumes the powers of God always crashes sooner than he expects or later on, along the ladder. Only God has the power to determine the fate of others. That power is absolute to Him and this is why God fights and destroys whoever assumes His powers,” Shettima stated.
Has Sheriff bitten more than he can chew? Or have the gods come visiting? Whichever way, the truth remains that for Sheriff, Borno which he once ruled and his word was law has gone past him. This year put his political prowess to nothingness. He may need to go begging to be reconnected and accepted back into the palace he thought was eternally his.