By Gbenga Akingbule
Mohammed Imam is no doubt one of the biggest names in the current Borno political firmament, he has never been in denial of his open ambition to serve his people at the highest level in the state.
Imam is unarguably the strongest force and the face of opposition People’s Democratic Party ( PDP) in the state today. He had been one of the major stakeholders in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples’ Party ( ANPP) which later merged with other political parties to form the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) before things fell apart in 2011.
The Kanuri born politician and son of respected retired Sharia Court Judge came to the political limelight when he was appointed the Caretaker Chairman of the most populous Local Council Area in Borno State – the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) which also serves as the state capital.
Shortly after his appointment, Imam’s political and governance prowess was felt by all and sundry as the then young imam became a rallying point to many progressive politicians and residents in the state.
His goodwill and obvious popularity at the time made the then Governor, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff and other stakeholders of the defunct ANPP support Imam to emerge as the elected Chairman of MMC where he carried out lots of people-oriented projects that centred on empowering the youth, women and the elderly.
Fascinated by his political popularity, Sheriff and other stakeholders backed Imam to become the State Party Chairman of ANPP – a position that is always reserved for a grounded political figure who has got the requisite credentials to deliver a successful electioneering campaign.
It was therefore not surprising when Imam led a vigorous grassroots campaign through the nooks and crannies of the 27 local government areas and ensured the victory of Senator Ali Sheriff as Governor for a second term in 2007 – it was the first time a seating Governor was democratically re-elected since the creation of the state in 1976.
After the 2007 elections. Imam was appointed as commissioner and deployed to different ministries including that of Education where desired attention was given to the sector that witnessed increased enrollment of students in schools across the state.
In 2011, political pundits had put forward the names of Imam, today’s incumbent Senators Kashim Shettima and incumbent Abubakar Kyari who were all serving commissioners at the time, as likely successor to Sheriff; but that was not to be. Senator Sheriff later went against all predictions and settled for Hon. Modu Fannami Gubio – himself a serving commissioner as his preferred choice for the plum job.
However, barely two weeks after the emergence of Gubio as the Candidate of the ANPP for the 2011 governorship election, he was gruesomely assassinated by yet-to-be-identified gunmen – a situation that again threw open the choice of his replacement.
Again, the trio of Imam, Senator Shettima and Sen. Kyari was suggested by observers as the likely replacement for late Gubio. However, Sen. Sheriff later anointed Sen. Shettima who became the ANPP Governorship flag-bearer that won the 2011 governorship election in the state.
Things however fell apart in 2011 when Imam parted ways with his erstwhile political benefactor- Sen. Ali Sheriff. The centre could no longer hold between both men due to what observers interpreted as differences of political interests.
Imam bounced back in 2015 to contest the Governorship seat, but this time, on the platform of the PDP. Although he was initially declared the winner and became the flagbearer of the party, 2023: Muhammad Alkali Imam And The Race to Borno Government House
In 2019, Imam won the PDP governorship ticket and contested the election but lost to incumbent Governor Babagana Zulum. He has since remained the main opposition figure in the state.
As the 2023 race to Borno State Government hots up, it’s not clear if Imam is ready to throw his hat in the ring again. But whatever decision he takes, observers think that it will be a tough battle for his party- the PDP
It’s pertinent to note that the PDP has never won the governorship election since the return of democracy in 1999.
Internal wranglings have been the bane of PDP’s misfortunes in Borno state since 1999. In many instances, some of the party bigwigs were alleged to have worked against the interest of the party while in turn, such deluding leaders were handsomely rewarded by their paymasters.
At the moment, it seems the PDP has for the first time learnt from the two decades of failure to get its acts right. Under the overall leadership of Mohammed Imam, the present Borno PDP seems more united than ever before, and have so far positioned itself as a party that will be going into the next election with a united front.
Another major factor that drivest politics and electioneering campaigns in Borno state is what many refer to as money politics. In 207, one of the governorship candidates told journalists that anyone contesting for the governorship of the Borno state must be ready to part with at least N4 Billion and that does not automatically guarantee the candidate victory at the polls.
If back in 2007 a whopping sum of N4 billion was required to prosecute a governorship campaign in the state, with present-day harsh economic realities, the amount of money required by anyone seeking the coveted governorship seat of Borno State is best imagined. It is surely a huge budget and such a person is expected to be well prepared with an adequate financial war chest.
The question on the lips of observers ahead of the 2023 elections is that : will money continue to be a factor in Borno politics? or the electorate are more political enlightened to either refuse accept or collect money and yet vote for their preferred candidate? Time shall tell.