From Agaju Madugba, Katsina
The recent by-election at the Dutsi/Mashi Federal Constituency of Katsina State which the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) won may have further consolidated the party’s grip on the State and may probably serve as yardstick for a rough guide into what may obtain in future elections in the area.
The third in the series of by-elections since May 2015 when Governor Aminu Bello Masari took over turned out to be a walkover for a party that has all its members at the House of Assembly drawn from the APC. Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari shares the same senatorial zone with the Dutsi/Mashi federal constituency.
The House of Representatives seat for the Dutsi/Mashi constituency became vacant following the death last February of Hon. Sani Bello of the APC who represented the area at the National Assembly.
Announcing the final result of the polls which held on May 20, the Returning Officer, Prof. Hudu Ayuba of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said that the APC candidate, Mansur Ali Mashi, got a total of 27,968 votes to beat his closest rival, Nazifi Ayuba of the PDP who polled 19,451 votes.
Incidentally, Mashi is the home of the State’s PDP Chairman, Salisu Majigiri, where his party narrowly escaped defeat in his Majigiri ward with 119 votes against the APC’s 105 votes. At the Sirika ward, where the Minister of state for Aviation, Hadi Sirika hails from, the APC polled 178 votes against the PDPs 98 votes.
Although the opposition PDP has since faulted the outcome of the by-election, a number of factors and a combination of other issues may have indeed given the APC an edge over the other political parties that fielded candidates at the polls.
Katsina, along with a number of other States especially in the north, was also apparently bitten by the change bug that went virile across the country during the build-up to the 2015 general elections which terminated the about 16 years of the PDP rule at the national level and in majority of the states. A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Masari had in course of his campaigns, made it clear that it would not be business as usual if he clinched the seat. He eventually did and from the onset he began the implementation of his party’s campaign promises most of which centered on education, healthcare, agriculture and infrastructural development, among others.
And, as part of measures to address youth unemployment, Masari has in the last two years deployed massive investment into the skills acquisition business apprenticeship centres which train a cross section of the youth to become self-employed at the end of their trainings. For good measure, the general hospitals and other health facilities located across the State have received so much attention from the government to the extent that some of them are currently undergoing massive infrastructural overhaul and facelift. While the issue of non-payment of workers’ salaries continue to dominate discussions across a number of other States in the country, the Masari administration has reportedly remained consistent in the payment of wages of its workers along with settlement of pensioners including payment of a backlog of their pension arrears, said to run into about N14 billion in gratuities and pensions alone within the period.
The organised Labour in the State has since testified to this development. Speaking on the occasion of the Workers’ Day rally on May 1, the Nigeria Labour Congress , NLC, Chairman, Comrade Tanimu Lawal Saulawa, scored the the Masari administration high over what he described as its achievements in two years in office, not only regarding the welfare of workers but also in the general development of the State.
According to him, “the congress wishes to appreciate the commitment, bold and courageous policies of the governor especially in the prompt payment of salaries to workers and there is no doubt that the administration’s approach to the general welfare of civil servants is indeed commendable.
“Without fear of contradiction, we must also admit that the government has done commendably well in both the education and health sectors. We are witnesses to the efforts of government at providing conducive learning environment at all tiers of education in the State and the state of the art rehabilitation and reconstruction.”
The efficacy of what may well be the Masari magic wand in Katsina has equally attracted generous accolades from non residents of the State as the Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund, Sir Joseph Ari, sums it up when he led a team from his organisation on a courtesy visit to Masari at the Government House recently.
According to the ITF boss, “I must say without mincing words that the people of Katsina are very lucky to have you as governor. We have watched how you have succeeded in changing the landscape of Katsina through your development strides particularly in the areas of empowering your people, agricultural development, ICT and you have succeeded in giving the people the dividends of democracy which they yearned for.” Just before the 2015 general elections, the political influence of Muhammadu Buhari in the north was such that the mere dropping of his name at any political gathering could win a candidate an election with little or no efforts at engaging in elaborate campaigns.
The situation may not have changed even after two years.
For Katsina State, the Buhari phenomenon may continue to serve as the political magic wand as it played a significant factor in the emergence of a number of elected office holders in his home State and elsewhere in Nigeria. At the end of the general elections two years ago, the Buhari APC produced not only the governor for Katsina but also the entire 34 seats at the House of Assembly, the three senatorial seats and 15 House of Representatives seats at the National Assembly, completely displacing the PDP which had called the shots for several years in the State.
Apart from this factor which may have consistently dictated the fate of subsequent bye-elections since 2015, the Katsina people may not have found any reasons to defile their loyalty to the APC and Buhari in particular more so considering that the area may have indeed benefited immensely from the Buhari presidency within the period.
For instance, Katsina is among the 10 states classified by the Federal Government as comprising the highest percentage of Nigeria’s poorest of the poor and most vulnerable, an apparent worrisome tag which government has since begun to address by employing varied strategies including the National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).
A number of beneficiaries have already been selected from Katsina State for the N5, 000 monthly poverty intervention programme known as Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT). This is apart from various other poverty alleviation projects by the APC Federal and State governments including certain agriculture incentives for farmers.