John Adams Minna
The saying by William Shakespeare, that when “beggars die, there are no comments seen but heaven itself sounds ablaze for the death of a prince or princess,” was apt in describing the mood in the ancient city of Minna, the Niger State capital when the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello officially flagged off his re-election bid.
Both business and commercial activities came to a standstill as all the major roads leading to the trade fair complex, venue of the event were taken over by untiring and enthusiastic supporters of the ruling All Progressives congress (APC) in the state.
They came from all the 25 Local Government Areas of the state in their large numbers and as early as 8am the venue had been filled up to capacity for an event that was billed for 10:00am.
The event however could not take off until 5:00pm after the arrival of the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo. But the unprecedented crowd remained resolute and waited under the scorching sun.
Although it was a flag off of governorship campaign, the occasion had members of the APC presidential campaign team, led by it Director-General, Rotimi Amaechi in attendance. It was like a 3-in-1 visit by the vice president who was equally billed to flag off the MSME Clinic andTraderMoni in the state capital. The vice president while reminding the people of the state of a popular saying that ‘you don’t know the value of what you have until you lose it,’ told the people that Governor Sani Bello was among the best governors in Nigeria.
“Niger State is lucky to have Governor Sani-Bello. He is one of the best governors in the country and you can be assured that he will do better in the next four years,” Osinbajo said.
He noted further that the state was lucky to have gotten a leader like Bello, adding that “I urge the people of the state to rally round him and the party during the coming general elections”.
That was the assessment and endorsement of the governor by the vice president despite insinuations from the opposition parties in the state that the governor has nothing to show for his almost four years in office.
Before the vice president passed a vote of confidence in the governor, the state former commissioner for Information and Communication, who was the Master of Ceremony on the occasion, Mr. Jonathan Vatsa set the stage when he told the opposition parties in the state that “there is no vacancy at the government until 2023.”
He further said: “Today we are gathered here for a historic occasion and that is the flag off campaign of the governor for a second term in office, and I want to tell our brothers in the opposition parties that there is no vacancy at the government until 2023. Every other zone in the state has had their eight years and this is the turn of Zone C, therefore let us not truncate the political zoning arrangements the state has enjoyed since 1999”, Vasta added.
With the official flag off of the governor’s campaign for 2019, the stage appears set for what political analysts in the state described as a “fierce political battle” in the state’s recent history.
Although there are over 10 governorship candidates in the state jostling for the state’s plump job, the race has been narrowed down to candidates of the two main political parties, APC and PDP.
Political watchers will watch a rematch of 2015 contest between the two political parties, the incumbent governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello of the APC and Alhaji Umar Mohammed Nasko of the PDP.
The two political gladiators flew the flags of their respective party in 2015, but it was the APC candidate that carried the day against all expectations, rubbishing the power of incumbency of the PDP.
The PDP candidate, Nasko, a former Chief of Staff to former governor, Babangida Aliyu was the anointed candidate of his boss. The victory by the APC in 2015 ended the 16 years of political dominance by the PDP in the state.
Bello, a former commissioner for investment under the then Aliyu- led PDP administration in the state was never given any chance of succeeding his former boss because he was testing the political water for the first time. He was dismissed by even his former boss as one not capable of making any impact. The argument by the former governor then was that it was impossible for someone who could not manage a small ministry as a commissioner to aspire to govern an entire state.
But the Buhari tsunami and the general disenchantment against the PDP 16 years rule in the country, coupled with the desire for a change, saw Bello taking the lead at the end of the contest. The 2019 contest appears to however provide another opportunity for either Bello to follow the foot step of his predecessor, by ruling the state for eight years or for Nasko to re-write political history of the state since 1999 by stopping the governor from having a second term in office.
Despite the intimidating and unprecedented crowd that greeted his campaign flag off and the clean bill of health in governance given to him by the vice president, the chances of Governor Bello winning the 2019 contest in the state remains a subject of discussion among political observers.
Daily Sun learnt that the reason for this is cannot be farfetched. Largely, there appear a general frustration and disenchantment among Nigerians “due to the hardship in the country and the people Niger State feel the same way,” one of the political actors say.
But Governor Bello, no doubt has recorded some visible achievements in the last four years in the area of education, health, agriculture, among other infrastructure development. However, his administration, analysts believed may be consumed by the national outcry resulting from hunger, frustration and despair among Nigerians, other pundits countered.
In addition to this, the post primaries elections crisis in the party may affect the chances of the party in some states including Niger State. Despite efforts by the governor and the party executive towards reconciling all the aggrieved members, there are still serious crack in the party. The party may be going into the campaign and possibly into the forthcoming elections in disarray as majority of the political actors in the state are on different page, speaking in different tongues.
For instance, majority of the National Assembly members who are the political leaders in their various constituencies, and who are expected to mobilise the electorate in their various constituencies are not on the same page with the governor.
Although they were all present at the flag off, their presence might be to show respect for the vice president, members of the National Working Committee and members of the presidential campaign committee. They have since distanced themselves from the party affairs in the state, a development, a lawyer, Abdullahi Usman describes as “very unhealthy” for the party. “Honestly the governor has tried to reconcile and bring every party member under one roof, the hard posture taken by some National Assembly members from the state towards the governor is very unhealthy. The situation in the party now, the way I see it is that of everybody to himself and God for us all. That is not good for the party. All the National Assembly members, especially the three senators are going about their campaigns separately instead of collapsing their campaign structure into that of the governor, or even invite him to their rallies.
“I think there should be synergy between all the candidates especially within the three Senatorial zones so that they will go into the election as one united family”, Usman said.
But the state APC chairman, Mallam Jibrin Iman has a contrary view about the situation in the party as he dismissed the allegation of crack in the party, saying that members of the party are one big family and are more together than before.
He said he was optimistic that there will be a repeat of the 2015 feat in the state as the party is set for victory song in all the elections this year.
He pointed out that the achievements of the party in the last four years will speak for it at the polls, adding that “the people will not want to go back to where they are coming from and that is why they will vote for the party. m “We did it in 2015 and history will repeat itself again in 2019. The crowd you see at the rally is enough to tell you that the people are with us 100 percent”, the party chairman said.
He believed that the recent mass defection of some prominent members of the opposition PDP in the state to the party is a major boaster and has further brightened the chances of the party at the polls.
Former Chairman of the opposition PDP, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Enagi, former Minister of Sports Development, Alhaji Sani Ndanusa and over 10, 000 members of the opposition party defected to APC during the flag off.
Other defectors were: four PDP governorship aspirants in the state, Alhaji Mohammed Baka, Alhaji Umar Ahmed (Dongonkoli), Alhaji Hanafi Mu’azu Sudan and former Nigerian Envoy to South Africa, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto.
All the defectors which also included some former National and state lawmakers were received by the deputy national chairman of APC (South), Otunba Niyi Adebayo.
Adebayo urged the defectors to join forces with the party and ensure the victory of the ruling APC at the polls during the next general election.
Governor Sani-Bello earlier while receiving the party flag from the deputy national chairman (South) assured President Muhammadu Buhari and his running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, of the full support awaiting their candidature from the state during the presidential election.
He maintained that Niger State is 100 percent APC state, stressing that the party was set to re-enact 2015 victory at the polls during the elections.
According to the governor, who spoke in Hausa, “Mr. Vice President and all our leaders here today, I want to assure you that we shall re-enact the 2015 victory. We will deliver the state from top (presidency) to down (state House of Assembly) at the forth coming elections”.