These are certainly not the best of moments for Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu (The Chief Servant) of Niger State. He is gradually being caught in his political web game. The choice of a successor has generated more heat than he anticipated. However, the Chief Servant is no stranger to the crocodile-infested political waters. I mean he has been there, done that. Governing a State that is home to two former Heads of State and countless generals is no piece of cake.
From his emergence as the flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party in 2007 to his re-election in 2011, certainly has honed his Machiavellian leadership skills even more-albeit to his detriment. His political maneuvers have made his Party weaker in the State. This does not mean that he has no laudable projects to his name. For example, Talba Programme- a programme geared towards recruiting quality teachers (NCE-holders and university graduates), housing scheme, payment of pensioners among others - were a resounding success. But all that changed after his re-election in 2011.
There is no denying the fact that, Niger State has seen such shifting focus from its governors, at least from 1999 to date, where a second term for an incumbent simply means political vendetta against perceived enemies and a time to supplant stooges. We saw then, Governor Abdulkadir Kure, in his second term, redirected all political energies towards actualizing IBB 2007 presidential campaign.
Kure was distracted by the “IBB Project” which in no small measure eroded his grip on the Party machinery in the State. It was a given that when the “IBB Project” failed like a pack of cards, because of the political realities on the ground at that time, Abdulkadir Kure became politically exposed. He lost his staunchest adherents to either the opposition or the fractured PDP. Political observers knew what happened to his “anointed” gubernatorial candidate. The reader is wont to ask: how does the above relate to the present realities? Matter of fact, it does in a million and one ways. I invite you to read through patiently, please.
Choosing harder right over easier wrong has always been an incredible task in every human endeavour. In politics, it is even an impossible standard to achieve more or less. The Chief Servant, unlike Abdulkadir Kure, has even greater battles to fight. His senatorial ambition and choice of a successor-either of this is a smoking gun. Let’s look at his senatorial ambition first. No doubt the death of Dahiru Awaisu Kuta was the first of the baptism of fire for the Chief Servant. He never hid his plan to replace the late senator, but his death opened up a new political reality heavy with uncertainties for the governor. In the by-election to fill this vacancy, the PDP had no option than to follow the path of the opposition APC in fielding a christian Gbagyi candidate (Dr Shem Zagbayi Nuhu).
Whoever knows the history of Zone B will tell you that the Gbagyi are a liberal and peace-loving people. Hence their lackadaisical attitude towards politics until recently. They co-exist peacefully with the muslim indigenes of the State. Religion takes a second place here, but just like any other tribe in Nigeria; they are more inclined to vote one of their own. There has been deep distrust between the minority Hausa in this Zone and the predominant Gbagyi tribe.
A Babangida Aliyu candidacy is likely to hit a political brick wall and even touch off a violent hatred for the minority Hausa people in the Zone. As simplistic as this analysis may seem, it certainly finds expression in our silent but eloquent history. Please allow me to veer off and take you down memory lane.
During the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida diarchy, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu (the present governor’s elder brother) was poised to emerge as the flag bearer of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), but this never saw the light of the day, owing to the fact that some powerful Gbagyi politicians headed by late Senator Idris Kuta vehemently stood against such “imposition” of a core Hausa man to take “their slot”. You may say, but that was some two decades ago. True, but the more things change the more they remain constant.
This brings us to the issue of a successor-governor. Let me make it categorically clear here, that I have no sour grapes for Umar Nasko. If it is true that the Chief Servant has anointed Umar Nasko to succeed him. I would say Umar Nasko, on the other hand, has the constitutional right to accept or turn it down. However, this is Nigeria where interesting things happen. I do not expect Umar Nasko to do the latter. By the choice of Umar Nasko, the Chief Servant has given the elites just a single cake to share. They are most likely to fight over this.
Every single one of them cherishes the idea of a dynasty modeled around the Saraki political dynasty. However, this looks like a good political opening gambit for the Chief Servant, but believe me when I say this is a difficult political gift to wrap. The Chief Servant, just like Abdulkadir Kure, does not have the luxury of time and the political latitude to engage himself in such a political claptrap. He, like Abdulkadir Kure, would force losers after the gubernatorial primary election underground. If this happens, they aren’t likely to resign to their fate- they will fight back. This may include protest votes in the form of anti-party activities.
Now to the final piece of the political jigsaw-the opposition APC. Sadly to note that in spite of the manifest and inherent weakness of the ruling party, which should serve as a political capital for opposition APC, this may not be the case. APC has weak command structure in Niger State. Though, it is instructive to note that the opposition APC has a senator and about three federal representatives across the three zones. I must say the party has a weak political structure.
The distribution of political power even though through elective process is disproportionately skewed against people outside Kontagora. This is almost making APC an unviable vehicle through which the PDP could be rooted out. If the opposition APC is serious about clinching power in the State, a new formula has to be drafted. The opposition APC in Zone C, which is expected to produce the next governor, must go back to the drawing table.
On a final note, if there is a silver lining to the Chief Servant’s maneuvers is that, it has touched off the process for the demise of the undemocratic zoning process, if not in the next gubernatorial election perhaps the gubernatorial election after next.
The writer, Nuhu Othman, writes from Nigeria and can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org