A lot has changed in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Katsina State since 2015 elections which produced President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Aminu Bello Masari. The recent mega rallies of both parties have disparaged the impression that 2019 polls would be a one horse race and portrayed a clear testimony that the parties are set for war without blood in Katsina, ANDY ASEMOTA writes
Since inception of the present democratic rule in 1999 in Nigeria, as a political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), fared well at the polls by winning most elections into governorship, Senate House of Representatives and State House of Assembly sects in Katsina State.
In 2015, the party suffered a serious setback losing the general elections in the state which has been one of its strong holds in the North West geo-political zone.
Ahead of 2019 elections, there is much hope among the leaders and supporters of PDP that the party will do well at the polls; following the performance of the party during Mashi-Dutsi Federal Constituency re-run election which was eventually won by the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC). The PDP is optimistic that it would reclaim the Katsina State Governorship seat and sweep votes during next year’s elections.
National Chairman of the opposition party, Prince Uche Secondus, who led chieftains of the party across the country to its North West zonal rally held in Katsina penultimate Saturday, said the party would not only rise to the occasion of matching the ruling party in Katsina State fire for fire but would overwhelm the APC in the governorship and other elections.
Extolling the PDP, Secondus said the 16 years of its rule in the state and country, from 1999 to 2015, would be remembered with nostalgia as an era of peace, unity and transformation. He said it was disheartening that the APC led government which could not tackle the socio economic setbacks of the nation had been busy campaigning for a second tenure.
He argued that allowing the present administration to continue in office beyond 2019 would amount to loss of hope in the nation’s unity and Nigerians’ ability to defeat hunger in the land.
He also took a swipe at the national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, for denigrating the PDP, saying the statements of the APC chairman is easily dismissible giving the mammoth crowd of PDP faithful that converged on the party secretariat complex in Katsina for the zonal rally.
“Is PDP dead in Katsina,” he queried. Following the crowd’s response, he went on: “PDP is alive in Katsina and will defeat APC in Katsina. We will bring unity to the country and we will put food on your table. PDP will win Katsina”.
Also speaking, the Chairman of PDP Governors forum and Ekiti State Governor, Peter Ayo Fayose, said since APC Government has not done enough to address widespread hunger and socio-economic set back being witnessed across the country, so it does not deserve another mandate next year.
The fiery politician, who emphasised that he made bold to say in Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was co-incidentally spending a two day private visit to the state in his Daura country home at the time, that the plights of Katsina and their compatriots nationwide has seen no improvement since Buhari became number one citizen.
He insisted since hunger and poverty knew no political divide, its harbingers should not be trusted with power again.
Suffice to say that both the opposition party and the ruling party in the state are getting ready for 2019 general elections. The power play for 2019 polls has begun across the state and observers may skeptically wish to ask this question: Can PDP defeat APC in the state considering the fact that Katsina is the home state of Buhari?
A cross section of ruling politicians and political pundits in the state joined issues with PDP indirectly early this week when they expressed their views on Buhari’s declaration of his intention to re-contest in 2019 general elections.
The Katsina Chairman of APC, Alhaji Shiitu Shitu, said the APC led administration in both the state and federal levels have been scored high in the areas of security, fight against corruption and efforts to re-position the nation’s economy.
Shitu opined that Nigerians believe in the focus of Buhari and his commitment towards re-positioning the critical sectors of human and economic development of the country, saying the masses nationwide are just waiting for the President’s declaration of his intention to re-contest in 2019 for them to demonstrate their gratitude and loyalty to him.
He maintained that the present administration came into office courtesy of the goodwill of the average electorate who is now anxious to re-elect the President and the APC for a second term.
According to him, the predicament that befell the country before 2015 general elections was quite pathetic considering the level of insecurity, corruption and economic down turn. He quickly added that that critical era is over for good.
He however agreed that unlike 2015 when many political office seekers rode on the acceptance of Buhari into their present position, the electorate would examine the performance of their elected political office holders next year.
In their separate remarks, the APC zonal chairman in Katsina Central Senatorial zone, Alhaji Mamman Yaro Batsari, and his Katsina South Senatorial zone counterpart, Alhaji Bala Abubakatr Musawa, said already the leaders and other faithful of APC in the state have endorsed Buahri and Governor Masari to re-contest the forthcoming 2019 elections.
According to the duo, the masses across the length and breadth of Nigeria would not be deceived by hollow promises to abandon Buhari whose performance in areas of agricultural revival, fight against insecurity and corruption which have been the bane of mostly the less privileged in the country.
In another vein, Saidu Aliyu, a business man in Katsina, is optimistic that APC is closer to the Katsina electorate than any other political party because it has Buhari as its leader and presidential hopeful for a second term.
“I am optimistic that APC will perform well in 2019 polls across the state. Secondly, I can assure you that APC is now under full guidance of Governor Aminu Bello Masari in the state. I wish to tell those that have bad intention against Katsina people and APC that no amount of campaign of calumny against Buhari or Masari or the party over 2018 elections will prosper.
“We will use over voters cards, thanks to card readers of INEC, as a weapon to resolve once and for all whether we want a peaceful, prosperous and strongly united country. In Katsina, the masses would like to see Buhari and Masari stand the test of 2018 polls in a stronger position to ensure that on-going change stands the text of time,” Aliyu told LEADERSHIP Sunday unequivocally.
There is no gain saying that in Katsina, loyalty to the APC and the leadership of the party is a very strong attribute of many. They believe their interests are being met holistically.
Since the inception of his administration, Governor Masari had been striving relentlessly to improve the well being of Katsina people. In the estimation of many people in the state, this has wooed many key members of the opposition party to the ruling party.
Usman Mani, a school teacher in Katsina, believes that so long politics remains a game of numbers; APC is still the party to beat since it still enjoys the largest followership that appreciates the state governor’s track record.
“No matter how you look at it, you cannot count APC out. You may see few people joining PDP, but a lot more people have defected to APC and you will see a lot more turning their backs on PDP.
“Virtually all the people who are defecting to APC or are already staunch members of the party are pledging their loyalty to Governor Masari and that in itself is a good omen. I am hopeful that we will have President and the governor retaining their seats but we may not have all the 34 members of the State House of Assembly and the members of National Assembly members from Katsina coming back in 2018.
“I can see a situation where about 10 members of the Katsina Assembly may not come back into the fold. We have come a long way since 2015. We should not deceive ourselves, the bitter truth is that the few law makers who betrayed their electorates may not even get the party’s ticket for a second team,” he opined.
Mani said he has no iota of doubt that even if the selfish legislators move away to other parties, they would not make any major dent to the fortunes of the ruling party. He however noted that giving the APC ticket to such politicians, whether automatic ticket or through primaries, would be sending wrong signal to the electorate that would pass a vote on it.
“But voting out such law makers won’t affect the numerical strength of APC in the legislature. After all only a handful of the state assembly and the House of Representatives members have had their coming back foreclosed for slacking or shirking their responsibilities. Our people are no longer gullible as some may wish or think.”
The 2019 elections, in the preview of many pundits in Katsina, are still too close to call in a democracy that is still without clear cut political party demarcation. They however agreed that even if PDP is determined to reclaim its lost glory in the state, it should look back to 2015; taking the overall development in the nation into consideration, especially as the ruling party is still touted by most citizens of the state and country as a party committed to the good of the masses.
Ahmed Galandachi, a health practitioner in Katsina, who said the assertion of National Chairman of PDP that the party will defeat APC in Katsina next year lacks merit, argued that PDP that was yet to recover from the loss it suffered in 2015 should not boast of wiping out the fortunes of the ruling party in Katsina next year.
Galandachi advised that PDP should first and foremost strive to put its house in order, saying the truth of the matter is that some politicians don’t mind building their castles in the air, after all it is free. Nevertheless, the Katsina PDP zonal rally in Katsina held and had everyone aspiring to lead the nation and the state respectively in 2019 on the platform of PDP, were in attendance.
The presence of the representatives of presidential hopefuls like former vice president Atiku Abubakar was keenly felt at the event as bottle water brand in his name and PDP logo were lavishly doled out to thirsty PDP loyalists.
The Katsina State capital literally sprang to life penultimate Saturday as it hosted the teeming array of politicians from all walks of life and excited supporters of all those who have their eyes on Buhari’s job in 2019. The foot soldiers of Alhaji Sule Lamido, ex-governor of Jigawa State; Mallam Ibrahi Shekarau, former governor of Kano state; Ahmed Muhammad Makarfi, former PDP national caretaker committee chairman and ex-governor of Kaduna State and Atiku painted Katsina red with their well branded vehicles, posters and placards.
Similarly, the supporters of those with ambition to lead Katsina State in 2019 in the party thrilled the august visitors and residents of Katsina with spectacular display of dances and posters at the event.
Highpoint of the colourful rally which attracted the governors of Akwa Ibom, Emmanu Udom, his Gombe State counterpart, Hassan Dankwambo; ex- governor of Katsina, Ibrahim Shema; former governor of Niger State Dr. Babangida Aliyu, and many dignitaries from far and wide was the defection of one time former governorship hopeful of CPC in Katsina in 2011 and ex – governorship candidate of PDM in 2015, Senator Lado Yakubu Damarke, and a host of others.
The followership of APC, PDM and other parties in the state was depleted as many of their faithful who reportedly defected to PDP at the grand rally were received into the fold of the party by the national leadership of the major national opposition party.
Checks by LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that the fact that APC lost some of its supporters to PDP did not imply that the party was about to lose control of the state to PDP.
The rally may be part of the efforts of PDP to brace up for the challenges of 2019 polls but the new entrants to PDP definitely are not enough to swing the pendulum in favour of PDP, Shehu Safana, a health worker in Katsina submitted in an interview with this reporter.