The list of National Assembly candidates of the Niger State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) sent to the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) is generating heat in the state with uncertainty over the political future of the party in the state.
Only one of the three senatorial candidates who were declared winners in the 2 October, 2018 primaries of the party was purportedly nominated and submitted to INEC while the other two names were dropped for the incumbent lawmakers.
The winner of the Niger South Senatorial zone, Mohammed Bima Enagi, was returned as declared but the nomination of Alhaji Mohammed Sani Musa who won in Niger East was dropped for the incumbent David Umaru, and in Niger North, the winner of the primary, Hon. Haliru Zakeri Jikantoro, was dropped for Senator Aliyu Sabi.
Talks about the likelihood of having their nominations substituted came barely a week after they were declared winners, when a team was sent from Abuja to conduct an affirmation for the three incumbent senators: Mustapha Sani, Niger south; David Umaru, Niger East and Aliyu Sabi, Niger North.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that when the information filtered into town, their supporters swiftly stormed the state headquarters of the party at Zarumai area of Minna, the state capital, to protest the action and even threatened the team from Abuja.
Sources revealed that the explanation from the team on the account that the National Secretariat of the party received a report that the primaries were marred by irregularities and had decided to settle for affirmation could not convince the supporters.
The controversy did not end even after the departure of the team to Abuja. It was later confirmed with a clearance letter in circulation that the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had cleared the three incumbent senators to contest notwithstanding the results of the primaries and the botched affirmation attempt.
Consequently, the campaign organisations of the three victorious senatorial candidates of the APC immediately issued a joint statement urging the national headquarters of the party not to substitute their names.
Speaking on behalf of the other candidates, Bima said for instance, he won the Niger South primary with 24,415 votes, adding, “We’ve heard of the plans by the officials in Abuja to replace our names with those of the incumbent senators.
“We want to tell the party that doing so will elicit three things. One, it would destroy APC in Niger State. Two, it would be tantamount to stealing the people’s mandate. And finally, APC would lose elections in the state because the people whose mandates were stolen would vote against the imposed candidates by giving sympathy votes to other parties.”
Bima said that the candidates understood the national headquarters’ desire to get the numbers to impeach the Senate President but added that it shouldn’t be done at the risk of losing the party’s support in Niger state.
He noted further that: “Interestingly, those that the party is trying to give automatic tickets by supplanting us are friends of the Senate President. Therefore, it’s improbable that they would turn around and fight him even after being given the tickets. But by then, it would have been too late because the party would not have been able to change their names.”
The candidates also said that the party’s leadership should uphold the primal of democracy by submitting their names to INEC because they won in a free and fair contest and have been accordingly issued certificates of return by the state APC.
“APC must not and should not become another PDP,” citing also that Mohammed Sani Musa won that of Niger East with 39, 192 votes as the flag bearer of APC and Haliru Zakeri Jikantoro won that of Niger North with 23,618 votes.
They therefore questioned the rational behind substituting their names.
As the agitation got tensed, the Niger Governor Abubakar, Sani Bello immediately dissociated himself from the candidates’ substitution plot. He distanced himself from automatic ticket for serving members of the National Assembly from the state.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Jibrin Baba Ndace, aimed at dousing the heightening tension maintained that he would work closely with the party to ensure that the choice of the people prevail.
According to him, “When we adopted direct primaries out of the three options in line with the party’s constitution, we were very sure and clear about its benefits to the overall democratic process. This was to enable the people choose candidates of their choice in an open, free and fair manner.”
He therefore enjoined contestants, their supporters and stakeholders in the state to remain calm and peaceful. As all issues will be peaceful resolved.
The governor reiterated that the adoption of direct primaries system in the state was aimed at providing level playing field for all aspirants, creating opportunities for participation by party members, giving sense of belonging, deepening democracy and instituting a free and fair process.
“We are doing everything possible alongside the national body of the party to ensure that all members are being carried along and all grievances are resolved amicably”, he added.
The governor stated that the party in the state remains committed to the party ideals which is why it was the first state to allow direct primaries saying: “We have not derailed from this provision of the party. We remain committed and we urge all party loyalists to remain faithful as the issues are been resolved in the overall interest of the party.
The assurances of the governor seems to have mitigated the situation but the development later revealed that the names of the two incumbent senators from Niger East and North were submitted while the mandate of Alhaji Bima was allowed to stand.
This, however, led to protests at the national secretariat of the party which resulted in the blocking of the Abuja – Kaduna Road at Dikko last weekend to protest what they called injustice done to Niger East especially.
The supporters of the senator representing Niger South, Mustapha Sani Mohammed, were also in Minna protesting the omission of the senator from the automatic ticket given to senators from Niger East and North.
The chairman of the group, Alhaji Mohammed Gana, who led all the supporters from the eight local government areas of Niger south told journalists that it was unfair that other senators were given automatic tickets but they left Mustapha out.
Gana stated that it was agreed that after the senatorial primaries in the state on 2 October 2018, the affirmation for the automatic ticket for the three senators be done on the 5 October 2018, but the officials from the National Secretariat of the party who were to conduct the affirmation were disallowed by some irate youths, yet the automatic tickets were given without their senator benefiting.
Displaying a letter of clearance of the North-Central committee on the affirmation to be made following the alleged inconclusive primary, Gana stated that it was unfair not to give Sani, cleared by same committee, automatic ticket as others.
Another youth group from Niger East at a rally commended the leadership of the party for returning Senator David Umaru as the party’s senatorial candidate in the forthcoming 2019 election.
As the agitation, protest and rally in support of those who won the primaries and those who got automatic tickets are ongoing, political pundits are of the view that the performance of the APC in Niger state would depend on how the party is able to come out of the lacuna that is gradually affecting its cohesiveness in the state and ensure that justice is served.
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