ANDY ASEMOTA, in this piece examines issues that may tilt Katsina State governorship seat in favour of incumbent, Aminu Bello Masari.
In Katsina State, the ground is set for an epic battle over the governorship seat between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s general elections.
The erstwhile Senator, Yakubu Lado, who clinched the PDP’s ticket for the plum job will pitch a struggle with Aminu Bello Masari, ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives aspiring for a second term in office as Katsina chief executive on the platform of APC.
About four years ago, Masari promised to work hard with Katsina-born presidential flag bearer of APC, Muhammadu Buhari, in order to translate the change mantra of the party into dividends for the people.That is in the face of the prevailing circumstances the state and the nation have witnessed in the past three and a half years.
In the 2015 elections, Masari slugged it out against Engr. Musa Nashuni, who was the flag bearer of PDP. Many posited that Masari did not face the battle of his life in that election.
Politics in Katsina State will no doubt take an interesting dimension in the forthcoming elections, as Lado who is an arguably formidable force and the new strong man of PDP deploying his mastery of Katsina politics and a hefty war chest that could tilt the pendulum in his favour.
More so, when he has the former governor of the state, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, that is eager to take his pound of flesh from Masari.
But Masari is framing his aspiration on the strong signals that in terms of his performance, which many hailed as outstanding, he is in a good stead to beat the frontline contender from the main opposition party.
“Many in Katsina believe that Masari has what it takes to coast home to victory in next Year’s polls. He is a quintessential politician and he is passionate about the less privileged, especially youths and women. His wealth of experience and performance in office so far will greatly contribute to his re-election bid,” Kabir Ahmed, a political observer, posited.
Similarly, Haruna Danjuma, an activist in Katsina, was of the opinion that the image problem of PDP would not allow the party to retire Masari in his political career for now.
While Masari has many factors to his credit, the herculean task of an incumbent maintaining his governorship seat in the state, has been made much easier for him because of President Muhammadu Buhari factor in Katsina politics which cannot be waved away. The loyalty of an average Katsina man or woman to Buhari is legendary.
“If the voice of the people counts, the love for Buhari will still make Masari and most candidates of APC across the state victorious in 2019. So, I am not expecting Lado to beat Masari and by implication humble Buhari next year, Suleiman Abubakar, a trader in Katsina told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
However, a source of concern to many is the failure of the Masari administration to sustain the free enrollment of all Senior Secondary School candidates in public schools for WAEC and NECO, irrespective of their performance in their mock examination.
Reacting to the issue, Fatimah Sani, a school mistress, said the present government’s policy truly hurts many parents and students but it is not enough to truncate Masari’s political future.
“My advice to him and APC is: Don’t delay a bit when the finances of the state improve. Offer succour to all WAEC and NECO candidates and their parents, paying the external examination fees on behalf of parents, most of whom are poor, is not a waste of scarce resources, in fact it is a salutary gesture that would no doubt attract its reward,” Sani opined.
Another factor that will come to play in 2019 elections is the harvest of PDP big wigs by the ruling APC. The hundreds of erstwhile PDP leaders that have defected to APC in Katsina in the past one year and endorsed Masari for re-election, one analyst said, should beyond doubts reshape the political permutations of any interest group in the polity.
He cited the former speaker of the state house of assembly, Ya’u Umar Gojo-Gojo; his deputy, Bilya Aminu Rimi, and a host of other former law makers who lost 2015 elections to APC’s Tsunami as arrow head of their new found party’s 2019 campaign.
Other politicians that have joined the formidable structure of the APC include Senator Ibrahim Ida; Senator Abdul Yandoma; 2015 PDP governorship candidate, Musa Nashuni; and former commissioners: Musa Adamu, Nasidi Danladi and Abdullahi Makudi Kankia among others.
A lecturer in Umar Musa Yar’adua University, who did not want his name in print because he would like to serve as an electoral officer in 2019, gave the thumbs up to the scores of PDP decampees, describing the defection of the opposition former stalwarts including the director general of 2015 PDP governorship campaign organisation, Bature Umar Masari, and several big wigs of opposition in virtually all local government areas of the state as an indication that the forthcoming elections across the state will not be a do or die affair.
Aside from this factor, the university don reasoned that the commitment of Masari to a level playing ground for all aspirants for various political offices, is a huge relief to many members of the state and National Assembly and even those who were not so lucky because they are left with no option than to join hands with Masari and APC during the polls.
Further checks revealed that the majority of the former elected local government chairmen and councilors under the previous administration, had defected to APC to brighten their political future.
On the giant strides of Masari administration, the director general of 2015 Katsina APC gubernatorial campaign organisation, Muntari Lawal, said none of the 361 political wards across the state is left without a new developmental project since the inception of the current administration.
However, despite this and many others, Comrade Garba Funtua, a chieftain of the Citizens for Good Governance Initiative, frowned that most key developmental projects meant for Katsina South Senatorial District since the emergence of the present administration in 2015 were located in Malumfashi / Kafur axis, where Governor Masari hails from.
He said the chances of Masari’s re-election next year were quite bright if he will resolve to do justice to all manner of people without any ill-feeling irrespective of where they are in the Funtua senatorial zone in appointment, project location and other dividends of democracy.
The social activist also called on the Masari administration to participate in the on-going project of Funtua Dry Port, considering its importance in terms of employment opportunities to the state teeming youths and revenue.
“We hope Katsina State will look into our predicament as 2019 general election is around the corner and the electorate examines project execution and political appointment to determine their use of vote,” he warned.
To observers, Masari has been waxing stronger since APC primary election unlike Lado on the platform of PDP that lost no fewer than two governorship contenders to APC last month. While at least three other governorship aspirants of the party whose dreams crashed abruptly in the controversial mock primary of the PDP had publicly slammed Lado and the party while expressing doubts over the power pendulum shifting back to the party.
Analysts believe that nothing short of collective effort of most of the PDP gubernatorial aspirants and other key players, would have wrested power from the incumbent APC – led administration in the home state of President Buhari.
“It is clear now that the prospects of denying Masari a re-election next year by PDP or any other political party may turn out a misplaced hope. Let’s face the reality, PDP stands a weak chance to dislodge Governor Masari from Muhammadu Buhari Government House Katsina next year,” said Tukur Ahmed, a pundit.