The political dynamics in Niger state in reality will be the function of the combination of the ways the individual candidates are viewed and the manner the political parties marshal out their action plans especially to resolve internal party crisises ahead of the next year’s general elections.
In 2015, the political parties played major roles in the state, and the outcome largely depended on the popularity of the party that eventually won the election with little recourse to the popularity of individual candidates that contested.
The assumption then was that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost to All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 because the party lacked the desired cohesion after the party primaries, which was said to have been skewed in favour of certain candidates.
The development led to the defection of the then sitting Deputy Governor, Hon. Ahmed Musa Ibeto to APC. That defection on January 20, 2015, few weeks to the general elections was a big blow to the PDP’s cohesion and evetually changed the political climate of the state.
In retrospection, the same intra-party crisis in different perspectives have also embroiled the ruling APC.
Since Ibeto had gone back to the PDP months ago to contest for the governorship ticket, which he lost to Umar Nasko, little is being heard from him now and his departure has not caused much havoc to APC yet.
The primaries of APC was trailed with a different challenge from what was witnessed in PDP in 2015. In APC, it is not only the cry of skewing the process but that of substituting the names of winners of the senate and House representatives primaries with the names of the incumbents
Ironically some incumbent house of assembly members are grumbling because they were not given same treatment of automatic ticket . No fewer than ten House of assembly members could not get the ticket of the party blaming it on the leaders for not given them the desired protection for automatic ticket as handed to national assembly members thus causing another crisis at the local levels.
The most noticeable of the crisis was the substitution of the names of the winners of the Senatorial primaries of Niger East and Niger north with the incumbents, while some incumbents house of Representatives who did not even contest for the seats were allegedly given the ticket.
These encumbrances of some names of winners substituted and some given automatic ticket while others were not given same preferential treatment has submitted the ruling APC to doubt of cohesion in Niger state and a burden to the leaders thus some party members accused APC of doing worst than what led to the down fall of PDP in the state
The hope is that the APC in Niger state and the Governor Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello have always dissociated themselves from all the machinations that have created more problems for them at a very critical election like that of 2019 where the governor is seeking for reelection and expected to deliver for President Muhammadu Buhari , the national body is seen as the antagonist.
The fear is that the development could make the party loose some stronghold in the state, naturally some of the party supporters are aggrieved , it was gathered that the party in the state are not happy that this could make the supporters easy catch for the major opposition party PDP as they did to them in 2015.
The Governor is aware of the danger pose by this crisis after the primaries and has being condemning the development while insisting that the will of the people should be allowed to prevail by giving the mandate to those who won at the primaries.
The stand of the Governor has seemingly calmed nerves and has not resulted in mass defection as witnessed by the PDP in 2015 when some of their members felt aggrieved after the primaries of the party.
The aggrieved APC members instead of defecting to the PDP as expected decided to stay in APC to seek for legal means of resolving the issue by going to court. Even when the Former Deputy Governor defected back to PDP few months ago no big wig of APC was seen defecting with him to PDP thereby giving a ray of hope.
At the local levels no mass defection from the APC is witnessed apart from grumbling in hush voices about how the entire substitution saga could affect the party’s cohesion and the way the party is taking seriously by the electorates.
While some believe that defection could come at any time if not well managed and the cohesion of the party is guaranteed , some political pundit believe if things stand the way they are APC is most likely going to loose some grounds to PDP or any of the new political parties with credible candidates.
If that happens, it will make it difficult to get the 25 house of assembly members back as APC did in 2015 that it lost only 2 seats of the 27 member house of assembly, this will also have adverse effect on the out come of the governorship election with 33 candidates.
Some political observers said in Niger state it is always very difficult to know where the pendulum swing until few weeks to election, an artisan Mohammed Aliyu said “ it has always being the tradition and this has always put both incumbent and opposition on edge”
.”The contest this time is different, no fewer than 33 persons are contesting for the governorship, giving room for many options, this calls for a well articulated issues for engagement, and a cohesive party “ Musa Baba a scholar observed .
Umar Nasko the PDP flag bearer is no doubt in a familiar terrain because he contested with the incumbent in 2015 and was the closest in the election APC won with landslide of over 200,000 votes gap.
Political observers will give it to Nasko and PDP to decipher where the flaws of the incumbent Governor and APC are; to capitalize on them for political gain, only if the Governor and the party make themselves vulnerable by not managing their internal crisis properly.
Beyond this, variables of post primaries crisis , the influence of President Muhammadyu Buhari is still a very significant factor that could sharpen the texture of contest in overlooking any action as a result of the encumbrances notwithstanding the people seems to judge individual candidates based on what they felt they can deliver.
While it may not be substantially so in the next election , the influence of the cohesion of the party in organizing its members ahead of the election will determine how Buhari effect can help the ruling party especially in the governorship election.
The Governor has the task of explaining how he faired in this first term and the challenges he encountered to be able to get votes while Nasko could easily be judged by reality of his campaign promises as well as how he will be able to tackle the peculiar challenges facing the state.
Beside what they have done, it is also believe that the attitude of the Governor to job and how he navigated through the challenges of governance in the past few years will also be used to rate him while Nasko will be taken on the way he faired also in his previous assignments as commissioner in the state and Chief of staff to the immediate Past Governor Muazu Babngida Aliyu.
From indications those germane questions balancing with the cohesion of the political parties will determine where the pendulum may swing. The APC in the state is trying to ensure that the post primary crisis are resolved while PDP are fairly doing well on the surface.
The PDP is doing well on the surface because findings revealed that some of the leaders of the party did not believe in the candidature of Nasko whom they alleged pre primary campaign was out to do hatchet job for the incumbent Governor in order to disallow the immediate past Deputy Governor Ambassador Ahmed Musa Ibeto who defected from APC then to PDP from getting the ticket.
Some of those PDP members are of the belief that Ibeto will present a better chance for them against the incumbent than Alhaji Umar Nasko,. Though they have being silent and still playing along , many political observers believe that they are not committed as they ought to be . it was learnt that some of them are not satisfy with the quality of the campaign council constituted for Umar Nasko but decided to play along.
The incumbent Governor also have problem of who to trust among his appointees yet they will be charged with the responsibility to deliver for him, the question that lingers is whether some of his appointees have the political influences in their constituencies to do so
His former Commissioner of information Mr Jonathan Vatsa has put it succinctly in a radio interview recently that some of those close to the Governor are busy envying each other and telling the governor lies instead of working for him.
He was bold to advise that only those who can tell the governor the truth and can actually work for his reelection are the people the Governor needed around him now, confirming the general notion that the governor’s appointees are either working for their own economic or political survival rather than the Governor’s political interest and that of the people.
A politician who prefer anonymity said “it is bad if the appointees hide very important information’s from the governor and sometime we hesard tht they (appointees) refuse deliberately to carry out the governor’s directives if their interest is threatened or not protected this is exemplified by the outcome of the last primaries where the Governor did not get the true positions of thing early”
Notwithstanding the governor many political pundit believe stand a good chance ahead of the election if he properly engage the electorates on his achievements and challenges marshaling out how he intended to tackle some of the challenges .
Already the Secretary to the state government Hon Ibrahim Isa Ladan had over the weekend that the campaign of the governorship election started all over the country assured of issues based campaign from the government indicating that the government has a lot of achievements to showcase.
As at present both the Governor’s and Nasko’s supporters are busy attacking each other on the platforms provided by social media with little of tangible issues coming out.