Aideloje Ojo, in this analysis, looks at the scramble for the soul of Niger state in the run-up to the governorship seat on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He also beams his searchlight of the candidacy of Umar Nasko whose entrant into the fray appears to have changed the game-plan in the 2019 polls.
The return of the 2015 governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Umar Nasko, to the 2019 governorship race in Niger state has begun to change political permutations by political parties.
The more the calculations of aspirants on the platform of the PDP and other parties unfold in the scramble for the soul of Niger state in the forthcoming election, the more confused the struggle becomes.
However, one thing is certain and that is the fact that the return of Nasko has changed the political gameplan in the 2019 governorship tackles of aspirants in the state which is bound to give sleepless nights to the actors.
What Nasko did in 2015 Honourable Umar Nasko had served in the administration of Dr.
Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu at various capacities as commissioner and chief of staff before he decided to run for the governorship of the state in the 2015 general elections.
Although he was the youngest of three other aspirants including the then Deputy Governor, Ahmed Musa Ibeto,Nasko and another aspirants, Hannafi Sudan believed to have been sponsored by former President Goodluck Jonathan, Nasko emerged as the PDP candidate in a keenly contested primaries.
Having secured the flag of the party as the PDP candidate, Nasko combined his youthful exuberance with the mentorship of seasoned politicians to launch electioneering across the nooks and crannies of the state which record is yet to be surpassed.
In a recent chat with our correspondent in Minna, the 2015 PDP candidate preferred to put the 2015 governorship episode in proper perspective.
He explained that he went on campaign visit to all the local government areas of the state, ensuring that he touched every village.
He also disclosed that “I was well accepted by the people especially the youths with whom I have a pact.” Umar argued that the circumstances that prevailed at that time which deprived him of the people’s mandate to govern the state were no longer tenable.
“In 2015, I entered a covenant with the people of Niger state on the promise to serve but was deprived by the Buhari factor who made promises of change that have left much to be desired.
The people of Niger state are now better informed and are also in position to make informed choices,” he said.
The game-changer The PDP governorship candidate in Niger state in 2015 had maintained unusual silence since his defeat in the governorship election.
In the past three years or so, many political projections and assumptions were made with some insinuating that Nasko had dropped political ambition for humanitarian services.
However, unfolding events in the political terrain of Niger state have proven this school of thought wrong.
It has become clearer that Umar Nasko has returned to a vantage position to run for governor in Niger state on the platform of the PDP.
Blueprint Weekend gathered that Nasko will, on Saturday, this week, submit a letter of expression of interest to run for governor in the state at the party secretariat.
A political associate and a former governorship aspirant of the PDM who defected to the PDP with thousands of supporters to support Nasko for one term of four years as Governor, Mohammed Yahaya Usman, disclosed to our correspondent in Minna that the aspirant has finally returned to the race after due consultations.
Usman said in an interview that the 2015 PDP candidate has improved on his manifesto to seek the mandate of the people in 2019, adding that the unfavourable election results of 2105 did not dampen the spirit of his principal.
“Those burning desire for Nasko to bring the manifesto and vision to reality has continued to remain intact.
When the opportunity comes, he has all the legal rights and will power to contest again using all the goodwill and encouragement that have come from the good people of the state from all parts of the state,” he said.
Why Nasko again? Despite the general consensus on the desirability of Nasko to have another shot at the governorship of the state in 2019, there are few analysts who are still asking several questions on why the young politician has returned to the political battle ground instead of managing his father and former minister of FCT, Gado Nasko’s farms.
This same question was thrown at Umar Nasko by our correspondent and he responded swiftly.
There was a clear message in the answer as he said: “I have a vision for the development of the state which has not been actualised we lost the last election.
I want to test the ground again and if l succeeds by God Grace, I will ensure that I bring this vision to reality.” Blueprint Weekend further learnt that Umar Nasko had worked in his father’s farm for years during which he rendered community services to the people of Magama local government area before opting for employment in the city.
The essence of this line of thought, according to the media aide, Usman, is to buttress the fact that Umar Nasko has been groomed as a man of the people as well as a grassroots enthusiast.
Brighter chances Umar Nasko is the type of person that does not brag about his prowess when it comes to appraising his political activities.
However, when he speaks, he stands on his words.
It is, therefore, not surprising that when our correspondent took him up on his chances in the election, he responded thus: “My chances are very bright in 2019, brighter than it was in 2015.
If you look at the situation in the state, you will discover that there are lots of upheaval, disquiet, anger, hunger, government policy summersaults and lack of confidence on the government due to failed promises.
In fact, thousands of people in contact with me are saying that they regretted voting for the change mantra in 2015 and are ready to use their PVCs wisely this time around.
They are saying if it had been Nasko, it would have been better.” The aspirant also said that the people of the state have called on him to come and rescue the state from the hands of the clueless government which has failed woefully to meet their aspirations and yearnings for development.
He said that his 2019 campaign organisation has tagged the movement to rescue the state as “Moving Forward” as a platform to move the state forward from its static underdevelopment.
Obstacles Nasko has waved off the hurdles and obstacles that are strong enough to stall his path in the governorship race in 2019 with the back of his hands.
But the reality on ground appears makes the battle tougher considering the calibre and personality of other aspirants that have declared to run for the governorship of the state in the forthcoming elections.
Visible among the aspirants with intimidating credentials are former South Africa Ambassador, Ahmed Musa Ibeto, and Hannafi Sudan, who have already signified interest and submitted letters of intent to the state Chairman of PDP, Barrister Tanko Beji.
Going by available records, Ambassador Ibeto has significant number of followers in the PDP even though he left for APC in 2015 after losing the PDP primaries to Nasko.
The fact that Ibeto’s defection to the APC as Deputy Governor of the state with large crowds of supporters catapulted the party into victory cannot be ignored as he returns to the PDP, his home base.
Ibeto is expected to have returned along with his supporters who left with him on the eve of 2015 general elections and this could break any form of formidable opposition.
The same is true of the Kontagora-born Prince, Hanaffi Sudan, who sprung a surprise in 2015 when he came relatively unknown in Niger political terrain to beat the Deputy Governor and others at the PDP governorship primaries except Umar Nasko.
Claiming the second position at that primary was a remarkable achievement that cannot also be ignored byserious contenders.
However, Umar Nasko appears to have mastered his political game to the extent of not considering these aspirants as minor threat.
He described Ibeto and Sudan as familiar customers and players who had suffered losses and defeat at his hands in the past, adding that same scenario will play out in 2019.
My pact with Niger people Nasko told Blueprint Weekend that he has a solemn pact with the people of the state since 2015, when he contested the election and that this agreement is still very much alive.
According to him, the essence of the pact as spelt out in his manifesto was a road map for the development of the state.
He said: “I was going to work assiduously along with like minds to actualise this manifesto if I was elected.
However as you know, APC came with false campaign promises to deceivethe electorate and stole their votes.
You will recall that as a commissioner, I have earned the goodwill of the peoples of Niger state with superlative performance from my ministry in the PDP administration of Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu.
We established the Green Guard which provided employment for thousands of youths; in addition, we also established traffic vanguards through which thousands of youths were also employed.
It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that the performance of that administration has remained the best in terms of policy execution and provision of dividends of democracy to the people.” He added: “My desire is to provide more of dividends of democracy to the people and they have agreed that it is time to have development in the state; this is my pact with the people.” Factors working for, against Nasko One of the greatest factors in favour Nasko is the fact that he is trending on a familiar terrain.
As a candidate of the ruling PDP in 2015, the aspirant established contacts all over the state and it is easier now to oil those contacts to raise structures needed for the 2019 governorship campaign.
It is also important not to shy away from the fact that he is likely to be the favourite of the PDP leaders, especially the former governor of Niger state, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu.
The former governor might not have other options than to support his political godson who is weathering the storm in his present travails with sponsored government prosecution.
Another point is that Nasko might be considered a more sellable candidate thanothers who could compete bumperto-bumper with the APC candidate who is the sitting governor.
Analysts believe that the former governor will pinch his tent with Nasko whom he had mentored and prepared for leadership roles in the state.
However, as said earlier, the defection of Ambassador Ibeto to the PDP from the ruling party could pose serious challenge to Nasko.
So, it is definitely not going to be a bed of roses for the aspirant.
One may also want to consider adverse import the present legal battle with the present administration would have on the aspirant, especially when it borders on corruption.
However, the constitution is very clear on this; all citizens are all presumed innocent until proven guilty by the law court and Nasko cannot, therefore, be sacrificed on allegations of corruption without verdict of the court.
Many believed from the beginning of the case that it was merely calculated at smearing his good image and thus preventing him from running for governor in 2019.
Now that Nasko has returned to the race, how would the political game play out in Niger state? Only time can tell.