Niger: After the political hurricane

muazuNiger state has no doubt survived the political hurricane sweeping through the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with the loss of five of its governors. Amidst the torrent, Governor Babangid Aliyu , has  held firmly to the swinging umbrella and repelled the APC onslaught on Niger state.  In this report, AIDELOJE OJO takes a look at the unfolding  intrigues before and after the hurricane

Mu’azu’s welcoming smile

The new national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Muazu, beamed a smile and ushered in Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger state to take a seat. He raised his hands to salute the crowd of cheering ardent party loyalists led by the governor, that had trooped to his Wadata office on solidarity visit last week. The governor reciprocated the smile and declared that PDP was very much intact in the state despite the political hurricane that swept away five governors out of the G-7  he had led in the wake of the crisis that rocked the party.

Aliyu’s assurances

Aliyu rolled out more assurances to the national chairman, insisting that since the inception of democratic government in 1999, PDP has always won over 98% of votes cast in the state at local government, state and presidential elections. He further assured   that in 2015, the party will come out with a superlative performance of 100 percent in both state and presidential elections.
With these words, the new national chairman was no doubt convinced that the tension generated during the heat and storm that blew off  his predecessor, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur out of office, had subsided particularly as the assurances came from one who led the Tukur must go campaign  only few months ago.

Reciprocating visit

And apparently wanting to make ‘assurance double sure’, the national chairman, Adamu Muazu, sneaked into Minna, the Niger state capital few days ago to have closed door meetings with the governor and his political mentor, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, for a first hand information on the party activities in the state.
Blueprint learnt that the national chairman and the cream of national officers in his entourage were impressed with the cohesion and understanding pervading PDP in the state. The party’s national leadership, having satisfied its curiosity, ordered Governor Aliyu, who is also the leader of the party in the state, to ensure the total blockage of the onslaught of the All Progressive Party (APC) on PDP in the state.
This order was imperative considering the high level of defections of PDP members to the opposition party in other states. However, political analysts who have been following events closely in the state are of the view that the national chairman needed not have bothered himself with the activities of the opposition in Niger. This is   because, APC as a party has not demonstrated any seriousness to pose formidable challenge to the ruling PDP in 2015 not to talk of winning PDP members over.
Analysts believed that Governor Aliyu was not just having fun when he waved off the opposition with the back of his hands and declared that PDP will win the state and presidency in 2015 but was speaking from a vintage position, having considered a likely permutations and intrigues that would come to fore in 2015 general elections.
Perhaps, the national leadership of the APC may still have been grieving in silence over Aliyu’s escape  from their dragnet, especially as things appeared to be going on smoothly with the merger plan with the G7 governors which he led until he unceremoniously pulled out at the eleventh hour.

APC’s miss

However, that had become history but one decimal factor that worked against the defection of the governor to APC, many believed, was the uncompromising positions of the APC members in the state, most of who feared that their personal interest would be jeopardised if the governor was allowed to take over the leadership of the party. A closer look at these state leaders of APC in the state would save time in pondering over the strength of the party in Niger state and in knowing if the opposition was in any position to wrestle power from the ruling party.
It is known that the APC was the merger of three political parties of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Many would want to know the viability of these parties in the state before the merger, particularly their individual performances in previous elections from 1999 to 2011. While Barrister David Umaru, former governorship candidate of the ANPP in 2007 led his party to win some substantial seats at the state House of Assembly in 2007, he failed to get the governorship mandate.
The outing of the ANPP in 2011 was disappointing to say the least. Most of the ANPP members at the state House of Assembly defected to PDP before the end of their tenure while others failed re-election bids. At the time of the merger last year, PDP had seriously poached on ANPP members in the state, including Umaru’s personal aides , leaving behind series of internal irreconcilable differences and crisis that reduced the party to tatters. Although  Umaru, like lone lion has been fighting multitude of opponents from PDP to keep his political ambition alive, many of his associates and party leaders are now eating and wining with PDP in the state.
If the story of the defunct ANPP in the state is considered bad, that of the defunct ACN could be worse. Blueprint reliably  learnt that ACN was a party hijacked by some aggrieved PDP  members,  led by former North Central zonal chairman of  the party,  Alhaji Abubakar Magaji, whose political wings were clipped by Governor Aliyu on assumption of office in 2007.
Magaji who was a dominant voice in the administration of former Governor Abdulkadir Kure ran into troubled waters first when the search for Kure successor began in 2006 and he insisted that his stooge being installed against the interest of the governor. The conflict of his personal interest with that of Kure, earned him more troubles than he could swallow, including the stripping of his traditional title of Deje Lapai for disobeying the advice of the Emir of Lapai on the matter. Despite all these, the heaviest punch that threw Magaji off his feet and out of PDP was released by  Aliyu who bundled him into prison to account for contracts sums collected from previous administration. Upon his release, he quickly pulled out of PDP along with some of Kure followers, including former Special Political Adviser, Isah Mokwa . Blueprint learnt that in its 2011 outing, the ACN performed woefully wining nothing in the elections.
The defunct CPC was the only party that has in recent times shown enough zeal to upstage the ruling party in the state. In the 2011 elections, the party gave the PDP a run for its money but not enough to upset the ruling party. The CPC quickly assumed responsibility of a leading opposition party in the state holding grip in Zone C known as Niger North Senatorial District from where it grabbed the Senatorial seat and few other House of Representatives seats from the ruling party. The CPC also took away the Minna Municipal seat at the House of Representatives from the PDP. It is also pertinent to point out that the CPC governorship candidate, Bako Shettima performed well in the election but lost to the superior mobilisation of PDP and the popularity of the incumbent governor.

Crisis in APC

However, analysts believe that these good credentials displayed in 2011 by the CPC may have been rubbished and lost to the merger formalities in the new APC that gave equal rights to all members, including the domineering but the unpopular PDP runaway dissident members that had seized ACN in the state few years ago. Our reporter gathered that the state chapter of APC is already enmeshed in crisis leadership and sharing of elective positions ahead of 2015 elections with the  Magaji group wanting to impose governorship candidate.
Recently, a faction led by a member of the National Assembly representing Niger North Senatorial District on the CPC  platform, Senator Ibrahim Musa and announced a parallel party interim executives in the state under the chairmanship of Hon.  Afiniki Dauda as against that of the  Shettima. Analysts believe that the fight for choice positions early in the life of the opposition party in the state, is an indication that the party was doomed on arrival. The magnitude of the crisis was shown last week when Shettima,  former CPC governorship candidate,  accused the national secretariat of the party of not consulting them before issuing guidelines for registration of members. Blueprint learnt that a faction that calls itself “Legacy parties that form the APC ” in the state led by Shettima had emerged and is challenging the national leaders on some issues or decisions taken that appeared to be against personal interests.
The national leaders of APC may have since realised that its members in Niger were allowing personal interests to override  that of the party, when Shettima told them recently in Minna that the party missed nothing in Governor Aliyu’s refusal to dump PDP for the party, not all of them were convinced.
Shettima had said: “Governor Aliyu is not the only big fish in PDP in the state. There are other big fishes in PDP that are ready to defect to our party soon. But for now we will not name them.” If this is not a self consolatory statement, then Shettima would have weighed the advantages and disadvantages of not having Governor Aliyu along with a chunk of PDP members, especially those loyal to the governor inside his APC net before making the statement. But many ask; why won’t he tell the truth that Governor Aliyu was simply too slippery to be hooked in APC net?
But  there appears  to be no convincing answer. The only convincing answer came from Governor Aliyu’s explanation few days ago when he paid solidarity visit to new national chairman in Abuja. The governor said he never mooted the idea of leaving PDP for another party.  “I did not move because my conscience, understanding and my position is with PDP. And I believe by 2015, we will form the central government and PDP will form the government in Niger state,” Aliyu boasted.  The governor said this explanation became imperative because people were asking him that he led the protest which came to be known as G7, how come he did not move to APC with others.

No division in PDP

Speaking in an interview with Blueprint, the Chief Press Secretary(CPS) to the governor, Danladi Ndayabo, said  the decision of his boss not to merge with APC was the best thing that had happened to PDP in the state, adding that there was never any  division in the state PDP to warrant such move.
He said the governor had been leading the party with entrenched internal democracy as a result of which he established very cordial and peaceful environment through which dividends of democracy are channelled to the people.
According to him, “the APC is an empty vessel that makes louder noise. The chief servant has pledged to deliver the state to PDP both at the state and presidency and this will be achieved 100 percent because of the excellent achievements of the administration in the development of the state”.
However, from all indications, the PDP appears to have built more concrete walls against the possible encroachment and poaching of its members by the APC in Niger state.

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