Niger 2019: When the masquerades unmasked themselves

Many All progressives Congress (APC) faithfuls and key stakeholders must still be in a fog of disbelief over what analysts would call the ‘illogical’ outing of the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello in faraway United States of America (USA).

Bello had chosen a reputable Hausa media platform with listenership spread across the world to vent his anger against the national leadership of the party that brought him to limelight in a manner that is condemnable even to an average opposition stalwart.

His grouse was the alleged and so-called “automatic tickets” given to the two of the serving Senators from his state, David Umaru and Abdullahi Sabi who have been returned during the last APC primaries as the standard bearers of the Party ahead of the 2019 Senatorial election. Umaru, the chairman, Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights & Legal matters and Sabi, chairman Senate committee on Media and Publicity represent Niger East and Niger North respectively at the upper chamber of the National Assembly.

As one of the party leaders in the state, Bello’s vituperation may come as a shock to party faithfuls and observers but it no doubt exposes the inner thinking and body language of those we are wont to hinge our hopes on ahead of the impending contest.

But come to think of it, what is even “automatic” about the tickets? Is Bello feigning ignorance of the process leading to the emergence of the two candidates, or that the action of the national secretariat negates the party’s constitution? Why is he crying more than the bereaved in a matter that those directly affected have since initiated legal proceedings to redress “supposed” wrong? Whether as one of the aspirants in the just concluded exercise Bello is qualified to condemn the same process which he was also a direct beneficiary? Or what moral or legal justification has Bello to challenge the senatorial primary election in which he did not participate as an aspirant? These are questions that would ordinarily bog the minds of those who listened to the said interview.

For the sake of those who may not have been so privileged to monitor the development during the said primaries, there may be need for a rewind for clarity purpose.

Before going into the party primaries, as a critical political prelude to the 2019 general election, the national secretariat under the leadership as of Adams Oshiomhole had spelt out the rules of engagement in consonance with the party’s constitution.

Flowing from deliberations reached at a related meeting in Abuja, the Oshiomhole-led National Executive Committee, NEC, settled for direct primaries as the mode of choosing the party’s candidates, from the president down. All registered members of the party were to participate in the process of determining who their presidential standard-bearer as well as other candidates would be. The APC constitution provides indirect and direct primary election modes.

While many governors pushed for indirect primaries (the delegates system), a few including that of Niger flowed with the direct primary option.

For the records, the incumbent was not the only one interested in the governorship on the platform of APC. Alhaji Abubakar Katcha and Malam Mahmud Sani were literally forced to give up their aspirations in order to give him a soft landing.

However, the unexpected but premeditated happened during the conduct of the senatorial primary especially across Niger East senatorial district. Acts of brigandage unprecedented in the political history of the state especially as regard a primary which is an internal party affair was unleashed on voters.

Thugs were unleashed for the dirty work, and they did not disappoint their pay masters. Voters especially in those areas believed to be the stronghold of perceived enemies were chased out of the voting points with many sustaining injuries; genuine electoral materials were snatched and replaced for fake ones; electoral officers disappeared on transit, while massive cash were deployed for vote buying in some other polling units and wards

Following the ugly development and backed by petition from Senator Umaru and others, the national secretariat in its wisdom, acted promptly by cancelling the exercise and thereby averting anarchy which the ensuing crisis would have wrought on our dear state.

With the abortive first attempt, it was instructive that the national leadership rescheduled the exercise, which it fixed for October 5th, while drafting a new team to conduct and/or monitor its outcome. Yet the foot solders earlier unleashed during the first exercise attacked the hotel where the new team lodged on the eve of the main exercise brandishing weapons and compelling the National Working Committee members to sign results in favour of their principals.

The thugs were to force their way in later where they seized the electoral materials including result sheets and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

The question on many lips is where was the chief security officer of the state when those agents of destruction bare their fangs?  Why would the security apparatus in the state go to sleep on such an important and delicate day when there were telltale signs of violence during the earlier exercise?

The governor even went ahead to endorse the illegality that characterized the exercise when he averred that “it was wrong to come out that the ticket is given to the incumbent Senators depriving the winners the ticket”. Who were the winners he was actually referring to?

Bello has every right to be aggrieved having lost out in the power play to replace his lieutenant with Umaru who, he has been working tirelessly to undermine through every means. It was not a coincidence that the recent onslaught against Umaru is coming three days after a ragtag assemblage certain faceless persons under the aegis of Coalition of Niger East Youth Organisation similarly attacked the person of the Senator through a paid advertorial in a reputed national newspaper.

It is also not surprising that the tone and wordings of the Coalition’s message were in tune with those in the governor’s interview. It was all about “stolen mandate” and “rightful winner” of the election and a threat that APC would lose the 2019 elections if the status quo is maintained.

And there lies the caveat! What would be Bello’s next step especially that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already closed the window for substitution of candidates’ list by political parties? There could only be one possibility-rallying around a candidate of another political to spite Umaru and by extension the APC which platform he rose to power.

The outcome of the primaries has already put him at a great disadvantage having ostracized many party faithful by getting passionately involved in the contest. Antagonizing Umaru, a politician with cult followers across the nine local government areas in Zone ‘B’ and beyond would be the last straw for him. A word is enough for the wise.


Dr Yakubu wrote this piece from Minna, Niger State.

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