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There are mixed fillings within the Niger Peoples Democratic Party as Governor Babangida Aliyu and the senator representing Niger-East senatorial district, Dahiru Kuta, are locked in the battle for the party’s senatorial ticket. The two-term governor appears to be looking for new political forage since the national leadership of the PDP voiced its support for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan.

With Aliyu eyeing the senate seat currently occupied by Senator Kuta, the relationship between both PDP leaders had gone sour and the stage is set for a political tussle ahead of the 2015 general elections. There are some incidents to suggest the foregoing. They include the belief that Kuta had stopped attending all public functions in the state. He was not seen at the recent award night organised by the state government to honour sons and daughters of the state that have distinguished themselves in their various capacities. The sour relationship climaxed when Kuta, in an interview with the Voice of America (Hausa service) accused the governor of trying to hijack the party machinery both at the state and his (Kuta) local government council.

The senator particularly alleged that the governor was working in concert with the PDP leadership in the state to scheme him out. Specifically, Kuta said that Aliyu, having observed the political terrain and discovered that it will be difficult for him to realise his presidential ambition, has shifted his attention to the senatorial post. The senator said he was ready to fight to the finish.

However, Aliyu, in a reaction to Kuta’s allegations, described the latter’s comments as a ploy to heat up the polity. According to him, public office holders should be more concerned with delivering the dividends of democracy to the people than heating up the political atmosphere.

Kuta, while giving his stewardship during an interactive session with newsmen in Minna recently, reaffirmed his resolve to slug it out with anybody no matter how highly placed in his bid to remain in the Senate, come 2015.

Kuta, who is the Chairman Senate Committee on Federal Character Commission, told journalists that after 34 years of active politics, he remained unshakeable and cannot be intimidated by anybody in the state.

He said, “With my age, nobody can intimidate me, it is not possible. I cannot be intimidated, this is what I always say but I will always be ready to make peace.” Kuta also insisted that nobody is politically superior to him in the state after spending 32 out of his 64 years of age in active politics, adding that “Niger State belongs to all of us and I know that I cannot be intimidated because there is nothing that I have not seen in politics, by April this year I will be 64 years of age and out of which I have spent 32 years in active politics. So, I have seen a lot in my political journey and I do not fear death, I do not fear anybody but I only respect people. As much as God gives me life and my people want me, I will contest the senatorial post in 2015.”

But the governor while reacting to the senator’s declaration against anybody, who dares to contest against him (Kuta) in 2015, stated that he has never indicated interest to contest any elective position at the end of his tenure in 2015. Aliyu spoke when the Chairman, Shiroro Local Government Council, Alhaji Abdullahi Yerima, led the people of the council on a ‘thank you’ courtesy visit to him. The governor stressed that he was aware of the existence of a zoning formula within Niger PDP. “I am not in competition with anybody but, as a people, I want you to always ask for your benefits from anyone offering himself for elective position both at the state level and in the senatorial district before you cast your votes for anybody,” he stated.

But, in what appears to be a subtle declaration of intention, Aliyu told the people that Shiroro Local Government is part of Minna Emirate Council and that nobody from Minna township, where he comes from, has ever been elected as a senator since the return of the country to democratic governance in 1999.

According to him, “Those who had been voted as senators on the platform of the party since 1999 have always come from Kuta axis of the emirate, including the incumbent Senator Awesu Kuta and the late Senator Idris Kuta of blessed memory.”

By this argument, the governor seemed to be saying that 2015 should be the turn of Minna Township to produce the next senator and that he would likely grab such an opportunity.

Personal Assistant to Kuta on Media, Mallam Gambo Mohammed, dismissed the argument by the governor, saying that Minna town, having produced the governor for eight years should not lay claim to the senate seat in 2015.

He maintained that when the governorship was zoned to the emirate, Aliyu, who is from a minority tribe (Hausa), emerged as governor and now that the governorship is zoned to Kontagora Emirate, Minna town wants to have the senate seat, leaving the Gwari majority with nothing.

But the recent visit by the people of the Shiroro Local Government Council to the governor’s residence to express their support and loyalty, has given vent to Kuta’s allegation that the party is being hijacked. The people told Aliyu during the visit that even though he had not indicated interest in any elective position ahead of the expiration of his tenure in 2015, they promised to mobilise grassroots support for him – “in appreciation of his purposeful leadership in the state in the past six years.” They further urged the governor to consider himself fit for representing them at the Senate in the next dispensation, provided he is not gunning for the presidency on the ticket of the PDP in the forthcoming general polls. The visitors, who included an immediate past state Commissioner for Land and Housing, Alhaji Nuhu Musa, specifically commended the governor for building a bridge across Shiroro River, among other projects.

Aliyu, in his remarks during the visit challenged the people to be united, adding that it was the only way they could achieve meaningful development  in all spheres of life.

Although Kuta is said to have embarked on some developmental projects in his constituency, in addition to using his position as the chairman, senate committee on character commission, to secure employments for a number of youths from the area, political watchers argue that he might not win re-election because of the apathy some people have for him.

According to the former State Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Mallam Shuaibu Umar, the governor would have a staggering task in convincing the people to vote for him for any elective position in 2015 “because he has distanced himself from the people since winning the election in 2011. I don’t know the magic that he will perform because the people are not with him.” Umar alleged that the governor has not paid an official visit to any local government since 2011 after winning the election. He said the governor always “sits in the Government House or his private residence and waits for the people to come and pay courtesy visits. When the people are not with you, your power of incumbency cannot work for you. I’m happy that with the new political education people have acquired after the last elections there will be no rigging of election in 2015.”


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