By Maryam Musa
One week after the APC Gubernatorial Primaries in Niger State, the political tempo began to take dramatic turn. Some top political statesmen decided to shift their interest over who become the governor of Niger State in the 2015 political transition. Governor Aliyu (Chief Servant), was said to have worked all strategies to ensure his Chief of Staff, Hon. Umar Mohammadu Nasko, picked or win the PDP guber primaries. Virtually all the ruling and political class aligned themselves with the Umar Nasko gubernatorial aspiration.
A source reported that a meeting was held at the London residence of Sen. Isa Mohammed (Wazirin Nupe), while others in attendance include Col. Sani Bello (Rtd.), father to the APC gubernatorial flag bearer Alh. Abubakar Sani Bello; the Chief Servant, Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu; Prof. Mohammed Yahaya Kuta; Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar (former Head of State); and Gen. M. I. Wushishi. The sole aim of the meeting, according to reports, was to discuss and plan who succeeds the Chief Servant Governor Muazu Aliyu. The battle was between the sons of two military officers – a Colonel and a General.
After the meeting, the reports have it, they all agreed to support Abubakar Sani Bello for the 2015 guber race in Niger State. This agreement went contrary to what was agreed upon earlier in 2014, at a closed door meeting held at the Hilltop residence of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Those in attendance then were Gen. Gado Nasko, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Col. Sani Bello, Governor Muazu Aliyu and Gen. M. I. Wushishi, while the aim of the meeting was to discuss how to produce a successor within the Cabal. Gen. Gado Nasko presented the name of his son, Umar Nasko, Col. Sani Bello presented his son Abubakar Sani Bello, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida presented his own son also, Mohammed Babangida.
They set the ball rolling, the three guber hopefuls moved into the state so as to test their credibility and acceptability. But, Gen. IBB brought up an idea that the Chief Servant should front a candidate within his political camp, so that if the three (Nasko, Abubakar and Mohammed) failed to live up to expectation, Chief Servant’s Candidate will be a perfect plan B. The chief Servant went back and held a meeting with his cabinet members including the then State Party Chairman, Hon. Abdulrahman Enagi. They concluded the meeting and his Commissioner for Works, Hon. Mohammed Bawa Rijau, popularly known as (MBR), was picked for the guber race and his Deputy Governor Hon. Ahmed Musa Ibeto felt bad and insisted that he needed to be compensated, saying he want the PDP guber ticket.
Three months after, Gen. IBB was reported to have called for another meeting at his residence and the same people were in attendance. IBB concluded at the meeting that his son will step out of the guber race, living the son of Col. Sani Bello and that of Gen. Gado Nasko. Why Gen. Abdulsalam will not present any candidate was because his daughter, a medical doctor Dr. Amina, is married to the son of Col. Sani Bello, (Abubakar Sani). So whatever goes to the family of Col. Sani Bello, indirectly goes to him (i.e. Gen. Abdulsalam). There was, however, no consensus reached between Gen. Gado Nasko and Col. Sani Bello as the meeting ended.
Though Col. Sani Bello, the source added, held another private meeting with the Chief Servant, at the London meeting it was concluded that the political support should go to Abubakar Sani Bello. Their major obstacle then, was that for Abubakar Sani Bello to have a smooth ride, the Chief Servant must prevent some of his key players from joining the Nasko team which he did when the Chief Servant allegedly cut-off financial commitment to the Kutigi group but unknown to majority of the State PDP Stakeholders
The Billion Naira Campaign Fund
After the London meeting the Chief Servant was said to have given the APC guber flag bearer, Abubakar Sani Bello, the sum of N2 Billion for his campaign. This is the highest political intrigue that unfolded in the 2015 gubernatorial tussle in Niger State. So many calculations came up to ruin the chances of Umar Nasko from winning the election, among them include, the distribution of customized condoms with the picture of Umar Nasko on it, braziers and customized female underwears. This was done tactically by the APC team to tarnish the image of Umar Nasko in the guber race. Some allegations were also published so as to tarnish the candidacy of Nasko’s running mate, Isah Liman Kutigi.
The Talba – Ibeto Reconciliation
Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Abdulsalam, according to reports, called the Chief Servant and his Deputy Hon. Musa Ibeto to settle and reconcile them. Hon. Ibeto left the PDP after losing the primaries to Umar Nasko. The aim of the reconciliation was because the Chief Servant has agreed to support (secretly) the candidacy of Abubakar Sani Bello, Chief Servant support is very strategic to the success of the APC. The reconciliation was successful and the mutual political understanding between the two continues. In fact, a night before the inauguration of the new Governor, Hon. Ibeto visited the Chief Servant and told him frankly not to come to the inauguration ground due to some intelligence report they received on the activities of some angry mob.
Incoming Commissioners and the New Cabinet
The new Governor picked his Secretary to the State Government (SSG) from his Ward in Kontagora. This was seen generally as the first mistake Governor Abubakar Sani Bello committed, even as it triggered a reprisal reaction in Zone B. The Governor is from Zone C, while his Deputy, Alh. Ahmed M. Ketso, is from Zone A. There is a powerful tradition governing the distribution of political appointments. Since 1999, the PDP wrote down a political office sharing formula which is still in practice. The seat of the SSG and that of the Speaker always come from the same zone. This tradition is deeply rooted in the people, any attempt to change it will trigger a disastrous conflict.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not specify separation of powers for the cabinet formation of a state governor. This is what made Governor Abubakar Sani Bello to feel ‘ok’ with his political return.
The key scandalous transactions in the administration of Ex-Governor Muazu Aliyu are:
– The 5- Star Hotel Fund
– International Airport Fund
– M. I. Wushishi Estate Fund
– Minna City Tower Fund
– Scholarship Board Corruption Cases
These are the key projects under the administration of the Chief Servant, as it was alleged that more than N100 billion was squandered in these projects and they are the key projects. The people of Niger State are expecting the new government of Abubakar Sani Bello to look into so that a probe on the above matter will return a substantial amount of these funds to the coffers of the state government.
The government of Abu Sani Bello will find it difficult to probe Ex-Governor Aliyu due to the political process that brought the APC to power. An agreement was sealed and from all indications that agreement is still binding.
By Maryam Musa