By Yakubu Mustapha, Minna
The immediate past deputy governor of Niger state and a governorship aspirant in the 2007 election under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr Shem Nuhu Zagbayi, a medical doctor by training, has emerged the consensus candidate for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the impending Niger East Senatorial vacancy created by the demise of Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta.
Though he failed in his attempt to replace his boss, Rngineer Abdulkadir Kure, in 2007 PDP governorship primary in Niger state, he has remained consistent in his loyalty to the party.
Recently, in recognition of his loyalty and steadfastness, coupled with his acceptability and popularity among the people of the zone, Zagbayi was nominated to vie for the Zone B senatorial seat to replace the late Senator Kuta who died in June this year.
Preparatory to Zagbayi’s emergence, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Emmanuel Onucheyo, earlier confirmed to the media that the Senate President, David Mark, had written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) notifying it of the vacancy created by the death of late Senator Kuta and the need to fill the space created in the upper chamber, thus paving the way for interested politicians to jostle for the chance to replace their kinsman at the Senate.
Even though Zagbayi’s name did not feature prominently among the names being previously speculated to contest in the bye-election to replace the late Kuta, his subsequent emergence as the preferred candidate however came as a surprise to not only a few politicians.
Characteristic of him, Governor of the state, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu, who incidentally is from that same zone, left many wondering where his support laid not until the former deputy governor emerged as the preferred candidate. The PDP Senatorial flag bearer himself said he never aspired to become a Senator but for the demise of Sen. Kuta and for which he considered a call to service to the people of his zone.
It was reliably gathered that following series of meetings between stakeholders from the North East senatorial zone to examine who among the several PDP loyalists eyeing the seat will deliver for the party, with prominent personalities such as former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, forming part of the caucus of elders to screen the aspirants. Zagbayi’s emergence was seen by many as the best choice to fly the flag of the party in the coming bye-election yet to be scheduled by INEC.
Explaining further on what led to the emergence of Zagbayi, state deputy chairman of the PDP, Barrister Tanko Beji, shortly after a stakeholders meeting of party members from Niger East Senatorial district at the PDP secretariat in Minna, disclosed that the meeting which produced Zagbayi as the consensus candidate was the fifth in the series of such held with a view to arriving at a decision on who to consider as the probable candidate.
“We also looked at the laws. After looking at the laws, we felt as a party we should come up with a position about the bye-election that will be conducted. We believed that the party should be ready for the election and wait for any announcement from INEC not INEC to wait for us. In pursuant of that we called stakeholders. Actually, it is the fifth meeting in the series of meetings we held to brief our party members on the position that the B zone reached on who is going to be our flag bearer.
“Why we chose him is because he is the best; he is our preferred candidate; he is the candidate of the people; he is a politician; he is a gentleman; he is everything you think of. Dr Shem is our candidate.
“Am telling you that a consensus has been reached by the party; therefore no other candidate can emerge as far as PDP is concerned because party elders and organs have met and agreed on Dr Shem and has been stamped” he told our reporter.
On whether he was brought in as a stopgap candidate for incumbent Governor Aliyu, who may vie for the same seat at the end of his second term in office, Zagbayi said what lays ahead of the party presntly was the upcoming bye-election, stressing that any speculation in respect of the senatorial position in 2015 general election should be disregarded as it is baseless and unfounded.
“I don’t think anybody has mentioned such a thing. Man proposes and God disposes. I am not to speak on what is going to happen in the future. My future is in the hands of the Almighty God. This event as I told you was unplanned for. I cannot plan for what is going to happen tomorrow. How am I even sure I am going to contest the election? How am I sure that I am going to win? Not even to talk of the events that are going to take place after I have assumed office by the grace of God.
“There is no basis for this speculation. If all of us, including the Chief Servant, believe in the Almighty God, we have a task before us and the task is to contest the next bye-election and to win it and for the PDP to go and serve the people of Niger state for the remaining period to the life of this Senate,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Zagbayi has continued to receive the blessings of the people following his nomination with the royal fathers from the three (3) emirate councils making up the zone throwing their supports behind his candidature.
Receiving their royal nods recently, leader of a delegation and PDP zonal chairman, Alhaji Mamman Gambo, informed the royal fathers that following the death of late Senator Kuta, the party had no option than to fill the vacancy and had nominated a credible and acceptable candidate in the person of Dr Shem Zagbayi as a consensus candidate, considering his pedigree and wealth of experience.
Gambo noted that the party has zoned the ticket to Suleja Emirate after several years in Minna emirate adding that the party needed someone who would bring results which will impact positively on the lives of Nigerlites.
“We are here to inform you about the resolution of our party, PDP, that Dr Shem is our candidate for the Senatorial seat following the death of Senator Kuta. He was nominated as a consensus candidate. We are therefore seeking your royal blessing and prayers,” he stated.
The Emir of Suleja, Mallam Awal Ibrahim in response, warned Nigerians to give more attention to what would bind them together rather than what could divide the people such as party, religion or tribe.
“Zagbayi is not a stranger, he was my PHC chairman when I was the governor of the state; he respects me a lot; he is my son; a colleague and I pray for all goodies for him. He is at home and no place is like home” the royal father said.
In the same vein, and at the Minna Emirate, Alhaji Umaru Faruk Bahago prayed for God to choose the rightful person who would give the people a good representation at the upper chamber while wishing the party success at the upcoming election.
On his part and in an interview after the visit to the Emirates, Zagbayi assured the constituents of quality representation, noting that he will continue from the late Kuta’s initiative for the actualization of the passage of the HYPADEC bill and iits implementation when eventually passed. He also assured them of the completion of all ongoing constituency projects as well as pursuing legislation to put to an end the challenges confronting the state especially Suleja Emirate due to its proximity to Abuja.
“The president will give me a listening ear, I will use my connections, contacts and strategies on how to get things done and I know when I see Mr President and remind him about the HYPADEC bill, he will listen to me and if there is any serious impediment to signing the bill he will assist me” he stated.
The PDP which has since commenced efforts to retain the seat for the party, is expected to battle against the only opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) whose chieftain, Barrister David Umaru, had already declared his intention to vie for the exalted position.