Following the successful conduct of the primaries of the two leading political parties in Niger state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the election of candidates for the August 30th bye- election into the Senate of the federal Republic of Nigeria. Peoples Daily Yakubu Mustapha takes a look at the two front runners and their chances
The Niger East Senatorial seat became vacant as a result of the demise of Senate Committee Chairman on Federal Character, Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta who until his death was serving a second term and even looked forward to a third unprecedented term before the cold hands of death snatched him away.
Before the conduct of the primary election, the executive Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu who is also from the senatorial zone has distanced himself from claims in certain quarters that he was planning to sponsor a candidate that will hold the seat in trust for him till he will be constitutionally qualified to contest in 2015.
“I have no anointed candidate. I am not sponsoring anybody to hold the position for me till 2015” Aliyu said.
Aliyu had declared this in a public forum at the government house, thereby putting paid to the rumour being circulated by the opposition in the state. For the PDP the delegates at the primary election from the nine local government areas in the senatorial district overwhelmingly voted for a former Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Shem Zagbayi Nuhu.
He polled 372 votes against his only challenger Hon. Abdullahi Musa who also was one time in the House of Representatives scored only 14 votes.
In the APC senatorial primaries, Barrister David Umaru who had sought to govern Niger state on three occasions but was rejected by the electorate recorded similar victory over Bala Adamu Kuta who was also one time a member of the House of Representatives and had contested the Governorship primaries of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). The party both Umaru and Bala Kuta belonged to before the merger to form the APC.
Both Zagbayi and Umaru are not strange to the politics of Niger state. Both have tested their popularity with the electorate and to a large extent Zagbayi emerged victorious at least by virtue of his eight year stint as Deputy Governor of the state when Engineer Abdulkhadir Abdullahi Kure held sway as the governor of Niger state for two terms which was between 1999 and 2007.
Zagbayi is an elder of the PDP in the state and currently a member of the National Conference which is about winding up.
His membership of the confab is as a result of his recognition by the national leadership of the PDP and indeed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who see in him absolute loyalty to the PDP and the state and federal government.
That Zagabyi has shown loyalty and dedication to whatever he believes in is not in doubt, for eight years that he was Deputy Governor to Engineer Abdulkhadir A. Kure, he displayed absolute loyalty and never rocked the boat.
He did not tacitly or openly show interest in the plum governorship seat until his boss finished his term and the terrain became clear for him and others to jump into the field to test their popularity.
His political sagacity and ability to win people to his side and because ’he is a grassroots politician’ was said to have partly ensured victory for Kure /Zagabyi ticket especially in the Niger East senatorial district in 1999 and 2003.
The outcome of the PDP inconclusive primaries in 2007 is now history because history bestowed on the incumbent governor of the state Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu the governorship of the state against the 12 PDP stalwarts who contested the primaries.
Unlike others who took part in the contest, felt aggrieved and left the party to join opposition parties in the state Zagbayi remained with the PDP and even joined in traversing the length and breadth of the state with Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu during the campaign for election in 2007.
That is the trait of a complete party man. Even after the election, Dr. Zagbayi still remained in the PDP and continued to offer advice to the government even without being given any political position.‘
He is a complete party man, for the eight years he was Deputy Governor, he never looked his boss in the face not to talk of engaging him in open conflict’ a leader of the PDP in state said after the party primaries.
According to the party leader, “Dr Zagbayi has shown tremendous commitment to projects in Niger state and Nigeria; he has been contributing positively to governance of the state physically and by offering advice and giving ideas to the PDP government”.
Political observers believe and rightly too that the most appropriate compensation for a devoted party man is for him to be rewarded first with the PDP senatorial ticket and secondly the real seat after the 30th August 2014 senatorial contest.