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PDP, APC battle for Niger East senatorial seat

Published by The Nation on Thu, 28 Aug 2014

The stage is set for the senatorial by-election in the Niger East District, Niger State. The battle is between All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates. Who wins' Correspondent JIDE ORINTUNSIN examines their chances at the poll.On Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct the senatorial by-election in Niger East District, Niger State. The winner of the poll will replace the late Senator Dahiru Kuta in the Senate.His death had altered the political calculations, ahead of next years elections. Now, there are new permutations and projections. But, owing to the vacancy, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) now have the opportunity to test their strengths at the poll. In Niger East, there is a re-alignment of forces. The ambition of some politicians is also threatened.Before his demise, Kuta had hinted that he would be recontesting next year. He was warming up for the primaries. Stakeholders were expecting an epic battle between him and Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu at the PDP primaries. Although the governor has denied nursing the ambition, his body language and moves by his loyalists gave him out.Sources said that, for Aliyu, the senatorial bid is a Plan B. But, it became the main agenda when he lost out in the scheme to replace Vice President Namadi Sambo as the running mate to President Goodluck Jonathan in next years election. The Niger governor is a powerful voice among PDP governors. He was also the controversial leader of the rebellious G7 PDP governors. That was his undoing when the PDP thought about a replacement for the Vice President.The INEC had earlier announced August 16 as the tentative date for the by-election. But, few days later, the commission shifted the election by two weeks. The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Emmanuel Onucheyo, hinged the shift on logistic problem. He said the postponement was valid under the electoral law.Three political partiesthe All Progressives Congress (APC), the All Grand Progressive Alliance (APGA) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)are competing on Saturday.David Umaru, a legal practitioner, is the APC candidate. He emerged as the flag bearer at the indirect primaries, and later, the direct primaries. His challenger at the intra-party contest was Hon. Adamu Bala Kuta, a former member of the House of Representatives. Some people have alleged that he was sponsored by the PDP. Kuta, a product of David Umaru political structure in 2006 failed in his bid to stop Umaru. But, Umaru defeated his political son at the primaries in Minna, the state capital.In the PDP, there is also political scheming. The party had earlier settled for a consensus candidate. The former deputy governor, Dr. Shem Zagbayi Nuhu, was endorsed as the candidate. But, following the emergence of another aspirant, Hon. Abdullahi Musa, a former federal legislator, the party opted for primaries. At the shadow poll, Nuhu defeated Musa.At the primaries, Nuhu, who enjoyed the backing of key party leaders, polled 99 per cent of the delegates votes. Incidentally, the two major parties, the APC and the PDP, have not experienced post-primary crisis.Similarly, the emergence of Hon. I.M. Bello as the APGA flag bearer was also without rancour. He was unopposed. So, he emerged as the candidate without stress.The battle for the seat is however between the candidates of the two major parties, Umaru and Nuhu, of the APC and the PDP respectively. Stakeholders do not see Bello, who hails from Kusheriki, as a serious contender. He is perceived as a spectator. Although he pasted some posters on the walls of buildings in some towns, he is not perceived as a threat by the APC and PDP flag bearers.For the APC, the by-election is an opportunity to reclaim the zone. For the PDP, it is another opportunity to prove that the late Aweisu Kutas victory in 2011 was not a fluke. Although the APC candidate, Umaru, has not held public office, he is a household name in the district. He has connections. Any opponent that underrates him does so to his peril. He is loved by constituents because of his generosity.A grassroots politician, Umaru, who was eyeing the governorship, opted for the Senate, based on appeals by many stakeholders that he should vie for the seat. His political structure and network cut across the cultural divides in the area. He is a businessman with interest property development and the service sector. Many believe that he is a man of credibility and integrity who will endow the seat with honour and visibility. Political watchers believe that, in a free and fair election, the odds may favour the APC candidate.The PDP candidate is also a seasoned politician. He has served as the deputy governor for eight years. But, he has made a lot of enemies. These foes are now beaming a searchlight on his tenure. In their view, he has some questions to answer. His past actions and inactions, failures and shortcomings are now blown beyond proportion by those trying to abort his senatorial dream. Others have pointed out that, despite being a rich man, Nuhu is stingy, a vice that his opponent is cashing on. Thus, in this electioneering period, he has been on the defensive. Although the state government is backing him, some constituents are not convinced about his candidature.This development has forced the party to mandate all political appointees from the zone to join his campaign team. They have also been directed to deliver their wards to the PDP. However, efforts to reach out to some aggrieved grassroots members of the party from the zone are not yielding dividends.Another challenge is the agreement purportedly signed by Nuhu to step down for Governor Aliyu during next years election. This has not gone down well with the people of the zone, especially the Gbagyi stock. To them, the agreement is injurious. They also believe that, if Aliyu becomes the senator, they will be further marginalised.If Nuhu wins the election, it will seal Aliyus fate. His senatorial bid next year may hit the rock. There are puzzles: will Nuhu step aside for the governor at the PDP primaries in October' Will he vie for the position again' Is the Chief Servant jettisoning his senatorial ambition, despite the huge political investment'No doubt, the by-election is another popularity test for the PDP. For the ruling party, it is a must win election, if it must continue its dominance of the state.However, the poll may serve as an opportunity for the opposition to reclaim its alleged 2011 stolen victory. It was alleged that the PDP denied Inuwa Zakari of the defunct Congress for Positive Change (CPC) victory in the National Assembly election.The success or otherwise of the by-election rests squarely on the INEC. Although the APC has challenged the neutrality of the Resident Commissioner.Stakeholders expect a free and fair election where only the wish of the people will be fulfilled and a true representative of the electorate in the Niger East District will emerge.]]>
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