By Hamza Waziri

Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello (l)

Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello (l)

Abubakar Sani Bello’s victory was expected even before elections were held, due to certain odds that were favourable to him, which we shall try to enumerate and analyze very shortly.   The first wise step the governor-elect took was leaving the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) about two years ago, even before the formation of All Progressives Congress. (APC)  At the time that Abubakar Sani Bello, popularly known as Abu Lolo, resigned his membership from PDP, a lot of people believed that he had committed political suicide, even though he had not made up his mind on which political party he would join, between ANPP, CPC, ACN, and APGA. He just resigned on principle.Those that thought he committed  political suicide were of the belief that for someone to actualise his or her political ambition, especially to become governor of Niger State, the only platform to achieve that is to join the ruling PDP, because once you secured its ticket, victory at the polls was automatic.  However, Sani Bello, a wise politician and one who didn’t believe that only a member of a ruling party can win governorship election, decided to do something different. He felt that rather than try the fruitless effort of getting the incumbent governor’s anointment and then start to lobby the party delegates for votes, which were rarely won by the best candidates in Nigeria, he would rather canvass for votes directly from Nigerlites. Therefore, the governor-elect embarked on general aggressive campaigns, going from local government to local government and from ward to ward to win the people’s hearts. Like a rash of pimples, his posters and billboards flooded the nooks and crannies of Niger State proclaiming the emergence of a serious and indefatigable candidate. This overwhelming presence and seriousness made it difficult for anybody to contest against him at the party’s gubernatorial primary election, even though some political heavy weights such as Senator Ibrahim Musa, Alh Mustapha Babangida Wushishi and others joined the race for the coveted ticket. However, all these contenders failed to impress the party delegates and supporters.

Another odd that worked in favour of Abubakar Sani Bello is what some tagged as the ‘Ibeto factor’.  Some political analysts suggested that the defection of the deputy governor of Niger State to APC was not only a major boost but also brought harmony to the party.  The political genius, whom even the governor-elect praised for his immense contributions to the success of the party in the state while delivering  his acceptance speech after his declaration as the winner of the gubernatorial polls, did so much for the party.  The governor-elect said: “The tremendous wisdom and experience he (i.e. Hon Ibeto) brought to the  party have contributed immensely to making today possible. I sincerely hope that I can personally continue to count on your wise counsel as we embark on this tough but inevitable journey of building a prosperous and inclusive state for all”.

Some political analysts argued that before Hon Ibeto joined the party, there were about four orientations or factions in APC, based on the mother political parties that fused into APC (namely the David Umar faction from ANPP, Abubakar  Magaji faction from ACN, Umar Bago and Ibrahim Bako Shettima faction from CPC, and then Abu Sani Bello faction, also called Abu Lolo faction). Although these disparate groups made the internal democracy, politics, and jockeying for power withing the party interesting, but it also posed problem for its unity.This threat soon eviscerated with the coming of Ahmed  Musa Ibeto, the Deputy Governor of Niger State, to the party. Indeed, his coming to the party became an unexpected blessing as all the frictions between the party members were crushed and fences mended. Like a magic wand, his coming reconciled the different tendencies, making the party a formidable fighting machine. Hon Ibeto bacame a father-figure, a rallying point, for achieving the APC goal of wresting power from the PDP.

Another favourable factor to the governor-elect was the mode of APC campaign. Yes, attempts were made in the past to unseat the incumbent government or take over power from outgoing government, but there was never a formidable opposition to do that. The opposition parties were always so weak to challenge PDP and, as we are all aware, Niger  State is a vast land mass. Therefore, anybody that must vie for governorship must have the wherewithal to foot campaign costs and logistics in every nooks and crannies of the state. The cost can be  forbidding: just think about acquiring campaign vehicles, fueling them, feeding campaign team, etc, and your guess is as good as mine. No one is usually able to do this except the government in power, which can usually mobilise the resources of the state in support of its campaign efforts. This time around, the PDP met a well-oiled opposition ready to challenge its dominance. Then Abu Lolo’s soundtrack, “Niger Sai Lolo,” sang by a renowned Nupe musician, Alh. Abubakar Ndako, did a lot of damage to reputation of the ruling party, especially, in Nupe speaking areas of the state, the senatorial zone considered to be the determining factor for governorship election.  The lyrics of the music contained all the necessary message any politician would want to pass to the electorate, and it was so hugely popular. The number played on the appeal of Buhari factor. Even for those that didn’t want to easily give credit to APC candidates, they attached great importance to Buhari’s appeal to the masses.

But Sani Bello also appealed to a significant population as a rebel: He had the guts to leave the reigning party in power in circumstances that looked like an obvious protest. He made a point not to continue in government in an ethical issue, that he has avoided to talk about much to the chagrin of the public. If he had, he could have brought down the government at the time, or at least caused it much discomfiture. And even in his campaigns, he didn’t talk about it, as some would have, to capitalize on it. Afterall, it was time for politics. That is how mature he was in mind. To have left a government not on a flimsy personal reason meant for many that his morality and ethics were strong, that he was a strong counterpoise to PDP which was liquidating its goodwill and that the collective interest of the state will be safe under his charge.

Buhari or no Buhari,  Abubakar Sani Bello deserved his victory. He went round every nook and cranny of Niger State and vigorously canvassed for votes; there was even a time that the campaign train was on the move for an unbroken two good days, penetrating the hinterlands of Niger State. The man wanted this job badly and he worked for it. In the course of the campaign tours, it was obvious too that he was ready to take the bull by the horns to confront the daunting challenges of underdevelopment at all the local government areas, in the areas of agriculture, education, health, and infrastructural development to spur industrialization of the state.

The Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ) factor: For the fact that a general public resentment against the ruling party has begun to build up for mismanaging its governance opportunity in the past 16 years, it was easy for the people to make decision to embrace the new party with new ideas. Furthermore, the mishandling of PDP primary elections gave birth to another factor, a gale of defections. This factor clearly indicated that Abubakar Sani Bello would be the next governor of Niger State, as all the major players in PDP deserted the party for APC.

Conclusively, those who closely followed the Abu Lolo’s campaign movement would not be surprised to see that he emerged victorious, perhaps; even more, they would be little surprised that he emerged with a very wide margin, taking 23 local governments out of the 25 in the  state. He polled 593,702 votes to PDP’s 239,772, creating a huge gap of 353,930 votes difference.

TAURARUWA