L-R Niger and Plateau PDP Chairman
A recent visit to Plateau State by the Niger State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party to express gratitude to the former for backing Niger to secure a national position provided a platform for campaign, writes Seriki Adinoyi, in Jos
It was meant to be a thank-you visit to the Plateau State governor, Da Jonah David Jang, and the entire leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, but it provided a platform for a subtle campaign. The governor of Niger State, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, and the leadership of PDP in the state sent a high-powered delegation to his Plateau State counterpart to thank him and the PDP team for supporting a candidate from Niger State to win the position of National Youth Leader of the party, a position that was zoned to the North-central.
The states in the North-central had unanimously agreed to make Alhaji Garba Umaru from Niger State their consensus candidate for the position of National Youth Leader, a position zoned to them in the party’s national executive elections held barely one year ago. Plateau State got the position of National Legal Adviser.
Prior to the election, the Niger State PDP said it had sent a delegation round the states in the zone to seek their support for the position. And that it was only fair to go round again to say thank you.
In the delegation that visited Plateau was the Niger State chairman of the party, Dr AbdulRahman Mahmood, who led other members of the delegation, which included the Zonal Organising Secretary, members of the state working committee, and members of the state executive council.
Oiling Relations Ahead of 2015
Speaking on the purpose of the visit, Mahmood said it was simply “a thank-you visit over the support Niger State received from Plateau in the emergence of one of their own as the National Youth Leader.”
He added that though such thank-you visit had never been practised before, “The Chief Servant of our state (the governor) deemed it fit that it was good to go round and appreciate those that gave us the support…
“We were here about one year ago, and we are here again. We had come to solicit the support of Plateau State for the position of National Youth Leader. Plateau, then, also put up a request for the position of National Legal Adviser. And we both agreed and signed that the long time relationship between Niger and Plateau would be maintained, and we eventually got the two positions.
“From the political history of our party, after congresses, nobody goes round to say thank you to the people that gave the support. But this time, the chief servant of our state, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, has sent us to say thank you to the governor and leader of the party in Plateau State, Governor Jonah Jang, the state chairman, Dr Haruna Dabin, and the members of the State Working Committee (SWC).
“We are doing this to maintain the tempo between the two states since we don’t know what may be the interest of Niger in 2015 elections. We have in the past always been kingmakers in the North-central zone, who knows, the king may just emerge from amongst us this time around. And it is only good to appreciate those that supported you in the past, so that you can always go to them again to seek support.”
Mahmood said, “On the behalf of Niger State, and the PDP faithful in the state, we want to say thank you” as he presented a letter of appreciation in a large brown envelope to his Plateau State counterpart.
In his response, Dabin noted, “The signs of a weekend that will be pleasant can always be noticed from its Friday,” possibly saying that with the good hand of fellowship extended to them by Niger State, their relationship will be a good one.
While expressing delight over the visit and emphasing the power of appreciation, Dabin recalled the Biblical parable of 10 lepers who were healed and how only one returned to say thank you. He added that his state was also indebted to Niger State in this regard.
“This kind of visit is to dispel all rumours of crisis in the party, and to also stamp in mind that PDP has come to stay.” Significantly, Dabin said, “Next year, 2014, there will be another national convention to elect the presidential candidate for the 2015 national election. And it is not too early for brothers to start talking to each other.
“The politics of Nigeria is in the North-central; the movers and shakers of Nigerian politics are in the North-central zone. For a very long time we have been kingmakers, maybe it is just time for us to be king ourselves. You have set a very good example for us to follow. Our best regards to the chief servant of your state. We congratulate him on how he is ruling the power state well.”
Aliyu and 2015
This visit, though tagged a thank-you call, one has engendered debate over its motive. Many have read diverse meanings to it.
Some see it as a subtle campaign strategy by the governor of Niger State, who is widely believed to be eyeing the presidency in 2015. With the visit round the North-central states, Aliyu is believed to have begun to break fallow grounds in preparation for possible exploit. It is believed that after consolidating his support in the North-central, the governor will then use his influence as chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum to penetrate the rest of the North.
His 2015 ambition is said to be behind Aliyu’s romance with the Arewa Consultative Forum and other northern groups.
But another school of thought believes it would be a terrible illusion for Aliyu to think that Plateau would support him for anything considering his antecedents of backing anti-Plateau elements in virtually everything.
Aliyu had called for the imposition of a state of emergency on the Plateau following sectarian crisis in the state. And the Niger State government had been alleged to have called for an emergency meeting of the Northern Governors Forum over the crisis in Plateau without due consultation with the governor.
Many say Aliyu’s position during last year’s directives by the military to evacuate residents of part of Riyom and Barkin Ladi to pave way for the dislodgement of perceived Fulani terrorists in the area showed him as an enemy of the state.
“How can such a man, in his wildest imagination think that he will get the support of such a people that he has severally hurt? Certainly, Plateau people cannot be fooled by a thank-you visit,” a Jos resident, who preferred anonymity, said.
But in apparent reaction to the controversy surrounding the visit of the Niger State delegation, Jang hasted to debunk insinuations that it was a presidential campaign scheme ahead of the 2015 elections. Aliyu reportedly added that he had not declared his ambition to contest the election.
The governor, while receiving the Ethiopian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ali Abdul Sulaiman, and the new Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Professor Musibau Akanbi, who paid him a courtesy call in Minna, said: “It is not true that I flagged off any presidential campaign in Plateau State.”
Aliyu said there was a directive from the PDP at the national level that all campaigns for the 2015 elections should be put on hold till next year, adding that as a loyal party man and law abiding citizen, he will abide by the decision of the party.
He said it was a thank-you visit by the National Youth Leader of the party, who led a delegation to Plateau State to thank the PDP members in that state for voting for him during the national convention of the party that was misconstrued as a presidential campaign flag off.
But many are curious about the timing of a thank-you visit for an election that was held nearly one year ago.
Aliyu said, “My clarification of the situation now is not an indication that I am afraid to contest the presidential election when the time comes.
“If it is God’s will that I would come out, believe me I am not afraid, I will come out because what will be, will be, but I am not out yet.” He pleaded with the media to always get their information correct before publication, saying some reports often misinform the public and overheat the polity.
‘No Endorsement Yet’
In another report, also widely thought to be a reaction to the visit to Plateau State, the north recently said it had not given Aliyu a clean bill to run for the position of president in 2015.
Three different northern groups were alleged to have said neither Aliyu nor any other northern politician aiming to become president in 2015 had been endorsed by the north.
ACF said it was too early to talk about who to endorse for the 2015 election.
Its spokesman, Anthony Sani, said, “There is no basis for judgment, since there is still time. It’s against such backdrop that the forum and northern leaders have not done anything about the politics of 2015. I believe when the time comes for politics, you will know.” Also, convener of the Coalition of Northern Leaders, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said the Niger State governor did not have the backing of any group in the North. “I’m not surprised he is making moves already. But I can say that Aliyu has not been endorsed by any group in the north. In fact, he does not even have the backing of the generals in Minna. He does not have the support of any northern group that I know of,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed added that the north had not endorsed any presidential aspirant, and might not endorse any soon.
He said, “The endorsement by the north would not come the way many people think. People would run their campaigns and some would drop out along the line. The endorsement would come when the stage is set, few months before the election.”
Similarly, the spokesman for the Northern Elders’ Forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, said the group had not made any decision on whom to support as presidential candidate.
“Babangida Aliyu does not have our support. The fact is that we have not supported anybody. We would not discourage anybody from contesting, but whoever we will support to be president would be carefully chosen. We will ask him very hard questions about how he would tackle education, infrastructure and security, considering the fact that the north lags behind in these areas,” Unongo said. “We are likely to make that decision before the end of the year, because any politician who is serious about contesting in 2015 would have made his intentions known by then.”
Apart from Aliyu, other northern governors believed to be eyeing Jonathan’s seat include Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State.
The 19 northern governors have allegedly been meeting with a view to sinking their differences and uniting to produce a president from the region in 2015.
Aliyu, who chairman of NSGF, had on one occasion said northern governors would not allow what happened in 2011 to repeat itself in 2015. “We must be united more than ever to go into the 2015 elections as one entity with the aim of producing the president,” he was quoted as saying.
How far he can go with that objective remains to be seen.