As governorship candidates of various political parties get set for a final battle in Katsina state on Saturday, Francis Sardauna examines the intrigues, chances and weaknesses of the leading candidates.
The outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Katsina State is a pointer to the fierce battle among various governorship candidates of political parties and interest groups jostling to produce Governor Aminu Bello Masari’s successor in March 11 governorship and state House of Assembly elections.
Indeed, political ranking has come into play in the state, and Governor Masari who has been deploying his experience to garner the maximum votes from the ancient city for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), could not deliver the state for the party during the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections.
According to results announced by the State Returning Officer, Prof. Mu’azu Abubakar of Federal University Gusau, Zamfara State, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP polled 489,045 votes to defeat the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC who scored 482,283 votes in the state. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) polled 69,386 votes, while Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) scored 6,376 votes.
With these results, pundits said the APC chances of winning the governorship election have diminished. Masari tried to deliver the state for Tinubu, but he couldn’t arguably because of the influence of the immediate past Secretary to State Government, Dr. Mustapha Muhammad Inuwa and some PDP bigwigs who are said to have vowed to unseat APC in the state.
Much has also been seen from Inuwa whose defection to the People’s Democratic Party alongside with his political support groups after decades of sojourn with Governor Masari, had attracted serious interest about the unfolding political schemes in the state.
However, on the part of Masari, who sacrificed his senatorial aspiration unlike other outgoing governors to ensure that his party, the All Progressives Congress retains the state in the March 11 poll, continuing internal dissensions and silence on issues of public interest remain his setback.
Although Governor Masari’s stake in the poll is limited to his desire to see APC triumph, he is seen as the main foot soldier of the party’s governorship candidate, Dr. Dikko Umar Radda, and is reported to have been having sleepless nights to see that Radda wins the governorship poll.
But, the appearance of Senator Yakubu Lado Danmarke on the governorship ballot does not seem to be making the job of cornering Katsina for APC easy for Masari. The fact that the incumbent and the serial governorship contender are former allies separated by political interests have reduced the influence of Radda in the scramble for votes.
Yet, riding on his power of incumbency as the outgoing governor of the state, Masari and his former SSG, Inuwa, have succeeded in creating the impression that the battle for Katsina is a straight one between them. And that is where Inuwa’s reach as a ‘home-boy’ who apparently brought Masari to power in 2015 and 2019 is diminishing the powers of the incumbent, who is not on the ballot, but serving as a proxy.
For instance, in what came up recently as another uprising within the Katsina APC camp, is the defection of three serving House of Representatives—Hamza Dalhatu (Rimi/Charanci/Batagarawa constituency), Salisu Iro (Katsina constituency) and Ahmad Dayyabu (Danmusa/Batsari/Safana constituency)—to the PDP alongside their teeming supporters in their constituencies.
With this harvest from the storm at Masari’s backyard, the PDP may have better chances and formidable team to reclaim power from the APC in the state during the forthcoming governorship poll, because the three federal legislators have a network of followers in their respective constituencies.
However, for failing in their bid to secure a return ticket to the Green chamber of the National Assembly during last year’s APC primary, analysts said the lawmakers had lost relevance, and thus, could not deter APC from winning three senatorial seats and nine House of Representatives seats out of 15, leaving the PDP with six in the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections.
Besides, political observers believe that the governorship candidate of the APC, Dr. Dikko Umar Radda, would succeed Governor Masari. They premised their arguments on the fact that he has the support and backing of critical stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders, youth and women as well as the business community in the state.
Analysts have also argued that out of the 13 gubernatorial candidates contesting the seat, Radda appears to be leading and riding to the Government House, considering his political experience and persuasive rhetoric in attracting the attention of both elites, youth and women who are now aligning with him.
Some political parties are already jittery and others have begun to lose confidence in the 2023 gubernatorial poll, due to the uncommon wave Radda is lately making in the state, especially at the grassroots, where 50 per cent of the voters reside.
In terms of qualification, Radda is a PhD holder, former local government chairman, the immediate past director-general of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), former chief of staff to Governor Masari and APC’s National Welfare Secretary (June 2014 to July 2015).
Taking into cognizance his victory at last year’s party’s governorship primary where he edged out APC stalwarts, including Dr. Inuwa and Mannir Yakubu, the incumbent deputy governor of the state, to emerge the winner, politically sign-posted his victory in the forthcoming governorship election.
However, the major weakness of the APC candidate is indeed the problem of insecurity and economy bedevilling residents of the state, which many see as the party’s biggest predicament. Another setback for Radda is the aftermath of the APC primary where many of its bigwigs felt short-changed and left the party for either PDP or the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
For PDP’s Danmarke whose party has campaigned against the APC, using insecurity and economic challenges in the state as major campaign tools to woo eligible voters to his fold, was a councillor, local government chairman, member of the House of Representatives and Senator.
As a successful businessman, he also has the resources required to run a gubernatorial election, with support coming from Atiku Abubakar and other PDP chieftains from within and outside the state as an added advantage.
Politically, pundits say Danmarke is a force to be reckon with, going by his political pedigree, having won elections at primary and secondary levels. Also, with the defection of Dr Mustapha Inuwa, Senator Ahmed Babba Kaita and the three House of Representatives members into the PDP and support from Alhaji Dahiru Mangal, a Katsina-based business tycoon, his chances appear bright.
Moreso, the strategy of the PDP candidate picking Ahmed Yar’adua as his running mate is a boost for the PDP family. The belief is that Yar’adua would bring more votes for the party from Katsina central in addition to the overwhelming support the party has already gained across the three senatorial zones of the state.
But the leadership tussle rocking the PDP is being considered as its major weakness. Another factor militating against the party is that despite hue and cry from citizens of the state, they are supporting the APC, maybe because of the power of incumbency and some social intervention programmes of the party that assuaged the sufferings of many in the state.
As a ‘complete gentleman’, the governorship candidate of the NNPP, Nura Khalil, political pundits believe he should be entrusted with power. But his party has no formidable structure to win the election. The withdrawal of his running mate, Dr Muttaqa Rabe Darma, from the race, perhaps edged him out from the battle for Masari’s successor.
Although Darma did not disclose his reasons for withdrawing from the race, his sudden resignation in the heat of controversy around the governorship election in the state, observers said he might have foreseen that the party would not win the election for obvious reasons.
The Labour Party (LP) has Ibrahim Abu-Musawa as its flag-bearer in the state. He contested three times for the governorship of the state in 2011, 2015 and 2019. But the presence of the party is not much felt in the state and its governorship candidate is not as financially buoyant as candidates of other parties to vigorously pursue his ambition.
Of course, Imrana Jaafar Jino of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), Ibrahim Zakari of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and eight others are also in the race but pundits painted them as ‘unserious candidates’ whom they said may not even deliver their polling units.
But among the three leading flag-bearers, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Dr Dikko Umar Radda, and candidate of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, Senator Yakubu Lado Darmake have already unfolded strategies to outwit each other and win the gubernatorial election on Saturday.