As the nation approaches February 25, 2023, presidential election, four major presidential candidates are in last minute efforts soliciting and wooing voters in Niger State.
Campaign rallies are being organised by the various political parties across the three senatorial districts.
The visible gladiators in the presidential contest include the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinibu, former Vice President, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, who is also an in-law to the family of Col. Sani Bello, retd, the father of Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello.
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One of Atiku’s daughters is married to one of the siblings of Governor Sani Bello.
However, in some quarters, it is believed that the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi should not be undermined as he could spring some surprises.
The fourth is the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
The presidential candidate, Tinubu, can bank on the popularity of its youthful gubernatorial flagbearer, Hon. Muhammad Umar Bago, three-term member of the lower House of the National Assembly and incumbent Governor, Alh. Abubakar Sani Bello, who though contesting for the senatorial seat of Niger North, it was gathered, is more interested in Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu winning the seat, after which he would negotiate for a juicy ministerial position. This is in view of the fact that he just recently conducted a local government election where the APC had a landslide victory. The LG chairmen will go all out to ensure they deliver their presidential candidate, governorship and other National Assembly contestants since the fate of all the contestants is tied together.
However, the crisis trailing the Naira redesign policy of the APC government and the economic hardship facing the people may affect the performance of the party. Presently, when the name of APC is mentioned, the response is ‘ sai yunwa’ (hunger) resonating from people in the state.
This may be Atiku’s best opportunity to put up a good outing, particularly with former Governor Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu solidly behind him to get the required 25 per cent votes.
Apart from that, the ongoing cash crunch due to the Naira redesign policy of the Buhari government no doubt is gradually destroying the goodwill of the ruling APC in the State.
Political analysts posited that if the anger being witnessed on the streets are translated to the polls, then it will be safe to say the PDP may give the ruling party’s Presidential candidate a bloody nose at the election.
Mr. Peter Gregory Obi, the Labour Party presidential standard bearer’s aspiration may not have resonated with the people of the Middle Belt State or as they would prefer to be called, North central State, but for the APC same faith ticket that made most Christians in the State angry.
Therefore, they started viewing the presidential polls from their religious lenses in the state. His presence in the presidential race cannot be disregarded.
Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwasho of the NNPP is quite popular in the Niger North senatorial district as he is seen as the voice of the “Talakawas”, likewise his running mate, Bishop Isaac Idahosa Odiri, known as home boy. He grew up, schooled at Kontagora town, married and started his Ministerial sojourn in Minna, Niger State capital where he started his Pentecostal Church, “God’s First Mission”. His inclusion in the NNPP ticket has sharply divided the Christian faithfuls in the state.
His candidature is the least visible of the other contenders. The gubernatorial candidate, Alh. Muhammad Sokodeke is seen as an unserious contestant in the race.
In view of this, stakeholders of the party earlier made an attempt to put him aside to get a more pragmatic flagbearer, but the efforts ended up in the court.
The development is said to have dampened the morale of some party supporters who had initially wanted to work for the governorship candidate’s success at the elections. Hence, his chances or Kwankwaso’s at the polls in Niger State may be hard to predict
Given the above picture, the four major presidential contenders may each get a share of the pie in Niger State on February 25.
However, the odds are in favour of Tinubu, and Atiku, the Turaki of Adamawa.