By Wole MosadomiBy Wole Mosadomi
Unlike in the past when political posts were ‘shared’ among contestants in the ruling party in Niger State, the 2011 contest has been thrown open.

The state governor Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu has repeatedly urged politicians, including civil servants, who are interested in any elective post to resign and contest.

However, he has a caveat: “don’t rush back to the state government for “settlement” of your bills after losing as it used to be in the past.”

The governor said everyone was free to seek any elective office of one’s choice because he or the party “have no anointed candidate for any post” and no seat would be reserved for any politician no matter how influential he/she is in the society.

Every contestant who is sure of his/her popularity have been given the opportunity to exercise his franchise and seek for the mandate of the electorate at the poll.

This free hand and transparency exhibited by the state governor who is the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state challenged and aroused the political consciousness of politicians especially women who have declared their intentions to run for various offices.

However,  the political field is being dominated by Peoples Democratic Party PDP as no fewer than eight contestants have declared their intention to fight for the three senatorial seats in the state on the platform of the party while aspirants from other parties are still playing the waiting game. As at now other political parties are yet to have aspirants for the senatorial seats.

Awaisu, Zaynab, Nuhu and Babangida Aliyu

Already, the three senators, DIG Nuhu Aliyu (Niger North) Comrade Dairu Awaisu Kuta (Niger East) and the only woman, Hajiya Zaynab Kure (Niger South) have declared their intention to seek for another mandate. Out of the three, only DIG Nuhu Aliyu has ran for three terms and is eyeing a fourth term while Dairu and Zaynab are seeking for a second term.

Other challengers from the same party are Barr Ibrahim Ishaku (SAN) (Niger East), Alhaji Sani Musa (Niger East), Alhaji Ahmadu Garafini (Niger East) Barr Aliyu Wara (Niger North) and Alhaji Baba Shehu Agaie (Niger South).

Sen. Nuhu Aliyu (Niger North)

A retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Aliyu is chairman of Senate Committee. He is seen as one of the longest serving senators not only in the state but in the country having served three terms and jostling to go back for a fourth term. Unlike in the past when there were virtually no challengers, there are two hot contenders for the same seat now in the persons of Alh. Ahmed Garafini and Barr. Aliyu Wara.

Though he is serving a third term in the same capacity, DIG Aliyu may find it difficult to be re-elected as constituents from his constituency have twice exhibited their desire for a total change at public outings in Kontagora.

Although, he has some constituency projects to show  as a senator for his 10 years sojourn in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly but some members of his constituency say “we are not convinced and satisfied with those projects. Enough is enough; we need a younger, more vibrant and more energetic candidate to represent us.”

Barr Aliyu Wara ( Niger North)
He had been a Lagos-based lawyer but still very close to his people at home in New Bussa. He is the youngest of the three contenders warming up for the senatorial seat and is seen as man of the people.

He touched the lives of his people when he was elected the Executive Chairman of Borgu Local Government in 1999 during the Engr Abdulkadir Kure administration but was eventually removed by the state government in 2001 because of the role he played during the Borgu Emirship tussle.

He was perceived to be supporting the incumbent Emir, Senator Haliru Dantoro against the wish of the then state government. After a protracted legal battle,  Dantoro was installed

Wara eventually lost his post. His removal made him more popular and he re-contested in 2007, won convincingly and was returned as chairman of Borgu Local Council. With his popularity, achievements and academic background, he is seen as a strong challenger for the Niger North seat.

Alh Ahmed Garafini (Niger North)
He was once permanent secretary, Ministry of Education during the military era before he retired.

He was later re-engaged by the civilian administration of Engr Abdulkadir Kure as Chairman Primary Education Board and got elevated to a commissioner overseeing the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources by the same administration. Because of his meritorious service in the civil service, the present administration appointed him Special Adviser on Local Government Affairs until he resigned recently to contest for the Senate.

Though he has little or no cash to play around with, his unblemished track records especially in the civil service and his political career are expected to warm him into the heart of his constituents.

Said to have a favourable chance of scaling through, the aspirant, a few weeks ago, debunked speculations that he had stepped down for the incumbent, DIG Nuhu Aliyu, insisting that he was still in the race. He was being rumoured to have collected N30m from Sen. Aliyu to stepp down for him.

Garafini is banking on the assurance made by the governor that no candidate would be imposed on the electorate.

Comrade Dairu Awaisu Kuta ( Niger East)
His ambition had always been to be a law maker. He started as a member, Niger State House of Assembly in 1979. He was the only minority in the House but his tenure was short-lived via the military coup of December 31, 1983. He contested and became member House of Representatives in 1993 but could not last as a result of another coup in 1993. He was member House committee on Business and Rules.

Dairu wrestled with the late Senator Idris Ibrahim Kuta twice but was edged out. He remained undaunted and focused on his aim to be a member of the Upper House and in the 2007 election, he clinched the seat from his kinsman, late Ibrahim Kuta.

Seen as a grassroots politician, Senator Kuta has really warmed himself into the hearts of not only the present state administration but also members of his constituency especially through the numerous constituency projects he initiated and executed. He still remains a strong contender and is likely to regain his seat.

Barr Ibrahim Ishaku (Niger East)
The only senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN)in the race, Barr Ishaku was a deputy governorship candidate in 2007 under the platform of the Action Congress (AC) but lost along with the governorship candidate. He is presently the Senior Special Assistant to the state governor, Dr. Aliyu on Legal Affairs.

Considered to keep to himself often times, some political analysts said he had to reach out more to the people to actualise his ambition.

There are also fears that he might not go the whole hog as he did in 1997, when he stepped down for late Sen. Idris Kuta while his supporters put every hope on him.
Alh Sani Musa ( Niger East)

He is a young businessman and politician, who had been seeking to make political impact in the state since 2003. He was a gubernatorial aspirant under the platform of the PDP in 2003 but lost in his bid. However, he was named chairman, Task force on Environmental and Beautification of the state by the present administration, an assignment he carried out to the letter and to the satisfaction of his principal, However, the job caused him a great disaffection among his people whose toes he stepped on especially those whose properties were demolished. He was eventually removed as chairman and made a Special Adviser to the governor.

Popularly called “313,” Musa is now eyeing the senatorial seat of his constituency and set to unseat the incumbent Sen. Kuta even though some of the electorate are saying it was time to get their own pound of flesh.

Hajiya Zaynab Kure ( Niger South)
She is the only female senator in the state and is also seeking re_election. Her eventual nomination for the seat in 2007 was full of controversy as she was banned and unbanned by her husband, Kure, who was the incumbent governor of the state then.. The political controversy then was internal and it was solved internally. And since she was “set free” by her husband to contest, and won, she has proved her worth as a good ambassador of not only her constituency but also of the state.

Though many people said he rode on the back of her husband to the Senate, others said her pet project, Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) was an added advantage to her popularity and success at the polls as no fewer than 8,000 youths benefitted from the laudable programme as wife of governor aimed at empowering them.

A graduate of political science, the forthcoming election may really be her first political baptism where her popularity and acceptability among her people would really come to bear.

Alh Baba Shehu Agaie (Niger South)
He is the House Leader in the House of Representatives. He is spending his third term in the Lower House.

Shehu attempted to wrestle with Zaynab Kure for the Senate in 2007 but was pacified by the powers that be to step down. He obliged and remained in the Lower House. Time has changed as he is seen to be free to test his popularity this time around having spent three terms in the House of Representatives, especially with the “go ahead” given by the state governor to all interested politicians to aspire to any post without any hindrance.

Also as a popular man among his people, the fierce battle will surely be between him and the incumbent member, Zaynab Kure. The only obstacle for him however is that with the increasing awareness of women in politics and likely support for Zaynab Kure. Baba Shehu will have to revisit his contacts and test the waters before he finally leaps in order not to lose at the end.

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