By Mohammed Adamu
When I wrote “Talba: Beware the gathering storms”, forewarning my Niger State Governor Dr.Babangida Aliyu, of the imminence of danger ahead of 2011, I was neither metaphysically prophetic nor in my prognosis of the elements was I premonitively predictive of what precisely held for the boisterous Governor of the hydro state famed for his surefooted trudges and verbal jabs that are as self-reassuring to ‘power’ as they often are terribly self-harming to it.
Quite the contrary I was only being professionally interpretative of practical socio-political realities that required no exertion of any calculative mind to apprehend on the political firmaments then, of the state that proudly goes also by the envious sobriquet of ‘The Power State’; a state reputed most times to be as partisanly one-way in its voting character and -quite sporadically some other times- as contumaciously cantankerous in the execution of protest votes specially against misbehaving incumbents.
In this land of the easy-going Gbagyis, the swerve, politically colluding Nupes and the culturally colonizing Hausas, there is a thin line between voter malleability in normal electoral times and voter revolt when things ever get politically awry.
Here it takes the exhibition only of a little humility of political ‘power’ to keep the voter-temperament of Nigerlites in sublime obedience and it takes no less arrogance of ‘power’ to burst the banks of peoples electoral anger that often brooks no qualms favoring mediocre candidatures. In fact of the three PDP-delineated political zones in the State, two–namely Kontagora’s zone ‘C’ (comprising predominantly Hausas and other especially Hausanised minorities) and Nupe’s zone ‘A’, are famed historically, one for electoral tawaye (popular voter-revolt) against misbehaving ‘power’- and the other for ethno-centric tactical voting against incumbents uncooperative with or intolerant of its over indulgence in the bounties of political office.
In 1983 Alhassan Badakoshi, a Nupe man under the platform of Zik’s NPP and not the ruling NPN’s Awwal Ibrahim was believed widely to have won the Governorship election;-marked then by massive incumbency rigging and opposition-NPP violence, murder and arson; in 2003, former Obasanjo-Minister, Mustapha Bello from the State’s traditionally rambunctious Kontagora area under the platform of PRP was equally thought to have, if not won, stalemated the election against PDP’s Kure’s second term bid.
And in 2007, ANPP’s David Umoru, a christian Gbagyi man widely even rumored to hail from neighboring Kaduna State, was equally touted to have won against PDP’s current Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu; -if not by popular vote some said, by the facts of pre-election technicalities which the courts it was argued either failed to take judicial notice of or Umoru’s battery of lawyers woefully failed to prove. Plus since 2003, parliamentary candidates of opposition parties have repeatedly trounced the ruling PDP in Minna Federal constituency and sporadically so in quite many other non-federal constituencies.
Niger is the only state in the North that is far more predominantly Muslim than say Plateau is Christian against the size of the Muslim ‘minorities’, but which has had the inter-faith tolerance-quotient enough not only to have a Christian, Dr. Shem Nuhu Zagbayi as Deputy Governor (to Kure) for two consecutive terms, but to massively vote an opposition ANPP’s David Umoru, without musing about his Christian faith or his controversial ancestral origin.
Tragically for the Gbagyis the Zone ‘B’ where Dr. Babangida, a Hausa man, hails and which is believed autochthonously ‘Gbagy’, is balkanized body and soul by the presence of a cosmopolitan state capital, Minna –thus mellowing what would’ve developed as a political tendency of a historically passive and largely apolitical –or some say impolitic- people, the Gbagyis. And this loss is made irretrievable not only by the colonizing influence of Hausa as a lingua of everyday communication but also by the pervasive influence of a common religion, Islam which is no less diluting too of atavistic cultural tendencies and which in the case of Niger, has long subsumed, for good, the surge of ethno-centric politics which in 1983 once reared its head with cataclysmic consequences.
In the violent politics of 1983, Niger State fell a victim of geo-ethnic politics of bitterness largely imported from Solomon Lar’s NPP Government of Plateau State which in the guise of partisan political adventure to sell Zik’s ideology in Niger, sold instead a brand of ethno-political revolt as solution to the so called ‘hegemonic’ political dominance of the Hausas and the bitter consequences of which must have taught Nigerlites a lesson in the wisdom of politics without bitterness particularly of the ethnic kind. In fact many say that the Gbagyis of Zone ‘B’ by the dint more of their apolitic or impolitic have naively become the guinea pigs of that collective multi-ethnic resolve.
I prefer to say: in spite of the violent political misadventures of 1983 which was marked by an unprecedented Gbagyi anger, the Gbagyis by their truly historical nature of deference always to the encroaching visitor, have thus far consolidated their reputation for peace and have become, in the State, a quintessence of the demonstration of a liberal political character with a geo-ethnic tolerance un-equalled by all the other two zones put together.
Ironically it is to the credit of that, that whereas the Hausas have produced governors twice and once each by the Nupes and even the Hausanised minorities of Kontagora environs where Nasko hails, the
Gbagyis have, as yet, produced none.