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Fresh mandate, fresh challenges for Aliyu in Niger


GOVERNOR Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State assumed power with a lot of promise on May 29,2007. The circumstances that brought him to power placed him on the fastest lane to meet up with the high expectations of Niger citizenry.

He was to embark on a marathon tour of the state to familiarise himself with the problems confronting the people.

While addressing the press shortly after the tour the state in 2007, Aliyu confessed that he had underrated the level of underdevelopment in the state, pointing out that the tour was an eye opener and had prepared him for the tasks ahead.

He was to face the challenges seriously, especially corruption.

At different public fora, the governor made it clear that he had no political god father and that he  was not ready to have one. As such, he distanced himself from some elder statesmen in the state who could emerge as godfathers. He ended up with face off with some of them.

His full determination to rid the state of corruption, especially in the civil service, led him to instituting a judicial panel of inquiry headed by Justice Mayaki to probe all contracts awarded by his immediate predecessor, Engineer Abdulkadir Kure during his eight year tenure.

Many contractors including Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)  big wigs and top government officials that served under Kure’s administration were caught in the web and were prosecuted. Some of those affected saw the development as a slap on their faces and a battle line was drawn between the present administration and the immediate past administration, PDP big wings, contractors and some elder statesmen.

Along the line, some reconciliations were made but the wounds were  not  healed until few weeks to the April general elections. After a serious political maneuvering, the final reconciliation between Kure and his followers  and that of Governor Aliyu was brokered and thus ending the over  three years of cat and mouse friendship between these warring parties.

No doubt, the lingering disagreement slowed down the pace of development in the state in the first tenure of Dr. Aliyu. It was glaring that the present administration was at the verge of losing out in the last elections before truce was brokered.

Now that all factions are now back under the same umbrella, one of the factors that will shape the present administration is:  which “faction” is superior and has the highest input in the present dispensation?

Aside this question,  some personalities, issues and stakeholders that will shape Aliyu’s second term include individuals like the two former heads of state, Generals Ibrahim  Babangida  and Abdusalami Abubakar; Chairman of the state Traditional Council, the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar; and immediate past secretary to the state government, who is now the Chief of Staff to the governor, Dr. Muhammed Kuta Yahaya.

Issues on the front burner include security especially as it relates to bomb blasts and Boko Haram, water supply and the public partnership projects (PPP).

Aliyu said during his inauguration that he had a lot to gain from the wisdom of Babangida and Abdulsalami. “ I will surely count on the wisdom of the two former heads of state to paddle the canoe of the state successfully  and if I fail, it means you have failed and if I succeed, it means  you have made me to succeed,” he told them.

At another gathering, the governor referred to the Etsu Nupe as “my mentor” and this goes to show the high respect and regard the Chief servant has for Babangida, Abubakar and the Etsu Nupe, who incidentally was also a retired army officer before his installation as the Etsu Nupe.

Dr. Yahaya Kuta in the past four years had played key roles in the administration. Regarded as the “Engine room and Gateway of the government,” Dr. Yahaya is expected to remain in Aliyu’s second term.

In his first tenure, the PDP played little or no role in the administration of Babangida  Aliyu. The governor almost  single handedly  nominated  his commissioners, political aides, etc relying mainly on “book work” (paper qualification). During the governorship and House of assembly elections, it became clear to the government that party politics is not all about academics but identification with the people especially the grassroots.

Indeed, Aliyu said during his inauguration for second term, “while it may appear tough to win the peoples’ trust for the first time in politics it is even tougher and the burden of accountability  is heavier once you have been given a chance to correct your earlier shortcomings”.

He continued: “The administration has to reconnect properly  with the people and understand the critical and strategic organizations that we must continue to relate with because we must not  be carried away by the success at the polls but rather do much now for the future.”

The challenges

Niger State had been noted for peace. In fact it was regarded to as one of the most peaceful states in the country until the successive bomb blasts that rocked Suleja Town twice and  left many people dead and several others injured.

Few weeks ago, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Michael Zuokomor, alerted the citizenry of the state of the infiltration of Boko Haram into the state especially Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Although, he assured that police were on top of the situation, the two explosions and proximity s of the state to Abuja, indicate that security is an issue that will top the government’s agenda.

Another issue that will  bother the present administration is the problem of water. Despite being surrounded by rivers, portable drinking water has eluded people of Niger State. The sad development is the fact that as government is  pumping huge amounts of funds into the sector, so also is the scarcity persisting. Heads have rolled in the Water Board but the problems remain.

So also is the public partnership project (PPP) initiatives. While this idea had worked in many states, it has not succeeded in Niger State. It appears to have been turned into a conduit pipe for some individuals to siphon government money.

To reposition the PDP, the governor has asked the party to forward six nominees from each of the 25 local government areas to government out of which commissioners, advisers, senior special  advisers and other political  appointees will be chosen.

The state governor  is not only a civil servant, he was also a unionist  having served in various capacities as a labour leader. Expectedly, the issue of the N18,000 minimum wage is a challenge he is expected to face given the poor revenue base of the state. It is to be seen how he will wade through with a Federal Allocation of about N2 billion and a wage bill of about N1.4 billion.


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