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THE THREE-HORSE RACE IN KEBBI

By NBF News
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The three main contenders Kebbi State Government House, the incumbent governor, Alhaji Saidu Usman Nasamu Dakingari of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Alhaji Abubakar Malam of the Congress for Progessive Change (CPC) popularly known as Gari Malam and Kabiru Tanimu (SAN) of the Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) have all flagged off their campaigns. TERWASE TYOBAN takes a look at their chances in the April polls. Excerpts:

Saidu Nasamu Dakingari, retired Deputy Comptroller of Customs has a lot to bring to the table. First of all, he has the power of incumbency as one of his advantages, as well as the larger than life image of his party, the PDP. He is generally known by those around him as being very pious and frugal with state resources which he is always quick to say that he is only a custodian without a mandate to squander it.

His biggest strength and selling point is probably his policy on pension and gratuity. Retirees from the state civil service get their entitlements upfront, which enables them to have enough to better plan their lives. His rural transformation policy has witnessed the elevation of Primary Health Centres to full-fledged General Hospitals as well as construction of new ones and road construction.

Despite his achievements in rural development and other sectors as well as the pension and gratuity policy, Governor Dakingari continues to be slammed by the people for holding too tightly onto the purse strings of the state resources, considering the fact that Kebbi has one of the highest poverty rates in the country and there is a feeling that people should be empowered.

The governor has made some significant investments in the health sector, these efforts seem to have become another area his critics would point at as his weakness. Their argument is that building hospitals all over the state does not translate to having a sound health care system, especially considering the fact these hospitals have not been commissioned, neither are they equipped nor have the manpower to man them. On the other hand, doctors and nurses serving in the state according to officials of the various medical associations, are leaving en masse to take up appointments with the Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kebbi, Usman Danfodio Teaching Hospitals or in the neighbouring Sokoto and Zamfara states.

According to officials of the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA), about 16 doctors left the services of the state government for greener pastures, while those who had gone for further studies simply refused to return, but rather chose to take up appointments with various health institutions across the country. In the same vein, it is estimated that about 90 nurses left the state for the Federal Medical Centre and other places in the last two weeks.

Members of the PDP themselves are also considered to be a minus to the aspirations of the governor's second term bid. This is so because, although the governor has consistently reiterated his commitment to discouraging money politics, very few of them really show enough commitment to that call. The state governor is usually blamed for not releasing money for logistics, with just a handful of them willing to sacrifice their own personal resources to get things done to further the growth of the party in the state.

The biggest problem may be that of those who lost their tickets to return to the positions they currently hold. Some of these people, although have remained physically in the party, many of them are considering asking their supporters to pitch their tents with the CPC. According to one of them who spoke to Daily Sun, but refused to be named, he is seriously considering the option of sending his supporters to the CPC because there was no moral justification for his supporters to remain in a party that holds no future for them. Until something definite happens to keep them from their divided loyalties, the fear is that they may engage in what the Hausa call 'Kwakwa lema', meaning, working against their party while still in the party.

The other candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Malam, better known as Gari Malam, a retired Deputy Comptroller General of Customs is making his second attempt at occupying the Government House, Birnin Kebbi. Having contested against Dakingari in 2007 on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), he lost to him, after which both men were engaged in a long drawn election suit following a petition by Malam that he was the duly elected governor. Although Malam won at the lower tribunal, Dakingari won at the Appeal Court.

Although Malam does not have very much to bring to the table for now, as he never ruled the state, he has no baggage that would spoil his chances either. He is an experienced administrator having been Comptroller General, Finance and Administration. He also has his generosity and philanthropic activities to speak for him as he is said to have assisted so many people from the state during his days as a Customs officer. He also seems to be receiving the sympathy of some people, who felt he lost the last election because PDP played around with the results.

Another factor that could be a plus for him is the Muhammad Adamu Aliero factor which no politician worth his salt in the state should take lightly. Having spent eight years as governor, Aliero has amassed a huge political base and structure that could spring surprises anytime. Although having reportedly struck an agreement with Malam with whom he had been friends for over 30 years, he abandoned Malam for Dakingari in 2007, but obviously their over three decades friendship was able to overcome the political faceoff they had. Following his rift with Dakingari, Aliero mended fences with his old friend, and with his eventual departure from the PDP, he has thrown his weight behind Malam and the CPC which has helped turn around the fortunes of the party.

The biggest selling point of the CPC and Malam, however, is the General Muhammadu Buhari factor. The huge support base the former military leader has in the North-West makes everything attached to him saleable. With the name of Buhari attached to the CPC, the average Kebbi man needs no other introduction or any other reason to accept the party. With the recent hype about zoning that generated so much controversy, Buhari has become the person regarded as the North's only hope of power returning to the North. For this reason, the people of Kebbi, who are very passionate about power returning to the North, are willing to go all the way with the CPC and the gubernatorial candidate.

Even among supporters of the PDP and other political parties who still favour the return of power to the North, and who feel the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan is a betrayal of an agreement with the region, all seem to have some measure of support for the CPC which could see some members from other political parties including the PDP voting for CPC in the April elections, and this could be a major plus for Malam.

The third person in the race is Tanimu of the ACN. Generally regarded as an underdog in the race, Tanimu first aspired under the CPC, and was in fact, the person who bankrolled and gave the party a firm foundation before he was booted out with his supporters by the Aliero camp which moved into the party after leaving the PDP.

The biggest obstacle Tanimu has is that, many see him as a politician, who is bent on ruling Kebbi, but has simply refused to expand his political base. This could be the reason he has aspired for the same governorship position on the platform of virtually every major party in the state, and each time he gets pushed out by someone else before the main election.

This time, however, he will be having his picture on the ballot paper as the gubernatorial candidate of the ACN. Whether or not he has enough support to win remains entirely a different thing as very few people believe that he could make it. But in politics, some believe it is never over until it is over. So, Tanimu could still spring surprises going by the crowd he gathered at the Race Course in Birnin Kebbi for his campaign flag-off which had Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Chief Audu Ogbe in attendance with the ACN presidential candidate, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and his running mate, Mr. Fola Adeola..