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Babangida’s son, Mohammed for Niger East Senate seat


Former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida

Baring last minute change in political strategy, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Babangida has been penciled down as the senatorial candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for Niger East senatorial district of Niger State.

Mohammed, the heir apparent to Babangida’s political dynasty is to replace David Umar who is currently serving his second term in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.

One does not need to be a soothsayer to know that there is no love lost between the senator who is a lawyer and the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello who, like Mohammed, is son of a former military top brass, retired Col. Sani Bello, one time Military Governor of Kano State and a business mogul.

Rather than hit the ground running in 2015 when the two of them were elected on the platform of the APC, they were at each other’s jugular struggling for the soul of the senatorial district, peopled mainly by the Gwaris.

The senator is relying on his visibly extra ordinary performance like provision of infrastructures such as rural access roads, potable water, scholarships, skill acquisition projects and legal defence to the constituents among others.

Though a Christian, the lawmaker had left nobody in doubt that he is not a religious bigot and has been relating with people of all religions in his constituency without any form of discrimination.

From the very inception of the APC administration in the state, the senator had vowed to kick against any form of discrimination and oppression against the Gwaris in Niger State, as was the practice with successive governments in the past.

The chaplain of Bowen University, Iwo in Osun State, Dr. Yusuf Ayuba who is also a Gwari, in an interview with The Guardian, was full of praises for the lawmaker whom he described as a liberator saying, “For long Gwaris have suffered untold deprivation in Niger State, so if the senator is standing to tell the truth to power, so be it. He has my total support.”

The governor on his part believed he had not denied the Gwaris any right. An APC chieftain who prefers anonymity described the senator as a rabble-rouser adding, “The senator lacks party discipline and that is his problem. I’m sure the governor has no problem with the Gwaris.”

The choice of Babangida as a replacement for Umar is probably anchored on political influence the family name conjures and the long time relationship between the governor who is son in-law to former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Babangida’s neighbour. Another factor the governor might be relying upon to dislodge Umar is religion as the senator belongs to the minority religion in the state.

A member of the ruling party, from Zone B which is the senator’s senatorial district, Alhaji Usman Aliyu confided in The Guardian in Minna that the emergence of Babangida as a senatorial candidate of the party in Zone B will be counter productive saying, “The truth of the matter is that these children of big men in the state don’t have respect for party officials believing that it is their father’s name that got them the position they occupy and many of them don’t believe in contributing financially to the party.”

One thing that opponents of the senator are counting against him is his inability to play politics the Nigerian way. His political associates are of the view that he lacks the capacity to stoop to conquer.

Due to his relatively short experience in politics, he may not have known that only few lawmakers at both the state and national levels can beat their chests and say their victory at the polls was strictly by their ability and not through the assistance of their governors.

For Umar, he felt it is enough that when a politician has, for a long time engaged in the struggle for his people, things will begin to fall in place for him forgetting that in politics two plus two is not always four.

The Guardian reliably gathered that political associates of the governor are still entertaining the fear that the senator may be clandestinely oiling his machineries for governorship position come 2019.

Umar had on two occasions under the recent democratic experiment, tried his luck for governorship seat but failed or rigged out by the powers that be. Mohammed Babangida on his part has no political structure aside from his father’s name. For a long time, political associates of General Babangida have been advising him to give support to the political aspiration of his son.

In the buildup to the 2015 election, Mohammed Babangida was propelled by friends and the younger generation of his father’s political family to run for House of Representatives, representing Wushushi local government but the general was against such move. His reason was that though the Babangida family was originally from Wushishi, they had lived all their lives in Minna and would not because of politics; now turn around to say they are from Wushishi.

This time around, the General may have no reason to oppose his son’s ambition since Minna is part of the senatorial district. All efforts to speak with Mohammed on this matter proved abortive as he was said not to be available.

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