My expression of cynicism last week, in my take on the generational chaos that is the contest to succeed Governor Aliyu in 2015, has sparked a torrent of reactions, fierce from the devastated camps and patronising from like-minded Nigerlites. The defenders of the former group have savaged me with accusation of mine being an unfair and “incomplete” criticism of the process. I want to clarify the meat of that criticism here.
My observation that the frontrunners in the marathon to Government House, Minna, is dominated by the children of the Old Powers, the power-brokering military overlords, whose children have now come of age and are ready to re-establish and amplify their family name, pride and fortunes in a society that seems to have forgotten about them, was not a mischievous portrayal as countered. It is my honest identification of the aspirants, especially the poster-child of PDP, Umar Nasko, son of General Gado Nasko, and even of the retreating Mohammed Babangida, whose father, former Head of State General Babangida, is reportedly unenthusiastic about his bid. In APC, the frontsman is Abubakar Sani Bello, son-in-law of former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar and member of a Forbes-recognised family—his father, a former military Governor of Kano, Colonel Sani Bello, has been ranked among the 50 richest Africans.
The happiest dissenters may be the handlers of Mustapha Bello, who have insisted that their principal, who is not from a modest background either, who is the younger brother of the Forbes-recognised entrepreneur and uncle to the APC frontsman Abubakar Sani Bello – shouldn’t have been categorised amongst the younger aspirants.
They argue that Mustapha Bello does not fit into my declaration that we have no marked progressives in the race, ignoring my definition of the progressive in the context as “one previously involved, even if individually, in the struggles for liberation of the state”. That definition is in distinction from an emergency politician who only appears in the political space and in people’s consciousness at the point of seeking elective office, the sort who then self-brands himself as a “progressive”.
I also compared our present poor crop of aspirants to Governor Aliyu, highlighting the incumbent’s advantages, which unsettled them more.
The reference to “credentials” in my occasional praises of Governor Aliyu was not merely a recognition of our Governor’s pre-governorship achievements—as a legislator, highflying bureaucrat and of course his Ph.D in Public Policy and Strategic Studies, which complemented his cultural responsibility as a title-holding, fanfare-sponsoring “man of the people”, an unofficial populist, as testified to by witnesses of his aristocratic tendencies and largesse in the old Minna!
Yes, it’s not praise for the man’s academic feats, and even though he’s favoured by the establishment, Mustapha Bello’s political resilience isn’t even as remarkable as that of David Umaru who, unlike fellow serial aspirants, haven’t fizzled out or joined the winning PDP since defection, and has thus remained the soul of opposition politics, becoming a political activist in his longstanding tracking and analyses of Governor’s administration. Though the zoning formula, which I don’t even endorse anyway, favours Mustapha Bello’s senatorial district this term, his handlers may not even promote his candidacy on that pedestal, for he had challenged the re-election bid of the then incumbent Governor Abdulkadir Kure, in the 2003 elections.The next two terms of the next eight years are, by the designs of our power-brokering elite, for the people of Niger North of which all foremost aspirants are constituents.
In the case of Umar Nasko, Abubakar Bello and Mohammed Babangida, and other younger aspirants, the last column wasn’t an attempt to criminalise their descents or fault their academic achievements, for they are representatives of a sidelined generation, a generation plugged into modern ideas waiting for opportunities to establish the place of the youth in a country where the redemption of the people is assumed to rest on the shoulders of frail old men. So, my column wasn’t an attack of Umar Nasko. I only set out to advise his handlers to engage competent hands in managing his personality and ideas, for in spite of any shortcomings, he’s just as qualified to vie as the rest of them.
We live in a country of deep-rooted political patriarchy where the ambitions of youthful aspirants are trivialised and mocked by fellow youths, having, over the years, been crushed to the lower rungs of our socio-political existence by a destructive gerontocracy. The youth may not be the answer for salvation of this dysfunctional system, but their audacity to vie in a system that doesn’t praise their active participations in the power game, without being dismissed as too youthful, is a triumph for our generation.
So far, the line up for the guber marathon is an amusing commentary on the biology of our politicians. While a people are discussing the audacious emergence of a 39-year-old Umar Nasko, being the youngest in the race, there is, in the race, a 73-year-old Senator Nuhu Aliyu, older than the fathers of the aspirants, older than General Babangida, older than Colonel Sani Bello, and, wait for it, born in the same year as Umar Nasko’s father. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda