Niger 2015: Who Let the Boys Out?

photo credit: umarnasko.com

photo credit: umarnasko.com

Niger State, without a doubt, is passing through the darkest phase in its political evolution. This is not about the failed development plans of the incumbent Governor or his foundationally flawed visions of having the economy of the state ranked among the three most developed in the country. This foreboding darkness is the chaos stirred up by the race to succeed him, in which famous families are, more than ever, actively involved, as though they’ve finally realised the need to re-establish themselves in the new world that seems to have forgotten about them.

Sadly, just a few months to the governorship election, there’s no aspirant who clearly fits into the word “progressive”, one previously involved, even if individually, in the struggles for liberation of the state; just a clique of political opportunists and politically insular children of the silent kingmakers buying off the people, in exploiting the poverty and naiveté of government-dependent civil servants, artisans and street toughs, highlighting politics of money, instead of ideas. Yet, none of these contenders is capable of matching even the current Governor’s pre-governorship credentials.

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day, and, while resisting his ploy to lure me to a candidate’s camp, I asked: “Beyond the heavy pocket, who is X?” And so also would be asked of those piggyback politicians who may end up as pawns of moneyed fathers and godfathers, all desperate to gain or consolidate political powers and relevance.

I’ve actually stopped being overly idealistic, only cautious despite my inclination to realpolitik. What, however, displeases me is how we’ve fallen even in the quality of aspirants whose cluelessness may be overlooked. This is the reason I think we’re doomed. If the Governor Aliyus fail to redeem Niger, I fear for these successors, especially the ones under their shadows.

One of them, Umar Nasko, the son of a former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, General Gado Nasko, is a marked character in the shadow of the present Governor. While some attribute this privilege to the Governor’s show of gratitude as public servant under the senior Nasko in the FCT ministry, a section has found as suspicious the renewed relationship between the governor and Nasko, for the latter, as a Commissioner, has once been reportedly dismissed by the government for misappropriating funds meant, according to several accounts, for the “proposed” 5-star hotel in Minna.

Umar Nasko’s “biography”, shared on his campaign website – http://www.umarnasko.com – is the sorriest tosh I’ve ever tortured my senses to read; a failed attempt to romanticize several embarrassing non-events in his bid to promote himself as an achiever, the opposite of what he really is.

That biographical sketch is enough to crush the man’s political ambition even before this frustrated takeoff, and it has nothing to do with his academic hassles. Even though the constitution makes Secondary School Leaving Certificate a qualification for becoming a governor, it beats me that our politicians, especially those with no impressive records always bother to cover up their deficiency with, as is the case with Nasko, atrocious, incoherent and clearly “suspicious” rants of the semi-literate.

Nasko ought to be celebrated as a product of a generation yearning for the involvement of the youth in politics. But it’s unfortunate that, as a self-promoted representative of that same generation, he could not task a “literate” team with defining and selling his personality and ideas.Anyone close to Nasko should advise him to have that embarrassment on his website taken down or rewritten.

Obviously, we cannot afford judging the contenders based on ultra-progressive principles. If we apply that, we may end up with nobody qualified to lead the state. I will also not join the critics who have dismissed them as too youthful and inexperienced. What matters is the sincerity of their mission. What matters is our understanding of the youth who ride on destructive opportunism, and those conscious and competent, despite being beneficiaries of our systemic political opportunism. For, in Nigeria today, with every youthful Saminu Turaki, there’s a youthful Donald Duke.Youth doesn’t mean incompetence, just as old age isn’t wisdom. Which is why honest criticism of all candidates ought to be done at the launch of their aspiration.

The last fifteen years of democracy in Niger State have been a great leap backwards, and this can be understood in comparing Minna under the civilians to the aesthetically grander Minna of 1990s, under the military, with functional streetlights and flowered central reservations and vibrant economic activities and social life. This is a simple indication of our misfortune since the coming of this democracy. That a people are celebrating streetlights as achievements today, which were in existence in the same place in the 90s, is a reason to lose sleep.

As the people of Niger state roll out the drums to bid Governor Aliyu goodbye for eight years of eloquent speeches, and delightful showmanship, we all have to agree that he was a promising leader, visionary, progressive, cerebral and, very importantly, independent(!), but how he ended up even more confused than his predecessor whose administration he dismissed as fraudulent on assuming power, is a story for patient historians. That we’ve fallen from the “standard” of the Governor Aliyus of 2007 to that of the General’s children in the 2015 race is a frightening situation. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda On Twitter

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