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Political assassinations push Nigeria under siege and raise fears over general elections

LogoDaily Independent Online.         * Wednesday, March 19, 2003.

Obasanjo penetrates ANPP stronghold in the North

By Vincent Obia

Daily Independent, Birnin Kebbi

It was a bright sunny day, March 13, in Birnin Kebbi, the capital of Kebbi State, and as is usual with seasons like this, there was dryness all around. Little eddies of the harmattan wind were whirling dry leaves and dust into spirals, which were occasionally made furious by the tyres of moving vehicles, creating a somewhat dusty atmosphere.

But those did not deter the massive crowd of enthusiastic residents from thronging the Haliru Abdul Stadium early that morning to catch a glimpse of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was visiting Kebbi State in continuation of his campaigns in the states ahead of next month’s presidential election.

Though the three All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) governors of Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto States. Adamu Aliero, Ahmed Sani and Attahiru Bafarawa, respectively, had come to receive the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate at the Sokoto airport in what many considered an unusual magnanimity, back in Kebbi, not much in the official media depicted an occasion of the magnitude of a presidential visit.

In most other states where the President had campaigned, the state radio and television stations broadcast the occasions live. Here, only the Kebbi State radio made live coverage of Obasanjo’s visit, Kebbi State Television Service (KBTV) did not . Shuaibu Mungadi, director of publicity of the PDP governorship candidate, Alhaji Saidu Sambawa’s campaign, said the management of the TV station had been prompted by the state government to make the live coverage impossible.

However, down in the streets of Birnin Kebbi, celebration was in the air, and there seemed to be no colour in anything except the posters that were pasted everywhere to herald the coming of the President. And the mere conscious distinction in the features of the posters were quite expressive of his message to the people.

Obasanjo was robed in the royal Hausa/Fulani trado-religious attire and turbaned like a member of their traditional council. The Arabic captions on the posters, which had Vice- President Atiku Abubakar standing behind Obasanjo, tended to complete the Presidential message to the people of Kebbi State.

“I am one of your own, and promise to represent your social, cultural, and political interest at all times, so elect me this last time,” Obasanjo seemed to be telling the people.

The call was apparently, well received by the crowd of hilarious spectators who roared in frequent chants of “Sai Baba,” meaning “only Baba,” as the President addressed the rally. One young man at the stadium communicating in sparse English, said this was the shout of a people hungry for change.

He meant in reference to the ANPP state government. As the federal level, the people were quite already resolved that “only Baba” was their man for the presidency, Baba being a sobriquet for Obasanjo. Their songs in the Hausa language were a humorous indication of the people’s belief in the Obasanjo/Atiku “continuity 2003 project.”

Quite customarily, complaints and promises are major features of political campaigns of this nature, and both the President and the people of Kebbi State, in Nigeria’s North West geo-political zone, did their best to keep their ends up. Alhaji Abubakar Koko, the North West coordinator of the Obasanjo campaign complained about what he called the frequent harassment and intimidation of PDP supporters in the ANPP-controlled state, and asked for the President’s intervention.

The PDP governorship candidate in the state, Dr. Saidu Sambawa, in his address elaborated on the PDP-Federal Government’s previous achievements in the state, and presented some requests on behalf of the people of Kebbi State.

“I will mention with pride few of the numerous developmental projects executed by the Federal Government in Kebbi State under your able leadership,” Sambawa said.

“Rehabilitation of the Kalgo-Jega road, which had defied six administrations of the state, the historic commissioning of which we had just witnessed today. This project cost the Federal Government over N1.1 billion. The construction of Rijau-Riba-Wasagu road, which gulped over N1.6 billion; electrification of Wara Kol-Gulma Yeldu Bagudo, kaoje towns etc, which are at various stages of completion.”

The PDP-led Federal Government had also sunk over 50 boreholes in Bunza, Gulma, Alwasa, Mungadi, Argungu, Kwalaye, kaoje, Zamare, Illo Koko and other villages across the state. The Federal Government has also provided funds for the development of education in the state. Educational institutions like Waziri Umaru Polytechnic, College of Education, Argungu, and College of Agriculture, Zunu, under the Education Trust Fund.”

Sambawa also expressed the people’s appreciation over the appointment of more than 30 indigenes of the state into the boards of various corporations and parastatals. But he also requested the construction of the 22 km road linking Kangiwa and Bachaka towns on the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic; the 40km Bali-Mahuta-Koko road, the 50km Koko-Dakin Gari-Bunza road, the 44km Milala-Ngaski-Warra road etc, and the “completion of Argungu-Kangiwa bridge, which cost the Federal Government over 147 million naira.

Sambawa requested the Obasanjo government to sink at least 30 boreholes in each of the state’s 41 local government councils, “ and 40 each at Arewa, Augie Dandi Baba-Wasagu, and Sakaba local governments due to peculiarity of their respective areas. The President, visibly relishing the enthusiasm and size of the crowd at his campaign rally enthused, “What we are saying is that whatever we have done in three years under my administration will be small compared to what we will do if given the chance come April.”

He promised to construct, in his second term, the Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi-Kano road, and four other major roads in the state. Obasanjo also pledged to construct the three bridges across River Argungu, and complete the Zauro Polder irrigation project, in addition to extending telephone services to all nooks and crannies of the state.

He solicited for peace in the forthcoming elections. “ I want to beg you one thing. For us to make any progress at all levels, we need peace. Do not let anybody give PDP a bad name as to make any of you commit political violence,” the President warned and advised, “we have to prove to the world that we have come of age, and that we are capable of transiting from one civilian government to another.”

Of all the highlights of the Obasanjo rally in Kebbi State, one that  seems to stand out was the ruggedly discomforting implications for the ruling ANPP government in the state. Many observers think that the commissioning of the 36km Kalgo-Jega road, a federal project, by Obasanjo, in the full glare of the state governor, Adamu Aliero, and residents of the state had been somewhat contrived to disclaim rumours that the road was built by the  state government. Daily Independent learnt that the Aliero government had only been a contractor to the Federal Government, which has since fully paid for the road project.

However, according to Umar Affande, director of press affairs in the office of the governor, “People merely believed what they saw the state government doing.” He said the Aliero government was the most important factor in the construction of the road, but denied that the government had at any time claimed the financing of the project.

But that does not seem to convince many in the words of Samaila Danko, a civil servant in the state. “The commissioning of the Kalgo-Jega road remains one of the biggest bruises to the ego of the Aliero government. The government had for long claimed the project as one of its focal achievements, and we all had believed them.” Besides, the call by the Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Al-Mustapha Haruna Jokolo on Obasanjo to try to reach understanding with the ANPP presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the next elections is seen as pregnant with implications, which are certainly not favourable to the ANPP government in Kebbi State.

Jokolo had during a courtesy call on his palace by the President advised him to dialogue with Buhari and cooperate with him in the presidential poll. One man who described himself as a youth activist and political commentator believed “that might just be an indirect announcement of the decision of the Northern elders and leaders to elect Obasanjo but not to throw away outright, Buhari, whose PTF had done a lot of unforgettable things in this part of the country, especially road construction.”




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