task of managing Obasanjo's image in Niger
From Akin Alofetekun, Minna
SELLING President Olusegun
Obasanjo's candidacy to the Niger State electorate in 2003 may
be difficult. And the perceived difficulty is hinged on the
performance of the President in the last three years.
But Alhaji Halidu Adamu Maishanu, the Jarman Zazzau
Suleja, the man saddled with the responsibility of
co-ordinating the electorate in Niger for the Obasanjo/Atiku
2003 campaign is not a novice in the business of political
He exhibited this attribute when he took the battle to the
doorstep of the perceived opponents of the President in the
The co-ordinator's dilemma is more apparent following a
recent incident in the state when the leadership of the state
administration and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took a
decision that bordered on anti-party activity. They publicly
confirmed their romance with the National Democratic Party
(NDP) and threatened to dump the PDP for NDP if some
conditions were not met. Or still, should Obasanjo again
emerge as the party's presidential candidate for next year's
"It is not surprising that Maishanu chose these two enemy
zones as the first port of call. That is what we call
political sagacity," Alhaji Adamu Gogo Eren an ardent
supporter of Obasanjo said in Minna.
Few people in the crowd that accompanied the co-ordinator
to the State Secretariat of the PDP who in Government House,
Minna were actually surprised to see only the party's
secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Azozo, out of the members of the
executives of the party receiving the team.
The state's acting governor, Dr. Shehu Zagbayi Nuhu, was
away on an assignment addressing students of the state School
of Health Technology in Minna at the time he was to receive
Maishanu and his team.
Azozo, a young but versatile political tactician who was
visibly surprised and embarrassed at the large turnout of
party faithful, including party executives at local council
and ward levels, was quick to explain why only him was on hand
to receive the Obasanjo Presidential Campaign team.
"When I learnt of this visit I was looking forward to
receiving only this complete gentleman, Alhaji Halidu
Maishanu, possibly self-driven from Suleja, to present his
letter of appointment as Co-ordinator of the Obasanjo
Presidential Campaign. I never thought the entourage will be
this large," he said.
Azozo warned party executives in the team against conducts
that will create impressions that the PDP in the state had
already endorsed a candidate.
He nonetheless formally received Maishanu's "Letter of
Credence" as Obasanjo's campaign ambassador to Niger State,
promising that other executive members of the party would be
intimated with the contents of the letter.
On the field, Maishanu and his fellow campaigners will
definitely meet an electorate whose minds are already poisoned
over promises said to have been made before 1999 election,
which had remained largely unfulfilled.
Nonetheless, Maishanu's experience as an active participant
in the Second Republic politics would stand him in good stead
over the anti-Obasanjo forces within his party. They may
really be few but they are powerful.
Giving vent to this feeling, Azozo had expressed his desire
to meet with the co-ordinator in camera to avail him with
certain misgivings the citizens of the state have against
Obasanjo. The misgivings, according to inside sources, are
connected with the non-actualisation of the Hydroelectric
Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC), which
four states, namely Kwara, Kogi, Benue and Niger have been
clamouring for, has been championing the cause.
Others issues are the Jebba-Mokwa, Pujam-Kantongora roads
as well as the Shiroro Bridge, which are in disrepair.
Maishanu was said to have told the party scribe, a fellow
kinsman from Suleja, that all hopes were not lost on these
In an interview with journalists later, Maishanu expressed
his support for the demands being put before Mr. President on
behalf of the people of the state.
"The demands can be met today, tomorrow or next since that
cry is for the masses, I will join and ask the Federal
Government to send more funds to Niger State.
"But what I will not agree is for anybody to say that the
Obasanjo administration has done nothing for the state.
Whoever says Niger State wants more or deserves more, we need
more, I will say yes, we deserve more. So you can see that the
state of the leadership of the administration in the state is
conditional, in the sense that they need something and that
thing too I know it and when it comes, don't be surprised they
Maishanu educated those holding Obasanjo responsible for
the non-actualisation of the HYPPADEC bill to think again
because "if the bill is passed today, the President would
assent it the following day."
His words: "The issue of HYPPADEC is in the pipeline. The
problem is not with Obasanjo. I was opportuned to be with my
federal legislator, who briefed me on the stage it has
reached. The House, and not Obasanjo, has stopped debate on it
for now for certain political and reasons, otherwise it will
reach a stage where if they push it too much it may fail and
cannot be re-presented.
"Obasanjo is a person who listens carefully to people's
cries, but considering the economic situation in the country,
when he finds it possible Obasanjo will fulfil these promises
which are between the head of administration in Niger State
He debunked the insinuation that the PDP in Niger State had
put him off by the secretary's assertion that the party had
not decided on a presidential candidate.
"The party is right at this stage to say that it has not
got a candidate for the presidency. True, there is no
candidate yet, what we have now are presidential aspirants.
The party being a parent of this organisation should not be in
haste. Otherwise people might think that they are taking
sides, so they are right. Each aspirant will have his team
that is selling him and we are here to sell Obasanjo and
Maishanu emphasised in his address that as a child of the
party, the Obasanjo campaign organisation would among other
things, "do everything possible to protect the party's image."
"I find it expedient as an obedient member of the PDP to
call on you first before identifying my campaign office.
"We shall encourage you to prepare a smooth ground for the
game, encourage you to accommodate all PDP aspirants as your
children and also support you to conduct a free and fair
primary election. I call on all who may lose at the primaries
to join the winner in campaigning for the general election
coming ahead", he said.
He pledged his organisation's preparedness "to conduct its
affairs in line with the PDP rules. We hope that you will bear
with us. We will always relate and refer to you when and where
ever the need arises so that when the directorate finally
hands over the winning team of Obasanjo and Atiku as
candidates, we will all find it simpler and easier to deliver