Ahead of Sunday’s runoff of the Nigerien presidential poll, mixed reactions have continued to trail the purported push by a renowned Katsina billionaire, Alhaji Dahiru Mangal, for the country’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Bazoum, to clinch the seat.
Before the first round of the election, Mangal, who is one of the top investors in the Nigerien oil and gas sector, donated campaign vehicles (said to be 100) to Bazoum, the anointed candidate of the outgoing president of the country, Mahamadou Issoufou. The donation, Daily Trust on Saturday gathered, created uproar in the Nigerien political space.
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Bazoum and 29 other contestants were unable to garner 50.1% of the total votes cast as required by the country’s constitution to emerge the winner in the December 27 presidential poll, hence Sunday’s second round.
Results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, CENI, Nigerien electoral body of the December poll, showed that Bazoum – the candidate of the ruling party, Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), scored 39.33 percent with 1,879,000 votes, while former President Mohammed Ousmane scored 16.99 percent with 811,838 votes.
Former prime ministers Seini Oumarou and Albade Abouba respectively came third and fourth with 8.95 percent and 7.07 percent of the ballots.
Aside the donation of vehicles, a source around Bazoum, said the Katsina-born business tycoon has been reaching out to his preferred candidate, an intervention that reportedly gave him an edge over other candidates. He was said to have met with the former Foreign Affairs minister on Tuesday in Niamey,
Campaign ended on Friday
The campaigns for the second round election ended on Friday, 24 hours to the poll. Mangal’s intervention is being seen as interference in the country’s internal affairs by members of the opposition.
A Nigerien journalist in Niamey told one of our correspondents that the business mogul met with Bazoum on Tuesday. He said Mangal was supporting Bazoum secretly, saying he has never participated in the campaign publicly.
“His support for Bazoum is to protect his investment. In the last 10 years, he has been very close to the government. While those in government are happy with his intervention, those in the opposition are against it. They see it as interference.
“The 100 vehicles donated by Mangal assisted the ruling party in their campaigns. He has been meeting with Bazoum; the last one was on Tuesday. He has never participated in our campaigns,” the journalist said in a phone interview on Thursday.
Why Mangal is supporting ruling party – Citizens
In Kano, some citizens of Niger Republic residing at Kurna and Rijiyar Lemo area of the state said they are not surprised that Mangal is pushing for the candidature of Bazoum.
Zubairu Yahaya, 43, said Mangal is supporting Bazoum’s bid for presidency to protect his business interest in the country, cutting across oil and gas, and transport.
“Mangal has been part of the present government in our country and will continue to be because of his interest. He has been a good friend to the sitting President Muhammad Issoufu and definitely must support Bazoum to protect his businesses.
“Aside the 100 vehicles donated, my uncle who is also a politician in Niger told me that Mangal sponsored Nigerian actresses to campaign for Bazoum. They were there with different types of songs and held different shows to woo electorate for Bazoum,” Zubairu said.
Another Nigerien residing in Kano, Garba Abubakar, said with or without Mangal’s support, Bazoum will win the second round of the election.
He said it will be difficult for the opposition to defeat the ruling party in Niger Republic, adding that: “People have already predicted Bazoum’s victory. Mangal has contributed to the PNDS candidate and he is in total support. His support is unusual because he is a Nigerian.”
Nura Usman, who was in Niger during the campaign in December 2020, said he saw stickers of Mangal and Bazoum on cars.
For Saleh Abdoulmuminu, the electioneering in Niger was going on peacefully, predicting the victory of Bazoum.
“I believe he will win because he is from the ruling party. If not that the country decided to be a little democratic, we will not even have gotten to the stage we are now. We led in the general election and they could have gone ahead to declare him winner,” he said.
Asked about his opinion on the intervention of Mangal, Abdoulmuminu, who came back from home late last week, said he was not aware of any of such intervention.
May God decides the best for us – Citizen
On his part, the Vice Chairman of the Association of Nigeriens living in Nigeria, Alhaji Alkassim Maigari, said as far as the runoff was concerned; it is like a pregnant woman, that only God knows what is going to happen during delivery.
“Victory is from Allah and only Him can decide who will emerge victorious and the one who will not. Our hope and prayer is that Allah will choose the best for the country, the one that will be able to tackle the developmental challenges in the country and do his best to deal with them,” he said.
On Mangal’s intervention, Maigari said, “Yes, while it is true that he has supported one party with campaign vehicles, I think that should not be an issue because he supported all other parties as well.
“As far as we know, different parties and different groups have come seeking for his assistance on one thing or the other and he always renders such assistance. So, if one party is saying Mangal has helped another with something, they should also be honest enough to state what he has given them.”
Also, Malam Yusouf Fari, the ruling party’s candidate may likely win the election even though not his favourite.
“I prefer the opposition party’s candidate because we want to see some changes on the running of affairs of our country. If the ruling party wins the runoff, it will just be a continuation of the out-going administration of Mahammadou Issoufou,” he said.
Mangal mum on allegation
Several efforts to get Mangal’s reaction on the issue yielded no result. For two weeks, efforts were made to reach him through his mobile phone and aides. The first effort was through one of his aides, Dabo Yari, who said his boss was away on February 2. Based on advice by one of his aides, two messages were sent to his WhatsApp number; the first was on February 8 and the second was sent on 16. Similarly, text messages were sent to his mobile phone.
Ismail Mudashir (Abuja), Zahraddeen Yakubu Shuaibu (Kano) & Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina)