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Presidential poll: Why Masari wielded the big stick

On February 25, Nigerians went to the polls to decide their next set of leaders. Votes were cast, collated and results were announced. In the…

On February 25, Nigerians went to the polls to decide their next set of leaders. Votes were cast, collated and results were announced.

In the presidential election in Katsina State, two major parties, expectedly, made the boldest appearance, namely the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, garnered 482,283 votes in the state, his major contender, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP received 489,045 votes, making him 6,762 votes ahead of the ruling party’s candidate.

This was considered an upset, for some reasons, in Katsina. One, is that the state is the home of President Muhammadu Buhari “the father of APC’’; and another is that the party is ruling in the state making it one of the major hopes of the APC’s candidate, with governor Aminu Masari as one of the major proponents of power shift to the South in 2023 and a major supporter of the Tinubu presidency.

However, two things came as a great relief to the state leadership: Tinubu’s defeat in Lagos by the opposition Labour Party, which made it look easier for the party to be defeated elsewhere, and his eventual declaration as winner of the election.

A defeat, no matter how slight, is a defeat and that did not go down well with the Katsina State governor, and his party, who suspected some foul play during the election and thus was determined to take action to achieve two major objectives. First, to reprove those reasonably suspected to be responsible and secondly, to avoid reoccurrence in the forthcoming governorship election.

Ostensibly irked by the outcome of the elections and determined to achieve the above objectives, Governor Masari terminated the appointments of four top government officials, the first set of recipients of his fury.

They include the state Commissioner for Works and Housing, Tasi’u Dahiru Dandagoro; the Permanent Secretary, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Fatima Ahmed; her counterpart at the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Aminu Waziri, as well as the Chairman, Katsina State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Yusuf Barmo.

According to a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Muntari Lawal all the appointments were terminated with immediate effect.

The next set of appointees dismissed by the governor, also through another statement by the SSG, were the Executive Director, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Babangida Mohammed Nasamu; Chairman, Governing Board of the Katsina State Transport Authority (KTSTA), Bilyaminu Mohammed Rimi; the Special Adviser to the governor on Girl-child Education and Child Development, Amina Lawal Dauda and lastly, Malam Shitu S. Shitu, the state secretary of the APC, who was relieved from his position as a member of the state pilgrims welfare board.

Although the government in its different statements on the termination of appointments, claimed that the dismissals were part of a move to make some strategic realignment and adjustment in the state cabinet, the action came with raised a lot of speculations. Many said it was in connection with the defeat of the president-elect and some other contestants during the presidential and National Assembly elections, including a former commissioner of sports in the state. Those who lost the elections included Alhaji Sani Aliyu Danlami, a close political associate of Governor Masari, who lost to the PDP in the House of Representatives polls.

Danlami has, however, been reappointed by the governor and redeployed to his former ministry of sports.

A source close to the governor, who didn’t want his name in print, said, “It is not speculation, the real reason for the termination of their appointments was that the governor was able to verify beyond reasonable doubt that they all engaged in anti-APC activities during the last election.

“Take the works commissioner for instance, he was commissioner for eight years under Governor Masari, but just because somebody is giving him directives, he decided to work against the interest of the person that gave him the privilege to work as commissioner for eight years. Such a person needed not be told that he had overstayed his welcome,” the source said.

“Take also the Executive Director of SEMA. He was with the Katsina State Transport Authority, but due to reported infractions against him, a committee of inquiry was set up to investigate him. The committee indicted him and a white paper was issued in that regard, but the governor, in his leniency, considering his relationship with Alhaji Dahiru Mangal, decided to redeploy him to SEMA, because if that white paper was implemented, he could not hold any public office again. But look at what he did against the interest of the person that did this favour to him.

“Lastly, the S.A. on Girl Child. She was reliably reported by somebody in her household, that she was giving instructions to people at a polling unit close to her to vote for the opposition party. And that person, of her blood and flesh, was called to testify against her.

“These were a few of their antecedents and if you take each of the affected officials you will see that the governor has been very lenient to them. He fully verified all the allegations against them before dismissing them. He was also aware of their positions even before the election but decided to give them the benefit of doubt, to see if they will reciprocate his kind gesture.

“So, all those sacked or dismissed have worked against APC during the presidential and National Assembly elections despite receiving salaries and other privileges from the coffers of the state government for years,” the sources said.

Apart from outright dismissals, there were also other spiraling effects of the situation which include the suspension of the state Secretary of the APC, Malam Shitu S. Shitu and its legal adviser, Barrister Nasiru Umar Wagini, from the party. A number of party officials in Batagarawa local government were also suspended while the appointments of some political appointees in Jibia local government were terminated.

The State Working Committee of the party, in a statement, said the suspension of the party officials was pending the findings of an investigation into the matter.

The party, in a statement signed by its chairman, Sani Ali Ahmed, said it had inaugurated a committee to investigate the embattled secretary and the legal adviser.

Daily Trust also gathered that most of the affected officials were close to the Katsina-based business tycoon, Alhaji Dahiru Mangal, who was hitherto a close political ally of Governor Masari, but recently appeared to be distancing himself from APC activities in the state.

Some political observers argue that those dismissed from service or suspended by the governor will join forces with opposition parties, especially the PDP, which their political godfather, Mangal, is alleged to have been working for, to ensure that the ruling APC is defeated in the state in the March 11 gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections.

However, a source at the Katsina government house told our reporter that at the moment the business mogul was looking for ways to mend his relationship with the governor.

He said: “This could be because the opposition party did not win the presidency. As we speak, he is making effort to reach out to the governor, with the view to rejoining forces with him, including making calls and sending his support ahead of the governorship and state assembly elections.”

Efforts to hear from the government’s spokesperson proved abortive as both the Commissioner for Information and Home Affairs, Abdulkarim Sirika, and the Director-General (New Media) to the governor, Al-Amin Isah, did not either pick calls or responded to text messages sent to them as at the time of filing this report.

However, on Tuesday told a foreign radio station that the officials were sacked for anti-party activities during the last elections.

“One thing you need to understand is that I know from where any of my appointees came into the government and I know what is happening in all the places. Soon after state primaries last year, some people were dissatisfied but I didn’t dismiss any of our political appointees not because I didn’t know their stand.

“But when it came to elections and these people used government resources to campaign against us without any fear of retribution, why then should I condone that behaviour?  Had they not been that bold and decided to just go and cast their votes, I wouldn’t even know whether that they voted for us or not,” he told the Hausa Service of DW radio.

He said they have reasonable evidence against each of the affected officials providing their inactions.

“As we speak, there are others who are still in government but because we did not confirm beyond reasonable doubt, they are still in their positions because they did not campaign against us.’’

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