By Lawal Sa’idu Funtua, Katsina
As the years shrink to months and months to days, 2023 will soon be here — to usher in the mother of all power plays. It will be a jostle like no other, that will eventually put to rest several unsettled questions agitating the minds of many Nigerians at the moment. On the front burner is the question of which zone should power move to, and who would take the batton?
The first clause of the question could, in some sense, find a ready answer as informed by the current climate of opinion that considers the South-west as an automatic heir to the presidency, on account of the historical antecedent from 1999. All three primary regions — West, East and North, have taken their turns regardless of political platform. Towing this line of argument, proponents of this school of thought pontificate to the effect that the South-west is next in line.
Counter-arguments notwithstanding, this appears to be a more realist line of argument, if for no other reason, for the fact that the South-west has to some degree invested in a northern presidency and has managed to maintain a strong cross-regional alliance, and therefore expects this alliance to work in its favour come 2023. This argument also sounds plausible because reciprocity of support has always been a feature of Nigerian politics.
In any case, on the other side of the equation is the North-west which has positioned itself as an indispensable political bloc, on account of its humongous population that translates to a large, formidable army of voters. Even historically, from the First Republic to date, the region has always maintained a comfortable lead on the political scene. Likely, 2023 will not be any different. Thus, as power moves to the South-west in 2023, by human projections, the party to beat may have to look to the North-west for a political heavyweight to fill the second place.
Sieving among serving and ex- governors and legislators and other political juggernauts in the north as a whole or the North-west in particular, Aminu Bello Masari, the one-million-vote governor, readily comes to mind. He is among few politicians in the region that have managed to maintain almost twenty years of unbroken relevance in the national political space. Rising from a House of Representatives member to Speaker, to a founder and chieftain in the Congress for Progressives Change, CPC, and later the All Progressives Congress, APC, to Governor of Katsina State, Rt. Hon. Masari could be said to have paid his dues in full and would be a magnet of support for any team he ends up in.
With a track record of investing in the common man for about four decades, Masari’s political star could keep shining for as long as he remains in politics. Aside his sterling record of performance in the green chamber, he stood as a bridge builder and beacon of national unity through one of the most turbulent periods in the country’s democratic experience. At the peak of the Third Term saga, the Masari-led House of Representatives was, some would say, the only vocal voice in defence of due process and the rule of law; that resisted and even exposed inducements and stood firm against the attempted defilement of the then nascent 4th Republic.
Many would argue that his mettle was even put to tougher test in his first term as governor of Katsina State, when he inherited an emptied treasury at a period of dwindling national revenues due to falling crude oil prices in the international market and vandalisation of oil installations in the Niger-Delta region, a devalued Naira, a moribund state economy, and a state with whole regions haunted by cattle rustlers and armed bandits. Nonetheless, he sustained the prompt payment of workers’ salaries, restored relative stability in troubled parts of the state and, somehow, still managed to execute capital projects in every single sector.
Most impressive is his record in the education sector where he inherited dilapidated school infrastructure and a widespread loss of confidence in the public education sector. In a matter of three years many new schools had been built and most existing schools have either been renovated, were under renovation or were slated for renovation. Corresponding investments were sunk in human capital development in the sector as the period witnessed the mass recruitment of teachers both as regulars and as employees under an initiative the state government calls ‘S-Power’.
From 2017 the state began a steady ascension on the national SSCE chart, as the percentage of students with credits and above in Mathematics, English Language and other key subjects rose from 6% in 2015 to above 30% in 2018. The new wave of policies and projects in the sector also translated into more students from the state that qualify for admission into tertiary institutions every year. These and many more feats were not surprising as they only justified four years of 20% budgetary appropriations to the education sector, also a feat never before witnessed in the state, or even in the north-west region.
Aside the education sector, which occupies the first three places of priority on Masari’s ‘Restoration Agenda’, other sectors like healthcare, agriculture, public works and water resources also received prime attention accordingly. Quite notable is the health sector where General Hospitals in the most populous LGAs of the state are being renovated and expanded to meet the increasing number of patients and to increase public access to premium health services. The transformations were quite remarkable that the Katsina electorate could not but re-elect Masari for a second term with the highest number of votes anywhere in the country.
One could guess that any political assemblage that may already be plotting towards victory and service come 2023 would envy such a winning company; and sooner than later, Masari himself may have to forgo unambitiousness and see the need to come out of the cocoon of local politics and dabble back to the national arena where he belongs
Saidu is a veteran journalist based in katsina can be reached at 07067362977