In Katsina, Masari’s style brings votes for APC
For the third time in a row, the All Progressive Congress (APC) has won the bye-elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Katsina State.
Two of these exercises, conducted within two years of Aminu Bello Masari’s administration, were National Assembly polls while the third was a House of Assembly election.
The reason why the APC has been able to maintain the winning streak may not be unconnected with the strong influence the party wields in the state. This naturally made the party’s popularity rise to unprecedented heights even as its support base, down to the grassroots level, grew substantially thereby giving it leverage during election periods.
Also, several key figures from the PDP and other political parties had opted to join the APC, which meant moving over to the ruling party with their supporters.The last election, which was held on May 20th, had seen APC’s Mansur Ali emerged victorious after beating other candidates to clinch the Mashi/Dutsi Federal Constituency seat.
The PDP however lamented that the election was rigged and that several people were not allowed to cast their votes during the exercise.The coalition of accredited election observers also argued in similar line, saying there were cases of ballot box snatching, with call on INEC to declare the poll inconclusive.
But INEC’s spokesperson in the state, A.T. Mohammed, dismissed the call saying the PDP and election observers were entitled to their opinion. He said the electoral body did its best to ensure a free and fair exercise, adding that the “votes in one, two or three ballot boxes that were snatched were rejected.”
Another reason why the party has been on the winning may also have something to do with the leadership style of Masari who was once the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The governor’s liberal disposition and effort at transforming the state’s key sectors had endeared him and by extension his party, to many people in the state.
Even before the last bye-election, while the APC was still campaigning, Masari had expressed optimism that the party would emerge victorious.
He said some of the people-oriented programmes put in place by his administration would ensure that the outcome of the poll favour his party. One of these was offsetting outstanding pension and gratuity benefits of retired workers, which amounted to more than N14 billion. The previous administration had refused to attend to these benefits even when it was enjoying substantial federal allocations at the time.
Another is the diligent effort made to bring to an end, the incessant cases of cattle rustling and related crimes in some parts of the state. Before the advent of the Masari administration, cases of cattle rustling were a common phenomenon especially in the southern parts of the state.
It was not unusual to hear that a whole village had been ransacked by rustlers, with some of the women raped, and men and children often maimed or killed in the process.
On the day former President Goodluck Jonathan was in the state for a two-day visit a few years ago, some rustlers had gone berserk and killed more than 100 people in some of the state’s communities.
This led Jonathan to give an order for the combing of the Rugu forest area, which the rustlers used as hideout and base to carry out their attacks. But despite the effort, the problem had refused to abate. Masari lamented that most people in the state were farmers, and that allowing rustling to continue would be inimical to achieving the desired transformation for the state.
His interest in the issue may not be unconnected to the fact that the southern area of the state, which is the most affected, is where he hails from. Masari is Katsina’s first governor from Kafur, a council area located in the south and he is also the first to be elected in the last 16 years on the platform of a political party other than the PDP.
To achieve the task of addressing the issue, Masari constituted a committee that liaised with stakeholders on ways the problem could be brought to an end. The committee included government officials, representatives of local and federal security agencies, along other co-opted members.
This is in addition to collaborative effort between the state and others in the Northwest zone that were facing similar situations. Within a short time period, and through an amnesty programme, the rustling problem was brought under control while several of the rustlers became repentant and were re-absolved into the society.
Part of the agreement the state government entered into with repentant rustlers includes establishing them in a community equipped with amenities like roads, school, and hospital.
The success of the effort had led a couple of neighbouring states to send in their representatives to learn from the amnesty programme with a view to replicating it in their states.
In addition to these, the Masari led administration has been able to pay salaries as at when due as well as giving approvals for promotions among other entitlements for civil servants.
This is despite the economic crunch, which had virtually crippled some state governments in recent months, with attendant inability to pay salaries and carry out developmental projects. The state has also been able to carry out rehabilitation of schools and major hospitals, and it is planning to recruit hundreds of teachers to augment the present number.
The governor has, on more than one occasion, lamented that the state’s lean resources was limiting efforts to achieve the desired transformation that is befitting for the state but he has also vowed that lean resources or not, the quest to make the state better than what it was when his government come to power, would be pursued with diligence. There is no doubt that a man with such zeal for his state would motivate many to vote for the party of which he is a member. This was why it was not surprising for many when the APC won by several thousands of votes in the last election held a few days ago.
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