This could be Katsina’s most competitive governorship election since 2003 when Umaru Yar’adua was seeking a second term as governor.
That year, the future president faced a stiff opposition from Nura Khlail, an engineer with the strong backing of Muhammadu Buhari, the former army general and head of state who was at the time running for president for the first time.
Mr Yar’adua, who was contesting as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had to enlist the help of political, religious and traditional leaders in the state to defeat Mr Khalil, who contested under the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).
There were five other candidates but Messrs Yar’adua and Khalil overshadowed them in the race.
Mr Khalil is contesting again under the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). Though he remains popular in the state, he is not one of the two top candidates. But the story still has Mr Yar’adua tied around it.
There are 13 candidates seeking to take over from incumbent governor, Aminu Masari, whose second term ends on 29 May.
Dikko Radda of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Yakubu Lado of the PDP are the top contenders. The names of Mr Khalil of the NNPP and Imran Jino of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) get thrown into the mix but the race is between the APC and PDP candidates for many reasons.
The Yar’adua connection
When the late Mr Yar’adua was elected governor in 1999, Mr Lado also got elected the chairman of Kankara local government while Mr Radda was working as a banker. In 2003, Mr Radda was dragged into active politics by Mr Yar’adua, who was married to Mr Radda’s sister, Hauwa Radda.
While Mr Lado went to the House of Representatives in 2003, Mr Radda remained very close to the then governor before he became the chairman of Charanci local government area in 2005.
But while Mr Yar’adua blessed Mr Lado to go to the Senate in 2007, Mr Radda remained a local government chairman. Though Mr Radda had issues with the late president, he and Mr Lado saw Mr Yar’adua as a father figure, a leader that moulded their political careers and gave them the platform to grow politically until his death.
While Mr Lado has been more of a businessman and has not contested any election since 2011 when he left the Senate, Mr Radda went on to build himself up politically, this time under the tutelage of Mr Masari. He has been National Welfare Secretary of the APC, Chief of Staff to Governor Masari and lastly the director-general of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).
However, Mr Lado has garnered more political experiences than Mr Radda over the years. From a councillor to local government chairman to the National Assembly where he was at the two chambers, Mr Lado cannot be waved away in political discussions.
The PDP candidate is a grassroots politician with ties to his base in Danmarke. His father, Garba Lado – Danmarke, was a local business man and politician, who groomed several politicians and businessmen in the Kankara – Faskari axis.
While several political analysts believe Mr Lado was favoured in his early days due to his father’s influence, which they believe made it easier for Mr Lado to excel, it is obvious that he is a grassroots politician who knows what he wants.
He is very rich and his financial muscle has aided his political journey. In both 2018 and 2022 PDP primary elections, Mr Lado used his financial influence to pull away delegates from the grip of former governor Ibrahim Shema and got the tickets in both contests.
He is seen as a tough-skin politician who can take up a fight alone against anyone or any group once he is convinced of the cause.
In this year’s election, the choice of a more urbane, sociable and intellectual running mate has helped his cause. While Mr Lado is not an articulate speaker, his running mate, Ahmed Yar’adu’a, is a an architect, a top civil servant who was the Managing Director of the Federal Inland Waterways when his cousin, Mr Yar’adua was president. The deputy governor contestant is from the ancient town of Katsina and has a close relationship with the emirate’s royalty.
Mr Lado can also bank on the presence of decampees from the APC, especially the immediate former Secretary to the Government of the State, Mustapha Inuwa, three House of Representatives members – Ahmed Dayyabu, Hamza Dalhatu and Salisu Iro – as well as incumbent senator, Ahmad Babba-Kaita, who have all joined the party.
The PDP and Mr Lado in particular are capitalising on the widespread economic harship and the incessant insecurity bedeviling the state and other Northwestern states.
However, while he has all the money and the backing of some bigwigs, Mr Lado has the immediate former PDP chairman, Salisu Majigiri, and Mr Shema to shrug off. Despite being in the same party, Mr Lado and the duo of Messrs Shema and Majigiri have been locked in a supremecy battle that nearly tore the party apart.
He is also seen as a “political visitor” that comes to the state only in the election season. Most of his opponents accuse him of using money to buy delegates and impose himself on the party as he rarely stays in the state.
Mr Lado has also been accused of being overzealous in seeking the top seat. Since 2011, he has always been looking for a platform to contest. In 2011, he contested under the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), while in 2015, he joined the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and contested for governor. In 2019, he returned to the PDP, got the ticket and lost against the incumbent Mr Masari. Now, he is contesting under the PDP again.
Mr Lado also has the homegrown problem of contending with the APC running mate, Faruk Jobe. They are both from Kankara local government area and the presence of Mr Jobe may mean Mr Lado may not get a 100 per cent record win in his home local government area.
Based on educational qualifications, Mr Radda has an edge over other candidates. He has a PhD and was a lecturer before leaving to work for years in the banking sector. The incumbency factor will no doubt help him. Mr Radda also has an extensive network of friends in the political scene both at state and federal levels.
His time at SMEDAN has also seen him channel several programmes to the state and that is being used by his campaign council to sell his candidature.
His close ties with the Katsina royal house, being a son to a village head with ancestral ties to the royal house, would give him an upper hand ahead of his rivals. When he visited the Emir of Katsina on a campaign trip, the Emir, Abdulmuminu Kabir, said he would vote for Mr Radda being his relative.
Mr Radda has also boasted of what he has done as a local government chairman, insisting none of his contemporaries has matched his achievements. He has spoken about schools and health facilities he has built as chairman of Charanci.
With the help of the state government, Mr Radda has high hopes of being the next governor of the state. But the APC has been in a certain situation in the state that one cannot predict who exactly is for real a member and who is an anti-party agent.
Immediately after the presidential and National Assembly elections, the governor, Mr Masari, sacked two commissioners, permanent secretaries, heads of agencies and made several changes.
The state party secretary was also suspended. Inside sources said the APC is full of betrayers and third party agents that are being sent out after their role in orchestrating the party’s defeat in the presidential election. Mr Radda has a lot to do here because some of those found to be ‘double agents’ were among the governor’s most trusted aides who were part of the campaigns.
The number of decampees has also risen and the main opposition party is becoming more confident. Aside from the decampees, Mr Radda also has disgruntled politicians to pacify, especially those he contested against in the primaries. Bigwigs like Abbas Masanawa and his campaign team have remained in the APC but have not made any commitments to the campaign or his candidature.
Insecurity and poverty are two factors that may work against the APC candidate. To be fair to him and the APC, neither banditry nor high level of poverty started in their reign. But there was a huge expectations to combat the two when the party came to power. With the trends, several voters may feel inclined towards the PDP candidate.
The Buhari factor
President Muhammadu Buhari has also weighed in in support of the APC governatorial candidate. Despite that, the president is known to be aloof when it comes to campaigning for others especially at a time he would no longer be on a ballot paper. Me Radda, with the help of the state governor, has been “blessed” by the president.
Mr Buhari had in a video clip released on Thursday, called on the people of the state to vote for Mr Radda. After commending the people of the state for voting for him twice as president, he solicited for support for the governatorial candidate.
That video clip was released a day after Mr Masari led party leaders and top government appointees to meet the president to discuss the outcome of the presidential election that saw the APC losing to the PDP in the state. The governor also said he discussed the issue of Katsina governorship election with the president.
Mr Buhari might have lost his aura as the most followed politician in the north today but he is still relevant in his Daura zone and the state in general. Throwing his support behind Mr Radda may go a long way in giving the APC candidate an edge over others.
Mr Radda can also bank on the support of the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who has a firm grip of politics in Mashi and Dutsi local government areas. The minister, who before his appointment was a House of Representatives member and senator, has what it takes to deliver his constituency and if not because he is from the same zone with the president, he would have been the undisputed leader of the zone.
For Katsina State, APC and PDP remain the party to beat because of their structure and politicians in the party. But NNPP has positioned itself as the third force. With Mr Khalil, who has been an active contestant since 1999, and his running mate, another Yar’adua boy, Muttaqa Rabe – Darma, the party came third in the just concluded presidential election.
Mr Darma, a PhD holder and lecturer, was in charge of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund during the Yar’adua reign and has been one of the late president’s trusted allies since 1991.
They have three incumbent House of Representatives members, including Armaya’u Kado, Babangida Ibrahim and Aminu Ashiru who all left the APC in protest. Their impact was not greatly felt in the presidential and National Assembly elections but they may try to snatch some votes in the governorship election to prove a point, especially in the Southern zone (Funtua).
The PRP candidate, Imran Jino, is seen as a book man full of ideas with little money and structure on ground. The party is relatively unknown in the state.
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