NAJIB SANI writes that the political bigwigs in Bauchi state who assisted Governor Bala Mohammed to defeat the then incumbent Mohammed Abubakar, in 2019 have all deserted him and therefore may have to fight extremely hard to retain power come 2023 governorship election.
Bala Mohammed of Bauchi state was elected governor of Bauchi state in 2019 having defeated an incumbent governor Mohammed Abubakar which was the first time in the political history of the state that such thing happened.
For instance, in 1999 after the transition to civil rule, Ahmed Mu’azu served for eight consecutive years and Isah Yuguda who took over from him also stayed for two terms in office despite all challenges posed by opposition parties.
However, the electorates in the state made a history in the last 2019 polls when they voted out an incumbent governor and elected a new one in the person of Bala Mohammed.
Although observers have noted that his victory at the 2019 governorship polls was due largely to the support and backing of most of the political stakeholders in the state as his opponent was fighting with almost all of them.
Some of the heavyweights that supported Bala to defeat Abubakar included the then Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the two senators Nazif Gamawa and Isah Hamma Misau and all House of Representatives members with the exception of two.
Many opined that Abubakar being a lawyer was ‘arrogant’ and thought that he is learned and could win election even without getting the backing of stakeholders.
On his part, Abubakar alleged that his quarrel with the National Assembly members who ganged up against him was due to his refusal to buy them luxurious cars and houses in the federal capital territory, Abuja as was allegedly the tradition by ex-governors in the state. He said he would not misuse public funds in such deals.
Other people were of the view that the electorates voted Mr Bala Mohammed who was an ex minister of the nation’s capital in view of their belief that he would turn things around for the better in the state.
Within the period under review, the new governor has embarked on the provision of infrastructures giving special attention to roads construction and building of housing estates in all the six emirates of the state.
It is noteworthy that he is being described as ‘Roads Governor’ by citizens in the state. This is because his administration has invested billions of naira for several roads projects.The governor has so far awarded a total 30 roads.
Explaining why he awards contracts on roads, the governor said “that roads are a measure of the development of any area. Without good access roads, a state cannot be regarded as developed”.
More than 10 roads across the state have been completed so far. In addition to roads, he renovated and built many blocks of classrooms in each of the 300 wards of the state and housing estates in six emirates.
However, despite these infrastructural projects embarked on by the governor, it seems he still has challenges in governance as some citizens complain that they are suffering as a result of lack of social welfare programmes, which some people accuse the governor to have deliberately denied them.
In addition to lack of social welfare, embargo on employment is still in place in the state. His critics said his concentration on roads alone cannot address poverty. Also, some civil servants lamented that they have not been receiving their salaries for several months. This is just as members of the opposition decry non disbursement of adequate funds for payment of gratuities to retired workers as he pledged during campaigns.
Another challenge the governor will face in 2023 if he seeks re-election is a gang up by the same stakeholders that backed him up in 2019 as many of them have parted ways with him now. For example, the former speaker Yakubu Dogara has defected from the PDP because of his conflict with Bala Mohammed. Similarly, Senator Isah Hamma has also defected to APC and now not on Bala’s side.
Aside from them, several of his cabinet members have resigned from his government and may work for another candidate in the next election. These include his first chief of staff Abubakar Kari, principal private secretary, commissioners of finance, commerce and political adviser.
There are also some heavyweight politicians that now left Bala’s camp over alleged abandonment. They are Honourable Aminu Tukur and Honourable Salisu Zakari.
There is no doubt that Bala has outdone his predecessor in terms of projects but has to battle spiritedly and vigorously to retain power in 2023 as the All Progressives Congress (APC) has formidable team too to fight him.
This is because APC has all the three senators, the 12 House of Representatives members and majority of the members in the State House of Assembly.
According to political observers, if all of them remain in the APC up to next election, they are going to give him a good fight as he only has his appointees and local governments chairmen to assist him against the elected lawmakers who have stupendous resources for electioneering.
Among the governorship hopefuls in the APC angling to unseat Bala are Senator Lawal Yahya Gumau, Senator Halliru Dauda Jika, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, Dr Musa Babayo and Honourable Faruk Mustapha. The advantage Bala may have over them in the next governorship election is his coming from Bauchi South which has the highest population and voters by extension.
Recall that Bauchi South otherwise called ‘Bauchi zone’ has retained power since 1999. While three of the suspected governorship aspirants like Tuggar, Babayo and Mustapha hail from Bauchi North otherwise called ‘Katagum zone’ and Jika is from Bauchi Central which has never produced even a deputy governor since 1999. Only Gumau comes from Bauchi South and if he gets the APC ticket, he can match Bala in terms of acceptance in the populous zone.
Commenting on the subject matter, the Bauchi state publicity secretary of the APC Adamu Jallah claimed that “Bala Mohammed has failed and the party will capitalize on his alleged failure to take over Bauchi state government come 2023.”
He alleged that even though the governor awarded roads projects, the money being expended on them are too huge and inflated.
“We are very optimistic of unseating the governor and we have made serious preparations which I don’t want to reveal for now so that the governor will not get to know and sabotage us. But I am telling you that if election will hold today in Bauchi, APC will take over”, he bragged.
Also responding, the state publicity secretary of the PDP Yayanuwa Zainabari said the governor’s infrastructural projects will sell him in the 2023 polls.
He said the party was not bothered by those who defected from it pointing out that it is the masses that vote and nobody can compel them not to vote for Bala Mohammed.
“The governor’s projects are visible and the electorates appreciate them. So these projects are enough reasons for them to re-elect Bala Mohammed”, he noted.
As the governor focusses on infrastructural projects, the APC lawmakers carry out human empowerment programmes. They dole out cars, motorcycles and vocational equipments to their constituents. Both the governor and his opponents boast of their programmes and are optimistic of holding power in the state come 2023.