About a month ago, a handful of Bauchi state political bigshots lodged a series of complaints against their governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, before President Muhammadu Buhari, after allegedly sponsoring several unsuccessful clandestine moves to oust him from office.
Governor Abubakar was accused of committing several impeachable offences including the non-utilization of the bailout funds received from the Federal Government, for the purpose for which the funds were meant, to insensitivity to the suffering of the people, profligacy, not adhering to the pact entered into between him and the state’s political elite to relinquish office after one term, and non-circulation of money in the state, among many other crimes.
Alhaji Yusuf Tuggar, a former member of the House of Reps and its one-time Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, said in a newspaper interview, that all the contracts awarded by the governor had not passed due process, stating, “I know what appropriation is about”.
Before approaching the president, the group had also visited the national secretariat of the APC with the same complaint. But, so far, mum is the word from either quarter.
Those allegations could easily unseat anybody with a less than altruistic approach to governance. But a cause no matter how just, when wrongly fought is counter-productive. That is the fate of the aggrieved politicians regarding the governor they helped install, M.A Abubakar.
But as the attacks become more frequent, and because of the weight of the political juggernauts behind it, the governor has been putting up a spirited defence, himself. In an interview he granted one of the popular television networks, AIT, he spoke of his policy thrust, explaining why he was being antagonized by his own party men, telling why the state’s political elite are feeling like fish out of water in the new dispensation, narrating how the change that people voted for is more important than the change that politicians seek to collect from him and emphasizing why money is no longer given as patronage to party buffs, as before.
Governor M.A Abubakar spilt the beans, virtually. The politicians who lodged complaints against him, he said, had lost touch with reality. “Change”, he said, “is not removing the PDP, replacing them with the APC and then business continues as usual.” They are a product, he said, of days of yore, when salary was not paid while the money was shared among the political elite as patronage. “I have refused to do that, for which I have incurred the wrath of even my own party men”.
The money now goes into construction jobs in the fringes of the state, like Misau-Hardawa-Cinade-Bulkachuwa-Udubo-Gamawa road where some of the most economically viable infrastructure laid fallow and are being brought to life to cater for the neglected majority of the state’s population. Money is therefore circulating in the right places. For example, I had to pay a huge compensation for 600hectares of land to develop a Divisional Airforce base in Bauchi, where construction work is going on and many Bauchi state indigenes are employed. This had provided succor to the people more than the actions of a rapacious elite whose insatiable appetite for free money had impoverished the masses of the state, over a long period.
The governor did not mince words. He gave an account of his stewardship in office, explaining the disbursement of the bailout funds to the last Kobo. Of the N8.6bn he received, only N89m went to a sector that was equally as critical as salaries, the rest of the money was utilized as authorized. He explains: “a group of former legislators had sued the government demanding their severance package and got judgment.
As a lawyer I had no option but to respect the decision of the court. So I paid them.” The governor explained that he pays the legislature N150m monthly and pays another N50m to the judiciary, thus satisfying the statutory disbursements to all arms of government. Today, Bauchi state is, unlike many other states, only owing a month’s salary, the governor emphasized.
On his feud with Speaker Dogara, the governor said he continues to accord the Speaker every respect that is due to his office whenever he was in Bauchi and will continue to do so. He further said that they fell out when Speaker Dogara and his colleagues in the House decided to disobey the party’s orders, on the choice of principal officers in the National Assembly. The governor said as a loyal party man, he stood by the party’s decision and worked to see that its instructions were followed in the assembly but added that, once the NASS decided on its own what to do he had no option than to abide by their decisions.
One needs to review the interview, which is streamed on the website of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum www.nigeriagovernorsforum.com to get the full impact of what the governor has been trying to do in Bauchi State. It contains graphic explanations on some of the contentious issues and an almost palpable approach to the state’s intangible matters.
It is being whispered in several quarters that the governor had expressed disinterest in 2019 and a second term in office, because he would rather work for generations of Bauchi people yet unborn. If this is true, the governor must be holding fast to the adage that statesmen think about the next generation, while politicians think about the next election.
This probably explains the difference between the two warring factions; while the governor is embellishing the critical sectors of the state’s economy like healthcare, tourism, infrastructure and education by investing heavily on them, building health centres, sinking boreholes, constructing roads and offsetting all examination fees and providing free feeding for school age children in the state, his opponents are fighting to dip their hands in the tills. That is why M A Abubakar is incurring the wrath of the bigshots of Bauchi politics.
––Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo is Head, Media & Public Affairs, Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat