Former Governor of Yobe State and the current All Progressives Congress (APC) senator representing Yobe East, Bukar Ibrahim, is proposing a new approach to politicking in Nigeria. In his new book, Poorlitics, to be launched this week, Joseph Ushigiale examines Senator Ibrahim’s proposal on teaching younger politicians how to use the principles of progressive political leadership to attain success
Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim needs no introduction. He shot to prominence when he won election to become the first governor of Yobe state and went ahead to win a second term. After his two terms, he again contested and won to represent his Yobe-east senatorial zone and is currently serving his third term. An accomplished politician in his own right, Ibrahim has emerged as a grassroots politician with footprints spread across the entire Yobe state as evidence of his service-oriented style of politics.
Drawing inspiration from political greats like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Aminu Kano and several others whose brand of politics was people-based, Ibrahim sided with the people. After graduation, he joined the Borno State civil service and was eventually appointed as the commissioner for works.
When Yobe State was created by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime, he contested the governorship election at the age of 42 with just N20, 000 in 1991. The odds were stacked against him because he was taking on powerful opponents with godfathers, huge war chest and logistics. He just had friends who opted to support him with their cars and the people. It eventually turned out that his major support came from the people he had helped who decided to pool their resources together to provide the rest of the funds. The people fought attempts to rig him out and he won with a landslide. Since then, Bukar has become one of the most successful Nigerian politicians. He has been elected governor three times. He has also been elected as a senator three times.
Today, Ibrahim’s sight is set on a new project, ‘Poorlitics’. He believes strongly that Nigeria needs a new approach to politics, which is generally seen as a costly investment. To ensure success, many politicians put vast amounts of personal funds into publicity, bribes, thugs, rigging and other expensive practices. Failure could mean being ruined for life. On victory, politicians are often forced to make a profit to reward supporters, rather than focus on services to the people.
As a politician with several footprints of political success stories as testimonials, he campaigned with very little funds and no thugs. He left a legacy of zero political thuggery in Yobe state. Many people have wondered about the secrets of his success. He said Poorlitics is to explain how he did it. Ibrahim believes that with the people fully behind you, you do not need much money, thugs or godfathers to succeed in politics.
Poorlitics – as the name implies revolves around the politics of the poor; the politics of mass mobilization or a mass movement – it is also about practical, project-based, progressive political leadership. It is practical because it works. It is project-based because it affords “you to build trust, love and support with your people, through practical projects that benefit them”.
Ibrahim explained: “It is progressive because it is people-oriented. When done consistently for some years before seeking office and people are convinced of your sincerity, they will give financial support and vote for you repeatedly in democratic elections. It is based on a simple idea. The poor make up the majority.
“If they are behind you, you need little money and no thugs to defend yourself, your votes and your victory. I would dedicate my future years to teaching younger politicians how to use the principles of progressive political leadership, to become politicians that succeed, no matter how poor they are.