Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar’s defeat in the just concluded election was a collective resolve of the people to have a person lead them, writes Segun Awofadeji
Senator Bala Mohammed, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was on Monday, March 25, declared winner of the Bauchi State Governorship election. Findings have revealed that Mohammed, as it has turned out, was the first to defeat an incumbent governor in the state since the return to democracy in 1999, and the first Journalist to be governor of the state since its creation in February 1976.
The outcome of the Bauchi election was one of the few surprises witnessed in this year’s general election. Thus, the political history of the state was rewritten as the incumbent, Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar of the All Progressives Congress (APC) became the first sitting governor to be voted out of office in the state. No thanks to Mohammed of the PDP.
Needless to say that Mohammed’s victory was not an easy feat for the PDP. After a rather stiff contest characterized by moments of uncertainty, apprehension and fear orchestrated by the initial inconclusive declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the change of government from the ruling APC to the opposition PDP eventually came into fruition, when INEC, on Monday announced Mohammed, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory as the winner of the election.
His victory was not only for the party but the people of the state and, in all ramifications, a reflection of the collective decision of the people of the state to elect into office a candidate of their choice. Importantly, it had more to do with their resolve to vote out a government characterised by alleged arrogance and under-performance.
The Governor-elect popularly called Kauran Bauchi by his teeming supporters and well-wishers was the beneficiary of the angst the people of Bauchi had for Abubakar
Abubakar won the Bauchi governorship on a platter during the APC Tsunami that swept through the north in 2015. He, however, soon picked a quarrel with almost every stakeholder believed to have helped to actualise his governorship dream. Some observers of the Bauchi politics attributed his defeat to what they described as his haughty disposition.
In a widely publicised recent interview in a national daily just before the election, the governor was quoted as saying: “I don’t need Dogara’s (referring to Speaker Yakubu Dogara) constituency to be re-elected as governor of Bauchi State. The total votes from his area are not more than 70,000.”
His disregard for Dogara’s constituency was mainly, because of the fact that the constituency had remained firmly attached to Dogara in his political movements since he first represented the constituency in 2007.
Governor Abubakar had added: “I didn’t need him in 2015, and I won’t need him now. The Speaker is a lightweight politician.”
His assertion that he did not need Dogara, according to many political actors, was also reflected in most of his politics as the governor came to emerge as one with the least political attachments in the state since 1999. His case was also not helped by what his critics described as his low performance in terms of governance, especially in the Bauchi metropolis and other major cities in the state.
A social critic and political analyst, Mohammed Suleiman Bello, noted that despite being the party in power, the APC, which fielded Abubakar as its candidate is challenged by internal disagreement with several party stakeholders, who were still embittered over the process that threw up the governor as candidate.
But the PDP, which had a relatively peaceful governorship primary that produced Mohammed as candidate, also had its own challenges. It was however able to manage its affairs.
Dr. Ali Pate and Dr. Ibrahim Lame (both former ministers), who contested with the governor, passed a vote of no confidence on the Election Committee from the party’s headquarters in Abuja. They also alleged that the governor, in connivance with the state executive, compromised the process and that security agencies were used to intimidate members of the party with opposing views.
Before Abubakar emerged the APC candidate, the two men, Lame and Pate, in a joint resolution, dismissed the process that enthroned him as the candidate of the party.
At that time, they called on their supporters to boycott the exercise given what they claimed as the compromise of the process. Though the governor eventually emerged the APC candidate, his capacity to win the election turned into an issue for stakeholders given the many challenges he has had with a majority of them.
Aggrieved aspirants, who alleged that they were shortchanged in the recent APC primaries also indulged in anti-party activities, because they held the view that the governor failed to reconcile with most of them.
Critics are also of the view that Abubakar’s inability to pay pensions and gratuities to retirees in the state, conduct local government elections in four years, along with his poor press relations accounted for his defeat in the 2019 governorship elections in the state.
The governor had quite a handful of weaknesses that led to his defeat, which included his inability to complete capital projects such as federal low-cost Bauchi roads, Wuntin Dada to Miri, which cause serious problems to motorists and residents of the areas especially during rainy season.
Some critics also lambasted the governor that even the roads he invited President Muhammadu Buhari to commission some few months ago such as Maiduguri bye-pass to Awalah, Guni housing estate, among others were all uncompleted projects. They cited his dissolution of traditional institution appointed by his predecessor, which also irritated the victims and their followers and therefore worked against his victory.
Failure to conduct local government elections for four years contrary to his campaign promise was used by the opposition to campaign against him in the election.
There was the allegation about the governor’s disputed indigenship (he’s alleged to have come from Kogi State), which played a key role in his loss. He was elected governor in 2015 even with the awareness that he might not be an indigene of the state
Indeed, the Bauchi people ranked amongst those, who graduated from party loyalty to choice of individual candidates, based on what they perceive as the quality of the candidates. They chose to follow their pulse, right or wrong.
Reacting to the outcome of the poll, Abubakar, in a rare display of sportsmanship, immediately congratulated the governor-elect, noting that the election took place without blood shedding.
In a press statement signed by his Special Adviser (Media and Strategy), Ali Mohammed Ali, the governor said, “I congratulate my brother, Senator Bala Mohammed, on this victory at the polls. I am delighted to note that in spite of the intensity of the campaigns in our dear state, a peaceful election took place without bloodshed.
“Let me therefore invite the governor-elect to join me in working out the process of a smooth transition. I sincerely thank the entire people of Bauchi State for their support for my administration and urge them to extend the same to the incoming administration. I also urge the governor-elect to caution his supporters to be law-abiding while celebrating since the period of campaigns is now over.”
Accepting to lead the people of Bauchi State for the next four years, effective from May 29, Muhammed pledged to run an all-inclusive and participatory government as soon as he takes his oath of office.
Speaking during a special broadcast shortly after he was declared winner, the governor-elect assured the people that he would ensure efficient and transparent government, as he would engage all stakeholders in the state in the running of the state.
“The incoming government is determined to give citizens of the state a better prospect and greater opportunity by reducing poverty and empowering them in the areas of agriculture, education, urban and rural infrastructure among others,” pledging not to leave the state in the hands of those he claimed lacked the vision, motivation and capacity to drive the change required.
The battle to unseat Abubakar was led by Dogara who, quoting Henry Clay, said: “An oppressed people are authorised whenever they can to rise and break their fetters.”
In his reaction to the PDP victory, Dogara stated that it was the crowning of the struggle for the emancipation and liberation of the people “from the forces of darkness, evil and retrogression that have held the state captive and hostage for over a decade.”
According to him, “Bauchi and its people have never been this challenged throughout our contemporary history. An oppressor-class, led mainly by people from outside, has chained our dear impoverished people to servitude, underdevelopment and penury.
“In their unlettered arrogance, they have taken Bauchi people for granted to the point that they believe the patience of an oppressed people will last forever. They, therefore, sought to perpetuate themselves in office again for another four years through this election, just to continue feeding their greed and perfidy.
“Historically, Bauchi people are known to be brave and politically savvy. They saw through the charade and decided this is the time to break away from the curse that has afflicted us thus far. By our collective resolve and by the results of this election, we have once again demonstrated to the world that no-man made chains can bind us to servitude. The chains have come undone, sending a clear message that Bauchi will never bend its back again for an oppressor to ride. Today’s victory is ours; today’s victory speaks to a better and brighter future for us, our children and generations yet unborn.
“We have proven that working together, there is no challenge that we cannot overcome as a people. I understand as we all celebrate this victory, because it came at a cost so many of us were willing to pay in order to salvage our state from the precipice. But we cannot tarry long on this mountain of celebrations as what today’s victory demands of us is to go to work immediately.”
In spite of his glowing credentials and soaring popularity, Mohammed is not only a grassroots politician but a humble bridge builder, who has high connections across the country.
He is a consummate administrator, journalist and technocrat, who the Bauchi people have entrusted their hope in. The task ahead is indeed challenging and he is expected not to betray the confidence reposed in him as the people look up to him to meet their yearnings and aspirations.