Segun Awofadeji writes that the uninterrupted 16-year hold of the Peoples Democratic Party on Gombe State has come to an end with the emergence Inuwa Yahaya of the All Progressives Congress as governor-elect

Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya was elected to the office of Governor of Gombe State at the 2019 gubernatorial election. He scored a total number of 364,179 votes to defeat his closest rival of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Usman Bayero Nafada who polled 222,868 votes.

The victory of the All Progressive Party (APC) at the 2019 governorship election in Gombe State did not come to many political watchers as a surprise considering the resilience of the party and especially the persistence of its candidate, Alhaji Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya.

As soon as the INEC Returning Officer in the state , Prof . Saminu Abdulrahaman, declared the result, with Yahaya scoring 364 ,179 votes to defeat his closest rival of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) , Sen . Usman Nafada,there was wild jubilation by APC supporters and other well-wishers across the state capital.

The celebration which was spontaneous saw individuals and groups, women and children singing and dancing on the streets of Gombe metropolis in a colourful ceremony like a typical festive season.

Yahaya, the amiable and astute businessman cum politician is not new in the political environment of Gombe State having served as the Commissioner of Finance from 2003 to 2010 when he showed interest to contest for the plum job in the state under the PDP in 2011. This eight year period was under the current Senator representing Gombe Central zone in the red chamber, Muhammad Danjuma Goje.

Together with Danjuma Goje in the opposition, Inuwa Yahaya fought through the APC party primaries to become its governorship candidate but failed again at the general election in 2015. He still could not succeed when he challenged the election results at the tribunal.

Meanwhile, the PDP has been steering the wheel of governance in the state since 2003 without a break having had Danjuma Goje from 2003 to 2011 and Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo from 2011 to date. Dankwabo’s eight year tenure is expected to end on May 29, 2019 making it an uninterrupted 16 years of PDP’s leadership in the state .

However, the new development in the political space of the state at the moment is that most of the personalities currently driving the opposition politics in the state especially in the last three and a half years were in the ruling PDP.

Speaking with THISDAY in an interview,Umar Farouk Bamusa, a seasoned politician, technocrat and an IT specialist who contested for the ticket of the APC during the 2019 general elections in Gombe State but lost spoke on how the ruling party took over the reins of power from the opposition PDP in his state.

According to him, “Having lost out in our bid for the APC governorship flag in the last elections, all of us decided to support the aspirant that won the ticket who is now governor-elect. All the defeated gubernatorial aspirants decided to wholeheartedly throw our weight behind the man that defeated us during the primaries.”

“”I decided from day one to support the candidate that emerged victorious at the primaries. I did that because of my faith in the party. We have a party that has fantastic ideas and programmes for the country. I believe that I owe a duty to ensure that the party is enthroned. So I went back to my constituency in Gombe and ensured that not only have I supported the governorship candidate but also supported all other APC candidates. This is why Gombe became one of the few states where was able to turn the state from a fully PDP controlled state to a fully controlled APC state.”

He said further, “It is usually not easy to defeat an incumbent in Nigeria but with God on our side and the unflinching support and commitment of our people , the APC emerged victorious in Gombe state which had been under the control of the PDP for about 16 years.”

Bamusa who could not hide his excitement and happiness explained that “President Muhammadu Buhari won Gombe State hands down by nearly 90 percent. We also delivered all the three senators and House of Representatives members from our state. In the House of Assembly out of 22 we delivered 20 members. So you can see that we turned the state from a red state to a completely blue state. Like I said earlier I enjoyed doing it effortlessly because of my faith in the party and the ideas of the President. I believe we were victorious because the President campaigned on three strong pillars that Nigeria needs at this moment; the economy, security and anti-corruption. On that basis we were able to convince our electorate in Gombe to deliver the state to the APC.”

Also speaking in the same vein, another gubernatorial aspirant in the last election, Alhaji Abubakar Habu Muazu saluted the courage, commitment, determination and resolve of Gombe people to align with the change agenda of the federal government and determination to work with others to effect the necessary change in the administration of Gombe State.

Muazu, a founding member of APC said “the move by some gentlemen and their supporters in the PDP to join us before the last elections should serve as an encouragement and eye-opener to all progressives still in the PDP to do the needful- join the APC. We urged them to take action then by joining hands with us to end PDP rule in the state which we have achieved with great zeal and patriotism.”
However, political observers are of the opinion that shortly before the 2015 general election, when there was a spate of defections from the ruling PDP at the national level resulting in an alliance with other political parties that formed the APC, Senator Goje automatically became the leader of the APC having been a former governor and occupying the highest political office in the APC camp in the state at the particular moment.

One major factor that helped the party to come out victorious in the recent general elections is considering his political clout in the state, Goje had done his best in maintaining and retaining the opposition APC, making it a formidable force to reckon with since he joined the party in 2014.

In 2015, a lot happened and many wondered why APC could not deliver Gombe State after the APC tsunami that swept away all PDP states in the 19 northern States of the country with the exception of Gombe and Taraba States. To inuwa’s mind, he won the election and that was why he wanted to reclaim his mandate at the court.

Even the APC family in the state is of the opinion that the party was not as united as it is today. Many attribute this unity and harmony as the major factor that contributed to the party’s success in the last election. Something that was not tenable in 2015.

For instance , in 2015, there were wide unconfirmed speculations, that for some hidden reasons, Senator Goje was never comfortable with Inuwa Yahaya as the party’s governorship candidate even though Yahaya fought real hard to secure the party’s ticket.

The story completely changed in 2019, especially prelude to the election in 2018 after the party primaries. What many described as magic was the coming together of many strong party juggernauts. Most of these personalities like Abubakar Habu Mu’azu coming together under the same political roof with Senator Danjuma Goje was nearly an impossibility. However, as political interest or convenience would have it, Habu Mua’zu, one of the strong contenders of the party’s governorship ticket became a strategist of wining the APC election together with Senator Goje.

On the whole, in terms of weight, the APC also had very strong and powerful governorship contenders such as Jibrin Danbarde, Haidar Aliyu, Farouk Bamusa, Khamisu Mailantarki, Umar Kwairanga, Idris Umar, Dasuki Jalo Waziri and the winner of the primaries, Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya.

Contrary to speculations, it surprised many that immediately after the party primaries, all these aspirants remained together, campaigned and worked together and are still together. None of them decamped or complained about the process of the primary election

Another very strong factor that resulted in the APC success was the coming into the fold by Jamilu Isiaaku Gwamna, the PDP governorship aspirant that was favoured to pick the ticket during their primaries.

Though not exclusively his efforts, but Jamilu, Managing Director and CEO of Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO), was clearly seen at the front of the political war to ensure that the PDP governorship candidate, Bayero Nafada, was defeated.

The story of Jamilu’s defection to the APC started immediately he lost the PDP Governorship ticket at the primaries. What happened before the eyes of delegates and journalists during the primaries was that, inside the highly charged atmosphere of the New Banquet Hall of the Government House, Bayero Nafada, one of the aspirants, in anger called Governor Dankwambo into one of the side rooms in the hall.

It was rumoured that what they discussed was what likely changed the outcome of the primary election which would have produced Jamilu Isiaku Gwamna as the PDP Governorship candidate.

To many political analysts, this is what actually broke the power of the PDP from retaining political power in the State during the 2019 governorship election. Many see Jamilu, a well loved politician especially by the youths, whom he had empowered in terms of employment and many other philanthropic gestures, as the person that would have taken PDP to victory at the general polls.

With this anger, Jamilu and many of his supporters, barely 24 hours after the conduct of the PDP primaries, joined forces with the Inuwa Yahaya’s APC camp and swore to see the end of Dankwambo’s preferred candidate during the general elections and even Dankwambo’s Senatorial ambition which election took place earlier than the governorship polls.

For now, victory is what the APC is basking in and it is only a matter of time that the party would form the government and occupy the Government House.

Be that as it may, what is of great concern to many is the sustenance the unity of these political gladiators who are also seen as strange bed fellows especially when it comes to sharing of political offices. This is one challenge, Inuwa may be facing even before he took mantle of governance, considering the fact that the stakes are high.

Even more daunting challenge will be the fact that the position of the leader of the party in the state will now change hands from Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje to Inuwa Yahaya, the Governor in waiting.

Like the experience is, in many states in Nigeria, incumbents have always sharply parted ways with their successors because of political patronage and influence. And in this case, it is uncertain if Senator Goje will cede his very strong political advantage. Senator Goje is still very strong politically and is good to go for any political office in Nigeria.

However, the highly principled businessman cum politician may have a way of successfully managing the presumed political uncertainties having worked under Goje as his Commissioner of Finance while he was Governor but now as the Governor of the State while Senator Goje takes the side seat.

For now since the announcement of his return as the governor and in his maiden address, the direction of his government seems to be on the development of human and physical infrastructure of the State.

During his first address as the Governor-elect, he told the people of Gombe State to expect better governance from what was experienced in the past. He said, “Having gone round the State, I am wearing the shoe now, I know what they want. You should expect me to work hard together with my team to meet their expectations and to take them to the next level”.

He promised to focus on all facets of development particularly in education, health delivery, agriculture and security adding that, “If well addressed, it will help to uplift the living standard of the people of the State”.

According to him, “We will also give priority attention to rural development so that the rural people will engage more on agricultural productivity and provide more resources we need to bring Gombe State out of the shackles of underdevelopment,” he emphasized.

Another pointer to the overwhelming support his party had from the people of the state is the fact that all the three Senate seats in the state and the six House of Representative seats are all for the APC. In the State House of Assembly, the APC cleared nineteen out of the 24 member legislature, a situation Inuwa Yahaya expressed utmost satisfaction with.

Above all and most importantly is the unity and peaceful coexistence of the state which the new governor must strive to maintain and even improve upon. The state has been relatively peaceful despite insurgency surrounding it. The elections must have divided the people on many fronts, but for development to take place, it needs a peaceful atmosphere. Now,APC supporters,and indeed the people of Gombe state are waiting and watching and hoping for a better tomorrow as they enter the next level