If the report that the National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomole, had asked the Inspector General of Police, IGP to seal off the Bauchi State House of Assembly is correct, and I hope it is not, that will be the height of brinksmanship and a disquieting inflammation of the already overheated polity. Before delving into the details of Bauchi crisis, the fundamental question to ask is whether a party chairman has the powers to dictate to the IGP what to do in any given situation. Agreed that any citizen can get the police to act, in a matter that could lead to a breakdown of law and order, it is a different matter when a party chairman arrogates to himself or impudently seeks to usurp the powers of the executive arm of government.
What are the details of the instant case? Before Oshiomole’s ‘directive’ to the IGP, the APC had issued a statement denouncing the manner in which the leadership of the Bauchi and Edo States Houses of Assembly emerged. Unlike the Bauchi State House of Assembly in which the APC is in the majority but with a PDP-controlled government, in Edo State, not only are both the legislative and the executive arms of government controlled by the APC, Oshiomole actually handed over to the incumbent Governor, Mr. Obaseki. That should leave us with some food for thought.
In Bauchi State, the APC is rankled by the fact that, although the speaker who emerged after the election is its member, he is not the party’s preferred candidate, said to be the former speaker. But the party has no one else to blame except itself. Reminiscent of the scenario in 2015 when Senator Bukola Saraki outsmarted the APC and emerged the President of the Senate, an ambitious Hon. Abubakar Y. Suleiman (APC, Ningi Constituency) is said to have secured the speakership, with the support of the PDP members of the state House of Assembly. That is why Oshiomole is angry.
Yet, the important question should be: did the election of the Speaker follow laid down procedures? Was the House properly convened? Did the House form a quorum? Was the election of the Speaker conducted by the constitutionally recognized official, namely the Clerk of the Assembly? There is no disputing that these minimum conditions are precedent to the emergence of a Speaker and once met, the issue of the preference of anybody, outside the legislative chambers, becomes superfluous. It is in this context that Oshiomole-led APC has over-reached himself. By the same fact, the IGP could unwittingly wreak incalculable violence on the Constitution if he succumbs to Oshiomole’s misguided umbrage. Even more irksome, indeed, totally reprehensible, is the sleight of hand whereby politicians exploit every subterfuge to recruit our already over-stretched, over-worked and over-exposed security operatives as agents of impunity aimed at achieving their self-serving interests and not in defence of the Constitution.
Oshiomole qualifies as a national patriot who, nearing the twilight of his active service to the nation, should act more as a statesman, than a virulent promoter of highly divisive politics. APC stands to reap greater political capital if Oshiomole directs a comprehensive investigation, to ascertain the factors responsible for the defeat of the party’s gubernatorial candidate who lost, despite his party’s control of the federal government; the support of two past governors of the state and the overwhelming advantage conferred by his own incumbency. Oshiomole should unravel the emphatic rejection of the governor, even in the face of all the “inconclusive” phases and the twists and turns, that the election was forced to traverse. Oshiomole should establish why, for the first time in the history of the state, there was a broad multi party solidarity, a form of “rainbow coalition” that was so ruthless in consigning the Mohammed Abubakar Administration, to the scrap heaps of history while ushering in the Bala Mohammed Administration.
Quite frankly, rather than seek to paralyze the smooth take off of the Bala Mohammed Administration, the national leadership of the APC should emulate the statesmanlike example of President Goodluck Jonathan who, after the 2015 elections, rebuffed pressures from various quarters, to contest the outcome; a gesture that gave President Buhari the atmosphere to take off without distractions. If Oshiomole is in search of other reasons why his party should sheath the sword, he only needs to apprise himself of the dismal state of affairs in Bauchi prior to the assumption of office of Governor Bala Mohammed. First, by UNESCO records, there are about 1.3 million out of school children in Bauchi, the highest in the country. By some dubious coincidence, there are also 1.3 million unemployed people in Bauchi State, not to talk of the many youth that are hooked on self-destructive drugs. Besides, according to the National Bureau of statistics, Bauchi State debt stock went up, from the N96 Billion which former Governor Mohammed Abubakar inherited in 2015, to N136 Billion when he was voted out in 2019. Yet, scarcely are there any legacy projects to show for the additional debt of N40 billion acquired in four years. When you consider the APC misadventure in Bauchi State with the ambitious, focused and result-oriented APC-led Administration of Governor El-Rufai in Kaduna State, it will immediately dawn on any patriotic person why Bala Mohammed needs no distraction whatsoever, in his pledge to make a difference through his seven-point transformation agenda tagged, MY BAUCHI PROJECT. These are: improvement in governance, agricultural transformation, vigorous promotion of agro-allied industries and boosting of internally generated revenue. Others are: revival of education, improved health care and rural transformation.
If the truth must be told, the Bauchi situation calls for concerted multi-party, non partisan intervention. To achieve this, it is my considered view that the APC should display the required patriotism by taking advantage of the olive branch extended by Governor Bala Mohammed, at his inauguration when he said, and I quote: “As we start this journey, I have not forgotten that I won this election on the platform of a broad-based political consensus. Some notable politicians of the now opposition came out openly to support and campaign for me. The lesson is not lost on me: to whom much is given, much is expected. We shall therefore run an All-inclusive Government. To this end, I hereby extend my invitation to the APC, PRP, ANPP and indeed, all other parties, to join us in the service of Bauchi State…”
By that invocation, Governor Bala Mohammed has demonstrated that he does not subscribe to the winner takes all principle that is at the root of political instability in Nigeria. He realizes that, it is only through all-encompassing, stakeholder ownership, of government business, that his administration can fulfill its pledge of training 1000 teachers in four years, as against the prevailing yearly average of twenty teachers per year, without which the unacceptable 1:400 teacher/pupil ratio cannot be effectively ameliorated; he knows that all hands must be on deck if the abysmal doctor/patient ratio of 1:160, 000, instead of the World Health Organisation ratio of 1:7000, is to be successfully redressed.
These figures paint a worrisome picture of the despicable developmental crisis confronting Bauchi State. The dearth of employment opportunities; the mortgaged future of innocent children denied education through unresponsive government; the industries that have collapsed due to endemic cluelessness or nonchalance: these should take precedence over inter-party squabbles by the same actors whose actions and inactions explain why, on the human development index, Bauchi State, like many other states in the country, remains a huge metaphor of failure.
The consolation is that, in staking their bet with Senator Bala Mohammed, the Bauchi voters have placed their destiny in the hands of a technocrat who rose to the highest rungs of the Federal Civil Service (a director); an experienced law maker who has served as a Senator of the Federal Republic; a former minister; a compassionate politician who regards service as a covenant with the people and an erudite journalist and communicator who can be trusted to run an open government. Only a few states, if any, can boast of a Governor his pedigree. That is why more than Bala Mohammed and the equally highly talented Deputy Governor of the state, Senator Baba Tella, the people of Bauchi State deserve a break from the present distraction. Can Oshiomole play statesman?
*Mr. Agu is former Managing Director of Champion Newspapers.