Their conduct holds leadership lessons for all, writes Emma Agu

What equips the Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed (call him BAM), to break down political barriers and set new progressive paradigms as he does quite often? What gives him the courage to push the frontiers of human effort at consensus building beyond what many would consider the impossible as he conjured with the Doctrine of Necessity Motion in the Senate in 2010?

The answer, in my view, rests in his personal principle: the pursuit of INCLUSION as the fundamental and non-negotiable principle of governance. So whether friend, foe, or whomsoever, this pursuit of INCLUSION which necessarily embodies equity and fairness, as integral components, predisposes him towards prioritizing the interest of others over self, the communal over the personal and the whole over the part. Embedded in this is a humility that subjugates individual achievements to the collective effort, and that shares credit with others while dutifully taking ownership of failure.   

The above qualities were amply demonstrated recently when Bala Mohammed hosted a dinner in honour of his predecessor, His Excellency Mohammed Abubakar, SAN, call him MA, to commemorate the attainment of the silk gown by the latter. If you are wondering what makes this spectacular, here are points to ponder. To start with, both belong to different political parties: MA to the All Progressive Congress party (APC) and BAM, to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).

Second, BAM had defeated MA at the governorship election in 2019 in one of the most acrimonious elections ever fought in Nigeria. It is hardly a Nigerian quality for the victorious at such elections to exhibit the magnanimity that leads to reconciliation with their opponents let alone honour them. Third, Bala Mohammed could have opted for the unfortunate pastime of some Governors, to hire propagandists to demonize their predecessors. Examples of this dysfunctional trend litter many government houses across the six geopolitical zones of the country, in some cases precipitating disunity and internecine violent clashes that not only arrest progress but exacerbate the insecurity pandemic that has engulfed the country.

It is within the context of the above that Bala Mohammed’s respectful and magnanimous treatment of his predecessor should be considered sublime and worthy of emulation. Giving due recognition to his predecessors comes naturally to Bala Mohammed. In the short period that he has been Governor of Bauchi State, he named the Bauchi State Liaison office in Abuja after the first civilian Governor of the State, the late Alhaji Tatari Ali; the new governors lodge after another former Governor, Ahmed Muazu and honoured his immediate predecessor with that well-deserved state dinner.

Bala Mohammed’s pedigree as a foremost bridge builder emerged very early in his governorship when he quietly and astutely pursued a policy of reconciliation with his predecessor. To the disappointment of some of his supporters who were baying for MA to be ‘cut to size’, conscious that the prosecution and realization of his ambitious seven-point agenda could better be achieved in an atmosphere of INCLUSION and unity, Bala Mohammed chose to respect and cultivate his predecessor.

With relative peace guaranteed in the state, Bala Mohammed brought to bear on the administration of the state solid experience as a quintessential civil servant, senator and minister of the federal republic. The result is the focused and accelerated provision of infrastructure, particularly roads and housing, unprecedented improvement in social services, i.e. hospitals and schools and people empowerment through skills acquisition and promotion of improved agricultural practices. Other milestones are the land reforms, the ease of doing business and the out-of-the-box IGR initiative that has boosted the ability of the Bauchi State Government to prosecute its ambitious people-oriented capital projects including the multi-functional new government house that is being executed in phases. It is this creative funding arrangement, anchored on the state’s unique IGR strategy, that explains the ability of the Bauchi State Government to construct or rehabilitate over 400 kilometres of roads, complete the World Bank-assisted Bauchi water project, and extend support to women and the youth in the 20 LGAs of the state through the Kaura Economic Empowerment Programme (KEEP).

It is to his credit that Bala Mohammed has caused such a transformation in the local government system in Bauchi State so much so that, in many areas, indigenes and residents who have been away for only three years, could find it difficult to recognize the places they used to live. The total overhaul of the local government headquarters, a development that was predated by the installation of democratically elected local government officials, the provision of befitting palaces for traditional rulers and the extension of housing units to the senatorial zones are some of the legacy achievements that stand Bala Mohammed out as not just a progressive transformational leader but an administrator to entrust the future of the state with. Little wonder he was recognized as Rural Development Governor of the Year at the recent leadership awards presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.

Back to the dinner. It provided another opportunity for the Bauchi State Governor to demonstrate his nobility of spirit by publicly acknowledging the contribution of his predecessor to the development of Bauchi State. That MA reciprocated by acknowledging the giant strides recorded by the Bala Mohammed Administration in Bauchi State was also the mark of nobility. For anyone familiar with Nigerian politics, such mutual adulation by elites of different political parties is unusual and could be considered as taboo.

By acknowledging that his successor has raised the bar in the provision of the dividends of democracy, MA exhibited a nobility of spirit that could reshape elite relationships in Nigerian politics. It also shows that MA has been following the trend particularly because, it would have been surprising if his position contradicted the effusive commendation of Bala Mohammed by President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the APC of which MA is a prominent member.

Coming on the heels of the 2023 general elections, MA’s candid commendation of Bala Mohammed at the dinner will be seen by all right-thinking people as an endorsement of the Governor’s re-election bid.

Taken together, by their coming together, Bala Mohammed and Mohammed Abubakar have set a worthy example of how the elite, as role models, should conduct themselves. In contrast with the divisive rhetoric and activities of others, they have sent a signal to the electorate in Bauchi State, the other leaders not left out, that they should never allow political differences to disrupt the unity of the people or override their shared destiny. Perhaps more sublime is the unequivocal and bold message that on no condition should political differences, not even with election imminent, be allowed to cloud a people’s sense of judgment more so the willingness to give honour to whom it is due. That was what MA did, on the eve of the 2023 elections, by publicly praising Governor Bala Mohammed for his outstanding work in the state. That is the leadership lesson that commends itself to the gubernatorial gladiators all over the country that, when all is said and done, it behooves of leaders to comport themselves graciously as Nigeria seeks an exit from contrived disunity, insecurity and underdevelopment.

Agu is Publisher of 3G Media Network Ltd

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