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How Abubakar’s legal challenge heightens apprehension in Bauchi

By Rauf Oyewole, Bauchi
20 December 2019   |   3:32 am
The immediate past Governor of Bauchi State, Mr. Mohammad Abdullahi Abubakar, served the state from 2015 through 2019 on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC).

The immediate past Governor of Bauchi State, Mr. Mohammad Abdullahi Abubakar, served the state from 2015 through 2019 on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC). His quest for a second term was met with internal conspiracies that tilted the March 9, 2019 governorship poll in favour of incumbent Governor Bala Mohammed of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, the legal challenge of the outcome of the election seems to be giving the incumbent “sleepless night,” especially against moves to upturn the governor’s election at the upper court.

Perhaps, on account of his being a lawyer, Abubakar has approached the courts for three consecutive times in his fervent hope that ultimate victory would come his way. The first time was on the eve of the election when the controversial Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area result that was allegedly disrupted at the collation centre was to be called. Abubakar filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, to stop the electoral umpire from announcing the result. But, he lost. The Court, however, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce the winner, after which Bala emerged as winner. Then in a swift turn around, Abubakar, who earlier congratulated the winner and wished him well, ruefully petitioned the Governorship Election Tribunal. He prayed the court to declare him the rightful winner. Again, he lost that legal fight on October 7.

On a third try, Abubakar prayer the Court of Appeal in Jos to set aside the judgment of the lower court and declare him the rightful winner. But the five-man panel, in dismissing the appeal, upheld the tribunal’s ruling, which endorsed Mohammed as the duly elected governor on November 29.

Yet Abubakar, acknowledging the three levels of judicial interrogation of an election, namely, Tribunal, Appeal and Supreme Courts, he sustained his legal challenge to the outcome of the poll. Avowing to exhaust all legal avenues to challenge the governorship poll, the former governor said: “You win some, you lose some, but the most important thing is that there are three levels to which an aggrieved participant in an election can go to challenge the result that has been declared by INEC. So, we are going through all the levels.”

On the other hand, Governor Mohammed remains apprehensive of the litigation process, saying that he expected that his opponent, who is adamant in challenging him at the apex court, should have sheathed his sword, synergise with his administration and deliver good governance in the state. The governor noted that Bauchi is one of the poorest states in the country. In fact, checks by The Guardian on the website of the Debt Management Office (DMO), the state has $133,705,364.84 as external debts, while domestic debts stand at N97,502,601,723.17 as at June 30, 2019.

The National Bureau of Statistics lists the state among those with the lowest internally generated revenue, thus compounding the shortfalls in all the sectors of the state. As such, it could be understood why Bauchi indigenes are clamouring for the immediate rescue of the state from an imminent total deficit and malfunctioning public sectors. Governor Abubakar indicated that despite recommendations of various committees for the raitionalisation of the state’s civil service, he did not sack any staff, including the many permanent secretaries in the state public service.

However, observers claim that Bauchi State is being milked by age-long leakages where about 40 per cent of workers on the nominal roll could not be linked to their accounts via their Bank Verification Number. The number represents 41,000 of about 101,000 civil servants, according to a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Dr. Ladan Salihu. Also, the panel discovered that eight persons were jointly using a BVN, a situation that could be described as a metaphor for other sectors.

After he won at the Appeal Court, Mohammed noted that although the legal tussle over the governorship poll is one of the constitutional rights of Abubakar, “he and myself are citizens of Bauchi and we should not forget that we have a duty to provide dividends of democracy.

“Though it is his right to go to court I am not afraid, I’m the Kauran Bauchi (one who leads war), I can go to any length with him. I am not afraid if he goes to the Supreme Court. But I’m pleading with him (Abubakar) to avoid waste of resources and time because everyone knows that this election was won squarely. If he decides to go to the Supreme Court, I will pursue it and by the Grace of God we will emerge victoriously.”

But while announcing APC’s decision to challenge the appellate court ruling at the Supreme Court, the state’s chairman, Alhaji Uba Nana, contended: “The judgment has been passed and we were given a copy. We are studying it and we are taking the next line of action. We will be heading to the Supreme Court. The case will terminate at the Supreme Court by the special grace of God.”

Nana told newsmen after a stakeholders’ meeting at the party’s secretariat that the party has continued to meet to review things and make efforts to reposition the party as the major opposition in the state.

The vice-chairman and former deputy governor, Audu Sule Katagum, who served for just one year (when Engineer Nuhu Gidado resigned as Governor Abubakar’s deputy in June 2018, believes that “APC is still strong and formidable in the state, having majority of members of the State House of Assembly, House of Representatives and all the three senators.”

Nonetheless, some analysts believe that the former governor has little or nothing to show for his four years, stressing that instead of pursuing litigation, he should have tendered an apology to the people for his maladministration.

An APC chieftain, who spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity, said Abubakar believed “Abuja might change things. You were in this state during the election; his Excellency went Abuja to seek for President Buhari’s intervention, but he politely told him to approach the court of law to seek redress.”

Another stakeholder said there was nothing to show that the case would turn out differently at the Supreme Court, adding: “It is just a way of delaying his prosecution. This same man did not offer employment. In fact, he put our civil servants into undue hardship through undergoing verification in all his four years in power.”

Meanwhile, PDP’s Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Yayanuwa Zainabari, suggested that the people of Bauchi State would not forgive the immediate past governor, “taking into cognisance the tremendous achievements the Kauran Bauchi administration recorded during its first 100 days in office. He contended that irrespective of the legal battle at the tribunal, the people by way of development projects, have witnessed positive changes. Ever since the legal battle with the APC commenced at the tribunal, PDP has remained confident of coming out victorious at the end of the day.

“Our party was vindicated when the tribunal upheld the election of Senator Bala Mohammed as the duly elected governor of the state, hence our commendations to the electorate for voting PDP to salvage them from the shackles of ignorance, diseases, and poverty,” he added.

Reacting to his victory at the Appeal Court, Bala said he was apprehensive and had sleepless nights while making supplications to God just as his supporters had prayer vigils at night before the Appeal ruling.

In his words: “I humbly appeal to all politicians, especially professional political gladiators to sheath their swords. Let us spare a thought for the less privileged, the socially vulnerable, the poor and the weak, who groan under the yoke of poverty by the day. We do not need a reminder that we are the poorest state in Nigeria with emotionally unsettling charts on the social index. We must turn our attention in reversing this worrisome trend.

“I wish to extend my hand of fellowship to my opponent and his supporters to join us in the honourable quest to rebuild Bauchi State. It is clear to all that even under the challenging situation in and out of courts, we have laid a foundation, a roadmap to restore our state to the path of her lost glory.

“As we rejoice, let us not forget that our victory will only make sense when every Bauchi child of school age is in the classroom; when every school leaver is productively engaged; when every pregnant woman has the reasonable assurance that she will not die at childbirth; when rural folks feel empowered and our heroes, retired men and women, can receive their legitimate entitlements as at when due. Then and only will our celebration be complete.”