Sunday, 10th December 2023

How Bauchi APC’s internal wrangling spurred Governor Bala’s victory

By Rauf Oyewole, Bauchi
27 April 2023   |   3:17 am
Though internal wrangling in Bauchi State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) aided the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) takeover of the state in 2019, the same internal discord nailed APC’s coffin in the 2023 elections.

Though internal wrangling in Bauchi State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) aided the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) takeover of the state in 2019, the same internal discord nailed APC’s coffin in the 2023 elections. That internal discord worked against the party’s governorship candidate, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (rtd), in the March 18 governorship poll.

Stakeholders in the party had raised objections to then Governor, Mohammed Abubakar’s (GMA), second term bid, thereby setting the stage for wounded PDP to bounce back after losing the state to President Muhammadu Buhari’s Tsunami of 2015.

Also, before the governorship contest, the incumbent, Governor Bala Mohammed, who was seeking a second term mandate like Abubakar before him, was not having things easy within his PDP. It was, therefore, expected that the APC would exploit the crisis of confidence and mutual suspicion to take its own revenge.

For instance, when Governor Mohammed wrote his secret memo to the former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, he was peeved that some elements in the party had perfected a ‘Bala Must Go’ plan to weaken his chances in the poll.

The governor also described the plotters as those who contributed to his victory in 2019, even as he sounded very jittery and in search of urgent help from the key stakeholders.

In the leaked letter, which was later confirmed by Mohammed, he claimed that the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had vowed to punish him for eyeing the party’s presidential ticket.

The governor sounded was unequivocal that his opposition was hydra-headed, claiming that those he called ‘Abuja politicians’ have deserted him.

However, in a quick rapprochement, Mohammed and Atiku were said to have negotiated a power sharing deal among their loyalists. Further, without leaving anything to chance, Mohammed and his team rallied round on his community and stakeholders’ engagement in governance.

He took the grassroots as his saving grace, while some of the major power elites, who regrouped to deny him a second term, boasted of their past exploits.

On the sidelines, Governor Mohammed battled with inherited and self-created salary bottlenecks, which made many of the civil servants pray for his ouster from the Government House. Even at that, some of the governor’s major opponents played up the salary hiccups as a disservice to the state, vowing to prioritise the welfare of the workers if elected into office as governor.

They noted that since many Bauchi families’ incomes are tied to the apron strings of salary earners, whoever was toying with salaries in the state should be looked upon as enemy of the people.

Bauchi State APC governorship candidate, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (rtd),

The APC governorship candidate, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (rtd), who, incidentally, is the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, emerged as the strongest source of opposition to Mohammed’s second term bid.

To make matters tough, Sadique was endorsed by former governors Isa Yuguda and Adamu Mu’azu (former National Chairman of the PDP); former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Senator Hamman Misau, a former Deputy National Chairman for North, Senator Nazif Gamawa and a former Speaker of the Bauchi Assembly, Damina Shehu, among many others.

Complemented by these big names, the opposition chided Mohammed for his perceived extravagance in managing the state resources. The governor was lambasted for spending humongous amounts on the construction of the new Government House and State Liaison Office in Abuja.

Bala’s main challenger, Sadique, also picked holes in the health sector, and claimed that about 1,000 women die yearly during child birth, claiming also that in the area of education, Mohammed’s administration had done nothing to return the state’s 1.3 million out-of-school children to the classroom.

Bello Kirfi’s latter-day opposition
The opposition against Governor Mohammed increased when a Second Republic Minister, Bello Kirfi, joined the naysayers. Kirfi was removed from his position as Wazirin Bauchi at the Bauchi Emirate Council. This loss of title made him an instant foe of the government. He claimed to have contributed to making the former FCT Minister, governor.

Kirfi was ousted for allegedly disrespecting the governor, according to a letter from the Emirate, which was signed by the Council Secretary, Alhaji Shehu Mudi Muhammad, and dated January 3, 2023.

Piqued by the development, Kirfi’s daughter, Sa’adatu Kirfi, who was Commissioner for Cooperatives and SMEs Development, resigned her position in Bala Mohammed’s government, stating that it was “with immediate effect”.

It was the second time Kirfi would be striped of his traditional title. The first time was during a past administration. In a statement, Kirfi remarked: “Recently, some people in power, thinking that they can do or undo what Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon his servants, have decided to abandon the unanimous decision taken by the good people of Bauchi State to make them representatives.

“They have deviated from their responsibilities in areas of health and education, infrastructure, payment of salaries, pension, and gratuity, to pursue their own personal worldly desires at the expense of Bauchi State and its people, which resulted in the breakdown of law and order, security breaches, and so on.

“This poor governance also resulted to accessing external and internal debt without the recourse to the executive council and state assembly disregard for public procurement act law and process diversion of local government grants and failure to pay local government salaries.

“After due consultation with leading statesmen and major stakeholders in the state, it was unanimously agreed to give our support to Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar (rtd) as the Governor of Bauchi State in the 2023 elections.

“Our unbiased statement was solely based on a list of criteria, which include, individual contribution to the development of the state, service to humanity, intellectual capacity and experience.”

Ex Bauchi Governor, Isa Yuguda

Also, former governor Yuguda carpeted his political mentee, Bala, for wasting funds on building critical infrastructure, and said that the administrations of Abubakar and his successor, Bala, collapsed the infrastructures he left behind in 2015 when he completed his eight years in office.

Yuguda said that successive administrations could not maintain and continue his projects. He said he was governor for eight years in the state and he knew who could fix the challenges facing the state, hence, would recommend a helmsman.

He said: “I left 22 hospitals, fully operational and fully equipped with both local and foreign doctors –about 31 Egyptian doctors. I trained over 150 medical students, they all returned but I cannot see anyone today. I left about 72 Nigerian doctors but today there are only 18 doctors. I left all the hospitals with a 24-hour power supply.

“I left the best Specialist Hospital in Nigeria behind. The last time I visited, may be because my days were not up, I would have had a heart attack. And this is what Nigeria and Bauchi is all about, the government that took over from me should have maintained that hospital instead of saying, “I want to build this and that.”

The ex-governor lamented the shortage of doctors in the state health sector. “Only 18 doctors serving over 7 million people, is this good for us?” Yuguda said, while endorsing Sadique.

Sadique and bloody campaign rallies
Shooting and violence broke out in Akuyam, Misau local government area and Duguri in Alkaleri local council, leaving two innocent people dead, police confirmed to The Guardian. Both APC and PDP traded blames over who masterminded killings at different locations.

The PDP Governorship Campaign Council in reaction to the attack in Duguri expressed the disbelief that the APC candidate did not believe in peace, making him to be absent at the peace accord that was signed at the Police Headquarters.

While addressing the press, the Campaign Director-General of PDP, Farouk Mustapha, said: “All gubernatorial candidates of various political parties in the state were at the State Police Headquarters with all the security agencies to sign a peace accord as has been the practice in every election season.

“However, the candidate of the APC was conspicuously absent with only his deputy in attendance, showing no respect for peace and harmony to reign in Bauchi State. To our dismay, while the candidates were signing the peace accord, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, took a campaign tour to Duguri town, the hometown of His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed, who doubles as the sitting governor and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the forthcoming election.

“Shockingly, the candidate moved to Duguri with thousands of thugs, conventional and non-conventional, who were well armed to the brim. As usual looking at what happened during his last campaigns in Akuyam in Misau Local Council Area and also in Toro Local Council Area of Bauchi State, where they shot dead about three people with no form of investigation to bring the perpetrators to book.”

Also, the APC believed that the ruling PDP had been attacking its campaign rallies. While addressing journalists at the Press Conference, the Media Director of APC Campaign Council, Salisu Barau, claimed that three people in their team were shot and wounded, adding that it was not the first “attempt made on the life of our principal.”

“The unfortunate developments cannot be divested from Governor Bala Mohammed’s penchant for inciting the youth in his public addresses on his campaign tour, notably at Dass, where he publicly charged his supporters to be violent against whoever constitutes a threat to his re-election bid in the same manner he did in 2019 during his contest against the former Governor Mohammed Abubakar.

“We categorically say no to dirty politics and violence as we call on all people of Bauchi State to maintain peace and stay focused on saving our dear State from all evils, as always preached by Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar.”

APC’s nagging division
Internal disagreement compounded APC’s loss both at the presidential and governorship elections in the state. A party loyalist said that the state coordinator of the Bola Tinubu Presidential Campaign Council was given to a governorship aspirant, Nura Manu Soro whom the party source said the party’s candidate never campaigned and supported after losing the ticket to the retired Soldier.

“He’s (Soro) not supposed to be appointed the Coordinator for the PCC in Bauchi. He was given but he never supported our candidate at the state level. Remember that this man lost to the Air Marshal during the primary. Did you notice all the posters he sponsored, he didn’t include the gubernatorial candidate there. We were all doing things separately, I believe that is not good for us,” he said.

The key stakeholders in the Party were not seen in the activities of the governorship candidate. Political analysts wondered why Minister Adamu Adamu and his counterpart, Maryam Katagum were far away from their party’s gubernatorial candidate.

Fighting the blacklegs
Babayo Aliyu Misau has been accused of anti-party activities and has been expelled by the executive council in his ward in Misau. There is also an exparte order from court to stop Misau from parading himself as the Chairman.

Misau kicked against his suspension by his ward party leadership in Kukadu Gundari, Misau Local Government Area of the state. The Ward Chairman, Ibrahim Zango Lawan, Secretary, Aliyu Hassan Adamu and the Assistant Women Leader, Asabe Ahmed. Misau is accused of engaging in anti-party activities before and during the general elections in a way they believed undermined the success of the party at the just concluded polls.

“We took this decision because the chairman, now former, was found guilty of anti-party activities,” the Chairman, Ibrahim Zango Lawan, said. Also speaking, the ward Secretary, Aliyu Hassan Adamu, stated that among other offences, the state chairman displayed his ballot papers during the governorship and state house of assembly elections where he voted the party for the position of the House of Assembly, but did not thumbprint for the party in the governorship ballot paper.

“So many things happened that we are not happy about. As the APC Bauchi State Chairman, he is meant to bring members of the party together to actualize APC’s victory in the state,” he said.

Assistant Woman Leader of Gundari Ward, Asabe Ahmed, said, “the state chairman has never called us for a meeting to plan the victory of the party. He doesn’t include us in his activities. I joined to say we have suspended him indefinitely.”

Misau who spoke with The Guardian dismissed his suspension by the ward leaders. He said that the purported suspension is a violation of the procedure to oust a sitting chairman of the party.

“It’s a power vested in them but it has to follow appropriate processes. There is a constitutional process before they can publish it. They have to send it to the local government chairman who will invite all the stakeholders to deliberate on it, when they are satisfied it will be sent to the state and the state will do the same and if satisfied it will be forwarded to the national level who will give the order. You don’t just do that from ward level.”

Misau denied the allegation that he did not vote for the governorship candidate of the party, Sadique Abubakar during the last elections. He said the viral video on social media must have been doctored to tarnish his image. He claimed to have voted for APC gubernatorial candidate.

After the polls, Governor Bala Mohammed polled 525,280 to defeat his closest rival, Sadique Abubakar, who scored 432,272 votes. From the results, Mohammed won in 15 of the 20 local councils of Toro; Tafawa Balewa, Ningi, Alkaleri, Dass, Ganjuwa, Zaki, Shira, Dambam, Itas/Gadau, Warji, Bogoro, Jama’are and Kirfi while APC’s Abubakar won five LGAs of Katagum, Misau, Darazo, Gamawa and Giade.

APC has secured a court order to inspect election materials used for the poll after it rejected the result, citing massive rigging, violence, over-voting and other irregularities.