Titanic battle in Bauchi as Abubakar faces PDP’s Bala Mohammed
It promises to be a battle of the titans in the forthcoming Bauchi State governorship election. Already, electioneering for the March 2, 2019 poll is revealing some peculiar characteristics, unique contradictions and unequal display of raw ambition by both candidates to win the contest. Watchers of the Bauchi electoral environment conclude that it is indeed going to be a straight fight between incumbent Governor Muhammed Abubakar of All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard bearer, Bala Mohammed.
At the inception of democracy in 1999 through 2015, only two persons had governed the state unlike some states, where three to four different governors held sway within the same period.But while the incumbent wants to continue in office beyond May 29 this year, the former Minister of Federal capital Territory (FCT), Bala Mohammed, hopes to scuttle that ambition. Consequently, the two have displaying mass recruitment of supporters, opinion or community leaders from all the nooks and crannies of Bauchi State.
The Bala challenge
Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed was first elected as Senator for Bauchi South on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2007. But during the impasse that trailed ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua’s controversial medical vacation, Senator Mohammed was the first Senator to argue that Yar’Adua should be declared incapacitated to pave the way for the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, to serve as Acting President.
When Jonathan became President therefore, Bala was appointed FCT Minister on April 8, 2010 as part of the new cabinet. And despite series of corruption allegations brought against him and the many detentions he suffered in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed, emerged as PDP’s candidate for the 2019 governorship poll in the state. He defeated two other contenders, including Abdul Ningi and Adamu Gumba, at a keenly contested primary election in October 2018.
According the chairman of PDP’s electoral panel for the state, Mohammed scored 1,335 votes as against 802 and 15 votes for Ningi and Gumba respectively. During a familiarisation tour of Dass, Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa axis on March 8, 2018, Senator Mohammed vowed to unseat the APC administration of Abubakar in the coming election, stressing that the ruling party’s performance falls below what PDP achieved while in power.He said: “I am here to sensitise our people through house to house contact, to inform PDP supporters of my decision to rescue Bauchi State people if voted as governor in 2019. APC came to power through deceptive propaganda to heal the wounds of Nigerians even when wounds did not exist.’’
Citing his achievements in office as FCT Minister, Mohammed said the plans he has for the state are to replicate similar feats, adding: “I will want to use my intelligence, creativity and innovativeness as I did in Abuja, where I had no authority; my authority was a delegated one, as written in the Nigerian Constitution as a minister.
“I want to be a governor with all the paraphernalia of the office. We used land as a resource in the FCT and I want to use land as a resource in Bauchi. We must take baseline studies (- our land resource, tourism resource, agricultural capabilities, demonstration farms and animal farms, agricultural institutions-) so that we can move the youth out of the streets.
“We can create a large number of extension workers that can be agriculturists in the villages and bring the best of seeds to increase the yield in terms of productivity and create off-takers within and outside of agriculture.”
The PDP governorship hopeful expatiated on what he called his wealth-creation agenda, pointing out: “I have read widely; I have seen how other climes have built resources and wealth. I want to create wealth, create a level playing field for Nigerians in Bauchi first, with the indigenous people, giving them what they have.“I will use Geographic Information System (GIS) to give level playing field to world-class investors from the East and the West and all part of the country. And I will create security in such a manner that investment would have security.
“I want to deepen and create the Nigerianness that we require so that we can have a paradigm shift from dependency on oil resources to agriculture and small businesses, exploiting the capabilities of the youth and other talents in the informal sector that had not been developed.”The former FCT minister said there was no government in Bauchi State regretting that today, “we don’t have salaries, we don’t have pensions. For three years, no service has been provided. There are no drug revolving funds for our hospitals and so the common man cannot get drugs at subsidised rate as we used to have.”
Recounting the failure of governance further he declared: “Our schools are dilapidated; our teachers have not been paid. When you come to other sectors, we are all wallowing in melancholy in the country. Salaries have been increased through dubious means by the government without employment for the youth.“Without promotion, without increment in terms of personnel emoluments, our personnel cost has risen from N2 billion to N5 billion. To the common man there is no government, there is a vacuum. It is nullity in terms of services.”
On the antics of his opponents that are using a series of corruption allegations and charges as campaign issues against him, Senator Mohammed said that the courts have begun to award damages in his favour. He said: “I cannot steal money from Abuja and bring it to Bauchi. But as a member of the then federal cabinet, from the area I came from, the Federal Government rehabilitated 80 kilometres and also constructed new roads – Yashi-Duduri and from Duguri-Kashere.
“These were federal roads that were done through my initiative. I tried to facilitate some other projects like the Snake Hospital, but because of political differences, I was dissuaded. What I did was to ensure that, like other Nigerians, Bauchi indigenes were able to access employment in the FCT and also land allocations. Being in the cabinet, I don’t think anything less than N100 billion came into Bauchi State and that explains my popularity.”
Bala said he has been able to touch the lives of those within his immediate community and the entire state, maintaining that despite “all the villainy, treachery and mischief against my character, the people still love me and they know the truth.”He added that the FCT administration attested that no kobo was missing in its coffers, adding that “no civil society, no individual complained against Bala in any petition to the EFCC. “But because of political exigencies, I am facing one of the greatest challenges. Thank God, I won one of my cases in a court of law and I was awarded N5 million as damages.”
Governor Abubakar’s strength
ON his part, Governor Abubakar was a devoted career civil servant with a few interruptions due to private legal practice until he retired and went into politics. He was elected governor on April 11, 2015 on the platform of APC after defeating the then ruling party’s candidate by over 370,000 votes.The major issues counting for the governor include the relative peace in Bauchi during his tenure, especially against the background that Boko Haram actually began from Bauchi in 2009. Boko Haram launched its first attack on a police station in Bauchi on July 26, 2009.
In a media encounter, Abubakar claimed that his government has suffered a lot of controversies because he had chosen to do things differently, adding that, “I took over a state that was already prostrate. We were elected when labour was still on strike. Civil servants were not paid for four months. I negotiated with them to call off their strike action, promising to pay the arrears once I was sworn in. They agreed and once I was sworn in, we fulfilled our promise to them.”
During Democracy Day celebration on May 29, 2017, Governor Abubakar disclosed that his administration pays a whooping sum of N4.1 billion monthly from its federal grants as salaries to the 105, 000 workers it inherited from past regime.
However, he said his government should be appreciated for embarking on 27 road projects across the state within the first two years of its inception despite paucity of funds and a backlog of unpaid salaries.While enumerating ongoing road projects embarked upon by his administration, the governor explained that the dualisation of township roads, renovation of dilapidated ones as well as construction of new ones in Katagum, Misau and Gamawa Local Government Areas would soon be ready for commissioning. He added that 19 primary healthcare centres were also built in some parts of the state within the past three years.
The governor complained of the limitation of funds and low accruals from the federation account noting, “Can you imagine that Kano State, which has 44 local government councils has a workforce of just 95, 000, but Bauchi which has only 20 local governments has over 105, 000 workers on its monthly payroll, amid the present economic recession. So we need to be appreciated for embarking on these important projects within two years despite our financial predicament.
“I took over N125 billion debt in staff claims and another N15 billion of gratuity owed to civil servants. Our wage bill is N5.1 billion. But since we came in, I can count the number of times we received above N5billion from the federation account, yet we do not owe a single kobo as salary in Bauchi State. I do this as a deliberate policy because the people of my state rely on salaries to keep body and soul together and to also boost the state’s economy.”
Bauchi State is second to Kano in ‘cult-like followership’ of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Northwest and Northeast geo-political regions, which led to victories of many APC governors, National Assembly and State Assembly members in the 2015 elections.It would be seen whether the 2019 governorship race would be won and lost on Buhari’s terms or the yearnings and aspiration of Bauchi people.
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