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Yahaya versus Goje: Battle for Gombe State and return of ‘Yan Kalare’ 

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
12 November 2021   |   4:05 am
The simmering political misunderstanding between Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya and the strong man of Gombe State politics, Senator Danjuma Goje, blew open last Friday.

Senator Danjuma Goje

The simmering political misunderstanding between Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya and the strong man of Gombe State politics, Senator Danjuma Goje, blew open last Friday. In the ensuing kerfuffle between political godfather and adopted political son, old tricks have been excavated signalling the possible return of the dreaded Yan Kalare (street urchins that serve as political thugs for hire).

The peace of the Jewel of the Savannah, as Gombe State is called, was shattered when Senator Goje, a former governor of the state returned from his base in Abuja and made to enter his home state. No sooner had the Senator’s convoy approached the Gombe City gate than some young men, who had massed to ‘receive’ the former governor, became irate, throwing stones and sticks at the Senator’s cars.

Though the Senator has blamed the state government for sponsoring the miscreants, watchers of Gombe State politics insist that the attack on the former governor was a reactivation of the political tactics that defined his tenure from 2003 through 2011, when the current governor, Yahaya, served as his commissioner of Finance.

Special Assistant to the Senator, Lilian Nworie, told journalists in Abuja that the attack on her principal seem to be a well coordinated plot to embarrass and harm the former governor.

Nworie disclosed that while the street urchins threw stones and dangerous objects at Goje’s vehicles the Policemen at the nearby Gombe International Conference Centre refused to call the boys to order.

Goje’s media aide disclosed that problem started when Governor Yahaya’s aides, including his ADC (aide-de-camp) blocked the road, remarking that they unleashed terror on Senator Goje and those in his convoy for two hours.

She stated: “It is unfortunate that one life was lost and many cars vandalised including the senator’s vehicle. They smashed the windscreen. All efforts to make the governor’s ADC remove the blockade yielded no result as he insisted that he got instructions from the above that the former governor should not be allowed into the town

“They burnt tyres on the main road as he was about to enter the state capital from the airport around the International Conference Centre, along the Bauchi – Gombe Road. The police watched helplessly while the boys continued destroying things.”

Also, in a statement, the state government through the commissioner for Information and Culture, Julius Lepes, alleged that the Senator in his usual style hired political thugs from the entire local government areas of the state to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens.

Ever since Governor Yahaya mounted the saddle as governor through the help of Goje, reports had it that attempts by the Senator to teleguide the incumbent on critical issues of politics and governance in the state became a source of irritation between the two.

It could be recalled that at the build up to the 2019 governorship, Senator Goje was divided on the choice between his two close allies-Yahaya, who was his Finance Commissioner and Muhammed Jibrin Dan-Barde, a former Managing Director of Sun Trust Bank.

At the height of the competition to win Goje’s endorsement, it was alleged that Governor Yahaya’s supporters pushed the narrative that Dan-Barde was a violent man and could alter that peace and harmony pervading the state. He was also mislabelled as Kano native.

Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya

Following the harassment of Senator Goje, during which lives were lost, the two spectacular events have occurred in the state, which serve as a pointer to a supremacy battle ahead between the Senator and Governor Yahaya, who is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that he berths a second term in office come 2023.
Goje’s olive branch

Senator Goje, while addressing a throng of All Progressives Congress (APC), who came to welcome him at his residence, urged his supporters to remain law abiding. Alluding to what transpired around the Gombe city gate, Goje reminded his audience that he was not in Gombe to foment trouble.

Speaking in vernacular, the Senator declared that the state would move forward, stressing that nobody would stop the progress of Gombe people. As the shouts of Sai Goje punctuated his remarks, the former governor assured that he would continue to fight for the welfare of the people.

However, despite the conciliatory tone of the former governor’s speech to his supporters, what happened the next day, Saturday, left nobody in doubt that a political ‘war’ has been declared between the Senator and the state chief executive: His daughter, Dr. Hussaina Goje, addressed a hurried press conference, where she announced her immediate resignation from the cabinet of Governor Inuwa Yahaya.

Reading a prepared text in hausa language, Dr. Goje, who was the commissioner for Environment and Forest Resources, explained that she decided to quit the cabinet for personal reasons and according to her principles.

While greeting Gombe people and thanking Governor Yahaya for giving her the opportunity to serve under him as a member of the state executive, the former governor’s daughter declared: “Today, Saturday November 6, 2021, let me use this opportunity to inform the general public and the media that I, Dr. Hussaina Goje, have put in a letter for my formal resignation from my position as commissioner of Environment and Forest Resources to the Executive Governor of Gombe State, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, effective from today.

“Let me also state that my resignation is based on personal reasons. I wish to appreciate the executive governor for the opportunity given to me to serve as a member of his Executive Council in this administration.”
Signs of impending confrontation

Signs that Senator Goje and Governor Yahaya would be on opposite camps during the 2023 emerged last July, when Dan-Barde and other loyalist of the Senator moved over to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Gombe residents said it was possible that Senator Goje wants to right the wrongs of 2019 by supporting Dan-Barde to contest the PDP governorship ticket. Speaking when he officially entered PDP, Dan-Barde, who is a Risk Manager, explained that the bad governance in the state, which began from May 29, 2019 forced him out of the governing APC.

Dan-Barde told journalists, “You are witnesses to the fact that what we now have in Gombe State is government of a person, by a person, for a person and not a government of the people for the people and by the people…

“We have a leadership that incites violence and that does not care about the youth or the development of the youth. This is an administration that has engaged in callous statements that go as far as inciting unrest in the state.”

The former bank MD disclosed that as early as February he had made up his mind to quit APC, adding that Gombe is a PDP state, even as he argued that since Gombe people believe in good governance, it was hard for him to remain in a party that delivers bad governance in the state.
Possible return of Yan Kalare

Yan Kalare, a euphemism for strong boys, had a field day during Goje’s administration when they ruled the streets, doing as they pleased. The Guardian gathered that during that era, the then commissioner of Finance, Inuwa Yahaya, was responsible for doling hand-outs from the state government as welfare package as well as keeping them loyal for electoral purposes.

But, on assumption of office on May 29, 2011, as governor of Gombe State, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, cleaned up the boys and engaged them as Environmental and Traffic Marshals. They were trained in batches at a Youth Development Centre in Jos, where they acquired various skills.

Residents of the state heaved a sigh of relief as the measure took about 6000 youth off the streets, just as a semblance of sanity returned to the Gombe metropolis and nightlife resumed.

Apart from rehabilitating the Yan Kalare, Dankwambo also retained Goje’s political structure by accommodating most of the appointees into his cabinet and as heads of parastatals. That masterstroke was said to have endeared him to the people such that in 2015 during the Buhari Tsunami, Dankwambo survived as the last man standing by winning his re-election.

Upon mounting the saddle as governor two years ago, Governor Yahaya reportedly dismantled the Environmental and Road Marshals, saying that the programme was but political patronage that constituted a drain on the state’s meagre financial resources.

But, some insiders in Yahaya’s administration confided in The Guardian that the incumbent having known Goje’s capacity to destabilise his administration decided to provide a lee way for strong boys that would guarantee his political safety as well as instill fear on his (the governor’s) detractors.

Peeved by Governor Yahaya’s insistence on appropriating virtually all political positions in APC at the expense of his loyalists, Senator Goje, who chairs the Senate Committee on Marine Transport, decided to stay away from Gombe as the ward and state congresses of APC held.

His decision to visit the state after shunning the congresses was interpreted by Governor Yahaya’s allies as an opportunity to perfect plans to gather his loyalist for an all out political battle for 2023 poll.

Although the Senator aspired for the position of President of ninth Senate in June 2019, he had to step down for Dr. Ahmad Lawan, following interventions from the Presidency. The Guardian gathered that the former governor is also preparing to drop his hat in the ring for the office of APC National Chairman, just as some of his loyalists disclosed that if the party stops him from clinching the position he would consider a return to PDP, on which platform he became governor and Senator.

The Senator and his former political godson have used last Friday’s incidence to advance their political hostilities. The state chapter of APC, which is siding with Governor Yahaya, has asked the Senator to render public apology to it.

While condemning the violence, Gombe APC blamed Goje’s supporters of stoking the crisis that led to the loss of lives and destruction of property, stressing, “the party will not condone this barbaric act and will take measures to discipline any member, no matter how highly placed he or she is. We call on security agents to carry out appropriate investigation into the matter and whosoever is found culpable must be punished according to the laws of the land.”

Although the party insisted that Gombe APC remains “strong and united under the leadership of Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya, the governor of Gombe State,” the call on Goje to tender apology is said to be a precursor to his suspension from the party by the ward executives.

As APC plans to hold its national convention in December, it would be seen how far the ensuing supremacy battle between father and son for the soul of the Jewel of Savannah would impact on the reconciliation efforts of the party.