YAHYA SARKI x-rays the prospects of the Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, as he seeks a return to office in 2019.
As the strategising for 2019 general election gets more intense, politicians especially those vying for elective offices are now counting their chances, and the odds, ahead of what is shaping up to be a gruelling contest.
The incumbent governor of Kebbi State, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu is not insulated from uncertainties as he seeks a return as governor under the platform of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC).
Bagudu became the governor of Kebbi State in 2015 under the APC after defeating the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), General Sarkin Yaki Bello. Perhaps, riding the APC wave which swept away the ruling PDP, Bagudu was overwhelmingly elected.
While there were doubts as to how well he would perform in the state, party loyalists aver that the governor has turned around the infrastructure of the state within three years period with lean resources from federal purse, a claim the opposition, PDP, has faulted.
However while the widely-acclaimed rice revolution easily comes to mind, checks by our reporter show that Bagudu has constructed new roads in almost all the 21 local government areas of the state.
Major streets in the state capital Birnin Kebbi have now been installed with street lights.The state also enjoys more than 22 hours uninterrupted electricity supply, courtesy of the governor for supporting PHCN with new transformers and a monthly financial support of over 100 million to PHCN to stabilise and ensure constant electricity supply to the state. This has in no small measure boosted economic activities of small businesses like welders, cold food sellers to include drinks and so on. Hotel businesses are also not left out.
According to the publicity secretary of APC in Kebbi, Alhaji Sani Dododo ‘’ In all the 225 wards in the state,our amiable governor has done one or two projects whether road construction, water supply or construction/rehabilitation of schools. We are the number one state in Nigeria that enjoys 24 hours uninterrupted electricity supply,” he said.
Another major factor that may stand for Bagudu’s success coming back as the governor of the state is his disposition with the Presidency and the national hierarchy of the ruling APC. When President Muhammadu Buhari launched his economic diversification agenda in Kebbi through agriculture in the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme in 2015 where over 75,000 rice farmers benefitted from cash and agricultural inputs loan.
Bagudu embraced the programme wholeheartedly and gave full political support for the success of the scheme in Kebbi which has resulted in mass production of rice in Kebbi and the entire country.
The scheme has saved the country hard earned foreign currency in buying foreign rice as well as reduced the importation of foreign rice to about 85 percent, according to the minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh.
As Kebbi achieved over one million metric tones production with this development, President Buhari made Bagudu the national chairman, Rice and Wheat production in Nigeria. Bagudu also played a vital role in the success recorded by APC during the Ekiti governorship election. Bagudu’s closeness to the presidency perhaps is the reason why the governor is involved in any major issue concerning the party or the nation.
The gale of defections in favour of the ruling APC from the major opposition party in the state, PDP, is also a plus to governor Bagudu. This has no doubt strengthened the chances of the governor and APC in the state for the upcoming 2019 election.
Prominent political stalwarts of PDP in January this year including former Kebbi Governor, Saidu Nasamu Dakingari, his deputy Ibrahim Aliyu, lawmakers and over 200,000 members of PDP defected to APC. With this happening many are of the opinion that there is no opposition in Kebbi politics.
The incumbency factor has always been a big factor in Nigerian politics. Bagudu as the incumbent governor of the state certainly has an edge over his opponents from other parties in terms of financial resources, political structure and even patronage of security apparatus even though they are under the powers of the central government.
On the issue of civil service, since the governor came into office in 2015, workers salary is paid monthly as when due. In fact Kebbi is one of those states in Nigeria that can boast regular payment of workers salary. Bagudu also accords workers welfare and their entitlements serious attention during festivities like Sallah and Ramadan by providing cash and material assistance to workers.
It is pertinent to state however that even with many advantages at the governor’s side on his return, some odds still hold against his return as the governor of the state for the second time in 2019. The most striking challenge against the governor that may stand on his chances come 2019, is the emergence of Senator Isa Galaudu from Argungu emirate as the PDP governorship candidate and the picking of Abubakar Malan (Shatiman Gwandu) as his running mate from Gwandu emirate.
Political observers say the selection by Senator Galaudu of Abubakar Malan as his runing mate was tactically done to woo voters from Gwandu emirate that has the highest number of local government areas in the State. Another reason is to reduce the number of votes coming to the governor from Gwandu emirate because Shatiman Gwandu, a former Deputy Comptroller General of Customs as well as governorship candidate of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2007 and 2011 respectively has large political followership in the area.
There is also the lingering issue of political marginalisation by Gwandu emirate. Argungu emirate has often voiced out against being marginalised by Gwandu emirate claiming that since the creation of Kebbi State, all the previous three civilian governors except one from Yauri emirate were from Gwandu emirate including the incumbent governor Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.
Another factor that may pose a threat to Bagudu’s second term bid in 2019 is the aftermath of the party’s primaries ahead of the 2019 election. Many aspirants that did not scale through feel cheated and aggrieved.They blame the governor and the top APC hierarchy in the state for not carrying out credible primary elections.The aggrieved aspirants said a grand plan was hatched by APC leadership in the state for the emergence of those aspirants perceived to be loyal to the government.
In a video tape that went viral on social media, an aggrieved member of the party who is also the incumbent member House of Representatives Salihu Garba Koko (Jarman Koko) representing Koko Besse/Maiyama claimed that the primary elections were not free and fair. “I am short changed by the party Leadership in Birnin Kebbi during the primary elections,” he said in the video.
The non-recognition of the only governorship contender by the party, Ibrahim Muhammad Mera, the Argungu prince who is also from Argungu emirate.
It will be recalled that a Melodrama took place at the Kebbi State APC office as the party Leadership disowned the candidature and declaration of Ibrahim Mera as one of the party’s governorship aspirants in the state. The Aspirant ( Ibrahim Mera) who was at the party office to express his readiness and interest to contest for the Governorship position against the seating Governor, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu was rejected and denied by the party leadership in the state.
The financial secretary of the party, Aliyu Bature who spoke on behalf of the Chairman, said that the party members were not aware of his presence and mission in the party. He urged him to go back and meet his ward and local government party chairman in order to secure their recognition at the grassroots level. “We don’t know any candidate than Buhari as a president while Atiku Bagudu as the Governor for the second term bid, this is what we concluded and endorsed.”
Mera who was a former retired comptroller-General of Customs and a younger brother to the Emir of Arugungu left the premises of the party’s secretariat in Birnin Kebbi with thousands of his supporters in shock. Also in another press conference in Government House Birnin Kebbi, the Publicity Secretary of APC in Kebbi , Alhaji Sani Dododo reiterated the stand of the party that it did not recognise any Governorship aspirant for APC in Kebbi except the incumbent governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.
This has really aggrieved Ciroma and his supporters who are mostly from Argungu emirate. With this acrimony in the party, there is likelihood that people from Argungu emirate will give their votes to Senator Isah Galaudu of PDP, who is from their area and also in view of what happened to Ibrahim Mera , the area (local government areas from Argungu) may give block votes to the PDP candidate, Isah Galaudu and there is possibility that in order to achieve their agenda, the aggrieved politicians from that zone will reach out to Yauri and Zuru emirates for political collaboration.
However, in a swift move to unite the party and address issues or grievances arising from the concluded party primary elections in the state, APC leadership in the state inaugurated a 13 man member committee to reconcile aggrieved aspirants ahead of the 2019 election. The committee was headed by General Muhammadu Magoro as the Chairman.
One thorny issue that may not favor the incumbent governor’s quest to return in 2019 is the agitation by pensioners in the state about their gratuity liabilities.
Although Bagudu’s administration inherited a backlog of billions of gratuity arreas from the immediate past government of Saidu Nasamu Dakingari (PDP), the current agitation from pensioners is giving the government sleepless nights in spite of its efforts to offset the liabilities.
When the protest and even prayers against the government became overwhelming by aggrieved pensioners who besieged the Eid Praying Ground to seek for divine intervention from God, the State Commissioner of Finance Ibrahim Augie called for press briefing to make clarification on the matter to the public.
He said that the Kebbi State Government had expended over N10.8 billion for payments of outstanding gratuity liabilities to 7,003 retirees across the 21 local government areas and education areas from 2015 to 2018.
“The sum of N1 billion was paid on one of six ratio to all verified retirees through Kwaido Committee in 2015.
“In 2016 to 2017, the sum of N6 billion was released and paid to all verified retirees for state, LGAs and LGEAs. These payments cleared 40 per cent of all claims of the verified retirees.
“In early 2018, another sum of N2.5 billion was released and paid to the verified retirees as every retiree got a minimum of 27 per cent of his outstanding gratuity arrears paid. This brought the total percentage payments on all claims to about 67 per cent,” he explained.