In this report, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH observes that the race for next month’s governarship election in Bauchi State is marked with peculiar characteristics, unique contradictions and unequal display of ambition by the candidates.
Bauchi State governorship race is no doubt a contest between incumbent Governor Muhammed Abubakar of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Bala Mohammed who is the immediate past minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
While Governor Abubakar wants the status quo or continuity syndrome maintained by stepping out to contest for his second term in the 2019 governorship race, Bala Mohammed would wish to upstage and break Abubakar’s desire for re-election.
The duo are parading mass supporters, opinion moulders or community leaders, in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
Recall that in April 2007, Bala Mohammed was elected Senator for Bauchi South on the platform of the then All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). During the impasse trailing the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s ambivalence medical vacation, Senator Mohammed was the first serving senator to call for declaring Yar’Adua incapacitated and making the then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, acting President.
For a pay-back, he was appointed Minister of FCT on 8th April, 2010, when the then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan announced his new cabinet.
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) later detained and questioned Senator Mohammed extensively in connection with questionable schemes and projects undertaken by him when he held sway as FCT minister between 2010 and 2015.
On May 10, 2017, Justice A.M. Talba of the FCT High Court ordered the EFCC to remand him in prison custody pending the determination of a six-count charge bordering on abuse of office, false declaration of assets and fraud to the tune of N864million.
The EFCC averred that while in office as minister, Senator Mohammed allegedly received the sum of N550 million as bribe from the Aso Savings and Loans Limited with respect to some properties in Asokoro area of Abuja.
This was just as he allegedly abused his position as Board Chairman of Aso Savings by purportedly allocating four fully-detached duplexes and 11 semi-detached duplexes valued at N314million through the Presidential Task Force on Sale of Governments Houses, to himself.
The former minister was also accused of making false declaration of his assets.
On October 18, 2017, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja granted the EFCC an interim forfeiture order to take possession of 14 choice properties belonging to Senator Mohammed. While the EFCC is prosecuting the former Minister on a six-count charge for abuse of office, it is at the same time prosecuting his son, Shamsudeen, on separate 15-count corruption charge for money laundering.
Shamsudeen is facing trial alongside four firms- Bird Trust Agro Allied Ltd, Intertrans Global Logistics Ltd, Diakin Telecommunications Ltd and Bal-Vac Mining Ltd, which the EFCC said were used to launder over N1.1billion.
Senator Mohammed’s greatest trouble with the EFCC has to do with the controversial N1 trillion “Land Swap Programme” under which his administration allegedly traded large parcels of public land with some ‘select’ private individuals and companies to develop housing projects in the FCT. This is said to have allegedly caused the FCT over N1 trillion loss.
But on October 1, 2018 Senator Mohammed emerged as the PDP 2019 governorship candidate in Bauchi State after defeating two other contestants, Abdul Ningi and Adamu Gumba, both senators, at a keenly contested primary election. The chairman, PDP electoral panel for the state, announced that Mohammed scored 1,335 votes to emerge winner, while Ningi got 802 votes and Gumba polled 15 votes.
While on a tour in Dass, Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa councils of the state on March 8, 2018, Senator Mohammed vowed to unseat the APC-led administration of Abubakar in 2019, saying that party’s performance is below what PDP achieved while in power.
“I am here to sensitise our people through house-to-house contact; to inform PDP supporters of my decision to rescue Bauchi 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’’
On his part, Governor Muhammed Abubakar was an avid career civil servant with few interruptions of private legal practice all along until he retired and went into politics.
On completion of his youth service, Barrister Mohammed Abubakar joined the civil service as a Pupil State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice, Bauchi State. He rose through the ranks to the position of Senior Parliamentary Counsel and Head of Legal Drafting Department of Bauchi State House of Assembly in 1983
He later became the Bauchi State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. His intermittent legal practice saw him becoming the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bauchi State Branch from 1996 to 1998,appointed a member of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in June 2013. He was appointed Resident Electoral Commissioner of the INEC and in 2003, and was promoted to National Electoral Commissioner in charge of Legal Services and supervisor of Borno, Jigawa, and Yobe states. He retired as INEC commissioner and went into legal practice and on April 11, 2015 he was elected Bauchi state Governor on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Governor Abubakar assumed office at a time of rising insurgency and attacks by Boko Haram.
Going down memory lane, Boko Haram launched its first attack in Bauchi when on July 26, 2009 when the insurgent launched an attack on a police station in Bauchi State. More than 50 people were killed and several dozen were injured when a gun-battle erupted as a police station was attacked by 70 Nigerian Boko Haram sect members who possessed grenades and guns.
By July 30, 2009, the military captured Mohammed Yusuf, the sect leader and transferred him to the custody of the police. They summarily executed him in public outside police headquarter
While on September 8, 2010, five persons comprising a soldier, policeman, two prison warders and a civilian were killed following an attack on Bauchi prison by Boko Haram, just as 759 inmates at the prisons were set free. Among the inmates who escaped from the prison were all the 123 Boko Haram members.
Intermittently, churches and mosques were attacked, just as the attacks on other soft spots for the insurgents remained unabated till the current administration came on board.
On August 11, 2016, Senator Isa Hamma Misau (Bauchi Central) raised the alarm that Boko Haram was relocating from its stronghold in Sambisa to Burra Forest in Ningi Emirate Council. He said Burra forest is linked through a corridor to the Falgore Forrest in Kano state and Saminaka in Kaduna State; and it is from there that the terrorists are going to other places to unleash terror on people.
On January 3, 2018, while on official duty tour the 33 Artillery Brigade and at the Nigerian Army Armoured Corps (NAAC), Bauchi, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, explained why Bauchi is peaceful amidst attacks by insurgents in other states in the Northeast, saying it is due to the cooperation of residents and the collaboration of security agencies working in the state.
But when the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bauchi state chapter paid Christmas visit to Governor Abubakar on December 26, 2018 it endorsed him for re-election next year because of priority he gives to security issues in the state.
According to its Chairman, Rev. Joshua Maina who led Christian Communities to the state governor, Bauchi state remains the safest among the North eastern states and one of the safest in the entire country.
“All of us know what we were passing through in the past. But to an extent we have even forgotten that there had been massacres and killings during worships.
“To the glory of God, it has become history now and that has become possible because some people became committed to the reality of securing the lives and properties of people.
“Your excellency, you are one of those people. And one evident example is the fact that Bauchi state is becoming one of the most populous states in the North East because it is the safest and one of the safest in the country,” Maina said .
In one of the media encounters, Governor Abubakar noted that his government has suffered lots 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 the 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.
He pointed out that the state received N4.9 billion last month from the federation account, “which means more than 80% of the money was spent on payment of civil servants’ salaries”.
He, however, said that his government should be appreciated for embarking on 27 roads projects across the state within the two years of its inception despite the paucity of funds and backlog of unpaid salaries.
The governor listed ongoing road projects being carried out by the state government to include dualisation of township roads, renovation of dilapidated ones as well as construction of new ones in Katagum, Misau and Gamawa local government areas, adding that 19 primary health care centres were also built in some parts of the state within the period under review.
“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”, he said
In another media briefing, the governor said, “I took over N125 billion debt in staff claims and another N15 billion 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 N5 billion 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.”
Available records, however, show that all the interventions from the Federal Government, in form of bailout and Paris refunds to the state, were all used to pay workers’ salaries and other entitlements. Perhaps, that informed why the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) commended the governor for settling the backlog of civil servants’ salaries he inherited from his predecessor.
The PDP governorship candidate, Senator Bala Mohammed, though unarguably laden with big wealth to mobilize the populace to file behind him during the governorship election may be confronted by ‘’Buhari’s factor” in Bauchi state.
Bauchi state is second to Kano in ‘cult-like followership’ of President Muhammadu 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.
Besides, the former governor of Bauchi state, Malam Isa Yuguda,had just on November 1, 2018 announced his defection from the Green Party of Nigeria to the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress.
Analysts averred that a combination of Buhari factor and the support from influential politicians like former Governor Yuguda, will make it extremely difficult for Senator Mohammed to realise his tall ambition of upstaging the incumbent governor.
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