The recent local government election in Bauchi state was more of a structure enforcing exercise for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in
the state. Beyond the customary outcome wherein the ruling party sweeps all the seats during the sub-state elec- tion, PDP in the state needed to not just affirm its presence in the state but consolidate ahead of 2023.
Expectedly, PDP won all 20 chair- manship and 20 deputy chairmanship positions as well as the 323 council- lorship seats, in the local government election held last Saturday. Interest- ingly, the LGA election was last held in 12 years ago in the state.
By Sunday, the 20 elected chairmen and their deputies were issued their Certificates of Return by the chairman of the Bauchi State Independent Elec- toral Commission, Dahiru Tata, at the commission’s headquarters.
The election was however strate- gic for Governor Bala Mohammed as it was more than a fulfilled promise. Twelve years ago, the people of Bauchi State didn’t have the chance to elect their closest representatives, there- fore holding appointee LG chairmen accountable is always very difficult.
For Governor Mohammed, the con- duct of the LG polls was not only root- ed in his quests to fulfill one of the ma- jor pledges he made in the buildup to the election, but it was also an oppor- tunity to bring government closer to the people, because in his own words; “appointing caretaker committee chairmen is an aberration of our de- mocracy, that is why my administra- tion decided to allow democracy take its natural cause by conducting the LG elections.”
For Mohammed, the only way to deepen democracy was by allowing the local people to decide who they want to represent them at the local levels, in that they would have a chance to hold them to account.
According to the governor, conduct- ing the LG elections was a demonstra- tion of his administration’s resolve to decentralise powers and accord greater opportunity of participation to the lo- cal people, such that, any action or in- action taken would be done with the consent of the hoi polloi.
The decision to conduct the elec- tion, according to pundits, was also to silence his critics who wanted to hold the governor by the jugular.
For instance, one the reasons cited by former Speaker of the House of Rep- resentatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, in a letter notifying his departure from the ruling PDP in Bauchi State was “the in- ability of the PDP led administration to conduct local government elections”, a claim the PDP rebuffed at the time, citing Coronavirus pandemic as reasons
for the delay in the conduct of the LG Polls.
For the PDP-led administration in Bauchi State, Bala’s critics should now look for something else, as it has naturally silenced them with the conduct of the election.
The October 17 LG election in the state for the PDP was also an oppor- tunity to consolidate its base, deci- mate the powers of the opposition, for, it has repeatedly argued that it’s still very relevant in Bauchi State for what it calls “our ability to cede with the people by unleashing people’s- oriented programs”, as submitted by the PDP state chairman in the state, Alhaji Hamza Koshe Akuyam. Akuyam insisted that despite the shenanigans of top APC members, whom he said turned their back against PDP after the party helped to bring to power, “Governor Bala’s stewardship and democratic ideals where the principle of separation of powers and decentralized pow- er politics taking in place in Bauchi will continue to endear this admin- istration to the people as has been demonstrated in the just concluded
A social commentator in Bauchi State, Jammauddeen Inuwa, said the series of cross carpeting where politicians considered to be of grassroots relevance did not help the opposition APC during the LG polls; “because most of the big fishes were involved in series of infighting and were settling grudges among themselves.
“They left their candidates stranded because they believed that investing in the LG polls was a complete waste of time; remem- ber some of their candidates were unequivocal in explaining that their Abuja godfathers left them to their fate.
“LG elections naturally are the most difficult elections in Nigeria, because they are closer to the peo- ple, one needs the support of ex- perienced politicians and huge re- sources to win, unfortunately for the opposition, most of their can- didates were strangulated financial- ly and deserted by their godfathers” Jammaudeen argued.
One of the glaring impacts of the Bauchi LG election according to Jammaudeen Inuwa was that it has decimated “the perceived pow- ers of the former speaker, and his supporters who believed that Dog- ara would at least decide who would win the LG elections at least in his constituency where his influence is well pronounced.
“The idea that he wields so much influence in Dass, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro is now put into scrutiny at least when one uses this election as a litmus test. This is because whether the election was rigged or not as claimed by the opposition, what is unequivocally clear is that Dogara will be struggling to main- tain relevance at his constituency come 2023, because the PDP-led government is determined to com- pletely annihilate his political rele- vance in the constituency,” he said.
Corroborating Jammauddeen, a social critic based in Bauchi, Kamal Idris said that “the LG election in Bauchi State is a litmus test of what is going to happen come 2023. Although there is a slight difference between general elections and states’ conducted LG elections in Nigeria, the power play is usually the same thing.
“The electioneering periods in Nigeria are full of intrigues and power play where defection from one party to another informs the kinds of alignment and realignments we usually see.
“The LG election in Bauchi State was not short of that, and we have seen many politicians loyal to the PDP cross carpeting to the opposi- tion APC, courtesy of Yakubu Dog ara, but their defection had no value during the LG election.”
Idris said many factors could be behind the opposition’s impotence during the LG polls.
“Most of them were already weak before the conduct of the election, they had the believe that the PDP in Bauchi State will not do justice for them, so they relax their mus- cles and could not properly mobi- lise their supporters, and their god- fathers who are supposed to deploy their resources to help them desert- ed them courtesy of the infighting in the APC,” he stated.
Expectedly, the APC kicked ve- hemently against the outcome of the polls.
The chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Uba Ahmed Nana said, “We reject in to- tality the purported results and declaration of winners of the Local Government Elections as effected by PDP and BASIEC on 17th Octo- ber 2020.
Any person sworn-in to office based on the unlawful PDP/ BASIEC results shall be occupying the seat illegally and without the support of their people,” he said.
Mr. Nana during a press confer- ence said, the APC in Bauchi State may not “engage in a futile exercise of submitting ourselves to the jurisdiction of the Local Government Election Tribunal inaugurated in Bauchi on 13th October 2020, as we may not get the justice we de- mand from the members as presently constituted.”
The party chairman argued that “Two of the chairmen and some members of the Local Government Election Tribunal are partisan poli- ticians who constantly identify with the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Par- ty (PDP) in Bauchi State.
“For instance, some of them are certified PDP members and they have handled several election pe- titions for PDP, particularly, in the 2019 National and State Assembly Election Tribunal in Bauchi State. In addition, these lawyers are con- stantly involved in political activi- ties at the instance of the ruling PDP in Bauchi State.
Their appointment as members/chairmen of the elec- tion Tribunal is clearly in breach of Section 59 (1) & (2) of the Bauchi State Electoral Law, 2008”, Uba Nana said during the press confer- ence.
Mr Nana was not alone on this stand, as 20 out of the 31 members of the State House of Assembly also lent their voices on the outcome of the Bauchi LG election.
Hon. Tijjani Mohammed Aliyu, majority leader of the Assembly in a press statement said the Assembly is
distancing itself from “so called elec- tions of the local governments.”
He added, “We write to assure our teeming supporters that the 20 APC members in Bauchi State House As- sembly disassociate themselves from this act and so called elections of the local governments.”
Dismissing those claims, the PDP state chairman, Akuyma said “We urge our members to remain calm and be law abiding citizens of Bauchi State and Nigeria at large. We advise all aggrieved aspirants to take the part of honour and challenge the ac- tion legally”
Mr. Akuyam in a telephone inter- view said majority of members of the electoral body in Bauchi State were appointed by the previous govern- ment, as such the PDP had no ba- sis to use them in rigging the elec- tions, saying there was no way the PDP could manipulate the polls when
most of the members of BASIEC were appointed by an APC government.
The grievances of the APC and 20 members of the Bauchi State Assembly may not hold much water accord- ing to a public affairs analyst, Ishaq Mohammed.
“They cannot do anything, the Assembly although majorly populated by the APC is still a rubber-stamp and most of them are bereft of ideas with deficient academic qualifications to even articulate their position and confront the sitting governor.
“Remember the members of the Assembly particularly of the APC extraction are conglomerate of charlatans in my opinion, because they were handpicked by the former governor of the State MA Abubakar who wanted to use them as rubber-stamp during his second tenure had he won the election; and that is part of the misfortune that is still hunting the opposition APC in Bauchi State.
“So, to be frank with you, the APC as currently constituted in Bauchi State is in a mess; and until and un- less they do something urgent to ad- dress these series of inadequacies, they should forget about 2023 be- cause the incumbent governor is still loved by the people, and as an experi- enced politician, he will ensure that he wins the election comes 2023,” he said.
The argument on whether the election was free and fair or was marred by irregularities shall continue to be debated depending on who one engages in a conversation; what is however clear is that the APC in Bauchi State has suffered yet anoth- er fatal defeat, an omen that may count against the party in 2023.
Still, as the governor continues to build on his strides in develop- ing the state, many watchers of his administration aver that it would be difficult to dislodge him politically in light of his sagacity in the political sphere of the state.