One reason why public office holders should weigh every pronouncement of theirs is the likelihood that they could be held accountable if not immediately, in the future, no matter how distant that future would appear. Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, has suddenly found himself in that quagmire. It has to do with whether or not he will stand for President in 2023.
In a report in the Blueprint newspaper of 12 September 2021 titled, One Month After: Bala Mohammed Fails to Declare Presidential Ambition, one Najib Sani Adamu, called the Governor out for his delay, in fulfilling an earlier pledge, to respond to the sundry groups that have been calling on him to run for President. Of all the groups, I reckon that the most prominent is the Northern Youths Elders Council led by Comrade Eliot Afiyo. That is not to ignore the many other groups that have cast their lot with Bala Mohammed for the prized position of 2023.
From the onset Bala Mohammed, had unequivocally predicated his response on the outcome of consultations with relevant stakeholders. He also left no one in doubt as to why the consultations were imperative. For one, he had to be sure that the various constituents of a President, and these include geo-political blocs across the country, and the interests they represent, were ready for him. Of equally, if not greater significance, is the sensibilities of his primary constituency- the people of Bauchi State -who had enthusiastically voted him into power, based on the well-founded optimism that years of stunted growth, would be redressed and the people’s quest for the good life, achieved.
Yet, there is no gainsaying that the people have a right to insist that a public officer’s words should be his bond, that a servant of the people should be held accountable for his words and actions; that the degree of compliance with pre-election promises could indeed be a precursor to what to expect should the person be elected.
Judged on promises kept, anyone who is familiar with Bauchi State prior to and since the inception of the Bala Mohammed Administration will agree that he will score very high in the eyes of the public. Not always does one see a public officer who meticulously proceeds to benchmark self-imposed developmental milestones as Bala Mohammed does. And that remains a major dilemma in responding to the growing unsolicited endorsements, for Bala Mohammed to run for President.
All over Bauchi, in varying degrees, the people are feeling the impact of his Administration. Some of the deliverables could look mundane compared with what obtains in advanced democracies where Governments could look stupid boasting about provision of water, electricity, good roads, etc. But, not so Nigeria where, for years on end, some people have no access to water, electricity, education, over the counter drugs in hospitals and furniture in schools.
Thus, by orchestrating a significant improvement in educational and health facilities, by embarking on the most extensive youth empowerment programme in the history of the state, by constructing and rehabilitating more roads, within two years, than the predecessor administration achieved in Bauchi State, and more, Bala Mohammed has placed himself in the dilemma that whereas, his presidential credentials are unassailable, he must weigh national service against the background of possible accusation that he has betrayed local trust. Is it not possible that this could be a major consideration in giving a response?
Despite the pressure from well-meaning groups who genuinely desire a positive change, it is obvious that most loyal party members will play by the ear till such a time that contentious issues like zoning are properly resolved, before jumping into the fray. So far, available evidence suggests that, inasmuch as zoning is not a constitutional issue, it will be naïve not to show some respect for those who feel marginalised. Paradoxically, like the South East, Bala Mohammed’s North East zone can legitimately lay claim to a shot at the Presidency as the zone, like the South East, is yet to produce the Executive President of the country.
No doubt, whereas early preparation is definitely an asset to anyone who aspires to the Presidency, there is a sense in which hasty declaration, at a time that families and the nation are groaning under the yoke of country-wide insecurity, separatist agitations and national economic quagmire epitomized by the crashing of the Naira, could be misinterpreted as insensitivity and a distraction. Even so, the fact that many families are mourning the death of loved ones either from COVID-19 or the activities of criminal elements, should be a sobering influence on the swashbuckling of every Nigerian, including politicians. That said, underestimating the task of nation-wide consultation, more so in a period of national convulsion, can be a costly misadventure.
Nigeria’s next President must come to the job, exposed to the nitty gritty of the civil service, equipped with a clear understanding of legislative procedures, embedded in the horse-trading that undergirds political negotiations and consensus building; possessing a broad national appeal earned through bridge-building activities and the ability to present a performance track record founded on clarity of thought, a demonstrable track record of people management skills and legacy projects whether heuristic or empirical. Whereas Bala Mohammed falls into the league of the Nigerians who possess these qualities, his delayed response to sundry presidential endorsements can only be, in deference to the mood of the moment and the sensibilities of the Bauchi electorate to whom he is emotionally attached, fiercely loyal and totally committed.
Agu, is the Publisher/CEO of The Vision based in Abuja