By Suzan Edeh
It was a simple campaign visit as has been carried to many other states of the federation by presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, the visit to Bauchi by erstwhile Military President of the country, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.) is still raising dust over the endorsement given to his ambition by Gov. Isa Yuguda’s deputy, Alhaji Babayo Garba Gamawa.
Given the conservative political leaning of Bauchi State it was until recently generally believed that the State would be a hard nut for the Goodluck Jonathan campaign. Bauchi it would be recalled was grabbed from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) during the last gubernatorial election in 2007.
Indeed the State defied the bandwagon effect that the PDP instigated in most of the country. Indeed instead of consolidating its hold, the State fell into the hands of the opposition ANPP.
The swing to ANPP was largely attributed to the influence of the party’s 2007 presidential candidate, Maj_Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) who was seen as the Northern, nay Nigerian antidote to the Olusegun Obasanjo political hegemony over the country.
Remarkably, two years in office Yuguda decamped from the ANPP to the PDP, the very party he championed an assault on during the last election.
The political sensitivity of the North_Eastern State was equally raised after the governor married a daughter of the immediate past President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Upon the illness that befell Yar’Adua at the end of last year, Yuguda became one of those mentioned as members of the cabal that sought to foist a sick President on the country.
With the death of President Yar‘Adua Governor Yuguda restrategised and positioned himself firmly in the Jonathan camp.
It was as such not a surprise that Yuguda was named the Northeast coordinator for the Jonathan campaign.
As such given the inclinations of the Governor it became a surprise when Babangida was endorsed for the presidency by Yuguda’s deputy, Gamawa when the IBB campaign touched ground in Bauchi on Saturday, October 23, 2010.
Yuguda was reportedly not in town when Babaginda came calling and hence the duty of receiving the former Head of State fell on his deputy, Gamawa.
Receiving him, Gamawa said: “The name IBB in this country needs no introduction because you have done a lot for the good of the country. Every nook and cranny of the country has felt your positive impact as the only Military President who worked with elected representatives of the people which has made you to know the value of democracy.”
The deputy governor added that in the eight year rule of IBB, the country witnessed a lot of positive changes which he said will be repeated if he is re_elected as the next President come 2011 on the ticket of ruling PDP.
“At this moment of insecurity when everything has deteriorated in the country, we need somebody who knows the in and out of the security of the country, and IBB does,” Gamawa said
Continuing, he said: “we need somebody who is well experienced to handle the affairs of this nation and from all indications IBB is the one. We need a man of integrity, a man who will keep to his word. A perfect example of him keeping to his word was when he said he was going to quit for there to be peace in the country when he was Military President and he did just that when the time came for him to do so,”
Gamawa said in reference to Babangida’s exit from power in August 1993. Ironically, the Babangida hailed as a promise keeper had failed in his promise of handing over to a democratically elected President.
“We need such a man as our leader in this country. In Nigeria of today there is no security and things have gone bad and we need somebody to come and fix it so that things will be good again.”
Reacting to the endorsement made by the Deputy Governor the Bauchi State Government immediately reiterated its determination to support President Jonathan to realize his ambition of contesting the 2011 presidential elections under the platform of the ruling PDP.
The state Government in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Governor, Sanusi Muhammad, stated that the decision by the people and government of Bauchi State to support President Jonathan’s presidential ambition 2011general elections was ‘’guaranteed” affirming that Gamawa’s remark was his personal opinion which he was entitled to.
He added that the Deputy Governor’s comments on IBB did not in any way reflect the position of the people and government of Bauchi State.
“It is important to emphasize that the entire people and government of Bauchi State are solidly behind the candidacy of President Jonathan and nothing whatsoever would change that position.
The people of Bauchi State believe in the unity of this country and would do everything within their power to protect and sustain it as an indivisible entity”.
Mohammed reiterating Yuguda’s stance said:, ‘’If I am the Chief Campaigner for Goodluck Jonathan in the North East zone, then, it follows automatically that my Deputy Governor should be the Chief Campaign officer in Bauchi State”, as he explained that President Jonathan has absolute confidence on the government and people of Bauchi State.
According to him it was such confidence that made the president to appoint Governor Yuguda as his campaign coordinator for the North East zone of the country.
Sanusi assured that the state Governor and people of Bauchi State would work round the clock, even if it meant making political sacrifices in a bid to realize Jonathan’s presidential ambition in 2011.
The Deputy Governor was also quick to reaffirm his stance after the Muhammed assertion.
Gamawa who invited newsmen to his office to reaffirm his stance said “there was nowhere in my speech I referred to the Governor, Isa Yuguda as the one speaking but the thing is that even a common man on the street has his opinion, what I said was my personal opinion about IBB and I stand by them.”
Gamawa who has already declared his interest to contest the Bauchi North Senatorial District seat come 2011 indeed said that he is fully aware that Yuguda is the North_East Campaign Coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo 2011 presidential ticket.
The state chapter of the ruling PDP equally expressed support for the 2011 presidential aspirations of the former Nigerian Military President General Ibrahim Babangida presidential ambition in 2011 during the visit.
The State Chairman of the Party Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro Yaro, Secretary General of the party Sama’ila Burga and Deputy Chairman expressed their support to the former president when they received IBB and his entourage at the PDP secretariat during the visit to the secretariat.
Speaking on behalf of the party, the Chairman said, “Presently Nigeria needs a strong leader that will heal the wound of the country and IBB has the exemplary leadership qualities that was tested and trusted and we pray that he will win the 2011 general elections.”
He equally commended IBB for his laudable programmes like better life for rural women, DFFRI, Peoples Bank and creation of states in all parts of the country without discrimination.
The party was, however, quick to deny the endorsement once the fire started.
The Publicity Secretary of the party, Al_amin Sani Mohammed clarifying the issue of the endorsement while fielding questions from newsmen said that, “the Party did not endorse Ibrahim Babangida but members of the State Executive of the party expressed their personal views because up till now we did not meet to agree on who to vote among the presidential aspirants”.
Reacting to the whole political development, Director, Contact and Mobilization of the IBB Campaign Organization, Shehu Musa Gabam said with obvious relish.
“If the remarks of the Deputy Governor were not in tandem with the opinion of the government and people of Bauchi state, who else would they consider,” as he noted that Gamawa made his endorsement when he received IBB on behalf of Yuguda in the presence of all members of the cabinet.
Shehu Musa Gabam a former Chief of Staff to Governor Yuguda said that the standing ovation that greeted the speeches of both IBB and the Deputy Governor at the Council Chambers of the Government House was a reflection of democracy and the individual opinion of party stalwarts, religious leaders as well as top government officials.
He said that the opinion will surely manifest during the party primaries where they would all vote for IBB.
Tanko Yusuf Dutse, Bauchi State Coordinator of the IBB Campaign Organization who shares similar view with Musa Gabam said that as far as the people of Bauchi state are concerned, IBB is their candidate and nothing could change that because he is from the North.
“We are in the North and they must support him because among all the aspirants he has the upper hand and he has the best quality.”
Tanko Dutse who was once a Commissioner of Agriculture in the Yuguda led administration stressed that the Deputy Governor has the constitutional right to sit on the Governor’s chair and speak on his behalf and say what he so wishes to say as he has the right to express his own opinion.
A top leader of the party, Sanusi Maijama’a declared that there is no separating the seat of the Governor from that of the Deputy because according to him, “it is a joint ticket and so whatever the Deputy says while sitting on the seat is authoritative and cannot be wished aside by any other aide but the Governor himself.
Also speaking, the Deputy Director General IBB campaign team, Senator Kati Bello said “there is no going back by northern elders in their effort to collect what is due for them as contained and written in the PDP constitution,” as he called on all Nigerians to unite and work for the success of democracy.
Bello said Nigerians must work hard to stop Jonathan from snatching the chance of the northern part of the country.
Earlier in his address, former President Ibrahim Babangida pledged to provide good leadership and work towards socio economic development of the country.
The PDP Presidential aspirant maintained that he was one of the people with other prominent Nigerians who saved former President Olusegun Obasanjo from been impeached by the then Ghali Umar Na’Abba led House of Representatives in 2002.
Ibrahim Babangida also said that he came out to vie for the office of an elected President come 2011 to enable him save the deteriorating condition which the nation is presently sinking into, adding that “we have done it before and we can do it again, we want to contribute to the development of the country by re-fixing all that have gone wrong now.
Nigeria needs an experienced, detribalized person to put things right again.”
He gave his word that as soon as he is elected as the President, Bauchi state will be first State he will officially visit because of the love the people of the state have shown to him and that it has given him the courage to move on positively with his ambition.
“We will ensure that there is even development in the country if we are elected,” he said.