By Azu Ishiekwene
I DON’T know why a few state governors are running around, dragging President Muhammadu Buhari by the hem of his agbada to save them from the misery of inconclusive election in their states. Their conduct reminds me of the days when lazy neighbourhood kids used to run home to Big Daddy to save them from the street bully.
The only difference is that these governors created their own bullies for four years and entrapped themselves in their own catastrophic failures. Big Daddy won’t save them now: they have to fight for their own lives.
Take the Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, for example. If any prominent politician in the state was expected to have a reelection problem, it was supposed be Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
With the elections less than six months away, Dogara cast his lot with Senate President Bukola Saraki and switched from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, effectively tipping the leadership of the 8th National Assembly in favour of the opposition.
That hurt the APC badly and the forecast was that Dogara would be punished at the poll. But the pollsters failed. The Speaker skillfully exploited Bauchi’s triangular political minefield and retained his spot, even if his speakership would be a long shot.
But the sitting governor, an APC blue-blood who ought to have profited from Buhari’s earlier victory, is in soup. And it’s not necessarily because of the malicious rumour that the son of a former policeman is from Okene, not Bauchi. The real problem is that Abubakar does not even know where his problem is coming from.
The moment it became clear to him after the rescheduled election that his opponent and former FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed of the PDP, might emerge winner, the governor has been running from pillar to post.
By Tuesday, he secured a curious court order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from continuing collation. This is another Godsday Orubebe, with the sophistication of hindsight, at the state level.
No one knows how long Abubakar will twist in the wind by a slim judicial thread. But it’s a big shame that after four years of being governor he had to grasp at the straw of judicial intervention for relief. And to think that he resorted to this level of desperation to save himself from defeat at the hands of Mohammed, one of the most incompetent FCT ministers in recent memory!
The new change agent
I don’t know what Mohammed did for Bauchi South in his first life as senator. But I’ve stayed Abuja long enough to know that it was under him that this city really began to go down. Refuse collection and disposal got worse. Street lights began to pack up, while racketeering on market stalls and land speculation hit the roof. I can excuse him from the Abuja CCTV $470m contract, which didn’t work for one day, because it was supposed to be a Federal Government scam in FCT’s name.
But given the kind of bazaar that went on inside the government he served, it’s doubtful if Mohammed would have lifted a finger, even if he had been beaten on the head with the scandalous CCTV contract. How could he? The honourable minister was too busy chasing choice properties 14 of which the succeeding government later confiscated by court order.
If the same Mohammed has wrestled Abubakar to the ground, poised to become Bauchi State governor, then it’s the governor’s poor performance that we must thank for making the former minister great again.
Bridge-building is a virtue in politics. But even the governor’s staunchest supporters are concerned that in four years, the governor has not only burnt the bridges he met, he has also alienated the few who could have carried him on their backs over the chasm. It was a surprise that he could still find his way to the Villa last week.
When to stop
But he’s not alone. Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong is also in trouble; in a different kind of trouble. In the deadly farmer-herdsmen clashes, his servility rubbed his people the wrong way, leaving them feeling exposed and unprotected. It was OK for him to toe the party line, but up to a point. In the heated debates over cattle colonies and grazing rights, for example, Lalong did very little to assure citizens that he had their backs.
Isn’t it a shame that Jeremiah Useni, one of the decorative pieces of the 8th Senate, who could quite frankly be Lalong’s grandfather, is the one who has sent the governor scampering for help at the Presidential Villa? I’m not suggesting that Lalong should have spent his time distributing wheelbarrows or playing hide-and-seek with the conflict like his neighbour in Benue.
But unlike Kaduna’s Governor Nasir El-Rufai who has been perhaps more relentless in requesting extra security for the state, Lalong has been resoundingly silent, always appearing content with the crumbs from Abuja. And he expects to be reelected, just like that?
Plateau was always a PDP state. The seat was handed over to Lalong in 2015 as a result of the rebellion against the obduracy of former Governor David Jonah Jang that a Berom man must succeed him, whatever the cost. The cost, in an ethnically charged state, was that the PDP was a divided house and the sentiment was anyone but a Berom.
Under such circumstances, you would expect that Lalong, the beneficiary of the rebellion, would demonstrate, by performance, that his choice was not a mistake.
But he did not. He spent the better part of his first term in office chasing Buhari’s coattails and now he’s about to find out what he didn’t know in four years: all politics is local.
Inside his agbada
We don’t know if Kano State’s AbdullahiGanduje also went to see President Buhari. If he did, it may have been at night, when the nosy press would be unavailable to report the size of his agbada.
Ganduje and others like him who think they can do what they like for four years and all their sins would be forgiven in one magic moment when Buhari raises their hands to recontest, are finding out that voters are developing a mind of their own.
If Ganduje served Kano conscientiously, he would not find himself in this tight spot, needing help from gurus, marabouts and just about anyone he can find, to reach the finish line.
It’s ironic that those who want to drag Buhari into Kano are not talking about what he has done for Kano people and why they should vote him again. Instead, they’re interested in what will happen to the party in 2023 if the APC loses on Saturday.
Let me repeat what I said last week, “whatever Ganduje has told Buhari or whatever he thinks Buhari owes him, the governor has forgotten that in Kano politics, it’s charity and honesty, above all. That’s how it’s been since Aminu Kano. Kano does not follow the crowd; it creates its own crowd and makes its own choice.
“Kano voted Buhari not because of what he has done or not done, but because Buhari promised to jail thieves. Now, voters are pointing him to a piece of red meat in the Kano Government House.”
In all the states where the elections were inconclusive, it seems obvious that desperate politicians want to bend the vote, they want an outcome other than what the people want. That’s asking for trouble. Buhari must not yield to blackmail or allow his office to be used for vote trafficking. That’s the only way the disclaimer issued by the Presidency on the matter will be taken seriously.
Anyone who helps insert an unpopular candidate may arm twist the people to win the vote, the real difficulty would be how the beneficiary of such fraud will govern.
Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network