March 8, 2023

For Bala Mohammed, February 25 points the way forward

Bala Mohammed

Alleged N321bn Fraud: Court quashes report indicting 2 ex-Bauchi govs

By Prince Taiwo Oyerinde

SINCE 2007, political dominance in Bauchi State had been like a game of musical chairs, swinging from the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP(2007-2009), to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP(2009-2015), to the All Progressive Congress, APC (2015-2019) and back to the PDP with the victory of Senator Bala Abdulkadir  Mohammed at the 2019 governorship election in the state.

Before the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, the APC held all three senatorial seats as well as nine out of the 12 house of representatives seats for Bauchi State. In other words, the PDP did not occupy any Senate seat and held only three houses of representative seats for the state. The same trend played out in the state assembly where the APC held 21 out of the 32 seats before Bala Mohammed emerged as governor.

With the overbearing presence of the APC-controlled Federal Government, in the countdown to the 2023 presidential elections, speculations were rife as to how well the PDP would perform. Such speculations were not helped by the fallout of the presidential primary of the PDP that created what turned out, at the national level, irreparable damage to the unity of the party, going into the elections. In the face of all that, Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed deployed every political capital into galvanising the party to work towards the success of its candidates in the February 25 election. Deploying the finest of political adroitness, his deft conciliatory moves, which were publicly endorsed by the presidential candidate of the party, former vice president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, unleashed a new dynamic that generated maximum support for the party and its candidates. One major outcome of the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria, is that the election had no respect for incumbency, particularly where the electorate was completely dissatisfied with the performance of those in power.

Today, people are awed by how easily some politicians who were hitherto considered to be invulnerable, collapsed to the new political ferment that respected neither history nor personalities. So, why did the PDP hold sway in Bauchi? The answer can be found in several complementary factors. But before going into the reasons for the outcome of the February 25 elections and the implications for the March 11 state elections, it is important to underscore certain salutary features of that exercise.

The first, on my checklist, is the peaceful atmosphere in which the election was conducted in Bauchi State. Unlike previous exercises that often degenerated into fiery exchanges and wanton physical assaults, the last election was held in an atmosphere devoid of excessive anger and brutality. Thanks to the INEC officials, the security agencies, and sundry stakeholder elements who yielded to the pre-election efforts of Governor Bala Mohammed to shield the state from any crisis.

The second notable feature of the election is that, despite the stellar performance of the PDP, other parties performed creditably well. Of course, the APC presidential candidate and Nigeria’s president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, scored over 30 per cent just as his party took the most prized Senate seat, the Bauchi Central, with less than one thousand votes in what will be remembered as one of the most keenly contested elections in the country. 

Many will hope that the same level playing field and peaceful atmosphere will prevail in the forthcoming elections. Why is the narrative changing in Bauchi State? Without giving it a thought, I will say that the most significant factor in the victory of the PDP in Bauchi State is the outstanding performance of Governor Bala Mohammed, particularly in repositioning the state for sustainable development. The unprecedented performance of his administration in infrastructure, particularly roads, water, health, and education has been acknowledged by even people in other parties.

For a governor yet to complete his first term in office, the construction of over 400 roads all over the state, 323 primary healthcare centres and 12 general hospitals, rehabilitation and re-equipping of general hospitals in all the 21 local governments in the state, the provision of over 5000 new classrooms mostly equipped with school furniture and paraphernalia for teaching, the completion of the Bauchi Regional Water scheme that prompted President Buhari to declare Bala Mohammed as a role model who should be emulated by his peers were not lost on the Bauchi electorate. The same goes for the state government’s low-cost housing programme that was equitably distributed among the state emirate councils in the state. 

In addition, the state capital has witnessed what has been acknowledged as the fastest and most comprehensive urban renewal effort in many years. Evidence of this effort to radically transform the city’s physical outline is seen from the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Airport, ATBA. Today, a first-time visitor to Bauchi will be struck by the smooth 25 minutes drive to the city centre. But it was not always so. Before now, it would have been a bumpy irritating 45 minutes to a one-hour journey characterised by frequent hold-ups, frustrating delays, and agonising vehicular breakdowns. The breakneck rehabilitation of strategic roads in the city centre and the burgeoning new state house complex add to the checklist of democracy dividends that have earned Bala Mohammed admiration and respect at home and recognition from peers and senior citizens who marvel at the achievements of his administration. 

By extrapolation, PDP National Assembly candidates in Bauchi State were all armed with demonstrable democracy dividends to showcase to the electorate. In the countdown to the March 11 governorship and state assembly elections, the above factors will give the governor and other PDP candidates an edge over their opponents. In addition to the above, Governor Bala Mohammed’s chances have received a tremendous boost from the influx to the PDP of political stalwarts from other parties and the recent endorsement of his re-election bid by the leadership of organized labor who, last week, passed a vote of confidence on him. Describing Bala Mohammed as a worker-friendly governor, they lauded him for his administration’s prompt payment of salaries and pensions, providing opportunities for training of workers and implementation of promotions, and the consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage for officers on GL.07 and above in the public service of the state. 

Of course, there is no denying that, unlike the presidential and national assembly elections, the governorship and state assembly elections, being closer to the grassroots, would be fiercer and more hotly contested. 

Prince Oyerinde, an Abuja-based businessman and policy analyst, is of the Iresa-Adu Royal House, Ogbomosho in Oyo State.