“Our people have witnessed bad leadership, especially in the last eight years. It will be a disaster if we do not save this situation.”
Those were the exact words prophetically uttered by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on December 10, 2015, when the outgoing governor of Bauchi State, Barrister Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, visited him in the National Assembly. The Speaker had, few months before then, paid a similar visit to the governor in Bauchi.
Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, Dogara came face-to-face with the fears he expressed when Bauchi State kept deteriorating under the stewardship of M.A. Abubakar. The Speaker had charged the governor to make conscious efforts to deliver on his promises, as it was the yearnings of the people for positive change in their lives that led to the massive support he got in the election in 2015.
He would always say that God has set for them (leaders) the platform through which they could deliver the change they promised the people and that it could only be achieved with a visionary and purposeful leadership as, according to him, the difference between a bush and a garden is just organisation. He constantly expressed the view that, if you have a wonderful garden and you do not organise it, over time, it will become a bush in itself.
Sadly, all these words of wisdom fell on deaf ears as Abubakar transmuted into an emperor, ran a solo show and ruled with an iron fist, like Nero. He listened to no one and no one could counsel him. It was James F. Byrnes who posited: “Power intoxicates men. When a man is intoxicated by alcohol, he can recover, but when intoxicated by power, he seldom recovers.”
Governance completely broke down in Bauchi State and no system worked under him. Workers spent over a year without salary, following a series of endless verification to weed out “ghost workers.” Pregnant women delivered while waiting in queues, while the sick gave up the ghost without being paid. Hospitals became mere consulting clinics and doctors left the state in droves to the extent that, today, there are only 40 medical doctors in the whole of Bauchi State. The governor would later admit the failure of his much-touted verification exercise on the BBC Hausa service. The education sector in the state also collapsed, as pupils and students sat on the bare floor, under leaking roofs, such that the state now has the highest number of out-of-school children in Nigeria at over 1.3 million.
In four years, the government failed to complete the four kilometres Federal Low Cost-CBN Roundabout road in Bauchi metropolis, which gulped over N4 billion. To add insult to injury, no worker was promoted or given his/her leave grant. In fact, M.A. Abubakar declared on radio that it was not a right but a mere privilege and, as a lawyer with over 30 years experience, no one could tell him what was legit. While that was going on, suddenly, the state’s salary payroll miraculously skyrocketed from the N2.6 billion he inherited in 2015 to about N7 billion today, even though the government had placed an embargo on employment and did not add a single person to the civil service.
The sins of the outgoing government are too numerous to mention. Is it the illegal N4 billion loan the governor took just two weeks into his government with a forged resolution of the state House of Assembly, which is now in court?
When it became obvious that M.A. Abubakar was beyond redemption after he rebuffed every effort by good-spirited people to advise him, and even shut the door on presidential mediation initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari, Speaker Dogara made a solemn vow on April 4, 2017, in an interview with the Daily Trust saying: “I will lead fearlessly in the hope that we will establish a truly progressive government that will address our yearnings for development in Bauchi State. I am going to lead this. Even if everybody in Bauchi agrees that they want underdevelopment, I want development and I will lead it and I believe that majority of our people will tag along with me.”
He kept to his words, he led and the people followed, and Bauchi triumphed.
From that moment, Abubakar wrote off Dogara, forcing him and his supporters out of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and vowed to retire him from politics. He also loathed, despised and hated him with a passion and even called him a “sinking man” before crossing into the realms of God by ridiculing the people of the Speaker’s constituency, Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency, when he declared them as “that tiny enclave.”
In his words, “I want people to know that Dogara comes from a very tiny part of Bauchi State. So, our paths, even if they meet, they will meet in that tiny enclave only.
“I understand where he is coming from. He is a sinking man. Therefore, he is grabbing at every straw. I am not his opponent. People should understand that Dogara represents a total of 80,000 registered voters. I won election in 2015 with over 300,000 difference.”
Abubakar derogatively despised the people, even when he knew that the total number of registered voters in the three LGAs was far above 250,000. He chose to reduce them to just 80,000 in his characteristic arrogance.
God, who created the people of the three LGAs, heard these words and humbled the governor by bringing him down to the same Tafawa Balewa, where he ran from pillar to post, from Presidential Villa to court rooms, shouting to high heavens, contesting the votes of the local government, which finally decided and sealed his fate in the election. That same “tiny enclave” confirmed him a loser in the election. God is wonderful!
Abubakar then hurriedly packaged and forwarded two bills to the state House of Assembly; one to totally repeal the Public Property and Funds Tribunal Act, which he got enacted in 2017, and another bill that reversed the sacking of about 1,000 traditional rulers. The two bills were hurriedly passed in a one-hour sitting attended by only 13 out of 31 members between the early hours of 8am and 9am, without the knowledge of the remaining 18 members, some of who had already secured court orders restraining him from assenting to the bills.
Undoubtedly, as the Speaker said, the ouster of Abubakar in the last election in Bauchi State was the crowning of the struggle for the emancipation and liberation of the people from the forces of darkness, evil and retrogression that have held the state captive and hostage, who in their unlettered arrogance have taken Bauchi people for granted, to the point that they believe the patience of an oppressed people will last forever.
By their collective resolve, they have demonstrated that no man-made chains can bind them to servitude. The chains have come undone, sending a clear message that they will never bend their backs again for an oppressor to ride.
Confirming the words of Henry Clay, who said, “an oppressed people are authorised whenever they can to rise and break their fetters,” Bauchi people rose in unison and broke their fetters. This will serve as a lesson for future leaders of the state.
A lesson that teaches that leadership is a trust and though the days may seem long and drawn, there is a time, a day of reckoning, when your works will speak for or against you, and just like the electorate gave their trust to you, they can also exercise same powers to give you the boot as well. For Abubakar, his chickens came home to roost after just one term.
As the government of Sen. Bala Mohammed takes the reins of government, it is of utmost importance that, though the task ahead is enormous, they do not let the people down.
•Hassan is Special Adviser (Media and Public Affairs) to Speaker Dogara. Twitter: @turakies