By Ismail Omipidan, Lagos and Paul Orude, Bauchi
The sacking recently of the entire Bauchi State cabinet, by the governor, Mohammed Abubakar, came to many as a surprise.
But for those who are familiar with the governor’s antecedents; those who knew him as a man desirous of making maximum impact wherever he found himself, they saw it coming. The governor’s decision to dissolve his cabinet, Daily Sun gathered was aimed at re-positioning his administration, ahead of 2019.
A lawyer and administrator, Abubakar’s desire to bring about reforms, transparency, panache and finesse to governance in Bauchi State since he assumed office on May 29, 2015, have been met with resistance.
But as someone who sees himself as an active participant in the growth and development of Bauchi, having started his career early in life, in the state, shortly after its creation in 1976, Abubakar appears determined to change the fortunes of the state from “retardation of progress and retrogression,” as was witnessed in the immediate past administration. To this end, he has refused to succumb to the antics of those who are bent on dictating the pace in the state, even when according to him; these people do not share his vision and aspiration to reset governance in the state for the benefit of the common man on the streets of Bauchi.
He told Daily Sun in a recent encounter that his government has suffered lots of controversies because he has chosen to do things differently, adding that “I took over a state that was already prostrate. We were elected when labour was still on strike. Civil servants were not paid for four months. I negotiated with them, to call off, promising to pay the arrears once I was sworn. They agreed and once I was sworn in, we fulfilled our promise to them.
“I took over N125 Billion debt, in staff claims, and another N15 Billion gratuity owed to civil servants. Our wage bill is N5.1 Billion, but since we came in, I can count the number of times we received above N5 billion from the Federation Account, yet, we do not owe a single kobo, as salary in Bauchi State. I do this as a deliberate policy because the people of my state rely on salaries to keep boday and soul together and to also boost the state’s economy.”
Despite his good intentions however, his opponents argue that his policies and leadership style have tended to generate unnecessary controversies, making analysts to ask if the crisis-ridden All Progressives Party (APC) in the state under his leadership still has the goodwill of the people to secure victory for a second time in 2019.
The odds against him
He is yet to declare his intention to seek another term. But his opponents within the APC are already spoiling for a showdown with him. Some aggrieved members of his party, all of whom he trounced at the primaries in 2015, are also of the view that that he had an easy ride in 2015. But that 2019 would be a different ball game.
One of the grouses against Abubakar by some highly placed politicians and chieftains of the APC in the state is that they see the governor as running a “one-man show.” One of Abubakar’s sworn critics, Ahmed Yerima, representing Misau/Dambam in the House of Representatives, believes that Abubakar is an “arrogant leader” with a “know-it all posture and disposition.”
Yerima also accused Abubakar of never consulting with anyone on issues that bother on moving the state forward.
Another of his critic, Senator Ali Wakili, representing Bauchi South, complained that there was no single input from stakeholders, from across the state before the governor named his now dissolved cabinet.
For instance, Daily Sun was informed that the appointment of the former SSG, Alhaji Shehu Bello Illela, who, like Abubakar hailed from Bauchi South into a key position, was insensitive to the people of Bauchi Central, considering how zoning is highly respected in making appointments in the state.
But the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media and Communication, Comrade Mohammed Sabo, said that Illela ‘s appointment was based on merit considering his vast experience, and the role he played in the Transition Committee.
Daily Sun however gathered that the recent appointment of Nadada Umar, former SSG, as the new SSG, from Dambam in Bauchi Central, could be a weapon by the governor to win the hearts of the people of Bauchi Central ahead of 2019.
Apart from the Speaker of the State Assembly, Shehu Kawuwa, it was further gathered that there was no notable political appointee from the area in this dispensation.
Whether Abubakar’s new appointment is enough to soothe aggrieved politicians from the area who complained of being used and abandoned, will be determined in the days ahead when he names his new cabinet.
One thing is certain, how Abubakar handles political appointments in the weeks ahead will determine his political future as 2019 edges closer.
Battle with NASS members
Abubakar and members of the National Assembly, led by Speaker Yakubu Dogara are at logger heads. A close source told Daily Sun that among the 12 members of the House of Representatives from the state, 10 are with Dogara.
Also, all the three senators from the state – Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi North), Isa Hamma Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) and Ali Wakili (APC, Bauchi South) are not with the governor, if their utterances and actions are anything to go by.
Dogara and his supporters claimed that their grouse with Abubakar was his poor handling of civil servants’ salaries in the state and misuse of the N8.6 billion bailout funds. Available records however show that all interventions from the federal government, in form bail out, Paris refunds, to the state, were all used to pay salaries.
In fact, the governor has been commended by the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for settling the backlog of civil servants’ salaries he inherited from his predecessor. While most state governors, including those of the “so called oil rich states” owe workers’ salaries, workers in the state noted that the case in Bauchi was different; adding that Governor Abubakar has been consistent and regular in payment of their salary.
Explaining further the sentiments against the governor, Senator Wakili said the governor’s problem was that he turned his back on the APC and the politicians that worked for his emergence shortly after he won.
Wakili further said the crisis started because Abubakar refused to operate in accordance with most of the things they agreed upon during the campaign, citing his failure to conduct council polls and control of the resources of the third tier of government as a betrayal on the part of the governor.
But a close confidant of the governor told Daily Sun that the National Assembly members were being unreasonable. “Look, we were all elected on the platform of the APC. And after the election, shortly before the leadership of the National Assembly emerged, the party had its own position on the choice of National Assembly leadership. And since we were all elected on the platform of the APC, it was the duty of the governor, as the leader of the party in the state to ensure full compliance with party directives.
“And he indeed pursued that path vigorously. The governor and I never knew Dogara had gone into an unholy alliance with members of the PDP. When he emerged, the governor told him in plain language that it was an act of God and that he would give him all the required support, having emerged. All these, the governor did. Check the records, the governor has been subsidizing the LGs, to enable them pay salaries. I hope they (lawmakers) are not under the illusion that they have oversight function over the governor, when they are not the state Assembly members.”
The National Leadership of the APC, has since waded into the crisis, but there seemed to be no breakthrough yet with the Senator Chris Ngige-led fact finding Committee which recently visited the state. If the crisis is not resolved, Daily Sun learnt, it could dent Abubakar’s chances if he decides to run, since most of the federal legislators have huge support base at the grassroots.
For instance, if the crisis between Abubakar and Dogara is not settled, most voters from Bogoro, Dass and Tafawa Balewa, where Dogara represent will most likely not vote for Abubakar in 2019.
This will also be the case with his colleagues in the House of Representatives like Yerima who are solidly behind Dogara, including the Senators.
In fact, Yerima’s supporters have been calling on him to run and if he decides to, he might become Abubakar’s nemesis even if the federal lawmaker from Misau fails to go far with his aspiration.
Already, with the internal crisis rocking the APC in the state, most of the supporters of the National members are considering leaving the party and this will seriously deplete the fortunes of the APC in the state and negatively impact on its chances at the polls in 2019, Daily Sun’s investigations further reveal.
But Aminu Tukur, a member representing Lere/Bula constituency in the state Assembly has vowed that they would not leave the party.
Tukur, a former Campaign Director of the governor, and an avowed supporter of the Dogara faction, said the governor has already shot himself in the foot and to leave the party because of him was a wrong step for Dogara and his supporters.
He said those of them who worked tirelessly for the APC in the state and who are dyed-in-the-wool Buhari supporters, would only leave APC if Buhari decides to leave for another party.
Interestingly, Tukur and Wakili were reportedly suspended by APC in their wards. But the lawmakers say the suspension was a ruse, orchestrated by the supporters of the governor.
The Supreme Court verdict
The Supreme Court verdict that pronounced Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the authentic leader of the PDP is also capable of denting the chances of the APC in Bauchi, in 2019, especially if the opposition party in the state could put its house in order.
Heavy weights in the party like former FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, Senator Abdul Ningi, and Dr Mohammed Pate, have the financial muscle and grassroots support to stop the APC in 2019.
“Abubakar is a politician who no doubt has the interest of the state at heart. But he needs to restrategise.
What we have also observed in the last two years is a misrepresentation of happenings in the state. But with the latest appointment of a seasoned Journalist as Advisor on Media and Strategy, I am sure all that would change,” a close confidant of the governor, revealed.
From all indications, the dissolution of the cabinet is perhaps a first step to addressing perceived weaknesses of the administration. But above all, analysts say Abubakar must not only choose his battles, but must take concrete steps to initiate solid crisis management as he approaches 2019, if indeed he wants the APC to retain power in the state.