With the exit of Peter Obi, we can speculate that the field of possible presidential aspirants of the People’s Democratic party, PDP, has been effectively narrowed down to six persons, namely: Bala Mohammed, Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Nyesom Wike, Anyim Pius Anyim and Aminu Tambuwal. That is not to disregard prominent aspirants such as Sam Ohuabunwa, Udom Emmanuel and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen who have thrown their hats into the ring, desirous of joining in pulling the country from the brink.
But with less than seventy-two hours to the crucial primaries that will produce the presidential candidate of the party, the room for gambling is closing fast. Right now, the party must decide on the candidate who has the pedigree to win. Basically, all the candidates possess the minimum educational qualification so they zero out, on that score.
What is left is to weigh the candidates on the scales of electability, competence, party loyalty and their experiences in government, the legislature etc. And I want to posit, without any equivocation, that if the PDP wants to win, its best bet is BALA MOHAMMED. And here are the facts.
Despite the wobbling of the APC-led Federal Government, the PDP will be making a grave mistake if it fields a candidate who does not have the capacity to overwhelm the APC. When all the indices of power are considered, I am of the view that Bala Mohammed has, over time, demonstrated the ability, not only to take down incumbent personalities and governments, but to fight his way through the maze of judicial and other labyrinths strewn on his path. For instance, in 2007 and 2019, he fought all the way through the Supreme Court, to wrest the Senate and Governorship from two incumbent Governors, namely, Adamu Muazu and Mohammed Abubakar respectively. A man with such winning streak is who the PDP requires, at this moment.
The ability to secure victory cannot be over-emphasized given the experience of the party in both the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections. On both occasions, many believed that the PDP was robbed of victory but had lacked the zeal to pursue the cases with any seriousness. Again, to many, if the claim of victory in 2015 was suspect, the same could not be said for 20119 when all the metrics pointed to a PDP victory. What was left was to insist on producing the server of the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) which was expected to prove, beyond reasonable doubt that the party had won.
Incodentally, as the Hope Uzodimma vs Emeka Ihedioha case in Imo has also proved, complacency can be very fatal in electoral disputes hence the need to field a bold candidate who can navigate his or her way through the labyrinthine electoral process of Nigeria.
While the ability to win is of utmost importance, it goes without saying that the PDP should avoid a gamble by nominating an untested hand, that is, anybody who has not held executive office. If the truth must be told, anyone who has not held an executive office, cannot be entrusted with the destiny of Nigerians at this time. To have occupied a government position is one thing; to exercise executive authority that no one can return from annual leave or medical vacation and overturn is another. Among the PDP aspirants, only Nyesom Wike, Udom Emmanuel, Bukola Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal can claim to have exercised executive authority of that nature. Yet, it is beyond contention that, as minister of the FCT, Bala Mohammed acquired an overriding pedigree given the distinct character of Abuja as a microcosm of the Nigerian State in every respect: cosmopolitanism, diversity: whether ethnic, religious or gender as well as its unique security challenges, as has played out over time.
It is to the credit of Bala Mohammed that he has acquitted himself with distinction in the various offices that he has occupied. His track record in the FCT where he left behind endearing legacies in infrastructure, innovative policies such as the land swap initiative, a robust ICT platform that checkmated the nefarious activities of land speculators with the attendant surge in revenue consequent upon innovative IGR initiatives, all showcase Bala Mohammed as a leader who can rescue Nigeria from the present drift.
Incidentally, I have had the privilege of assessing the track record of some of the leading aspirants and I dare say that, with the exception of Udom Emmanuel, no other person matches the record of Bala Mohammed. This is particularly so considered against the paltry allocation from the Federation Account as against the mind-boggling receipts of the oil producing states and the fact that Bala Mohammed is completing the third year of his first term. If the breath-taking achievements of Bala Mohammed in Bauchi State which span infrastructural developments, people empowerment, diversity management and inclusion, and a robust and effective security architecture that is second to none, in the country are juxtaposed against the performance of the other aspirants, as a foretaste of what to expect when he is elected President, then I make bold to say that it will be a great disservice, on the part of the PDP, to nominate any other person as its presidential candidate.
Let me also make bold to say that Bala Mohammed towers over every other aspirant when it comes to the civil service which is the engine of governmental administration. To effectively fix the multifaceted problems of Nigeria calls for a leader who understands the inner workings of the civil service, where, as has been acknowledged over time, some unpatriotic acts of civil servants have serially misled politicians, thereby derailing even the best intended policies. In this area, Atiku and Anyim come closest to Bala Mohammed. However, unlike Bala Mohammed who joined the mainstream federal civil service and rose from the lowest graduate rung of level 8 to level 17, both Atiku and Anyim served in tangential or quasi civil service: Atiku in the Nigerian Customs Service and Anyim in the Refugees Commission. I have no doubt that Wike, who has been a career politician will readily excuse himself on this count. Again, that is by no means an attempt to disregard his record of service to the country, the same for Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, Sam Ohuabunwa and Udom Emmanuel whose meritorious careers are in the public domain or Bukola Saraki who, from very early in life, established himself as one of the pillars of his family business.
While it is not compulsory that a leader must have served in every capacity, it will amount to hypocrisy not to recognize that leaders with legislative experience stand out in inter-governmental relations and the ability to have their bills speedily handled. Saraki, Tambuwal and Anyim are on the same page with Bala Mohammed on this score. However, I am also interested in how each of them used that opportunity, either as members or ass presiding officers, to initiate impactful paradigm shifting legislative action. For sure, every other person probably did his or her bit. But it was Bala Mohammed, a courageous leader with unblemished nationalist pedigree who is remembered for spearheading and proposing the Doctrine of Necessity Motion, on the basis of which Dr. Goodluck Jonathan assumed office as acting president in 2010 before taking full charge as President. In the present circumstances, Nigeria needs a hero who can perform heroic acts that will halt the slide towards anarchy and national disintegration.
By his antecedents, Bala Mohammed has demonstrated without any iota of doubt that he possesses the capacity to disrupt the system in a functional way. When, about a year ago, he sacked an emir over farmers herders’ conflict, many doubted if he would survive it. He did. When at the 2021 Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), at Ibadan, Oyo State he made a case for restructuring, state police and even groups like Amotekun, and condemned the exclusion of a section of the country from the leadership of the nation’s security architecture, he was demonstrating his credentials as a nationalist and statesman. He is not like those leaders who are quick to withdraw what they say at the least opposition or others who, in fact, scarcely made any comments on critical national issues until they inflicted themselves on the public as fantom redeemers.
Therefore, in the countdown to the presidential primaries, I strongly recommend that the PDP looks no further than Bala Mohammed for its presidential candidate. For many party loyalists, this is the time to also reward loyalty and consistency. Bala Mohammed has proved himself to be a leader that the party hierarchy and members can trust. When PDP lost out in 2015, he did not disappear. Despite persecution and other indignities, he stood with the party, even while in detention. When others ran away, he chose to bear the gross of the PDP, insisting at all times that if he absconded, not only would the phantom allegations stick, the party would be like a flock of sheep without a shepherd. That is the genre of good leaders. Donald Trump is an epitome of that quality, standing by, providing leadership all the way. Sadly, I make bold to say that Atiku, Saraki and Tambuwal who not only caused the PDP to lose in 2015 but orphaned many leaders and members of the party lack the moral gumption to be considered as its presidential candidate.
Finally, given the heady days ahead, the PDP must choose a bridge builder, a sober and intuitive personality, a humble and energetic leader, who will carry every Nigerian along, party affiliation notwithstanding. That candidate, with the winning touch and the capacity to chase the APC away from Aso Rock, is Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed.
• Prince Oyerinde is of the Iresa-Adu Royal House Ogbomosho, Oyo State of Nigeria.