By Sanusi Muhammad
Next Saturday’s gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections will finally show whether a truly tectonic shift in Nigerian politics, as implied by the presidential and National Assembly elections, is in the offing or not. But whether that shift should it happen is capable of reinforcing democracy and growing it is another thing entirely. As widely predicted, the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and the substantial victory of the ruling party (APC) in the National Assembly election are expected to create a bandwagon effect on the next set of polls. Bauchi State, like many other states, is likely to be influenced by the outcome of the February 23 elections, regardless of the fact that all politics, as pundits surmise, is essentially the trend. A state that gave the president a majority of its votes, and made a clean sweep of the National Assembly seats on offer, will likely deploy the same voters to give the House of Assembly to same party and cap it up by putting the party’s standard-bearer, M.A Abubakar back to the Government House.
Bauchi State, arguably one of the most progressing states in Nigeria under M.A Abubakar, appears poised to benefit from the outcome of February’s national elections. Hard as opposition parties may try, and regardless of how ingeniously or bitterly they frame their campaign, Bauchi State voters are likely to stay progressive, decline the hand of fellowship from the disorganized opposition, and vote for continuity to entrench the largest developmental efforts any state has ever put together since the end of military rule. The huge developmental efforts began with Abubakar Tatari Ali’s tenure (1979 – 1983), rolled through the Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu governorship tenure, and further accentuated during the first tenure of M.A Abubakar.
Despite some modifications and adjustments, those developmental efforts are sustained. Therefore, the state will be reluctant to allow those efforts hamstrung by needless experimentations or contemplate a sudden and traumatizing turn towards conservatism.
Bauchi state is therefore, unlikely to agonize over what choice to make between M.A Abubakar and opposition candidates despite the muddying of the waters by a coterie of campaigners bent on mid-wifing crafted change for the heck of it. Bauchi state is a vast workshop of projects that began at the outset of the Fourth Republic, projects designed and owned by the APC and its progenitors in trust for the state. If opposition candidates should campaign on the platform of the ongoing projects scattered all over the state, many of which are world-class, the electorates would wonder why they need to fix what is not broken. But should the opposition campaign to start their own new projects, voters would ask whether the party planned to abandon the state’s great and laudable blue-print of M.A Abubakar, including the time it would take to conceive a new blue-print and the attendant cost of delay and transition. Bauchi state, given its ballooning population, can neither afford the fresh costs nor the time wastage. Recall, for instance, how M.A Abubakar became snarled in a thicket when he attempted to re-conceptualize ghost workers in the civil service.
The deck is stacked on many fronts and at many levels against the opposition candidates. They will need to overcome many obstacles, including the catalyzing effect of Buhari factor, the electorate’s reluctance to move Bauchi state into opposition at the centre at a time the state has began to benefit from being a part of the national ruling party, and the complaints about cost and time wastage involved in re-conceptualizing a new blue-print for the state and reconfiguring Bauchi state into unaccustomed conservatism. Apart from these, most of the opposition candidates are unable to dispel suspicion of inexperience in public administration, most especially in a democracy.
Despite its quality and acceptability, APC is not pretending or ignorant of the campaign inspired by opposition parties especially coming on the heels of the victories recorded by PRP and PDP at the national assembly election. Opposition believes that the victory recorded can be replicated in the gubernatorial election with little modification. However, the opposition victory holds no water because it never produced prospective sterling achievers but mere paperweights lacking the basic ingredients of sound representation and that cannot threaten the chances of the ruling party in the March 9 elections.
APC as the ruling party has successfully and consistently produced men and women who have gone on to make tremendous positive impact at both state and national levels. Bauchi state, perhaps more than any other state, has in fact produced countless public sector achievers who are now showing value of tutelage and mentoring in the APC.
Opposition candidates have framed the sometimes uneasy relationships between contending personalities in the ruling party as one of master and servant. This is a misreading of the process that adroitly produced the present leaders.
The leaders are not robots. They were mentored in part because they demonstrated brilliance, confidence and judgment. Clashes, crisis, friction and misunderstanding within are, therefore inevitable in a democracy. But the process of producing leaders and achievers by the APC in Bauchi state has continued apace, and the leadership mill is being consistently replenished, and more bright minds are being churned from the party’s hatchery. The failure of some APC aspirants at the party’s primary election being capitalized upon by opposition candidates as an example to illustrate their arguments, has nothing to do with the M.A Abubakar administration, but is a consequence of the aspirants difficult interaction with the party apparatchik and members.
Regardless of the implausibility of opposition arguments, they will continue to overheat the polity with baseless accusations and allegations in an attempt to confuse the electorates against March 9 and beyond after defeat.
Opposition candidates may be good public speakers as they repeatedly demonstrated during campaign, but they have not proved by way of ideas and personal example that they possess the qualities of great leaders and bureaucrats for trust of public offices. Their opponent, M.A Abubakar has so far demonstrated by example and training, not to say by personal qualities, that he is the safer bet between in the March 9 election to remain faithful to Bauchi state’s developmental blue-print, improve on it, continue to expand and modernize infrastructure, and to nurture the Bauchi state mystique of producing local and national leaders for our today and tomorrow so why not we stand by him, vote for him and support his laudable achievements to our collective benefit? The writing is very clear on the wall and the pendulum swings to the side of the incumbent governor. Our support for safe navigation is therefore vital and crucial if we truly believe in the progress of Bauchi state at minimum cost through transparency and probity.
Muhammad is a Media Consultant to Gov. M.A Abubakar