Following the gale of defections in recent times, the All Progressives Congress(APC) is waxing stronger by the day in Kebbi state but is patently wrong to say that Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu is not likely to face any challenge in his return bid to the Government House. Although heavily depleted with the defection of the former governor, his deputy and a huge chunk of its support base, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) has for now not started any major political activities/campaigns. This is seemingly in support of the ongoing court case, which retired Maj. Gen. Bello Sarkin Yaki, its candidate in the 2015 elections, is pursuing against Governor Bagudu. As a politician and a political analyst, it is my firm belief that the APC would face a Herculean task if it fields Bagudu as its candidate because of the legion of problems that would crop up.
The first issue that will be raised by the opposition candidates would be the “Abacha Loot”, in which the governor has been allegedly implicated. Since the issue is sub judice, I shall not go into details here, but suffice it to say that the PDP candidate in the last elections, Ret. Maj. Gen. Bello Sarkin Yaki has challenged Bagudu’s election on allegations of false declaration on the INEC form he earlier filled.
Indeed, the integrity of the APC and the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption head-on would be called to question by local and the international community, should APC sweep these issues against Gov Bagudu under the carpet. The traditionally conservative people of Kebbi State, just like President Buhari, outrightly believe that leaders should stand as role models and to them any stain on the character of a prospective leader is unacceptable.
Added to this issue is that Kebbi state’s share of the Paris Club refunds from the federal government have allegedly been misallocated. In fact, today, the entire political class, pensioners inclusive, are complaining of being totally excluded from a government they helped to install and are being denied the dividends of democracy .
Other issues that would militate against Bagudu’s re-election include the continuous and seemingly endless verification exercises of local government staff, which has so far rendered thousands jobless. In addition, the lack of visible projects so far executed by the current administration, will work against the governor’s second term.
Recently, the APC-elected Chairman of Koko-Besse local government council, announced his resignation from office, alleging that federal allocations to the local government councils in the state were routinely diverted into private pockets. Afterwards, they would be left with the task of justifying how the funds were spent on a monthly basis, which his conscience could no longer bear.
Similarly, the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, from which Kebbi state purportedly withdrew N18 billion from the Central Bank for distribution to farmers as soft loans for the cultivation of rice and wheat, was grossly abused. In the run up to the election, this would come up as a serious campaign issue. President Buhari hinged his determination to ensure food sufficiency across the country, especially rice, on the fact that Kebbi State, with over one third of Nigeria’s total Fadama land, can meet up with the nation’s rice demand. To this end, the president approved the release of huge funds to the state for distribution as soft loans to farmers to facilitate higher cultivation of rice and wheat. This failed because of negligence, incompetence and outright corruption by the leaders in the state.
From recent CBN surveys, the Federal Office of Statistics and other relevant authorities, Kebbi State has been dropped from its enviable first in rice production in the country to fifth position. However, the government continues to deceive both the president and the nation of its achievements in rice and wheat cultivation , through false media campaigns and staged “achievement awards”.
Of course candidates who are just biding their time. Among the APC front runners, is Senator Bala Ibn NaAllah, from the Sen. Aliero Political Stable. NaAllah has garnered appreciable support over the years, as a result of his long sojourn in the National Assembly, which has equipped him for the position of the governor.
However, Senator NaAllah would find it tough because the Senator Aliero political structure on whose platform he would contest, is allegedly leaning towards the Ex Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s camp in the PDP. Kauran Gwandu, Dr. Nasir Idris, popularly called Nasir N.U.T., who though touted to be seriously interested is now preoccupied with the leadership of his Union; Sen. Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi, who has not come out to declare his interest, but is one of the candidates being considered by the Aliero camp.
The Minister of Justice, Alhaji Abubakar Malami, SAN, has up till now not indicated any interest in the state’s governorship, preferring instead to stay by President Buhari. In my opinion, the man to beat is Alh. Ibrahim Muhammed Mera, a retired Deputy Comptroller General of Customs, and the Chiroman Kebbi, who has the overwhelming support of masses and youths. Mera, whose posters and jingles are currently all over the state, appears to be the most popular and indeed the most acceptable candidate because of his philanthropy which predate his political interests.
Indeed, the fight between the Aliero Political Platform known as 4 + 4, which is ardently supported by the younger brother to the state governor and the group run by Bagudu’s Personal Assistant who is known as Buhari/Bagudu Support Organisation (BBSO) are threatening to tear APC and the state apart. According to reports, the Aliero Group is planning to field a serving senators with the governor’s younger brother as his running mate, while the BBSO Group, spear-headed by the governor himself, is planning on fielding Bagudu’s P.A. as it’s governorship candidate, should the governor fail to clinch the party’s ticket. Fearing that the party may implode, Governor Bagudu has ordered the immediate merger of the two groups under the leadership of his Chief of Staff. This marriage of strange bed fellows is causing unease within the APC in the State.
In the PDP are Alhaji Buhari Bala, a one time National Treasurer of the Party and Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu, a former Minister of Special Duties under the Jonathan administration who are waiting in the wings. There are also Senator Umaru Tafida and Senator Isa Galaudu. Added to these are some dark horses who once aspired to govern the state, including Alhaji Bello Gwandu; retired Maj. Gen. Isa all of APC and Honorable Sani Kalgo and Alhaji Abubakar Gari Mallam of the PDP.
Since my observation above has been in the public domain all over Kebbi State for quite a long time, it is therefore, a surprise that my friend, Ismail Adebayo, can postulate that Atiku Bagudu would have an easy ride back to Government House Birnin Kebbi come May, 2019. No, not while the governor is facing a daunting challenge in court, over a litany of issues. But time, they always say, will tell.