When Bauchi State Governor, Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, BAM, entered the presidential race, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, some keen observers of Bauchi state politics insisted that his effort possessed all the trappings of a melodrama. There was always the Atiku Abubakar factor, looming large on the horizon; not to be disregarded, also, was BAM’s pledge that we would not run against his former boss, former President Goodluck Jonathan, should the later enter the fray, as was being speculated. But of all the factors, none seemed as potent as the wellspring of opinion in Bauchi state against, a presidential run by the man whom they have come to regard as a catalyst for their emancipation from years of uninspiring rule, prior to 2019.
To the average Bauchi person, the prospect of their son becoming president paled into insignificance against the burning desire to sustain the developmental momentum ignited by the Bala Mohammed administration. For these people, the question was: what would be their fate should Bala Mohammed leave for the centre? What guarantees did they have that his successor, an idea they loathed, would be able to run with the same zeal, passion and proficiency that had ignited an unprecedented stakeholder buy-in for governmental activities?
But Bala Mohammed was undaunted, aware that the presidency would infuse in Bauchi an even greater catalyst than his governorship had achieved. More importantly, the governor operated from the mindset that a new leadership was required to steer Nigeria from the flawed governance environment that had stifled growth, set the youth on the path of rebellion, accentuated the country’s debilitating fault lines, and generally reduced a potentially great nation into a laughing stock in the comity of nations.
Was Bala Mohammed right in his presumption? That is debatable. If the verdict of the presidential primary is anything to go by, it could be said that he was wrong. No matter how defeat is rationalised, at the end of the day, it is the verdict of the people that is important in such matters; not withstanding how that verdict is arrived at.
Even at that, Bala Mohammed’s sense of duty, not entitlement, was not misplaced. It is not always that Nigeria is privileged to have an aspirant with his rich pedigree, offer himself or herself to lead a national revival as in the instant case. Check out his rich career path: bureaucratic exposure, (federal civil service) to the directorate cadre; legislative exposure as senator, executive branch exposure as minister and member of the Federal Executive Council, and currently, governor, superintending the administrative machinery of the state.
Beyond that, to limit his suitability for the job to positions occupied will diminish the qualities of this patriot, federalist, nationalist and astute manager of men and resources. His commitment to national unity, inclusion and people empowerment, stand him out as a statesman and role model.
But his party machine has spoken. And in line with his earlier pledge to support whoever emerged as the candidate of the PDP, Bala Mohammed has since thrown his weight behind former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who will fly the flag of the party at the 2023 presidential election. Naturally, that development has gladdened the hearts of many in Bauchi. Though not expressly communicated, the body language of many a Bauchi supporter of Bala Mohammed, even during the consultations before the presidential primary, had suggested an inclination to dissuade him from running for president. To them, his administration had reset Bauchi State for greater heights. His high-minded inclusion policy, the breath-taking infrastructural projects, the people empowerment programmes of his administration, the revival of social infrastructure by way of water, health and education and the urban renewal projects that are redefining the Bauchi landscape, all resonate very well with a people that had long resigned themselves to arrogance of power festered by those who had consigned the state to the backwaters of development.
Little wonder that a major reservation, during Bala Mohammed’s consultation with various stakeholder groups prior to the presidential primary, was the fate of the Bauchi electorate whose confidence in government had been restored, thanks to the paradigm shift introduced by Bala Mohammed. In their interventions, at the consultative meeting with the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party, former Governor of Jigawa state Alhaji Sule Lamido and Senator Abdul Ningi (from Bauchi), both extolled Bala Mohammed’s leadership and counselled that it would further the course of democracy if he ran for re-election which they said, he would get.
There is the temptation to think that both Lamido and Ningi could have been self-serving since they were known promoters of the Atiku candidacy. That is possible. But assuming, without conceding, that they were less than forthright, where do we place the accolades of President Muhammadu Buhari for Bala Mohammed? Besides, if Lamido and Ningi’s encomiums could be adjudged predictable since both come from the same PDP political family as Bala Mohammed, to what else would we attribute that of Buhari who, as President on the platform of another party, would ordinarily be less enthudiastic to shore up the profile of an opposition candidate, in an election year? The plausible answer would be that the President was being true to himself, that he called a spade a spade and that, in the desert of half-hearted delivery of democracy dividends, he saw the performance of Bala Mohammed as an oasis of incentive, for peer review, that should not be passed up.
A little backgrounding is necessary here. It will be recalled that in his speech at the commissioning of the Bauchi Water project, Buhari had hailed Bala Mohammed for his exemplary leadership. The climax of the accolade was when he enthused other governors to emulate Bala Mohammed’s leadership. To appreciate both the content and context of President Buhari’s commendation of Bala Mohammed, it will help to reproduce his words. Hear him: “The intervention of the government in the areas of education, health, water supply, housing, agriculture, poverty alleviation and infrastructural development are highly commendable…”
Speaking specifically on the Bauchi Water project, President Buhari had this to say: “I am happy that the Bauchi State Government has executed the project creditably. I am not surprised by this accomplishment because the state Government personally pursued the project with vigour and determination through the allocation of resources and intervention to eliminate bottlenecks and challenges including even the COVID-19 which affected the project extension as well as paying attention to details. This is what leaders in the country should emulate from the Governor of Bauchi State”.
I imagine that those were very telling words, deliberately chosen for effect. “Creditably”, “personally pursued”, “with vigour and determination”, “allocation of resources”, “eliminate bottlenecks and challenges” Nothing that I have read so far, can more eloquently capture the sterling leadership qualities of Bala Mohammed and why you would not be wrong if you described the President’s statement, as an endorsement.
Those are the attributes of Bala Mohammed that Nigeria cannot have at the moment but which are still available to the people of Bauchi state, a people richly endowed with strong leadership qualities and who have, through time, demonstrated that they won’t let go quality leadership when they see one. It is in this context that Nigeria’s loss is Bauchi’s gain.
Agu is a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors.