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BAUCHI: THE BATTLE TO STOP YUGUDA

By NBF News
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He is a professional banker and former minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. At a little over 50 years, Isa Yuguda, Governor of Bauchi is not tired of governing the state. He has the ambition to contest election again in 2011. But his path to Government House, Bauchi, for a second term is laced with thorns and pitfalls. Political enemies of 'Mallam,' as he is fondly called by politicians, are out to ensure that his ambition is either truncated or abandoned. They are calling to question some of his deeds while in the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), before he decamped to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The roll call of those eyeing Yuguda's seat is swelling each passing day. Some of the gladiators are keeping mute about their ambition, hoping to do him in at the dying minutes. Others are pretending to be with him when they are not. Now, the governor who rode on the crest of a political revolution to victory in 2007 is very much upset. Distraught by what he says is the level of treachery in politics as demonstrated by some politicians in Bauchi State.

'I am a professional. I am here in service to my people and if not for the passion of the people and the passion to make a difference, I have no business being in this vocation because the treachery in politics is beyond your imagination and I am not brought up in the profession of treachery. Bankers are men of integrity; at least the bankers of yesteryears, not the bankers of today. Our word is our bond. Once we enter into a contractual obligation with you, we make sure we don't renege. The politicians of today, you will stand on a cliff, you agree with them to stand together, they push you and you fall off the cliff and they remain on the other side,' he says

Bauchi's chequered political history
But Yuguda's pain stems from the kind of politics of Bauchi people, many of who abhor opposition. Before 1996 when Gombe was created out of the present Bauchi State , the three zones that existed were Gombe, Bauchi and Katagum. However, with the exit of Gombe zone as a full-fledged state, Bauchi zone was split into two - Bauchi South and Bauchi Central, while Katagum zone is now Bauchi North.

The history of the politics of Bauchi State has a familiar ring to it. It has been in the mainstream of national politics, a situation which today has been to their advantage, having brought in its wake a lot of federal presence in terms of infrastructure. Today, Bauchi is the zonal headquarters of the North-East geopolitical zone. For the people, opposition breeds evil and retrogression.

As part of the national government then, Bauchi produced the first Nigerian Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Prior to 1999, during the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) days in the second republic, the governorship was ceded to Katagum, the present Bauchi North zone with Alhaji Tatari Ali as governor. Ali had his second tenure dream aborted by a military coup. In 1992, Dahiru Mohammed from Gombe took over as the next civilian governor. Unfortunately, it was again scuttled by the military. Then came 1999. Based on the existing political arrangement, Bauchi South was given the chance to produce the chief executive of the state and Alhaji Adamu Muazu became governor.

Muazu himself rode on the back of a revolution, which was brought to bear on the party at that time. That revolution in Bauchi took place in 1999 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) metamorphosed from the G34. Muazu's ascension was hailed because before long, he transformed the state into an egalitarian and metropolitan one befitting the status of a zonal headquarters. That feat also inspired the youths of Bauchi State, who were highly appreciative of the better life provided through massive infrastructural development.

However in 2007, Muazu's hold on the politics of Bauchi was broken. His incorrect reading of his co-travellers in the PDP broke the eight years dominance of the party. It was a clean sweep for the ANPP. In 1999, the PDP had produced the governor and won overwhelming seats at the National Assembly. It was nearly 75 percent victory for the PDP in the state legislature. But in 2007 the game changed. ANPP won the governorship race as well as that of the National Assembly and reduced the PDP's presence to only three seats in the House of Representatives. How did this happen?

After the controversial December 8, 2006 governorship primaries, PDP started losing grounds when six aspirants were forced out of the race. Governor Adamu Muazu and the party hierarchy were accused of scheming others out to pave the way for Alhaji Muhammed Nadada Umar, Secretary to the Government, to emerge as PDP gubernatorial candidate in the state. Most of the aspirants, including the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Abdulmalik Mahmood and Mallam Isa Yuguda protested. This protest ended in a boycott of the primaries. A call for the nullification of the result was ignored by the party, and an exodus of PDP members to the ANPP soon followed.

Mallam Isa Yuguda, former Aviation Minister, was the first to leave with his supporters after he was disqualified on the allegation that he was not an indigene of Bauchi. Eventually, he won the governorship election after defecting to the ANPP. The ANPP not only clinched the governorship, it took two senatorial seats, (Senator Mohammed A. Muhammed and Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed) while   AC won one (Senator Suleiman Mohammed Nazif ).

Muazu was the only governor to lose his bid for a senate seat. The ANPP won nine seats in the House of Representatives while the PDP took three. Muazu's defeat was a boomerang effect of Yuguda's victory. Ironically, Muazu was one of PDP's presidential aspirants who stepped down for the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua at the party's presidential primaries.

But Muazu was not alone in this political humiliation. In Bauchi Central Senatorial Zone, Senator Bala Kariya of PDP failed to return to the Upper House even though his ANPP opponent, Mohammed A. Mohammed was relatively unknown as far as the politics of the Central Zone was concerned. So also was the lot of the PDP in Bauchi North Senatorial Zone where Senator Baba Tella did not return to the senate.

'There was a total division from the old order to the new order and we mobilized and sensitized them. We told them what was going to be good for them. It was the first time in Bauchi that we left the tradition and founded a new order which was accepted by all and noted by all, ' Abdullahi Maibirji, an aide of one of the aspirants told this reporter.

Angling for a repeat of the 2007 experience
But Yuguda is back to the PDP fold. 'I decided on my own to take my people to the PDP,' the governor told this reporter. Bauchi, the state capital has never seen so much tension in years. Few days to the ceremony to receive Yuguda back into the PDP, the town was literally wrapped in confusion. Those in the PDP who were happy to receive Yuguda into their party were unsure of what awaited them.

For the losers, (ANPP), and those who ensured victory for the governor, including his deputy, the thought of Yuguda's exit from the party was a deadly blow. Amidst this apparent confusion, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, the erstwhile PDP National Chairman mounted the rostrum and announced the dissolution of the Bauchi branch executive committee of the party. Everywhere, the dissolution became a heated debate. 'Ogbulafor dissolved despite efforts to tell him that in the interest of the party and its stability, he shouldn't do so. As far as I am concerned, if I am going back to a party I am not going to dissolve the party executive because what I am looking for is the support of the party and I have to build confidence in the leadership of the party to accept me wholeheartedly,' a party stalwart says.

Such was the level of emotions that the dissolution of the executive committee generated. That dissolution equally brought a crack and more ill-feelings than the very reason Yuguda decamped from PDP to ANPP when he was denied the gubernatorial ticket in the PDP. Ordinarily, the dissolution would not have generated such negative feelings. But here was Yuguda, considered a political neophyte still trying to cut his political teeth. Behind the chairman of the party in the state and the deputy governor are political heayweights.

A political analyst in Bauchi tried to explain why Yuguda brazenly axed the chairman and other members of the committee. As a son in-law to the President then, he says, Yuguda believed he had total control of the party structure in the state just for the asking.

Beyond this disolution, the upheaval caused by the impeachment of the former deputy governor was considered as a direct affront to those left behind in the ANPP. To this class of politicians, Yuguda's fight against his deputy was one that is too brazen for a 'banker politician' who is just learning the ropes. 'Perhaps he thought Yar'Adua, his father-in-law would be President for the rest of his tenure. Otherwise, I do not understand where he got his courage from,' an analyst told this reporter in Bauchi.

In the Bauchi North Zone, the PDP is facing a tough challenge from one of its own, Abulmalik Mahmood, the former deputy governor to Muazu on account of power shift to Bauchi North, his own zone. 'It (power shift) has certainly not gone. It has been a negotiation since the creation of Bauchi State in 1976. It was not written. There was a gentleman's agreement that power should shift among the three divisions they were called then,' Abdulmalik says.

'In Katagum zone, as you are saying, how many officers do they have at the federal level? If government has made a mistake by giving all the federal appointments to people from Katagum and they have been enjoying it, must they take the ones in the state? Haba, are they the only people in Bauchi State? Are they trying to remove themselves from Bauchi State ? How many Secretaries to the Federal Government have they produced? Aminu Saleh was there before, Governor of Central Bank was from there before, Permanent Secretaries, how many of them are presently serving? Many. The present Secretary to the Federal Government, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed is from there. What are they looking for? So the issue of zoning, forget about that,' Abdullahi Adamu Usman, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, governorship aspirant declares.

A PDP stalwart in Bauchi gave one reason why he thinks Yuguda might lose the PDP ticket. Said he: ' The issue of the mandatory two years in the PDP before you can contest elections is there. Yuguda has not attained that. Will he get a waiver? It is doubtful with those in power and the PDP hierarchy at the national level.'

Another member explained it better, saying, 'at the national level, there is this act of distrust between the Jonathan administration and Yuguda, and that is why he wasn't consulted when the minister was picked. His minister is the major opposition in the state and he was an ANPP senator when he was made minister. So you can see that nationally, they are not with him.

'The National Chairman of the PDP, who happens to be a close ally of the governor has been removed. Supposedly, we are starting from the scratch and there is no guarantee for Yuguda that the coast will be clear.'

All these seem to point to one fact; that if Yuguda gets the PDP ticket, he might face another hurdle in the main election as there are rumours making the rounds that Senator Bala Mohammed, the FCT Minister, might decamp to PDP anytime from now.

If Bala decamps and shows interest in the race as was the story in Bauchi, the PDP ticket might elude Governor Isa Yuguda. Still, the bet in Bauchi is that Yuguda may defeat the other gladiators in the primaries because of the deal President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have entered with the Governors' Forum.

The keenest of the gubernatorial primaries battle in the PDP is expected to be fought in the two zones of Bauchi Central and South.

The face-off will be between Governor Isa Yuguda, former Governor Adamu Muazu, who is likely to sponsor a candidate against Yuguda, and Senator Bala Mohammed. Whichever way it goes, the race is expected to be close. Those who bet on Yuguda believe politics is more of calculations than wishful thinking. 'We are not bothered about all that because in politics, we believe in going to the battlefield. The president cannot come to Bauchi and cast votes for us. The security agencies cannot do otherwise because we are revolutionary people. We are out to cast our votes and defend our votes,' says a Yuguda ally in Bauchi.

For now, Yuguda seems to be the only aspirant who has signified interest in the 2011 gubernatorial race in the PDP. There are, however, prospects that others will emerge eventually to slug it out with him. The slowness in the ratification of the guidelines for the contest of election in the PDP appears a hindrance to others who have governorship ambition. The CPC and ANPP are making haste rather slowly, waiting for any fallout from the primaries of the PDP. And for the PDP, internal wrangling, akin to the 2007 scenario is waiting to play out. When that happens, the loss of the PDP would certainly become the gain of the opposition.

The major forces
The mega forces in the politics of Bauchi are Governor Isa Yuguda, Senator Bala Mohammed, former governor Adamu Muazu and Alhaji Shehu Musa Gabam. Senator Bala Mohammed is yet to officially decamp to PDP.

The opposition to the emergence of another PDP governor is increasing with each passing day. The groundswell of opinion is that the PDP government in Bauchi State has failed the people. For instance, Shehu Barau Ningi, chairman of CPC in Bauchi State, says Governor Yuguda is yet to meet up with the yearnings of the people. 'He has not achieved anything, virtually because, in fact even if it is Satan, he would have achieved a little. We are talking of the number of years he has spent, the resources he has collected vis-à-vis the work he has done,' the CPC Chairman posited.

But Alhaji Sanusi countered, saying, 'the governor is qualified to contest the 2011 election based on service delivery and his performances from 2007 to date. He has really carried the people along. He has touched every sector of the economy. He has made an impact and he has changed the political terrain of Bauchi State.There is absolute peace and confidence restored in the polity,' he said

Even as the gladiators jostle for the number one seat of Bauchi State, indications are that more hurdles have been erected on their paths as guidelines for the contest are yet to be released. Understandably, the political dynamics of the situation remain unclear. Happily, however, political calculations in Bauchi have always excluded the issue of the power of incumbency. Like Kano and Lagos, Bauchi State's political calculations have always not been made along the lines of 'cash and carry.' 'In the entire political calculations of the nation, Bauchi, Kano and Lagos have always been excluded, 'a political analyst told the reporter.

For now, three camps have emerged in Bauchi State PDP. One is called the former governor's camp. The second is the camp of those who were dissolved and the third is the one for Governor Isa Yuguda.

All the camps are strong and would present very strong internal opposition as they are all comprised of politicians who can inflict serious damage on the party. There are also threats of anti-party activities, the machinations of the opposition parties notwithstanding. If, therefore, the experience of the 2007 polls in the state is anything to go by, Yuguda may need to put on his thinking cap with a view to surmounting the multiple factors against his dream to return to Bauchi Government House in 2011.

'It is the same problem we had in the PDP in 2007 when the party denied Yuguda the opportunity to contest on the basis that he had no indigeneship certificate. The whole thing was pre-planned to knock him out. This same history is likely to repeat itself in 2011. What we are expecting is internal fight within the PDP. If the primaries are conducted and it is given to another person wrongly, other people will have to move to the other party to realize their political ambition. It is inevitable.

'And in today's Bauchi, people don't value parties but human beings. Personalities determine the strength of the party. Our people are revolutionary and they appreciate those who have the capacity to transform their lives,' a political analyst stated.

•Next week: In Jigawa, Lamido seems to hold all the aces.