BY TURAKI HASSAN
In 1942, a group of young progressive intellectuals from the north congregated in Bauchi, among whom were Saadu Zungur, Malam Aminu Kano, Dr. R. K.B. Dikko, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Malam Yahaya Gusau, all of blessed memories.
Although young, they were statesmen, patriots and visionary leaders who saw tomorrow and felt the urgent need to chart a new course for the future of the region. They saw the need to arouse the consciousness of the plebians to stand up for their rights.
That meeting birthed the famous Bauchi Consultative Forum which became the intellectual springboard for popular resistance and mass mobilisation of the Talakawas that was propounded by the highly revered Malam Aminu Kano. It was that singular meeting which metamorphosed into the founding of the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) and then later, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) in the second republic.
NEPU, it was, that challenged the elitist Northern People’s Congress (NPC) founded by Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on many policies and programmes which were seen as anti-masses.
Significantly, from then on, Bauchi became the epicentre of popular resistance against injustice, and the people have always risen to defend their rights in every epoch.
Fast forward to 2007, former governor Ahmadu Adamu Muazu was ousted by the people when they overwhelmingly voted Malam Isa Yuguda of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) as his replacement. Muazu, a sitting governor then, lost his bid to move to the Senate and impose a successor as governor. History repeated itself in 2015, when the same Yuguda, who succeeded Muazu, met with the anger and wrath of the people who also gave him the Muazu treatment.
The beneficiary of this was the little known Barrister Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar who joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) exactly 40 days to the primaries and whose only contribution to his election was the sum of N400,000 he gave to the party for each of the 20 LGAs totaling N8 million.
Overwhelmed by his seeming easy victory, the then governor-elect, Abubakar, said prophetically, “Al’ummar Bauchi dama ‘yan adawa ne, in ka musu ba daidai za su zo su tumbuke ka komin karfin ka, komin mulkinka”, which literally means, “Bauchi people are naturally rebellious, if you don’t treat them well, they will reject and remove you, no matter how powerful or strong you are.”
Four years down the line, a similar fate is awaiting Gov Abubakar as he rightly predicted in 2015.
Right from the day he won his election in 2015, Abubakar started fighting imaginary enemies and battles. He became paranoid and has been fighting on all fronts. It is said that a wise general chooses his battles but Abubakar has fought the masses, fought the elites, fought the traditional rulers, fought the civil servants, embarked on endless salaries verification for over one year without paying civil servants in a poverty stricken state, deposed about 1000 traditional rulers, awards contracts arbitrarily and then bring the papers to the State Executive Council for ratification, has refused to conduct local government elections in violation of Supreme Court judgment, jets out of the state every other day and has no sense of accountability on how he spends the state’s finances.
He became arrogant, too proud and listens to no one. He runs solo, such that when he isn’t in Bauchi, governance is stalled. In fact, the governor even said on radio last year that leave grant is not backed by law and him, being a lawyer, will not pay the state’s civil servants their leave grant as it is just a privilege and not a right.
Few days into office, before the inauguration of the State House of Assembly, there were allegations that Governor Abubakar forged a resolution to collect a N4 billion bank loan. The case is pending before the courts. He collected Paris Club refund and reportedly frittered it away through proxy companies, including N4 billion that was frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after the money hit the accounts of a private company in the guise of payment for consultancy services.
Four years after, Abubakar cannot boast of commencing and completing a single project in Bauchi state except may the much talked-about 4km Federal Lowcost-CBN roundabout that has dragged on since 2015 after gulping over N4 billion.
And then the shock
Former governor Malam Isa Yuguda appointed 4000 political appointees which jerked up the state’s payroll to N2.6 billion per month but on assumption of office, Abubakar fired them all. Since then, there has been no fresh recruitment into the civil service but miraculously, the Bauchi State monthly payroll is now N5.6 billion.
Weeks ago, the Pandora’s box was opened when Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, obtained a top guarded document which detailed how Governor Abubakar is using ghost workers to fritter away the state’s resources. The document revealed how over 2500 non-existent workers were added into the payroll in July 2015 by the governor, just three months after he assumed office. They were all employed on the same day and will disengage in July 2023, after working for eight years and all their salaries and allowances are paid into one, same and single bank account with the same Bank Verification Number. It is now revealed that over N212 billion local government funds, and over N200 billion state government fund amounting to over N400 billion accrued within the period have been diverted using ghost workers.
The state is leading as the poverty capital of Nigeria with the highest number of out-of-school children in the country now hitting 1.5 million.
Schools are in tatters with no chairs, desks and instructional materials for teaching. Many have no roofs and pupils/students can’t go to school when it rains. Sadly, the state, in the last four years, has performed woefully in national examinations- WAEC and NECO- coming last in both.
The Economic Confidential Annual State Viability Index (ASVI) Ranking of States by Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) Compared to Federation Account Allocation (FAA) in 2017, showed that whereas the state received N85 billion from the federation account for the period under review, it only generated a paltry 5.13 percent which came from PAYE deducted at source from salaries of civil servants, thus placing the state in last position in Nigeria, a high indication of a dysfunctional government.This is the sorry state of Bauchi State under the present government.
This is the sorry and unfortunate state Bauchi has found itself-Battered, debased, desecrated, dehumanised and its people enslaved and thrown into excruciating perpetual penury, squalor and poverty.
But all hope is not lost, Bauchi and its people shall rise again, although they might have been enslaved but not conquered, they are still in full and total control of their minds and destinies.
Already, the ever politically sophisticated Bauchi people have hinted on how they will vote on March 9th when they overwhelmingly voted for candidates of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in Bauchi, Katagum and the Rt. Hon. Speaker got reelected with a landslide victory despite all plots to snatch his victory by Governor Abubakar who plotted and failed woefully. This is a story for another day.
It now behooves on the people to stand strong, vote, protect their votes and resist attempts to snatch their ballots using thugs that have been imported into the state and armed with assault rifles and other dangerous weapons by the state government.
Indeed, given the history and political culture of Bauchi, no amount of threat, intimidation,manipulation or scheming can save Barrister Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar from the peoples’ wrath on Saturday 9th March. As the plebians and proletariates of Rome rose and brought down the emperor-their oppressor-so shall Bauchi people also.
No one dares them and survive, these are the descendants of Saadu Zungur, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and the warriors of the caliphate.
Hassan is the special adviser (media & public affairs) to speaker of the house of representatives