By Badaru Basiru
The nation’s political arena is getting charged with preparations for the 2023 general elections gaining momentum by the day.
Like at the national level where the stage is wider and larger the number of the contenders eyeing the Iron Throne, to quote from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire popularised by the TV series Game of Thrones, Jigawa’s politics and political processions are unpredictable this time around.
But the body language of some indigenes of the state serving, or having already served at the federal or state level, reassures that the next leader to emerge would be someone who is exposed to the administrative and political dynamics of the state and the nation as a whole.
There must be no condoning the candidacy of those who practically have neither served the polity in any capacity nor acquired the experience and maturity of conduct requisite for effective leadership.
The era of godfatherism is supposed to have by now gone and given way to participatory democracy as espoused by the ancient Greeks, founders of modern democracy. Since the creation of Jigawa in 1991 out of the old Kano State, its politics could be said to have been dominated by a few men from the 1999 return to civilian rule to the present day.
First, it was Ibrahim Saminu Turaki winning the gubernatorial election on the platform of the APP (All Peoples Party) in 1999. Saminu’s administration was marked by widespread welfarism and what may be called “political philanthropy”.
Though a creative and innovative man, considering his stellar transformation of the largely agrarian Jigawa into an Information & Communication Technology (ICT) hub, Saminu was rather a welfarist than an administrator.
What his style of politics is still remembered for was his willingness to dash cash to the hungry and poor. It came not as a surprise to those familiar with how Saminu Turaki ran the state that allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds trailed him after his tenure as governor in 2007, even after being elected as senator representing Jigawa North-West senatorial district at the National Assembly.
The EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) of its pioneer chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, charged him on 32 counts. It took a battle with the EFCC before he was released on bail, though on stringent conditions, but the political clout of the erstwhile rabblerouser of a governor has yet to be rebuilt. Second, Sule Lamido became governor on the wings of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Saminu Turaki’s defection from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to the then opposing PDP in the state cleared grounds for a smooth change of baton.
It all seemed like a consensus between the outgoing governor who had been made to believe by President Olusegun Obasanjo and the PDP that its presidential candidacy would be given to him (Saminu) if he would nominate Sule for governorship. (A kind of scratch my back, I scratch yours; rather, a political barter trade.) Sule’s administration differed sharply from its predecessor’s.
Being one of the few surviving proteges of the late Marxist politician and redeemer, Mallam Aminu Kano (1920-1983), there were of course to be differences in the manner and execution of governance and policies among which was the reinvigoration of the withering state bureaucracy and observance of punctuality and diligence.
Jigawa workers adjusted themselves to the pressing tasks at hand and the abrupt radical restoration of statecraft. I remember it was during this period that the commissioner for education, Prof. Rukayya Ahmad Rufai, who was a few years later to become the federal minister of education under President Goodluck Jonathan, used to go round the state for inspection.
Books and learning facilities were provided, and in the hands of students hitherto unaccustomed to culture of reading were seen Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionaries, novels, plays, poems, and technical books on various subjects.
A longer sustained effort would have turned Jigawa into one lexico-literary haven. Party affiliation aside, Jigawa had never had in terms of infrastructure such a massive facelift as was given it by Governor Sule.
Buildings to house the bureaucratic and administrative activities of the state ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) were erected. Constructions of a whole secretariat, state high court complex, broadcasting house, and international airport are enough evidence.
These were apart from the buses bought for shuttling students and civil servants, and fencing and renovation of several schools (primary, secondary and tertiary) across the state.
Sule was indeed a leader as attested to by the late orator and elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule (1929-2017).
Yet Sule too faced some charges of financial impropriety resulting subsequently in the detention of his children. He was to tread the ignominious path that Saminu Turaki trod.
But that could no way have broken the spirit of a man who had followed and struggled along with the sage Mallam Aminu right from the heyday of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), the major northern counter-force against the oligarchic Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in the First Republic of the 1960s, to the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) of the Second Republic in the 1980s: a man who had fought for the cause of democracy and was, as a consequence, jailed for criticising Gen. Abacha’s bid for perpetuity.
Third, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar became governor in the league of the post-1999 democratic leaders. The merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) gave birth to the All Progressives Congress (APC) that brought about the fall of the incumbent government of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Badaru’s electoral victory, like that of many other flag-bearers of the APC, came on the winds of President Muhammadu Buhari’s “change” mantra. Hope shattered once President Jonathan conceded defeat, called and congratulated Buhari on the phone. So, if Governor Badaru’s style resembles that of President Buhari or even surpasses it, there should be no cause for amazement.
The two are alike, at least in principle. With the fall of the price of crude oil, Nigeria’s chief export in the international market, by more than 50% and the over-dependence on foreign-imported goods, austere measures must be taken to cater to the nation’s financial and budgetary needs. And the belt must be tightened.
As chairman of both presidential committees on fertilizer and non-oil revenue, Badaru’s political loyalty to the Buhari presidency is beyond doubt. It further surfaced when, in a BBC Hausa interview, the governor clearly declined to talk about his choice for the chairmanship of the APC, stressing it would all depend on the decision of the President. In the same video, the interviewer raised the issue of succession to the Jigawa governorship, the crux being power rotation among the five emirates of the state: namely, Dutse, Gumel, Kazaure, Ringim and Hadejia.
It is typical of Nigerian politics, this concern about where the one to take over should come from, disregarding the tenets of democratic contest.
The premise of the argument is that Hadejia Emirate has not had a chance by concession to produce a governor.
Its population and importance, and the grudge that it was to have been made the Capital, are considered especially by its indigenes nursing the governorship ambition. Governor Badaru’s response pointed at the lack of uniformity of choice among the Hadejawa to pick from themselves one potential candidate prior to the 2015 elections. That led to leaving the APC’s primary election open to contest from which Badaru emerged victorious in the absence of a “consensus candidate”.
If the governorship ticket of the APC is to be rotated to Hadejia again, that is if the possible aspirants at the federal level would not use their power and connection with the President and national party stalwarts to influence the outcome of the state politics, Jigawa would certainly be better off under the stewardship of young and dynamic technocrats like Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Kashifu promises to be a leader capable of bringing back and even improving upon the ICT vision of Saminu Turaki to digitalise Jigawa and diversify its economy for self-reliance.
But it is all dependent on how the politics turns out. For now, no one can predict.
The unpredictability of the forthcoming 2023 general elections makes them likely to be the mostly keenly contested despite the seeming apathy among voters whose pre-2015 electoral spirits have remained low ever since. But despair does not help matters; it only helps worsen things.
And the right decision should be ending once and for all the Nigerian political norm of “recycling of leaders” that has characterised our democracy. It is time for a new breed to assume the mantle, for the old breed to step aside and play their role of elder statesmen and counsellors.
Badaru is based in Dutse.