Like his predecessors, Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed of Bauchi State is facing formidable opponents that are threatening his second term bid in 2023.
With 15 contenders from different political parties, the road to 2023 will be tough for both the incumbent and others.
However, Bauchi electorates are known for their radical stance on issues and individuals, which always determines their choices.
Although the dynamics and issues have slightly changed, they still remain the determinants of what may happen in the 2023 governorship election in the state.
Those who want to slug it out with Governor Mohammed of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Halliru Dauda Jika of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Hassan Khalid of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Auwal Adamu of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Abubakar Ibrahim of the Labour Party (LP) and Ahmed Magaji Saleh, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Others are Umar Farouq Ahmed of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Saleh Auwalu Dahiru, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Mustapha Usman Dankyarana of the ADP party, Musa A Magaji of Action Alliance (AA) and Ahmed Magaji Saleh.
The rest are Saleh Sulaiman of the National Rescue Movement (NRM), Kabiru Abdulhamid Shuwa of the Action Peoples’ Party (APP) and Umar Garba Aliyu, Young Progressive Party (YPP).
However, as the election approaches, the race may be between Governor Mohammed and Air Marshal Abubakar, and probably, Halliru Dauda Jika of the NNPP.
Jika, a grassroots politician who started as a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, becoming one of its Speakers, had since 2019 shown interest in the governorship seat of the state on the platform of the APC.
He later went for a Senate seat to represent Bauchi Central. Before his election into the Senate, he represented Ganjuwa/Darazo constituency in the House of Representatives.
Before his defection to the NNPP, he contested for the governorship ticket on the platform of the APC and lost.
As a politician who has been consistent in his bid to govern Bauchi and has made his mark in the politics of the state, Jika would be a strong opponent for the governor.
The NNPP candidate is banking on his long established support base and the growing popularity of his new party in the state. Before its recent spread and popularity in the state, the party won the House of Assembly seat for Bauchi metropolis in 2019.
However, despite his popularity, his chances in the election may be affected due to the fact that his party doesn’t have the strength to challenge the PDP or APC in 2023.
It is, however, believed that Jika would give the incumbent and the APC candidate a run for their money.
The entry of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, into the governorship race, seems to be the major game changer and a bigger threat to the incumbent.
Unfolding events in the form of rigorous exchange of words between the two camps, as well as intense campaigns to woo prominent politicians to their sides, have charged the political atmosphere in the state.
The growing political strength of the retired Air Force officer is a surprise to many as the man has never been a politician. He has, however, always been in touch with his people.
As Chief of Air Staff he rose to prominence and facilitated the building of an Air Force base, which also has a school and world class hospital.
Sadique was also believed to be generous and has been instrumental for the recruitment of many young persons from the state into the Nigerian Air Force.
The APC candidate has also assembled prominent politicians and strategists who are known in Bauchi politics and have played roles in almost all the administrations in the state since 1999 to work for him.
Also, within a short time, he has learnt how to break the political barrier of the Katagum/Bauchi dichotomy by tracing his root to Katagum and appointing a seasoned politician as his deputy.
His team is seen by many as best among equals, especially with his appeal among the youths and the contacts he is establishing, as well as building bridges across long established political barriers.
However, he seems to be having a difficult time because of constant attacks from Governor Mohammed’s camp as they see him as the biggest threat.
His supporters allege that the governor’s camp is out to discredit him, using all means, including sponsorship of publications on social and the mainstream media.
The two camps recently traded words over a publication by Sahara Reporters, which alleged that the APC candidate planned to import thugs into the state to help him win the 2023 governorship election.
But his spokesperson, a former commissioner for information, Alhaji Salisu Ahmed, dismissed the allegation, saying it was a sponsored blackmail against his principal.
On his part, Governor Mohammed, who understands the antecedents of voters in Bauchi State, is not leaving anything to chance.
Bauchi electorates have always been a nightmare to incumbents who lost or are on the verge of losing their confidence. They have a way of teaching many erring state executives a lesson, just as they did to former Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar in 2019.
Despite their popularities, former governors – Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu and Mallam Isah Yuguda – tasted the bitter pills of the electorate in different ways.
Intense political intrigues in 2007 forced Yuguda out of the PDP and he contested on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and won the governorship election.
One thing that cannot be taken from Governor Bala Mohammed is his performance in urban renewal projects, especially road construction, which has changed the face of Bauchi metropolis and provided many access roads to hitherto difficult areas.
He has also done a lot in other developmental projects, including housing and other sectors like education and health despite a seeming lack of physical structures to complement the efforts.
Despite the recorded successes, however, he seems to have failed in areas that affect an average person in the state.
Being a civil service state, issues of salaries, pensions and gratuities are the most sensitive, and the governor seems not to have a full grasp it.
He rode on some of these issues to win the heart of the electorate, knowing full well that the same issues led to the ouster of his predecessor.
Expectedly, the opposition has already latched on those issues to woo the electorate. The governor knows that the issues have always been a silver bullet that does the magic during elections.
Since the return of democracy to Nigeria, the Bauchi South senatorial district has produced all the governors in the state, always defeating candidates from other zones.
Bauchi South produced former governors Muazu, Yuguda, Abubakar and the incumbent, Mohammed.
The last time Bauchi North produced the governor of the state was in 1979, 43 years ago, when Alhaji Abubakar Tatari Ali of the of then National Party of Nigeria (NPN) won the election and ruled until 1983 when the military took over after the coup against the Shehu Shagari- led administration.
The same thing may also play out in the 2023 general elections because the incumbent is from Bauchi South, Alkaleri to be precise, Air Marshal Abubakar is also seen as more of a Bauchi South person despite being from Katagum, while Halliru Dauda Jika is from Bauchi Central.
Speaking on the issue, a political commentator, Mallam Ahmad Tijjani Kolo, said that despite the array of candidates for the 2023 Bauchi governorship election, the three major candidates – Senator Bala Mohammed, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar and Senator Dauda Jika – were contesting on the platform of strong political parties that could win the election, considering their strength, wealth and number of followers in each local government area.
He added that it would be dangerous for the incumbent or any of the three candidates to underestimate the strength of his opponents because each of them knows why he is contesting and has supporters and other forces, and as such, nobody should be seen as an underdog.