The 2023 governorship election in Bauchi state promises to be a keen and interesting contest, perhaps the most epic race in the state since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
The ‘big fight’ is between the incumbent Governor Bala Mohammed of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar (rtd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
All the major contenders have strong forces behind them in their bid to occupy the highest political seat in the state.
For Mohammed, he has records of fighting what many would perceive as impossible political battles and emerging victorious at the end.
In the 2007 general elections, he was the senatorial candidate of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) for Bauchi South Senatorial District and defeated the then incumbent governor of the state, Adamu Muazu, who was also contesting to represent the district in the senate.
Mohammed repeated a similar feat in 2019 as the gubernatorial candidate of the opposition PDP when he contested and defeated the incumbent governor of the state, Mohammed Abubakar of APC, who was seeking re-election. Notably, Bauchi was a stronghold of the ruling APC then.
But for some political observers, this time the governor is facing big treats as his challenger, the APC governorship candidate and former Chief of Air Staff is out to set a new record.
Though the ex-military chief is seen as a newcomer in politics, he is backed by large grassroot supports and political godfathers in the state.
As the election day draws nearer, Daily Trust examines some factors that will shape the governorship poll in the state.
Sacking of Wazirin Bauchi
Bello Kirfi, a former Minister of State Foreign Affairs, held the powerful and influential title of Wazirin Bauchi. He is arguably the most respected political godfather in Bauchi.
But to the surprise of many, the state emirate council said it sacked him as Wazirin Bauchi because of his “disloyalty and disrespect toward the state governor”.
Kirfi, an elder statesman who many revered as kingmaker in the state, supported Mohammed in 2019 but has now parted ways with the governor.
Kirfi had already vowed that Mohammed would be voted out of office in the forthcoming election.
“The way I brought him (Mohammed) into office will also be the way to get himself out of power,” Kirfi said.
Dogara support for APC
Mohammed also teamed up with former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara in 2019. Dogara is also an influential godfather, especially in his Tafawa Balewa/Dass/Bogoro Federal constituency.
In 2022, he suffered the same fate as Kirfi when the governor, through the Bauchi Emirate Council, suspended him from being the Jakadan Bauchi after he was alleged to have masterminded a crisis in Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Local Government Areas of the state.
Dogara is now fully active in APC campaigns in the state and he is using all his political resources to make sure Mohammed is not reelected.
APC’s candidate’s wife
Sadiya Umar Faruk, the APC governorship candidate’s wife, is the Humanitarian Affairs Minister and has been complementing her husband’s campaign by distributing relief materials to underprivileged women in Bauchi.
Apart from her, the current minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, is also against Mohammed’s reelection bid.
PDP performance in last polls
With all the aforementioned factors, PDP still maintained the lead in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.
PDP polled 446,607 votes representing 49% ahead of APC with 316,694 votes representing 37% in the presidential election. Out of the 3 senatorial seats in the state, PDP won two leaving APC with one. Of the 12 House of Representatives seats, PDP won seven while APC secured five. If PDP can still maintain this lead in the governorship election, then Mohammed stands a chance of being reelected.
Senator Gumau defection to PDP
Another big plus for Mohammed is the defection of senator Lawal Yahaya Gumau representing Bauchi South to PDP.
Gumau is a political heavyweight in the state. Prior to becoming a senator, he served for two terms in the House of Representatives representing the Toro Federal Constituency.
However, after failing to get the APC reelection ticket, he defected to the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) where he contested and lost the election.
He has since defected to PDP and is expected to deliver his constituency which is an APC stronghold in the state.
A Bauchi-base journalist and analyst, Aliyu Muhammad Waziri, captured the current political situation in the state as “hottest ever.”
He said, “This election will be the fiercest ever in the history of the state considering some facts. Politics in Bauchi is exceptional. People here do not vote based on political parties, they vote candidates based on their performance and credibility.
“That was what happened in 2019 when incumbent Mohammed Abubakar lost his reelection bid to the present governor.”