– Frustrated by Bauchi identity politics
Many underlying but knotty factors propelled the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara’s recent retreat from major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
Some of the issues that compelled the former speaker to shift base revolve around the crisis of identity politics in Bauchi State, his relationship with Governor Bala Mohammed, pressures from the governing party and his search to future political relevance in the state and nation.
The defection, which came not only as a surprise based on it suddenness but also at a time his membership of PDP suffered no immediate electoral threat, however, has exposed the various intriguing designs within the two major political platforms preparatory for the 2023 general election cycle. It is steadily becoming an open secret that the governing APC maybe nursing plans to select its presidential standard-bearer from the Northeast geopolitical zone, while the opposition PDP seems divided whether to retain its 2019 zoning format or leave it open.
Party insiders say APC’s strategy is to ward off the possible candidacy of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar by fielding a younger politician. That scheme could explain the plan by some second term governors to insist that one of their own from the Northwest flies the party’s flag in 2023.
Against that devious background, could it be that Dogara’s decision to set forth at dawn was informed by the need to be part of the Northeast solidarity for the 2023 presidency?
The statement by the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, shortly after the former speaker conferred with the president, seems to back that proposition. Ahmad had, in a post on his Twitter handle, described Dogara’s return to APC as the northern equivalent of Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki’s crossover to PDP.
Not that alone, a source in the Presidency had confided in The Guardian way back in November last year that there were overtures being made to the former speaker to return to APC and help the party regain its buoyancy in Bauchi State.
Although speculations about the political aspiration of the former Chief of Staff (CoS), Mallam Abba Kyari were rife then, the source disclosed that President Buhari was not happy that Dogara joined other members of the nPDP to leave APC.
While noting that the President could not intervene in the face-off between the former speaker and Governor Mohammed Abubakar, the source added that the perceived nonchalant attitude of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of APC to the crisis pushed Dogara to seek re-election outside the party.
“But President Buhari did not hide his displeasure at the former speaker’s exit,” the source said. “You know the President has soft spot for the Northeast, where he served as military governor before. So, I can tell you that Dogara was one of the emerging leaders from the zone the President was sending emissaries to bring back to APC.”
BUT despite pressures from the governing APC, one of Dogara’s supporters, Hamisu Naningi, told The Guardian shortly after the news of his defection slipped into public space that they were not happy the way Governor Bala was treating the speaker. Hamisu disclosed that not long after the Supreme Court delivered its final ruling on the governorship election petition filed by the immediate past governor, Mohammed Abubakar, the incumbent started demeaning Dogara.
He said that part of the reason they assisted Dogara to work for the electoral victory of Bala Mohammed Kura was that, while in APC, Governor Abubakar favoured outsiders rather than Bauchi people. The PDP stalwart disclosed that signs that the incumbent governor was no longer pleased with Dogara emerged when the governor was selecting his commissioners, stressing that instead of consulting stakeholders, the governor used every opportunity to disrespect them.
A serving local government official, who pleaded anonymity, said apart from Dogara, many other PDP stakeholders are not happy with the governor, alleging that the governor was not only misallocating wealth but also favouring his minority Bajari ethnic group.
“Imagine a situation where the governor’s son is usually seen cruising in Bugatti Veroni that people say costs about N400 million. So, it is like we moved from the frying pan to fire. Our people complained that the former governor is not from Bauchi, either by blood or marriage, and voted him out.
“Now the person from Bauchi we elected in his place mind just his Bajari people and his immediate family. In just one year, Governor Bala has proved worse than Mohammed Abubakar and he has derailed,” the PDP chieftain stated.
From 1999, identity politics has always besmeared governors of Bauchi State. Even though he holds the traditional title of Walin Bauchi, former governor Adamu Mu’azu, at the point of his re-election, was accused of being a native of Kano State, where his father hailed.
Isa Yaguda was also said to be another nationality, just as the immediate past governor, Mohammed, was said to be of Kogi father, with his mother from Gombe State.
In an interview with The Guardian, the former governor said his loss at the 2019 election was a fluke, stressing that rather than allowing him to lose at the ballot, some influential politicians conspired to rig him out after successive balloting. At the build-up to the election, the former governor had, in allusion to Dogara, boasted that political leaders with limited followership should not threaten his re-election. He said that most of them have an insignificant number of eligible voters.
Incidentally, Dogara’s constituency happened to be where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ordered a repeat poll after the election was declared inconclusive.
“Our governor knows what role the former speaker played during the election and he does not think he could trust such a person,” the official stated, adding that the former speaker’s defection did not surprise those who know his style of politics.
Yet despite the loss of camaraderie between Governor Bala and Dogara, it was gathered that just as it happened in APC when Oshiomhole and the party’s NWC gave deaf ears to the bourgeoning crisis between Dogara and Governor Abubakar, PDP’s NWC, led by Prince Uche Secondus, refused to intervene. Instead of settling the rift between the former speaker and the incumbent, it was alleged that PDP’s national leaders sided with the governor appeared to justify the favours the Bauchi State chief executive was allegedly dispensing to them.
Having been betrayed and marooned in the emerging political calculations in the state, Dogara must-have, like the biblical prodigal son, decided to retrace his way back to APC, where he was being courted by powers that be.
Buhari’s succession plan
THERE are chances that Dogara could have suffered the same fate that befell his former colleague, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, whose wrangling with Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, led to his loss in the 2019 election in Kano State. But, having won his re-election to the House of Representatives, Dogara’s return to APC could pave the way for his greater relevance given the changing dynamics in the governing party.
That it was the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, who is incidentally the chairman of APC Caretaker and Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CENCPC), that led him to see President Buhari spoke volumes. The rupture in APC’s NWC suggested a gradual takeover of the party’s structure by the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) wing from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) arm.
As such, alongside other remnants of nPDP, like the Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Dogara would have found himself really useful in the planning and execution of President Buhari’s succession plan.
Should the quiet agitation for a Christian from the Northeast zone to fly the party’s flag in 2023 gather momentum, the former speaker, who many say fits the bill as a possible Nigerian version of France’s Emmanuel Macron, could be favoured. A member of the APC merger committee from the defunct CPC, Mr. Osita Okechukwu said Dogara’s defection portends a good omen for APC’s readiness for 2023.
Okechukwu, who is the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), expressed excitement over Dogara’s return “after a short stint with the opposition PDP.”
He said the former speaker must have been attracted by President Buhari’s agrarian revolution and the transformation going on in the party under the CENCPC headed by Buni, saying, “Dogara is from agrarian community and cannot fail to ignite the unprecedented Buhari’s Agrarian Revolution.”
While predicting more defections to APC as the 2023 elections approach, Okechukwu said: “Dogara could be likened to a woman who has married two husbands and comes back to the first husband. It does not matter if Dogara’s return to APC was politically motivated or based on disagreement with Governor Bala Mohammed. I believe the former speaker acted in the national interest.
“To me whether local politics or national politics, Dogara must have noticed that there are positive changes and realpolitik going on in the soul of APC, which will attract more progressives as we approach 2023 general elections. A lot of progressives in other political parties are closely watching Buni’s caretaker committee.”
Out of the cacophony of voices of heart-rendering stories of insecurity, gross unemployment and seeming hopelessness in the land, the VON DG could only come to the inevitable conclusion that all hands have to be on the deck to salvage the country from falling off the cliff.
Coming at a time PDP continues to call on President Buhari to resign, Okechukwu said Dogara’s defection shows he “appreciates, like most of us, that Nigeria is in a bind and dire straights, and that all President Buhari needs at this crucial time in the hands of all patriots on the deck, not resignation.”
If as Okechukwu said, “President Buhari needs the support of all patriots to navigate Nigeria out of the crisis, not resignation,” it is left to be seen whether the envisaged solidarity is for Buhari’s succession plan or mandate delivery after a worrisome year into his second term.