The governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bauchi State have come and gone, but the emergence of the two candidates of the parties, Governor Muhammad Abdullahi Abubakar, Makama Babba of Bauchi and Senator Bala Muhammad, Kauran Bauchi was not without a fight.
Both candidates emerged through a rigorous process and high level of politicking, re-alignment and dialogue.
For Governor Abubakar, since his assumption of office, governance has not been easy as political interests between him and some members of the state and National Assembly came to the fore.
Two major political parties in the state have concluded their governorship primaries, but the intrigues that heralded the elections have continued to generate interests and dominate political discourses in the state.
PDP produced their governorship candidate with the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Bala Muhammad, who contested alongside two other aspirants in a sweat less contest to emerge the flag bearer of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The election, which was void of controversies, drew delegates from all over the 20 local government areas of the state that converged at the Zaranda Hotel to cast their votes for the candidates of their choice, amidst tight security.
Muhammad polled a total of 1,335 votes to defeat his closest contender and former House of Representatives leader, Abdul Ahmad Ningi, who polled 802 votes, while the third contender, Senator Adamu Ibrahim Gumba Kuyun Banan Bauchi polled 15 votes in the primaries.
For the gubernatorial primaries of the APC, the incumbent Governor Muhammad Abubakar emerged the winner of the governorship primaries through direct electoral process. The governor is the flag bearer of the party for the 2019 general elections.
Governor Abubakar polled a total of 75,086 votes to defeat his closest contender, Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, former Minister of Police Affairs, who polled 3,988 votes, while the third contender, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, former Minister of State for Health, polled 2,886 votes and Captain Bala Jibril, who is the only pilot in the state and former state Commissioner for Higher Education, polled 2,539 votes.
However, there were controversies that trailed the conduct of the exercise in the sense that there were calls for cancellation of the primaries due to alleged cases of electoral irregularities, violence and lack of transparency of the electoral process as well as the cases of the party members being disenfranchised among other accusations of foul play during the election.
The first day of the election, held on September 30, 2018 was first greeted with anxiety as the electoral committee from the national headquarters of the party saddled with the responsibility of conducting the election led by Professor Ahmad Bakori Muhammad, did not arrive the state early.
The development did not augur well for some of the other APC governorship aspirants who were threatened by alleged reports that the election held and the winner was already declared.
The following day, when the committee finally arrived the state, there were allegations that the election did not hold in some units in some parts of the state. In places like Baba Sidi and Bakari Duku polling units in the Bauchi metropolis for instance, it was alleged that elections did not hold in those places as political hoodlums of supporters frightened party members who came to cast their votes.
According to reports, even journalists covering the election had their version of their experience on the first day the election was scheduled to take place. It was said that they were nearly attacked at Bakari Dukku Primary and Secondary Schools along Bank Road, one of the venues of the APC governorship election of Hardo Danlya Ward in Bauchi.
Journalists, who were at the venue to monitor the election, claimed that supporters of the three APC aspirants contesting against Governor Abubakar surrounded them and alleged that the government printed fake ballot papers, which were given to people to vote for the governor.
A supporter of one of the aspirants, who gave his name as Danjuma, lamented that he had been at the venue for seven hours, but the election was yet to commence, adding that voters were not verified.
“The Commissioner of Police addressed journalists covering the conduct of the primaries outside and promised them that we will be verified so as to authenticate the cards but nothing like that was done, the gate was just opened for everyone to go in.
“Many of the voters here are carrying fake APC membership cards. If you check these two cards I am holding in my hands, you will notice that the APC logo on my right does not look clear at all because it is a fake one as compared to the one on my left which we were given since 2014.
“Most of the people told us outside that they were given the APC membership cards just this morning which they used for the election. I have been here since 8:00am, but this is almost 3:00pm and there is nothing happening yet,” he stated.
The controversy took another twist when three APC governorship aspirants called for the cancellation of the primaries and suspension of the party leadership under Uba Ahmad Nana and the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar for what they described as war on simple civic issue.
The aspirants, former Minister, Muhammad Ali Pate, Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame and Captain Bala Jibrin, alleged that the governor in connivance with the state executive have corrupted the executives of the national electoral committee led by Professor Ahmad Bakori Muhammad in the state, adding that security agents were used to intimidate members of the party with opposing views.
“We are calling on all our members across the state to boycott this exercise that has turned out to be a shame. Ballot papers that were released did not get to their destinations. In Bauchi Local Government, only half of the released ballot papers got to the polling centers.
“Just now we received a report from our supporters in Boi Ward of Bogoro Local Government Area that one of our supporters has been killed with two others hospitalized.
“We are calling on the national leadership of our party to cancel these primaries and reschedule another one at their convenient time. Also, we request that the national officers should send more officials to boost the confidence of our members,” Pate and Lame demanded.
The three governorship aspirants alleged that the whole process was not transparent and marred by violence in many areas across the state.
The development was further compounded at Azare, Katagum Local Government Area of the state following a protest by hundreds of youths over the disappearance of APC registration booklets for the governorship primaries.
The leader of the protest group, Hassan Muhammad demanded for the immediate expulsion of the APC local government chairman and the council chairman, Aminu Chinade and Aminu Umar for allegedly trying to impose their preferred candidates through the registration booklets. It took the intervention of security agents to bring the situation under control.
On his part, the state governor, Muhammad Abdullahi Abubakar, however, refuted allegation made by his opponents, who alleged that he used the state apparatus to manipulate the governorship primaries to his favour.
Abubakar said the election was conducted in line with electoral laws and principles, explaining that APC in the state was a party that does not believe in intimidation to score political points.
“If you have followed developments, the state executive committee of the party met while I was in China with Mr. President. They took a decision with the national executive committee that they wanted indirect primaries. These same people crying foul now were the ones that opposed indirect.
“Now that the direct primaries have been conducted and they lost, they are still crying foul,” the governor said.
There is no doubt that the battle for Bauchi Government House has begun with Bala Muhammad locking horns with M A Abubakar at the polls in 2019. For Governor Abubakar, who is enjoying the power of incumbency, he has the chance to use it to his advantage, especially taking into account that the party is still enjoying the goodwill of the electorate at the grassroots.
Nonetheless, the governor has to contain and convince the people that some of his policies and reforms, seen as anti-people, were not meant to undermine them but rather for the development of the state.
Pundits have accused the governor among others that the present administration spent three years ‘without commensurate projects, lamenting that the government in the state had performed below expectation compared to what its predecessors were able to do in the state.
They said the experience of 2015 where candidates were elected because of the popularity of President Buhari will not repeat itself.
For Kaura and PDP, they will have to confront the issue of image. Besides, some saw the emergence of Kauran Bauchi, who is well known in the state as going to be a serious fight or struggle to defeat the APC in the state.
Also, the biggest task before the PDP candidate and its leadership now is how to unite the aggrieved aspirants.
The contest for the 2019 in the state will be won by the candidate who has the pedigree to mobilise more support to his side by the end of the day.
Aliyu is our correspondent in Bauchi.