Yobe’s Strange Politics

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By Adam M. Jajimaji

The APC national leadership and particularly President Muhammadu Buhari must pay attention and ensure that the people of Yobe State are not suffocated and that direct party primary elections take place in the state… If the people cannot get good roads, good schools, quality accessible healthcare and potable drinking water, at least they should be able to exercise their rights in freely choosing their leaders, without fear or intimidation.

By way of introduction, Yobe is one of the poorest States in Nigeria. It lags in the areas of education, healthcare, agriculture and infrastructure. It is a state in desperate need of planned, aggressive and rapid development. The majority of the people of the State are poor. There are no industries in Yobe and hence no strong economic base that can provide massive jobs for the teeming youth wandering about the towns and villages; from Potiskum to Geidam, and Buni Yadi to Nguru. In 2015, the State put up a woeful 14 per cent performance in SSCE/NECO examinations. But the fact that pupils of the Turkish school in the State always perform well in SSCE/NECO is an indication of the fact that the problem is not with the youth but with the quality of schools, teaching and learning across the State. In 2010, Hyacinth Ishoku, a consultant for European Union predicted, on the basis of tangible evidence of research and data, that by 2011, of the over three million people population of Yobe, 2.1 million people would be living below the poverty line. The development challenges are just enormous.

Every election season brings a glimmer of hope – the hope that things will change and Yobe State will get better, have better roads, more support for rural farmers, good hospitals for referral across the three senatorial zones, as well as quality education that can provide the youth with skills and direction in life. But this hope can be dashed if the State does not get it right politically. In fact, the strange things happening on the political scene now dangle pessimism about the prospects of hope.

One of the signs that the prospects may not be bright, if things have not changed, was the state All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership meeting held on Thursday August 16, at 3:00 p.m. in Damaturu. Daily Trust of August 17, 2018 reported an angle of the meeting. But the key things that happened at the meeting were not mentioned by the newspaper. An aspect of the meeting mentioned by the paper was the party executives saying they did not and have not endorsed any aspirant for the governorship of the State. Beyond that, mention was also made of how the state government will choose and present to the party ‘two aspirants’, out of who one will be chosen to become the gubernatorial candidate of the APC. More disturbing was the fact that mention was made at that meeting of one the aspirants. What came out of that meeting was that: It is not the people of Yobe State that will choose gubernatorial candidate of APC, rather it will the state government that will choose for them. Only in Yobe State can this happen! Some months ago, Governor Ibrahim Geidam was quoted in the media as asking the people of Yobe to pray to Allah to choose the next governor of the State. That was taken to be his pledge to ensure that all aspirants would have a level playing field. But all these have turned out to be irrelevant now that it is no longer a secret that Yobe State government wants to handpick the next governor of the state. Signs of working towards realising this plan was the attempt made to convince the national leadership of APC that because of ‘insurgency’, direct party primary elections should not take place in the State. This was followed up with the collection of signatures of so-called stakeholders of the party endorsing a delegates-based party primary election in Yobe.

We the people of Yobe have tremendous respect for Governor Ibrahim Geidam – despite scarce resources he has done his best for the State, given the context of the wasted years of the past. What is expected of him now is fairness and circumspection, given how Allah thrusted him into power following the sudden death of late Senator Mamman Ali. I could still recall how in the early 2000’s Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam made known his intention to run for political office. Then governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim was reportedly quoted declaring that,“Ibrahim Geidam has no electoral value worthy of becoming even a councilor.” Even Governor Ibrahim Geidam has made reference to this statement on so many public occasions. Given this, one would have expected the governor to be the promoter of fairness and a level playing field – in a situation where people will be allowed to choose who should lead them. One would have expected him to be championing fairness and openness and justice.

At a point in which political activities are in top gear in many states, in Yobe a state of siege has been created, instilling the fear of intimidation that has prevented many worthy citizens of the State from coming out to express their aspirations. It took the courage of renowned philanthropist and technocrat, Alhaji Ibrahim Bomai to declare his aspiration for the governorship. It was Alhaji Bomai’s joining of the APC that helped the party in significantly regaining impact in Zone B. These areas were known strongholds of the PDP until Alhaji Ibrahim Bomai embarked on a massive mobilisation for the APC. In some towns in the state, political thugs were given instructions to pull down posters and billboards of aspirants. The political space has been suffocated with fear, poverty and intimidation.

As muslims, we all know that power belongs to Allah. Only He can give or take it from whom He wishes. A good Muslim – or honest one – believes that this is real and divine. But the current atmosphere created within the political space in Yobe is disturbing. Politicians in the state who have done a lot for the party are treated with scorn for aspiring to some positions.

Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam should thank Allah for giving him 10 years of running Yobe State and he can show his gratitude to Allah by ensuring that APC stays intact and people are allowed to choose their leaders at all levels without any attempt of imposition, on the basis of tribe or any other relationship. Any attempt at imposing candidates will only tear APC apart in the State.

The APC national leadership and particularly President Muhammadu Buhari must pay attention and ensure that the people of Yobe State are not suffocated and that direct party primary elections take place in the state. The bigger challenge is on the shoulders of the people, who have the responsibility of safeguarding their electoral rights at the party level. Only the people of Yobe can free themselves. If the people cannot get good roads, good schools, quality accessible healthcare and potable drinking water, at least they should be able to exercise their rights in freely choosing their leaders, without fear or intimidation.
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Adam M. Jajimaji, public affairs analyst writes from Sabon Pegi, Damaturu, Yobe State

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