November 16th 2022, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman wrote Nigerians a letter. In that letter, the INEC chairman said that there were only a hundred days left to the General elections in 2023. The part of Prof Yakubu’s letter which struck home was in paragraph three wherein he said that ‘our (INEC) loyalty is to Nigerians who want free, fair, credible and verifiable elections’ struck home.
That part struck home because as matter of fact, we are here once again confronted with some of the issues which starred us in the face in 2014 and 2019. In 2014, Nigerians were sold the idea of a reformed or born again dictator who had a magic wand. With an abracadabra, they said he would give Nigerians good roads, make the US dollar at par with our now worthless naira, provide efficient medical care and fight corruption to a standstill.
By 2018, many Nigerians began to realize that they had been scammed: not only was the so-called reformed dictator going abroad to treat his ears, our economy deteriorated to the extent that people were either committing suicide or simply picking up their bags to jappa – run abroad.
Part of the reason why we suffered the way we have suffered under this epoch is that we did not interrogate and find out about the people that political parties presented us as touchstones and messiahs. We did not. We just were unscrupulously led by the noses as asses. We were an unthinking and a very naïve people then.
And you know what, just one hundred days before the general elections in 2023, we are still where the people whom the parties presented to us left us. We are still where we were in 2014. Across the land, and as the election fever takes hold on our collective psyche, we are simply carried away. Most of us are still reasoning around the boundaries and innards of our ethnic, religious and sectional constituencies.
Now, it is often said that democracy is run by people for the people. Maybe that’s because the democratic process accords party people the power to choose the people who represent us either as governor, senator or president. And therefore, much of what we are required to do as a people on voting day is ratify any one of the choices that the party processes throw at us. We do not ask them questions or scrutinize them. In most cases they run away from debates.
I do believe that a good reason why we are where we are today, as poverty capital of the world, is that we allow some politicians take us for a ride: we often do not take a pause to interrogate or x-ray these people.
But 100 days appears enough time to do serious soul searching or an overhaul of the systems. Decision time is now and we must do a little bit more on the people who will be governing us after 2022.
I want to use the Gombe example mostly because Gombe looks verily like Nigeria. Formerly a local government, Gombe was carved out of Bauchi state in 1996. According to Wikipedia, Gombe has 24 State House Assembly members, 11 Local Government Areas and 14 Emirates/chiefdoms. It has 3 Senators and 6 members at the National Assembly. Gombe has over 2million Nigerians. Some years ago, it had an annual GDP of 42.5billion, a per capita income of $1.036 and a low human development Index of 34 out of the 36 states of Nigeria.
But don’t be fooled by that dismal data of the HDI: in my travels around the whole of Nigeria, and in my interactions thereof, I have found no other people as kind, friendly, enterprising and hospitable as the people of Gombe and Borno. These people are some of the greatest farmers in Nigeria, contributing the melons, carrots, beans and sorghum, meat and allied foodstuffs which find their way down Edo, Delta and Lagos.
Presently, two Gombe sons will go head to head in the coming elections in 2023. The one is the incumbent governor, Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya of the All Progressives Congress, APC while the other is Alhaji Jibrin Muhammadu Barde of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. We advise Gombawa to pay close attention as we analyse the backgrounds of the duo in order for us to chart the way forward with the political, economic and cultural destiny of Gombe state and Nigeria.
First, Alhaji Inuwa, incumbent governor of Gombe State: a Daily Trust publication of March 19 2019 says that Alhaji Inuwa trained as an accountant from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. The paper said that he started his career as an Accountant II with the Bauchi State Investment and Property Development Company (BSIPDC) and rose to the rank of Principal Accountant. Inuwa Yahaya ventured into active politics in 2003 when he was appointed as Commissioner for inance and Economic Development during Governor Muhammad Danjuma Goje’s administration, he served for seven years. During the seven years he served as a commissioner and member of the state executive council, he was in-charge of Budgetary Planning and Financial control of the state and chairman of the board of the Gombe State Investment and Property Development Company Limited.
His rival is Alhaji Muhammad Jibrin Barde, a lawyer and banker. Alhaji Barde first trained as an Economist from the University of Abuja (1995). He proceeded to the University of London in 2005 for an MBA, then to the Harvard Business School in 2009 for a diploma in General Management, to New York University in 2013 for an MSc in Risk Management before studying to be a lawyer in 2022.
In 2018 Alhaji Barde voluntarily retired as Managing Director/CEO of SunTrust Bank Nigeria Limited, a bank he founded so as to participate in politics. He has more than 25 years of managing men and money, through work with Union Bank of Nigeria, Citigroup N.A, Barclays Bank UK. Bond Bank’s (now Polaris Bank Plc.), Aso Savings and Loans Plc and Midland Corporate Investments Limited.
During his career in the financial services industry, he was responsible for providing direct employment to over 5,000 Nigerians. He also helped over 40,000 families realize their dream of home ownership through the provision of mortgage loans; and provided credit facilities in excess of ₦100billion to small and medium scale enterprises across the country.
If you visit Alhaji Barde’s website, you find what plans he has for Gombe, captured in what he has referred to as ‘strategic pillars’ of his vision for Gombe: Governance, Infrastructure Development, Human Capital Development, Agriculture Revolution, Industry & Digital Economy, Rural Development and Urban Development.
On the face of their antecedents, these two Gombe sons appear perfect for the job of strategically harnessing the potentials of this state, and aligning them in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. However, certain very curious character traits ascribed to the incumbent bring the twosome into some clearer focus. Shortly after Alhaji Barde won the ticket to be governorship candidate of the PDP in Gombe, Governor Inuwa allegedly demolished Alhaji Barde’s Campaign Office. The incident was reported on AIT, and government statement thereafter was that the demolition took place with the ‘blessing of the judiciary’, because Alhaji Barde’s office was close to the presidential lodge. While that demolition took place, journalists were bruised, arrested and detained.
On November 10 2022, Alhaji Barde’s Campaign posters in Gombe at his campaign offices were defaced and torn by suspected APC thugs allegedly on the orders of Governor Inuwa. Two days after that, Alhaji Barde visited Dukku Local government area for a flag-off his campaign as Gombe governor. After he left, the authorities brought in water tankers to wash the floor and venue of the event – a gesture indicative of its intolerance. Nothing would have been wrong with this, just that Dukku people do not have potable water. The battle with their cattle for mud water to drink takes place every day.
A report by Punch Newspaper of 18th November 2022, with the title, Nigeria’s poverty exceeds World Bank projection, five states lead, identify Gombe state among the poorest in Nigeria – poverty mostly in terms of Governance, Infrastructure Development, Human Capital Development, Agriculture Revolution, Industry & Digital Economy, Rural Development and Urban Development. governance, physical infrastructure – items that one of the governorship candidates want to tackle.
So at this point, need Gombe people be hard put to identify which of the two candidates to elect as governor in 2023?