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Bala vs Abubakar: No retreat, no surrender in Bauchi 

The combatants in the battle for the political lever of Bauchi State are beating no retreat, writes ISHOLA MICHAEL.

 

MORE than a month after the swearing in of Senator Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the new governor of Bauchi State, the gulf between him and his predecessor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar seems to be getting wider. The latter, who was elected on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is the first incumbent in the state to have lost in a re-election bid. Though the new governor is beginning to settle down for business, the tempo of accusation and counter accusation between the two leaders still dominates serious political discourse among the people.

The camp of the former governor is frequently on the defensive following a preponderance of allegations against his administration. It was particularly put on the spot by the report of the transition committee set up by Senator Bala Mohammed before his inauguration. It indicted the former governor of allegations over contract awards and inflation, non-completion of projects and incurring more than N130 billion debt for the state. it was also accused of making last-minute appointments and hasty award of more than N4 billion contract through the Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).

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A few days after his inauguration, the new governor terminated all the new political appointments made by his predecessor, revoked all the contracts awarded by the SUBEB and threatened to prosecute its head, Professor Yahya Ibrahim Yero. Bala Mohammed urged all the relevant anti-corruption agencies to block an alleged planned disbursement of the about N14 billion released to the state as the refund on federal projects executed by the former administration. According to the media aide to the governor, Dr Ladan Salihu, contrary to the claim by Mohammed Abubakar that he left the said money in the state’s treasury, he was actually blocked from accessing the funds. Another issue the governor has against the last administration in the state is the alleged inflation of the cost of road contracts per kilometre. It was allegedly to be twice the cost elsewhere in the country. The latest complaint against the former governor is the alleged spending of N2.3 billion to buy materials for Muslim burials in just five months. Salihu alleged that the money was spent between January and May 2019. He alleged: “These monies, which ought to have been appropriated by the State Assembly before expenditure, all of a sudden emanated from our treasury books. How could you imagine that a state government, within five months, that is between January and May, 2019 spent well over N2.3 billion on funeral materials? The immediate past government spent N2.3 billion; that government did not spend a quarter of that amount on our hospitals and clinics. “We are talking about the principle behind it. You have bought these materials for funerals in graveyards. What have you done to the Christian cemetery? But we are saying that it is wrong completely. It is not the duty of government to buy burial materials for anybody. It is the responsibility of the family, the community and people of goodwill. It has never existed in our history books that government bought those materials in the first place.”

But in a swift reaction, the former governor, through his aides, debunked the allegations, saying they were aimed at discrediting him by the PDP-led state  government. A former Special Adviser on Media and Strategy to the former governor, Ali M. Ali, in a statement, debunked the alleged spending of N2.3 billion by the ex-governor to buy wood and other burial materials within five months. ”The outrageously claim of spending N2.3bn between January and May 2019 by the government of the day is precisely what it is Phantom. It is absolute balderdash. No truth whatsoever,” Ali asserted. He said the N1.2 billion the then government spent covered a four-year period across the 20 local government areas of the state. According to him, “It was not for a single local government area and certainly not for a five-month period. For the records and for the umpteenth time, financing the burial of the dead was an inherited practice which the government upheld. It is inconceivable, therefore, that a government that did everything by the book will be brazen in its financial dealings. The government of Abubakar built a reputation of thrift.The government of the day in Bauchi should squarely face the task ahead and not divert attention with such illusory and delusional allegations.”

In the same vein, an aide to the former governor on Social Media, Muktar Jibril said based on his findings, the actual amount involved was N1.2 billion and not N2.3 billion as alleged by the incumbent governor. “In response to the media activists on the issue of mahogany and shrouds procured for burials, we want to state that this is a practice inherited by the government of M.A Abubakar from its predecessors. Realising its significance and impacts on the people, especially the bereaved ones, it decided to continue with it. However, the project like any other one of same magnitude, was awarded to qualified contractors. Based on the available verifiable record, a total sum of N1, 270,743,520 had been expended since its inception and not the exaggerated figure of N2.3billion mischievously posted on the social media by critics.We urge the good people of the state to disregard this insinuation and act of desperation by elements of retrogression. Besides, every contract awarded was subjected to the scrutiny and appraisal of the due process agency in accordance with public procurement law, contract agreement, payment of tax due on such contracts and other requirements,”Jibril claimed. It will be recalled that Governor Bala Mohammed had, at various times, promised to scrutinise all financial dealings of his predecessor. He also promised to recover monies and assets belonging to the state from those known to have allegedly engaged in malfeasance in the last four years.

On the political turf, the battle between the two leading politicians in the state reared its head in the contest for who would become speaker of the State House of Assembly. It pitched the speaker of the eighth Assembly, Kawuwa Shehu Damina, against  Abubakar Y Sulriman, though of the APC affiliation, who had the backing of Governor  Mohammed while Danlami Ahmed Kawule of the PDP emerged as his deputy. A lot of observers perceive the development as a big blow to the remaining influence of the former governor in the politics of Bauchi. Others, however, say the current brinkmanship being witnessed in the state may not be a good omen. Another set of observers recalled that the Tijjani Baba Gamawa-led Assets Recovery Committee set up by the former governor after assuming office in 2015 was a smokescreen because a lot of its actions were reversed close to the 2019 general election. But, the current governor’s spokesman said the government would use every instrument of the law, including the anti-corruption agencies, to resolve all matters relating to the immediate past administration.

“We must take action; there’s no factor of fear or favour or ill will. It is just the way the business of government must be conducted,” Salihu said.

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