Still no longer at ease in Bauchi Assembly

ISHOLA MICHAEL writes on the leadership crisis and drama that culminated in the emergence of two speakers for the state House of Assembly.


IT is a case of one troop with two commanders. Precisely on June 20, 2019, the power tussle between Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed of Bauchi State and his predecessor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar caame to a head. Their political rivalry led to the emergence of two speakers in the state’s ninth House of Assembly. While the speaker of the eight Assembly, Kawuwa Shehu Damina, the preferred choice of the immediate past governor, seems to have retained the exalted position, and Abubakar Y. Suleiman, a new member of the Assembly, believed to be the anointed candidate of the incumbent governor for the post, got elected also as speaker.

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Before APC primaries, former Governor Abubakar and the party leadership made sure that only their loyalists secured APC tickets for the general election to the Assembly in with the hope that they would in turn ensure the party won the gubernatorial election. However, things began to fall apart when the former governor lost the gubernatorial election to Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but with APC still having a clear majority of members in the Assembly, that is, 22 out of the 31 members, while the PDP has eight leaving the New Nigeria Political Party (NNPP) with one member.  The membership configuration automatically placed the PDP and Governor Mohammed at a disadvantage as the party could not field a candidate for the post of speaker. Therefore, PDP had to forge an alliance with some of the members of APC and the sole NNPP member. It decided to throw its weight behind Suleiman, a first-term member representing Ningi against Damina and the former Majority Leader of the Assembly, Tijjani Mohammed Aliyu, representing Azare/Madangala constituency.

However, former Governor Abubakar and the APC leadership mounted pressure on all members elected on APC ticket to rally round Damina with, other contestants were asked to step down for Damina at a meeting held on June 17 in Kano. The effort was thwarted when the inauguration was postponed on June 20, with APC roundly condemning the action. It alleged that it was part of a grand plot by Governor Mohammed and the PDP to impose an unpopular leadership on the Assembly.  It was later learnt that the postponement provided the PDP time to perfect its plans to bring in their preferred candidate from the APC, as well as to ensure that a PDP member in the Assembly emerged as deputy speaker. The permutation was that eight PDP members, two from APC and the lone NNPP member would form the necessary 11-member quorum to actualise the entire plan. Part of the plan was also to ‘fool’ the other APC members on the time of the inauguration on Thursday.  According to sources, the member representing Warji, Yunusa Ahmed, was initially preferred by Governor Mohammed for the post of speaker, but he reportedly turned down the offer, saying that he could not betray his party. The member was said to have contacted his other colleagues, who insisted that they would stick to the agreement reached at the Kano meeting to re-elect Damina as speaker. So, the governor and his team had to settle for Suleiman, who had to dispel initial rumour doing the rounds that he had withdrawn from the contest. At the inauguration, the 11 members loyal to the governor elected Suleiman with Danlami Ahmed Kawule of the PDP as his deputy, while the 18 members loyal to former Governor Abubakar held a parallel inauguration and elected Damina as their own speaker. It was learnt that Governor Mohammed had earlier used some emissaries to a re-eelection.

The 11 members, who elected Suleiman as speaker reportedly arrived the Assembly complex as early as 6 am, without the knowledge of the other 20 members that supported Damina.  As soon as the proclamation was read by the Clerk, Suleiman was nominated by Babayo Muhammad representing Hardawa constituency and Jamilu Umar Dahiru, the only NNPP member. The nomination was seconded by Bakoji Aliyu Bobo, member representing Chiroma constituency.

Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar
Ex-Gov Mohammed Abubakar

Members of the Damina faction held their own inauguration on the Assembly premises at 11:15 am with the member representing Warji constituency, Yunusa Ahmed who nominated Kawuwa Damina presiding. The nomination was seconded by the member representing Ganjuwa West constituency, Yusuf Inuwa Dadiye. Ahmed, Tukur Ibrahim was elected as deputy speaker.  Speaking after the inauguration, Damina, gave an insight into the drama that played out before the event. He said that they were given invitations to come to the inauguration by 10:00 am, only to discover later that they were deceived as even before the time, the place had been  locked with security agents stationed everywhere.  According to him, after waiting till 11:00 am, they had to conduct their own inauguration outside the hallow chamber based on democratic standards and practices. Meanwhile, the APC in the state rejected the emergence of two speakers for the Assembly. Speaking through its secretary, Alhaji Bako Hussaini, the party described the lawmakers’ actions as”unethical and unprofessional conduct.” The party accused the Clerk of the Assembly and security agents on duty of complacency and called on the anti-graft agencies to investigate their conducts. It said it had written a petition against the Clerk of the House to the disciplinary committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over “his act of gross misconduct and scornful approach to Nigerian Constitution and laws of Bauchi State.” The APC added: “We have seen a new leaf in the history of legislative business in Nigeria, where through the cover of the night, the so-called Clerk of the assembly conducted a charade and packaged fraudulent session as early as 6 am with only eleven out of 31 members in attendance.”

In its own reaction, the state PDP chairman, Alhaji Hamza Koshe Akuyam, said that it was 14 members of the Assembly that elected the speaker on the day of the inauguration, pointing out that the PDP has nine members following a court ruling, which granted a Certificate of Return to the party member representing Sade constituency. He added that some APC members, including the elected speaker and the only NNPP lawmaker, joined the PDP to elect the speaker, insisting that due process was followed during the exercise.

However, the APC organising secretary, Lawan Gyan Gyan, said his party was still studying the situation, with a view to making a categorical statement on the development.  But the government absolved itself of the leadership crisis in the Assembly.  Spokesperson for the governor, Dr Ladan Salihu said his principal “is a democrat and a parliamentarian who knows the rules, so there is no handiwork of government in what happened.” He explained that he decided to speak on the matter because the Assembly had adjourned sitting and was yet to appoint a spokesman. “Keeping quiet will be suicidal. We have to come out and speak because it is our own government that has the constituted authorities of the executive which I belong to. The legislature and the judiciary constitute the other aspects of government and government does not operate in a vacuum. I had to speak because it is in the overall stability of government.  As far as we are concerned in Bauchi State, there is only one Speaker, Abubakar Suleiman, who was duly elected and recognised by all the parties and he is a member of the APC.”

The supremacy battle between the two key political gladiators in Bauchi has only entered the second phase. What will happen the next will not take a long time to unfold. But who triumphs over the other in the titanic battle will be determined by time.