The governor says he derives pleasure in challenging the status quo.
Among the Hausa people, Kauran, is a traditional title that is often bestowed on the fiercest and most courageous warrior. The Kauran is the general who leads other warriors from the front in the name of the Emir.
The traditional title of Bala Mohammed, the governor of Bauchi State, is Kauran Bauchi. He did not have the title bestowed on him by virtue of being the governor. He did more than that to earn it. Twice Mr Mohammed has taken on what many referred to as impossible political battles, and twice he has emerged victorious.
During the 2007 general elections, Mr Mohammed, then a retired civil servant and the senatorial candidate of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) in Bauchi South Senatorial District, soundly defeated the incumbent governor of the state, Adamu Muazu, who was also contesting to represent the district in the senate at the end of the tenure as governor. He was instantly elevated into a hero, having pulled off the feat many considered impossible.
In 2019, Bauchi State and the entire North-east region was a stronghold of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr Mohammed as the gubernatorial candidate of the opposition PDP contested and defeated the incumbent governor of the state, Mohammed Abubakar, who was seeking re-election.
As the 2023 election draws close political pundits in Bauchi, say Mr Mohammed, who is seeking a second term as governor, will once again be required to adorn his armour and ride into battle with his sword drawn, like every true Kauran is expected to.
However, this may be the fiercest battle the Kauran Bauchi has ever fought, as he is up against a political hegemony that has vowed to stop at nothing to ensure he is not reelected.
Political watchers got an indication of what Mr Mohammed is up against in a letter of complaint he wrote to the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu.
Though he did not mention their names in his letter to Mr Ayu, Mr Mohammed spoke strongly about those he said are loyalists of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, whom he said have constituted themselves into a “Bala Must Go” conspiracy.
From the letter, it was clear that the governor was up against powerful political forces in the state, who were determined that he would not get a second term.
Though an attempt was made by Mr Ayu to reconcile the contending factions with a meeting in Abuja days after the letter was leaked, political pundits in the state said the meeting might not be enough to assuage the warring faction to sheathe their swords.
One of the political heavyweights in the state who has a bone to pick with the governor is Abdul Ningi, the PDP senatorial candidate of Bauchi Central.
“He is making things difficult for Bala in the state. He is an Atiku man. While he is not openly antagonising Bala, it’s obvious that he is silently fighting him. He is only fighting for Atiku at the centre and himself to return as a senator,” said Tasiu Hassan, a Bauchi-based political journalist.
While campaigning for the PDP senatorial primary, Mr Ningi told party supporters during a meeting that he and the governor had not fallen out.
“Though there is no rift between the two of us, there are a few of the so-called ‘Governors boys’ who are looking for all means to create a scenario of discord between us. They want to achieve their sinister goals,” he said.
However, party insiders say after he secured the party’s senatorial ticket for the district, reportedly through the help of Atiku, Mr Ningi has become more openly antagonistic towards the governor.
Party insiders believe that Mr Ningi, popular in the Ningi/Warji, Ganjuwa areas of the state, may frustrate the governor’s aspiration for a second term in office.
Another notable politician who does not see eye to eye with Mr Mohammed is a former governor of the state, Mr Muazu.
Mr Muazu, a former national chairman of the PDP, has wholly withdrawn himself from the state’s chapter of the party and is now only focused on ensuring Atiku wins in the state.
His grudges against Mr Mohammed are multifaceted.
Old wounds heal the hardest. Since after defeating Mr Muazu to clinch the Senate seat of Bauchi South in 2007, both politicians have not exactly become cordial. Several party members told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Mohammed was why Mr Muazu’s son could not contest the party’s governorship ticket as he had intended.
The younger Muazu bought nomination forms to contest the governorship position after Mr Mohammed applied to contest for the party’s presidential ticket. But the party’s governorship screening committee in the state refused to screen him, thus, frustrating his governorship aspiration.
The only person cleared to contest was the Secretary to the Government of the State, Kashim Ibrahim, who eventually relinquished the ticket to Mr Mohammed after his bid to become the party’s presidential candidate failed.
Interestingly, Mr Muazu’s junior brother, Abdurrashid Muazu, is contesting for the House of Assembly ticket to represent Tafawa Balewa under the main opposition APC. It is no secret that he is doing everything to ensure his brother wins.
“It tells you things are not okay in Bauchi, for two terms, former governor, a national chairman of the PDP to sponsor his brother to contest in APC when he campaigns for PDP at the national level. It says a lot of things are wrong,” Mr Hassan said.
Even though he is from the zone, the governor will have difficulty maintaining a firm grip on Bauchi South with Mr Muazu as a foe.
Bauchi politics thrives on godfatherism. An incumbent governor or political officeholder has every reason to fear a gang up of the godfathers.
In the build-up to the 2019 general elections, Mr Mohammed was supported by the godfathers after they fell out with the immediate past governor, Mr Abubakar. Two godfathers who stood by Mr Mohammed, Bello Kirfi and Yakubu Dogara, are now his sworn enemies.
After Mr Abubakar fell out with the godfathers, the rumour that he was an indigene of Kogi State, which was one of the reasons he was not reelected, began to spread.
Mr Mohammed then teamed up with Yakubu Dogara, whose struggle to retain his position as the Speaker of the House of Representatives forced him to defect from the APC to the PDP.
Even before he was sworn in, Mr Mohammed publicly thanked the duo of Messrs Kirfi and Dogara.
“I sincerely extend my sincere appreciation to my brother, the Right Honourable Speaker of the House of Representative, Barrister Yakubu Dogara and our father and elder statement, Alhaji Bello Kirfi and other statesmen, religious and community leaders who stood by us,” Mr Mohammed told reporters.
Today he does not see eye to eye with both men, PREMIUM TIMES has learned.
Mr Kirfi, a former Minister of State Foreign Affairs, holds the powerful and influential title of Wazirin Bachi. He is perhaps the most respected political godfather in Bauchi. Though he has been a member of the PDP board of trustees since 1999, his influence transcended the party.
Mr Dogara, who left the PDP to return to APC, has publicly criticised his party’s Muslim – Muslim ticket and has been accused by the APC campaign council of working for Atiku.
He has not denied that publicly and has also not accepted to work for the former Vice President but what is certain is that he is using all his political resources to make sure Mr Mohammed is not reelected.
In 2022, Mr Mohammed, through the Bauchi Emirate Council, suspended Mr Dogara from being the Jakadan Bauchi after he was alleged to have masterminded a crisis in Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Local Government Areas of the state.
APC rises, NNPP kicks
Away from the internal wrangling of the PDP, Mr Mohammed is also contending with the increasing popularity of the APC and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in the state.
The growing profile of the APC candidate, the immediate former Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, has rekindled the hope of party members to reclaim the governorship position they lost to Mr Mohammed in 2019.
Though after losing to Mr Mohammed, Mr Abubakar, the immediate past governor, stayed away from public events, he has now joined forces with his party’s candidate in the APC bid to reclaim power in the state.
Sadiya Umar – Faruk, the APC’s candidate’s wife, is the Humanitarian Affairs minister and has been complementing her husband’s campaign by distributing relief materials to less privileged women in Bauchi.
The current minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, is also on the train to defeat forces bent on removing Mr Mohammed. In 2019, the APC in the state was plagued with internal squabbles. The party appears to have put its problem behind it and is presenting a united front against Mr Mohammed.
The new kid on the block, the NNPP, is also poised to flex its muscles in the struggle for the control of the state. The party, riding on its newfound popularity across northern Nigeria, has elected Dauda Haliru – Jika as its candidate.
Mr Jika, the incumbent senator for the Bauchi North, is as experienced as any politician in the state. He also understands how to win elections. He is a former Bauchi State House of Assembly speaker and a two-term House of Representatives member. An astute grassroots politician who contested for the APC gubernatorial ticket and crossed over to the NNPP after failing to get it.
While the groundswell of opposition does not necessarily mean Mr Mohammed’s ambition is doomed, Mr Dass, Jaafar Dass, a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, said the intrigue around next year’s elections in the state is eerily similar to that of 2015.
“You should know that the governor came out to swallow his pride, as he said, knows how powerful the former governors and the godfathers can be. He knows that for these people to come together and throw their weight behind the APC candidate… he knows what that means. They’re not just mere paper tigers. And that’s why I’m not surprised to hear him come out and cry over the treatment he is getting from them,” he said.
Mr Dass said Atiku could help Mr Mohammed by talking to his allies in Bauchi to support the governor.
“But the issue is that some of these people are also sworn enemies of the governor because they played a great role in bringing him (Mr Mohammed), but they now feel he has turned against them. So, it’ll be difficult for them to actually support him again though politics can be unpredictable,” Mr Dass said.
Atiku is trying to save Mr Mohammed. On Sunday, the presidential hopeful released a statement on Twitter asking all members of the PDP to work in unity to make sure the party’s candidates in all elective positions in the state, including the governor, are elected next year.
“The task to Recover Nigeria starts with the States, Senatorial Districts, Federal and Local Constituencies, Local Government Areas, Wards and Polling Units,” he wrote.
“To this end, I urge all political leaders and elected officials, past and present, at all levels to work in concert with Governor Bala Mohammed, @SenBalaMohammed, to ensure total victory for his re-election bid & victory for all the candidates on the ballot in the 2023 elections including Governorship, Senatorial, Federal and State Representatives in Bauchi State.
“Similarly, I enjoin the leaders and stakeholders of our great party, @OfficialPDPNig, from (A)bia to (Z)amfara, to work assiduously in unity in ensuring that we earn resounding victories in all the positions up for contest in next year’s general election.
“This will put our Recovery and Restoration agenda on a firm footing. Together as one, we shall Recover Nigeria for the good of all,” he wrote.