By Muhammad Babande
As the 2019 elections draw near, no one should be surprised about how far some people can go – or how low they can stoop – to cook up all manner of stories just to advance their political interests. This is even more so in a democracy like ours where desperation sometimes holds sway in the contest for political space.
This is the sense in which I deciphered an opinion article under the above title in the Premium Times written by one Adam M. Jajimaji.
Desperate to make a case among people who may not be fully aware of the details, the writer reeled out economic indices about Yobe that are generic to much of Nigeria. That Yobe is one of the poorest states in the country and that most of its people are poor is, for a long time, ‘received’ economic wisdom.
What Adam Jajimaji shielded from view is the tremendous effort that Governor Ibrahim Geidam is making, over the past several years, to improve those indices and bring about a better Yobe for all its people. The writer’s cynical claim that “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”, therefore, deliberately conflates the issues and ignores what the people know to be true.
It is true, for instance, that Governor Geidam has built over a thousand kilometres of road across the state. From Kanamma to Yusufari, Gadaka to Godowoli and Damaturu to Buni-Yadi, people daily ply the roads that have been built by the governor. If the writer is in doubt, he should go ask the people who ply the road between Gashu’a and Yusufari towns and he will learn how God-sent is Governor Geidam to them for making them cover in thirty minutes what used to take them a whole day in the sand dunes of the Sahara.
That the governor has built a new teaching hospital and a new college of medical sciences to train Yobe’s crop of medical doctors and improve its healthcare sector also holds true. The hospitals in Potiskum, Gashu’a and Geidam are also being remodelled and equipped to serve people in the three senatorial zones of the state and make quality, affordable care within their reach.
It is true, also, that following Boko Haram’s relentless attacks on Yobe’s schools, Governor Geidam has invested several billions of naira to retrofit primary and secondary schools to improve teaching and learning. Only recently, GSS Fika, GSS Nangere, GSS Gwio-Kura, GSS Yunusari and GGSS Nguru were fully rehabilitated and expanded and provided with laboratory equipment, new library books, beds and mattresses and other materials needed to make teaching and learning more effective for teachers and students.
Records also show that more than 70 per cent of Yobe’s population has been provided with potable drinking water by the State Government with support from the African Development Bank and other development partners.
The idea that those basic services have been denied the people by the Geidam administration, as suggested by Mr Jajimaji, is therefore uncharitable and totally false. But that’s not the crux of this rejoinder.
I am concerned that, as we head for the 2019 elections, lessons that should have been learnt from previous elections appear not to have been learnt. In 2015, for example, the supporters of former President Goodluck Jonathan frequently went to town with all manner of stories about the APC and its candidate, Muhammadu Buhari but those false representations never stopped the people from electing him as president. This shows that desperation or blowing things out of proportion for political gain doesn’t always work with our politics.
In Yobe State today, at least five people have so far come out openly to indicate interest to contest for governor under the platform of the APC. These include Ibrahim Bomoi, Aji Kolo (Ajiko), Yusuf Jajere and others. Yet, Mr Jajimaji wasted so much time arguing that “a state of siege” has been created by the state government to deny people the chance to contest. What could be further from the truth?
Mr Jajimaji also wrote about “mention” being made of the state government trying to present “two aspirants” for the election, arguing that it is the state government, and not the people, who will choose the aspirants.
This is clear illogic. I have already mentioned the names of three people among five that have come out to contest for the election. The idea that the space has been restricted only for “two aspirants” – whoever those are – therefore doesn’t stand any ground.
It is true that the APC State Executive Committee had a meeting last Thursday but since there are no public read-outs from the meeting, Jajimaji cannot claim to be more catholic than the Pope. What we do know, however, is that the APC leadership held a press briefing same day and denied endorsing any of the aspirants that have shown interest so far. What’s wrong with that?
In their comments before the assembled media, both the party chairman and the party secretary have explained how the name of the party’s state exco is being used by some of the aspirants to fool party supporters around. Indeed, some of the aspirants were alleged to be boasting about how they have the entire state party leadership in their pockets.
Given this climate of name-dropping even from the get-go, it is understandable that the APC leadership in the state would seek to clarify issues and sound the bell for party members and party supporters to be alert to the antics at play.
The problem with politicians who are desperate in their quest for political power is that any move or action that does not segue with their own assumptions is always interpreted as an attempt to deny them the chance to get what they want. Otherwise, there is nothing in Yobe APC to approximate Mr Jajimaji’s claim of a ‘state of siege’.
Let’s be clear once again. The claim by Mr Jajimaji that there is fear and intimidation for APC aspirants in the state is totally false. It is not supported by the facts on the ground. Anyone interested in running for any elective office can go ahead and do so. That much has been made clear by the APC state exco.
As the party leadership has said, however, it will only support aspirants who have emerged from the primary elections that will be held because, then, those aspirants are now the party’s candidates. What they are saying is that as of now, everyone is on his own.
Let me also speak to what I believe is absolutely within the norms of democracy. As a politician, who also has the right to hold an opinion, Governor Geidam is justified to have a candidate that he can support. But that doesn’t mean he will impose that person on the people. Ultimately it is the people who will give currency to the person whom God Almighty has destined to lead the state in 2019.
Babande writes from Sabon Pegi Area, Damaturu, Yobe State