When Bauchi State is mentioned in any contemporary discussion, what immediately takes centre-stage is the recent defection of Hon. Yakubu Dogara, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, from the People’s Democracy Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
While the broader implication of Dogara’s exit could take some time to emerge, what is not in doubt is that Bauchi presents a model of a state where, despite entrenched diversity and occasionally, bitter partisanship, the major stakeholders always manage to build some consensus when the stakes are high. As most keen watchers of Bauchi politics will agree, there is no better illustration of this political behaviour than in the relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of Government.
To understand this, one needs to look at the composition of the state House of Assembly. Out of the 31 members in the state House of Assembly, the APC is in the majority, providing 21 out of the 31 members. That is 59 percent of the membership of the Assembly. Others are PDP 9, and the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party, ANPP 1. By being in the majority following convention and practice, the APC produced the Speaker of the Assembly.
Frightened by the events leading to the emergence of the Speaker at the inception of the Governor Bala Mohmmed Administration in the state, many had predicted that the Government would collapse within just a few weeks. Impeachment! But that fear was not without reason, either based on precedent or the posturing of APC stalwarts at the time. If the fate of Alhaji Balarabe Musa, one time governor of Kaduna State, is anything to go by, any Governor whose party is not in firm control of the state house of assembly would be considered as seating on what, the late Chuba Okadigbo once described as a “banana peel”. It would be recalled that while Balarabe Musa was elected on the platform of the radical leftist People’s Redemption Party (PRP), the State House of Assembly was controlled by the rightist and conservative National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Deep-seated disagreements, uncompromising positions and unstated historical forces all combined to set the stage for the eventual impeachment of Balarabe Musa on 23rd June 1981. The rest, as the saying goes, is now history.
Would history repeat itself in Bauchi State? That was the dominant question as both the APC and the PDP wrestled over who would emerge as Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly. It is to the credit of the people of Bauchi State that they were able to surmount that moment of uncertainty. So, looking back, why has Bala Mohammed survived so far? Why have both the Executive and Legislative branches, even in the face of occasional flare-ups and speculations, found a rhythm that works for the people of Bauchi State?
The first factor, I will argue, is the patriotic spirit; the statesmanship, that drives the two stakeholder groups. This patriotism, I will further argue, stems from a common impatience with the stunted development of the state and the burning desire to effect positive change. To a large extent, there seems to be a shared commitment to the actualisation of the promises contained in Governor Bala Mohammed’s inaugural address tagged: “My Bauchi Project”. To refresh our minds, these promises include improvement in governance, agricultural transformation, improved internally generated revenue, revival of the educational sector, better healthcare delivery and rural transformation, all anchored on rapid infrastructural development.
While signing the 2020 budget into law last December, Bala Mohammed underscored this spirit of collaboration and statesmanship when, as reported by ThisDay newspaper of 25th December 2019, he asserted: “I have always said that it does not matter who is in the Assembly, but what matters most is the statesmanship, patriotism and the deep interest of Bauchi State. It is not a partisan or personal issue. I appreciate the members for their support and show of statesmanship and show of loyalty to the people of Bauchi State.”
It is a measure of that commitment that giant strides have been recorded in road reconstruction and rehabilitation, unprecedented renovation of schools and provision of appropriate furniture, rapid rehabilitation of over 213 primary healthcare centres as well as the radical reformation of the school system with the aim of erasing the disgraceful distinction of harbouring the highest number of out of school children in Nigeria. The State House of Assembly should be proud of these achievements as no state governor, no matter how efficient, can accomplish so much, within one year, without a vibrant and supportive legislature.
The second reason is traceable to the backgrounds of both the Governor and the Deputy Governor. Being Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at various times, both Governor Bala Mohammed and the Deputy Governor of the State, Senator Baba Tela are experienced legislators who understand the constitutional separation of powers. To that extent, the evidence suggests that they have allowed the State House of Assembly to perform its duties without the overtly over-bearing attitude that obtains in some states. Bala Mohammed himself alluded to this respect for separation of powers while inaugurating the committee he set up to facilitate the implementation of Executive Order No. 9 by President Muhammadu Buhari, on financial autonomy to the Legislative and executive arms of government. Speaking about the Executive Order, he said: “Before I announce the inauguration, I must say that it is important for these two arms to have autonomy because, personally, I will be saved from a lot of management problems…I am not comfortable with the persistent visits to the Government House or resort to the office of the Secretary to the State Government. I want them to have their autonomy and then I will have my peace.”
Going by the efficiency shown by the House of Assembly, one can conclude that this mutual respect has paid off; culminating in the passage of very important bills that touch on the lives of the people. For instance, last week, the Speaker, Hon. Suleiman led the leadership of the Assembly to Government House where Governor Bala Mohammed signed six bills into law, namely: State COVID-19 approved 2020 Revised Budget; Violence Against Person Prohibition; Renaming College of Health Technology, Ningi to Belinda and Gates College of Health Technology Ningi; Renaming College of Nursing and Midwifery to Aliko Dangote College of Nursing and Midwifery; Establishment of the Bauchi State Public Procurement 2020 and Renaming of AD Rufai College of Legal studies to AD Rufai College of Education and Legal Studies.
Reminiscent of most human relationships, actions, the saying goes, speak louder than words. Thus, by the mutual collaboration that culminated in the concurrent signing of six bills into law, both the Executive and Legislative arms of government in Bauchi State have demonstrated that, guided by the genuine desire to serve the people, politicians can set aside their differences and forge a common front. There was no shortage of words to affirm this position as the Speaker of the of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, the Rt. Hon. Abubakar Suleiman and the Chairman, House Committee on Budget and Appropriation, Hon. Abdulkadir Umar Dewu, both extolled the Governor for doing a thorough job on the revised budget: “Your Excellency…today is a historical day in Bauchi state especially with our relationship with you”, Suleiman noted, while assuring the Governor of the support, at all times, of the entire members of the Bauchi State House of Assembly. Echoing the Speaker’s position, the Chairman, House Committee on Budget and Appropriation, Hon. Abdulkadir Umar Dewu said the entire members of the Assembly unanimously agreed to present a letter of commendation to the Governor because of the well prepared 2020 revised budget document. Describing the budget as unprecedented, Dewu said: “I served in the 7th Assembly, but this is the only time that we see the budget without over expenditures, and even in the budget performance presented to us by the Executive, we have not seen any unauthorized expenditures.” That is significant: as far as the Bauchi State House of Assembly is concerned, the Bala Mohammed Exco has exhibited demonstrable transparency and accountability.
An obviously elated Bala Mohammed responded in kind by commending the Bauchi State House of Assembly for their proactiveness, nationalism and patriotism which he remarked, would surprise people across the world on the maturity exhibited by the stakeholders. There is no doubt that watchers of Bauchi State politics and the people of the state will feel reassured by the camaraderie which was further given fillip when Bala Mohammed reiterated his oft stated pledge, saying: “My Government is poised to make sure we provide good governance and we will work assiduously with our lawmakers irrespective of our party differences for us to meet the yearnings and aspirations of our people.”
Whether both parties will live up to their words or whether these pious statements will crumble under the slippery quicksand of partisan politics, is left to be seen. However, if Bala Mohammed’s antecedents at the National Assembly is anything to go by; if his defiance of party lines to assiduously spearhead the “Doctrine of Necessity” Resolution, that paved the way for President Goodluck Jonathan to take office, can be used to judge his character, then there are solid grounds to believe that his political promise can be cashed at any bank without the fear of bouncing!
Given the near doomsday economic forecast, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one only hopes that self-serving political gladiators will allow Bauchi’s exciting model of unity in diversity to prevail. Furthermore, it goes without saying that until all arms of government are accorded the independence granted by the separation of powers, no meaningful development will occur. That is why the Bauchi Model is recommended to other states where development has been stalled as political stakeholders pursue narrow-minded winner-takes-it-all policies.