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By Abdul-Azeez Suleiman
The 2023 governorship race in most states feels like the most intense and controversial election to have ever been seen. And there’s plenty of action in races down ballot, too.
This however, may not be the case in Bauchi State where the contest could be a workover for incumbent Governor Bala Abdukadir Mohammed of the Peoples Democratic Party who is challenged by a weak All Progressives Congress candidate, Sadique Abubakar, a former Chief of Air Staff.
It looks like voters in Bauchi will have two distinct choices for governorship on March 11, each with his own personal traits and his own take on things. The two may have certain views in common, but each candidate has his own unique style and character.
Siddique for instance, will be going into the fight from the position of obvious weakness having been far removed from the reality of the ordinary people of the state for much too long. And this is the constituency from where bulk of the winning votes are extracted.
Saddique Abubakar is already having an uphill task relating with, and canvassing for votes at the grassroots, something that Bala Mohammed has been doing for long, including passing nights in communities while on campaigns.
He also needs to work to gain the lost confidence of Islamic groups in the state who are powerful deciders in the governorship elections of Bauchi, as well as the Christian communities both of which Bala Mohammed has effectively done already.
The religious leaders and groups are influential in the politics of the state because they have the pulpits and platforms to reach a large audience and send messages within a short time. Yet the APC candidate has not sufficiently utilised this platform with his refusal to visit them and it will seriously count against him going into the polls.
Another weakness for Siddique Abubakar is that the electorate lament that he does not have a single project to show apart from the Airforce base and school he influenced to be sighted in Bauchi.
He will therefore have a Herculean task to prove to the people of Bauchi State how he can be reliable when he becomes governor.
Another major hinderence to Siddique’s chances of becoming governor is the issue of his identity with many in the Katagum zone where he hailed from disputing the claim he is really their son.
Bala Mohammed on the other hand, has established himself as an experienced politician since 2007 when he first burst into the limelight by defeating then-incumbent governor, Adamu Mu’azu to become a senator.
Since then, he has fought and won many political battles including a failed recall by his constituents, before being appointed minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by President Goodluck Jonathan. In 2019, he went into one of his toughest battles and defeated a sitting Governor.
In the the current contest, Governor Mohammed, at the risk of overstating the obvious, has several strength factors going in his favour that are certain determinants to his success.
In this regard, Bala will intimidate his challenger with the volumes of projects he has executed in the past three and a half years as governor. This is a major plus for the governor who has been widely praised for developing infrastructure across the state as has never been seen before within a short period of governance.
Another area of advantage that Governor Mohammed will also bank on, is his excellent relationship with religious groups and traditional rulers in the state, which he established after his election in 2019.
This cordial relationship with groups has been sustained by his administration as the 2023 general election draws closer. Recently, the Izala group came out to openly appreciate Governor Mohammed for doing a lot for them. The group said the governor built schools and mosques for them.
The Christian Association of Nigeria also openly appreciated the governor for building churches for Christians in the state. The Christian body led its members in the state on December 26, Boxing Day to the Government House, to register appreciation to him, singing solidarity songs during the visit.
The governor will reap immensely from this relationship with various groups in the state who won’t disappoint him when they cast their votes. Positively too, such groups would mobilise their members to vote for him.
Beyond these obvious factors running in Bala’s favour, there are also a number of qualities or characteristics that make him a good candidate.
Here’s a small sample of Bala’s personal characteristics that are relevant determinants in the contest for the Bauchi government house.
According to experts on behavioural science, if we were to do a simple opinion poll, we will find that voters tend to often differentiate candidates in terms of their personal qualities. Why? Because character traits are deemed important.
As is well known, a trait is an attribute associated with an individual. In other words, it’s the behavioural characteristics that can often be observed in a person.
Most often, casual political conversations with neighbours and friends turn on the candidates’ personalities and believe it or not, when pressed to explain why someone supports Bala Mohammed, people often cite his personal attributes as a central reason.
Some will say, “It is very simple, actually. He comes across as an honest and trustworthy person.” Another person may be more nuanced and say, “I don’t necessarily agree with him on all of the issues… I just want to see an honest candidate like him.”
Fire in the Belly
This term, used in political circles to describe someone who has a desire to win and is willing to overcome obstacles, is one of Bala Mohammed’s major attributes.
Someone who has “fire in the belly” always make a good candidate, especially if like Bala, he also has the courage to make unpopular decisions and demonstrate integrity and leadership in crisis management. At the same time, voters will expect stability and compassion from their chosen candidate which Bala possesses abundantly.
Willingness to Serve
Public service, according to Bala’s perception, is about serving the needs of the people above the needs of one’s self which is why he shows compassion and inspires hope and is willing to serve and to lead.
As a servant leader, Bala serves the better good of the people and the state, not the best interests and desires of himself.
Running for the highest office in the land is not easy. A campaign will drain you of your energy and spare time, the realization that prepared Bala to always rise early and stay up late to get the job done. Bala Mohammed and his running mate have been doing exactly that for years.
Ability to Connect to Voters
Bala has amply proven his ability to speak in public and be able to articulate a message, even in the face of adversity. He knows how to appeal to voters and rally them behind a common cause with a clear message.
It is obvious that no candidate will be able to agree with all the voters. However, Bala happens to be willing at all times to listen to all sides of an issue, and is able to communicate effectively and connect with supporters and opponents.
Knowledge of the Issues
He has proper understanding of national and local issues that are important to all groups in the society such as senior citizens, farmers, small businesses, worship centers, etc in addition to experience in running a campaign and knowing how to attract new and/or undecided voters.
Hopefully, this will help the candidate and his political party to develop or formulate a strong vision of the Bauchi State’s future.
On a separate and final note, it occurs to me that another simpler and more subjective set of criteria that you could apply well to both Bala and Siddique without bothering to look at which colour or party they each stand for, is ask yourself, which of them would be: more approachable, more experienced and more effective?
Good luck, vote well and may the best person wins.