For Bafarawa, one of the reasons why many who delve into politics and governance in Nigeria fail is because they are not professional politicians.
I have been on the trail of the campaigns of Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa since he stepped out to vie for the office of the President in the 2019 general election. Bafarawa, governor of Sokoto State from 1999 to 2007, is not a newcomer in the race. He stood election to the office of the President in 2007. He also jostled for the same position in 2011, even though he had to withdraw midway for some reason.
But Bafarawa’s selling point is not his past romance with the highest office in the land. What goads him on is his longstanding involvement in politics. The former governor prides himself on being a professional politician. He savours his wide spectrum of experience in politics, a quality that many politicians in Nigeria are bereft of. For Bafarawa, one of the reasons why many who delve into politics and governance in Nigeria fail is because they are not professional politicians. He readily reminds us that our politics is peopled by gatecrashers who, ordinarily, should not be in politics. Being not grounded in the science and art of politics, many who cross over from other professions such as the military, bookkeeping, farming, teaching, and the like get lost in the mix. The result is the amateurish politics that usually results in bad governance. If you ask Bafarawa, he will tell you that politics should be left for professional politicians like him.
How did Bafarawa become such a professional politician that is very much sought after? A casual encounter with him will readily tell the story. His journey into the murky terrain of politics dates back to 1976, when he contested and won election as a councillor. Upon assumption of office, he was made a supervisory councillor, a position that elevated him among the pack. Bafarawa was in his early 20s at the time. Since then, the man has remained in politics, traversing the political landscape with assured steps.
He has contested election to the National Assembly. He has midwifed the formation of political parties, notably the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) and the Democratic People’s Party (DPP). He has been party chairman at state and national levels. He contested and won election as a delegate to the National Constitutional Conference of 1994 to 1995. He has been climb to the ultimate political height in Nigerian politics, the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Beyond these, he has some other political credentials that eminently qualify him as a professional in this field of human endeavour.
As a well known name in Nigerian politics, Bafarawa is like a goldfish. He has no hiding place. Even when he tries to play down his aspiration to the presidency, his teeming admirers would not let him do so. That was why he was, this time around, conscripted into the race. While the man was still thinking aloud on what the 2019 race would look like, his people swooped on him and insisted that he must join the fray. Bafarawa, in obedience to the will of his people, has since joined the race for the presidency. Since he stepped out, he has been taking the methodic and measured steps of someone who knows his onions. He has avoided elaborate displays. He targets the real people that matter at this time. And his message has been well received.
Given the mood of the nation under the present dispensation, Bafarawa’s message is something of a soothing balm. A country like Nigeria that has been so misgoverned needs urgent rescue. The present administration has displayed an incredible level of incompetence and insensitivity. Nigeria is on edge. The people moan and groan. They are full of regrets. They do not seem to know what brought them to this pass. The Buhari presidency has been a nightmare. They genuinely seek his ouster through the ballot box. This is where the Bafarawas of Nigerian politics come in. Nigeria urgently needs to be saved from itself. Who then will bell the cat? Who does the political equation favour?
In seeking answers to these questions, Bafarawa’s name features very prominently.
Among the motley crowd of aspirants, Bafarawa has a lot going for him. Apart from his much vaunted professionalism, he has a track record that cannot be overlooked. As governor of Sokoto State for eight years, Bafarawa impacted very positively on the life of the people. He left a legacy that cannot be obliterated. His good people of Sokoto still remember his days as governor with nostalgia. They want him to bring that magic to bear on Nigeria. That is why they earnestly beckoned on him to stand up to be counted.
He has since accepted the challenge and the message has been one of hope.
As a principled politician, Bafarawa does not join the bandwagon. He has his own approach. This approach is well thought out and is in line with his political convictions. His message to the delegates who will choose the presidential candidate that will fly the flag of his party in the elections has been clear. He does not play to the gallery. He does not tell them what he will not do. He has asked them to deemphasize money politics. He wants them to put the interest of the country first. If they do, they will make an informed decision on who the next President of Nigeria will be. The office, he preaches, should not be for the highest bidder. It should be for those who have the interest of the people at heart. In this regard, Bafarawa points to his past record as governor. Those who know his story in Sokoto testify to his goodness. The man is poised to do more, if given the opportunity to serve.
In terms of support base, Bafarawa enjoys it to the fullest. Those who aim at weakening President Buhari’s support base will readily tell you that the battleground is the North-West zone from where he garnered his highest number of votes in the 2015 presidential election, even if contrived. To deal a devastating blow to the incumbent, therefore, there is the need to balkanise the North-West zone. If this is a winning strategy, Bafarawa stands to be favoured the most by this prospect. Bafarawa is a political giant in this zone. The North-West states of Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi, which were all part of the old Sokoto State, are in his kitty. He has, in the past, been instrumental to the emergence of the governors of the three states. His influence in the three states remain undiminished. In Kano, Bafarawa enjoys an affinity that will deliver the state to him without much effort. His support base in the most populous northern state is quite broad.
In the area of religion, Bafarawa has almost a cult following among a large segment of the Muslim sect. He is regarded in religious circles as a devotee, as a man who puts Almighty Allah before all things. He does not pay lip service to matters of faith. In this modern world of ours, where many place faith and salvation in the second order position, Bafarawa is one of the few that live according to the injunctions of their faith. Many Moslem faithful admire him immensely for this.
Indeed, Bafarawa has a lot going for him in the forthcoming presidential race. The expectation is that the delegates to the convention that will elect his party’s presidential candidate will see clearly and vote wisely.