By Garba Mallam Sule
Bukar Abba Ibrahim, the senator representing Yobe Zone A, was reported as having said, during plenary last week, that he will remain in the senate until the end of his life.
In a contribution around the issue of Nigeria’s 57th independence anniversary, Bukar Abba reviewed his life’s journey, spoke about the major positions to which he was appointed or elected, expressed how ‘proud’ he was of himself and his ‘achievements’ and concluded that he had come so far; that it is now a fait accompli for him to continue as a senator regardless of the views of his constituents. “Let me say categorically Mr. (Senate) President that I am going to stay in this senate until death…Everyone tells me that I am a senator for life”, he said.
It is a statement of foreclosure; of claiming that the democratic space doesn’t exist for anyone in that part of Yobe State other than him. Narcissism and its cousin, the delusion of grandeur, couldn’t get any worse for someone who believes that he would forever continue in a job that requires validation every four years – whether the electorate likes it or not.
Why does Bukar Abba say this?
First, I think he lives in the past. After two terms as governor with virtually nothing to show for the billions that came to Yobe State under his watch, the ground has truly shifted beneath his feet. People in Yobe Zone A and throughout the state are not enamoured of him anymore. There are no legacies in education, healthcare, agriculture, etc. in his eight years of stewardship as governor to support his claim to be the ‘father of Yobe politics’.
Second, as someone who claims to be the ‘Garkuwan Shari’a’ (guardian of Islamic law) in the Northeast, having been one of the governors of his time who introduced the Shari’a as state policy, Bukar Abba appears worried that the prospect is truly slipping away from him following the scandal with women in a hotel room which had gone viral recently.
The claim to remain a senator ‘for life’ is therefore an exercise in self-assurance; a cognitive feel-good to lull him away from the stark reality to which he is pointed – that his tenure in the senate is in its twilight.
While he may believe differently, the facts show that Bukar Abba Ibrahim is not just going to be not a senator for life, this may be his very last tenure in the senate.
There are many reasons why this may be the end of the road for him. First, people in Yobe Zone A are worried that Buka Abba’s tenure in the senate is uneventful. While some legislators from his zone, such as House of Representatives member Goni Bukar Lawan, are executing constituency projects and regularly empowering their people, he has yet to undertake any major, and demonstrably useful, project in over eight years.
Second, many people in the zone are also genuinely worried that Bukar Abba is not nearly the quintessence of moral leadership and moral example that they expect of their representatives. The recent hotel room scandal may only have affected him as a person. But as a representative of the people, it is a moral baggage of colossal proportions.
It is also noteworthy that the electorate across Nigeria is now wiser to the world. During Bukar Abba’s tenure as governor, it was fashionable to hold swagger sticks and dole out favours. It was okay to not expect too much from leaders and for leaders to not do as much as expected. This is not the case right now.
Right now, people are likelier to demand for more accountability from their leaders. They are more prone to ask questions and hold their leaders to their every word. People are no longer wowed – or scared – by those swagger sticks; they do not care what a politician’s personal net worth is. While other considerations may in some cases hold true, what people are primarily concerned about is whether a politician epitomizes – and delivers – the services they expect of him or her.
There is another factor to which reference must be made. It is the stature of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam.
Despite years of Boko Haram insurgency in Yobe State and the destructions it has wrought in its wake, Governor Gaidam continues to give a good account of himself by managing public resources in ways that have real impact the lives of the people of the state. He has built more roads than all previous administrations in the state combined. He has drilled more boreholes, rehabilitated, expanded, and equipped more hospitals and did more to make teaching and learning conditions better in our schools.
Since Gaidam came to power, too, the Yobe State Government has not defaulted for once in the payment of its workers’ salaries. The National Union of Pensioners and the National Association of Yobe State Students (NUYOSS) have both conferred awards on him for meeting their expectations.
It was Gaidam’s profile and the way he is leading the state that possibly informed Bukar Abba’s admission, in an interview last year, that if Gaidam wanted to run for the senate in 2019, he will never contest against him. “2019 is far away from now”, he told a newspaper on April 25th, 2016, “but I can assure you that if the present governor wants to have the senatorial seat in 2019, it is all his. I have had enough. I have made my contributions. I have made my point…If he wants it I will hand over to him”, he said. Compare this statement with the senate-for-life claim that he made in plenary last week.
Well, Governor Gaidam has not said he will run for the senate yet. But, as Bukar Abba himself has admitted, ‘it is all his’ if he wants to. His service record will stand for him. His humility and moral leadership will help lead the way.
In the end, Yobe Zone A people will not again be fooled by a senator who says he will anyhow remain in the senate for life, as if their votes don’t matter. With the information at their disposal about the imperatives of leadership in this day and age, they will surely make informed choices. And we now know that the trajectory of those choices will be a move away from morally challenged politicians.
► Garba Mallam Sule, a public affairs commentator writes from Damaturu, Yobe State