By Ismail Omipidan

At the onset of the country’s democratic experience in 1999, the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), as it was then called, was in charge of Gombe State, under the leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Hashidu. But by 2003, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, who is now a two term senator, dislodged Hashidu, to emerge governor. He contested and won on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The victory then was so clinical that even the defeated governor, did not bother to challenge the outcome of the elections in court. And for the eight years that Goje governed the state, he changed the fortunes of the state, making essentials of life that were hitherto thought to be impossible in the state, possible.

For instance, before his assumption of office in May 2003, water, which is one of the essentials of life, was a very scarce commodity in Gombe State, with a near consensus of opinion that making water available in Gombe and its environs was near impossible, the existence of a dam notwithstanding. But Goje said it was possible.

And promptly he swung into action. After spending N8.2 billion on the project, which included a Water Treatment Plant, the Gombe Regional Water Supply Scheme came alive and was commissioned in 2006.

Next, was the state University; this was another project, many, in and outside Gombe State thought was impossible. In fact, most of the elites in the state engaged Goje then in a verbal war over the project. But a determined Goje insisted it was possible. And today, the University remains a reference point in the country.

Again, Goje came up with the idea of building an International Airport. This too, did not go down well with some people in the state who felt it was another impossible venture. In the end, the governor proved everyone wrong, as the airport is today functioning at its optimum, leaving Bauchi, an older state, which incidentally gave birth to Gombe, with no standard airport, in spite of several attempts being made in the past to get one.

Goje’s eight year in the state, it was gathered, no doubt endeared him to the people such that he had no difficulty in determining his successor, in 2011, after the end of his tenure. He successfully installed Governor Hassan Dankwambo, also of the PDP, as governor, while he headed for the senate.

But midway into the Dankwambo’s first term, he fell out with Goje, just as Goje also fell out with the national leadership of the party, and the events that followed compelled Goje and the multitude of his supporters and followers to join the then newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC).

With his defection, and because of his reputation for unseating an incumbent governor, many had concluded that APC would stop Dankwambo’s second term bid, in 2015, since he (Goje) was instrumental to making Dankwambo, in the first instance in 2011.

But Dankwambo survived the onslaught, not because the APC did not try, it was largely due to lack of synergy among the members of the party, occasioned by infighting. Thus, making Dankwambo, the only PDP governor in the north, who bided for a second term and made it, despite losing the National Assembly election and parts of the state Assembly election to the APC.

Ironically, even after 2015 governorship was won and lost, the APC in the state, continued with its acrimony and rancour, until February this year, when it resolved to dislodge the PDP, in 2019. Interestingly, despite its state of affairs, the party has continued to attract influential members of the PDP, to its fold. One of them is the immediate past Transport minister, Senator Abdullahi Idris Umar.

He was part of the delegation to the APC national secretariat in February, where the Care-Taker Committee for the state chapter was inaugurated.

Speaking while inaugurating the four-member committee, the party’s Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, explained that the inauguration of the new committee was necessitated by the “irreconcilable differences” among members of the previous Caretaker Working Committee.

“We have had a lot of challenges running the party in Gombe state, challenges which I narrated when we inaugurated the first caretaker committee. We got to a stage where a consensus was reached as to how we can move the party in Gombe state forward. Arising from that, we constituted a caretaker committee. The caretaker committee did a wonderful job, but along the line we observed some irreconcilable differences among the members.

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“Observing that there was no way they could reconcile themselves, we decided to ask them to step aside and we are today inaugurating a newly reconstituted caretaker committee. The caretaker committee basically is not there to do any other thing except what the National headquarter has asked them to do on the basis of resolutions reached with the stakeholders of Gombe during its meeting with the National Working Committee (NWC).

“Any other thing should be left for the NWC to handle. We can handle every challenge if we have the cooperation of the stakeholders. The newly constituted caretaker committee has a mission, a mandate and they are only expected to discharge their mandate not any other thing,” he noted.

In his acceptance remarks, the Caretaker Chairman, Hon. Idi Barde Gubana, promised to work strictly in line with the Terms of Reference provided by the APC NWC, just as he called for the support of all stakeholders in the state chapter so as to enable APC emerge a strong and united political force in the build up to the 2019 general elections.

“I plead with APC elders in Gombe state to come together and let us solve this problem. Let us have one APC in Gombe State. Let us ensure that in 2019 an APC governor takes over the administration of the state,” Gubana said.

Goje, while delivering a vote of thanks, also seized the occasion to dispel rumours making the rounds that he was planning to impose a governorship candidate on the party, ahead of the 2019 general elections.

“Danjuma Goje has no governorship candidate he wants to install in Gombe. The ultimate aim is to have an APC governor in Gombe State, come 2019.”

In ensuring that APC takes charge of Gombe, come 2019, some aspirants have begun showing interest in the race. Among them are: Alhaji Habu Muazu, former youth leader of the PDP, Senator Abdullahi Idris Umar, former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo, former FCT Minister,  Senator Saidu Ahmed Alkali, Alhaji Farouk Bamusa, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator Bayero Nafada and Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya, 2015 guber candidate of the party.

Of the lot however, Senator Umar, remains a threat to all the other aspirants, because of his close relationship with the leader of the party in the state, Goje. Although he is yet to publicly announce his aspiration, some of the other aspirants, have however continued to attack his person and personality. For instance, he was recently accused of not sympathising with the people of the state during the Boko Haram attack on the state.

But those who know the former minister described the allegation as untrue. They further argued that even state governors who had all the security paraphernalia around them were very cautious in going round within the limit of the prevailing security circumstance at the time, adding that Hina, the hometown of senator Umar was equally “invaded by Boko Haram and was personally affected because his house was destroyed.

“Senator Idris Umar is a credible person and therefore would not be afraid of his past. As a two-term member of the House of Representatives, one term Senator of the Federal Republic and as well a former Federal Minister, he has every cause to thank Almighty God for giving him the opportunity to serve this nation in various capacities, he can therefore not be compared to just a mere party Youth Leader,” one of Umar’s supporters, said.

He went further to say that “Senator Idris Umar through his dint of hard work, along with the management and staff of the ministry of Transport, as well as the Railway Corporation, brought back the trains on track after more than two decades of being in comatose. The train services not only resumed on Lagos-Kano and vice versa on the western corridor, but as well from Port-Harcourt to Gombe and Gombe to Kafanchan and Kaduna on the eastern corridor. This was flagged off sometimes in March 2015. The state governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo was in attendance and they took a ceremonial drive. Therefore, we are indeed proud that it’s one of our own that made Nigeria proud.

“He also facilitated the establishment of a Maritime Institute in Gombe, which is now affiliated to the Federal University, in Kashere, Gombe State. You need to take a trip and visit the Institute located almost opposite the main gate of the University. We see Senator Idris, as a blessing to Gombe because while he served at the federal level, he also succeeded in securing jobs for over 200 Gombe indigenes in many federal and private establishments, including even the in-laws and friends of some of the governorship aspirants, who today are trying to blackmail him because of 2019.  Look, the senator’s benevolence knows no tribe, class, section or religion.

“I want to therefore use your medium to appeal to other aspirants to stop the mudslinging as it will do APC no good. They should know that power belongs to God and He gives it to whoever He wishes at any point in time. If it is Allah’s wish that Senator Umar will be the next governor, nobody can stop it. Who ever knew Dankwambo will survive the 2015 elections? Did he not survive it? That is how Allah works,” an insider, in the Umar’s camp told Daily Sun.

In the final analysis, one thing that is certain is that come May, 29, 2019, Gombe State will have a new helmsman, who will direct affairs of governance for another four years, and the person will be he who has the full support of the entire people of the state and not a section of the state. Who will that be; only time and destiny will decide.