In his characteristically unreflecting and often boastful mien, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, the senator representing Yobe East in the senate for now, was reported in the media as saying that ‘no vacancy exists’ for Governor Gaidam in the senate in 2019.
The statement is eerily reminiscent of his infamous ‘senator for life’ comment, which he made early in the year on the floor of the senate. “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 was reported as saying at the time.
Then and now, Bukar Abba’s unfortunate sense of entitlement has continued to becloud his sense of judgment and his basic understanding of what it means to represent a people.
His posturing that there is no vacancy for Gaidam in the senate in 2019 is also a statement of foreclosure, of claiming that the democratic space doesn’t exist for anyone in Yobe East other than him, and of assuming (wrongly of course) that he is the best thing that has ever happened to that part of the state. This is narcissism at its most unfortunate.
But Bukar Abba is totally wrong.
First, I think he lives in the past. After two terms as governor with virtually nothing to show for the billions that flowed to Yobe State under his watch, the ground has truly shifted beneath his feet. People in Yobe East 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’.
In Bukar Abba’s nearly two terms in the senate, as well, there is clearly nothing that the senator has done for Yobe East to endow even the wispiest validity to his claim.
Second, as someone who claims to be the ‘Garkuwan Shari’a’ (guardian of Islamic law) in the Northeast, being one of the governors of his time who had introduced Shari’a law as state policy, Bukar Abba appears worried that his prospects are truly slipping away in the wake of the recent well-known issues in which he was embroiled.
The claim to remain a senator ‘for life’ or that there is no vacancy in the senate for anyone in Yobe East other than him is therefore a futile exercise in self-assurance; a cognitive feel-good lulling him away from the stark reality to which he is pointed – that his tenure in the senate is truly in its twilight.
He may continue to believe differently, but the facts show that Bukar Abba Ibrahim will not just not be a senator for life, this could be his very last tenure in the red chamber.
There are many reasons why this could be the end of the road for him. First, people in Yobe East 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 demonstrably useful constituency project in over eight years.
Second, many people in the zone are also genuinely worried that Bukar Abba Ibrahim is not nearly the quintessence of moral leadership and moral example that they expect of their representatives. The recent scandal in which he was enmeshed may only have affected him as a person. But as a representative of the people, it is a colossal moral baggage of scandalous proportions.
It is also noteworthy that the electorate across Nigeria is now wiser to the world. During Bukar Abba’s tenure as governor, for example, it was fashionable for some leaders to hold swagger sticks and project a sense of hubris to the electorate. It was okay to not expect too much from leaders and for the leaders not to do as much as expected. But this is not the case right now.
Right now, people are likelier to demand more accountability from their leaders. They are more prone to ask questions and hold their leaders to their word. People are no longer wowed or scared by those swagger sticks; they do not care what a politician’s personal net worth is. What people are primarily concerned about now is whether a leader epitomizes the services and values they expect of him.
There is another factor to which reference must be made in explaining why this could be the last stint for Bukar Abba Ibrahim in the senate. It is the stature of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam among the people of Yobe State in general and the people of Yobe East in particular.
Despite years of Boko Haram insurgency in the State, Governor Gaidam continues to give a good account of himself by managing public resources in ways that continue to have real impact in the lives of the people. He has done more during his tenure than Bukar Abba’s and all previous administrations in the state combined. He has drilled more boreholes, rehabilitated, expanded, and equipped more hospitals than all his predecessors and he has done more to make teaching and learning better in Yobe’s schools.
Since Governor Gaidam came to power, too, the Yobe State Government has not defaulted in the payment of its workers’ salaries. The National Union of Pensioners, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the National Association of Yobe State Students (NUYOSS) have all conferred awards on him for doing more to meet their expectations.
It was Gaidam’s widely acknowledged political 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 and the no-vacancy claims that he has now made. Contradictory, right? That’s Bukar Abba Ibrahim for you.
Well, Governor Gaidam has not said he will run for the senate yet. But, as Bukar Abba himself has admitted, Yobe East “is all his” when he decides to run. His record of service to the people will stand for him anytime. His humility and purposeful leadership will help lead the way, anytime.
In the end, the people of Yobe East, who have had enough of Bukar Abba’s shenanigans, will no longer be fooled by someone who has always taken them for granted. With the information available to them about the imperatives of moral and qualitative leadership in this day and age, they will surely make informed choices. So Bukar Abba be warned!
Mr Mohammed wrote in this piece from Damaturu, Yobe State