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Why the Blackmail Against Bala Mohammed Will Fail, By Emma Agu

Atiku, Bala, Sheme: The story, “Silent War in PDP as Atiku, Governor Scheme for Control” which appeared in the December 3, 2023, edition of a national newspaper reveals the depth to which mischief makers can descend to promote narratives that are aimed at destroying perceived political foes. 

Taken at its face value, the impression is given that the report in question is a routine political story aimed at bringing readers up to speed on developments within the party. At least that is the impression conveyed by claiming that that the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, is locked in a battle with the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed over control of the party.

To the extent that the struggle over control of structures and processes is what party politics is all about, there is nothing unusual placing developments within the PDP in the public domain. What else is a party if not about the people and, of course, the people deserve to know the state of health of their party.

Stretched further, considered against the magnitude of the PDP crisis (remember the famous G-5 movement led by the former Governor of Rivers State and now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Barrister Nyesom Wike) in the countdown to the presidential primaries and thereafter, any fixation with the party can be justified. Such a fixation is further justified as there is yet no indication that the issues in contention have been amicably resolved.

While there is no denying that the PDP, like most other parties, is plagued by one form of intra-party crisis or the other, the role and motives ascribed to the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed who doubles as chairman of the PDP Governors Forum are not just questionable but patently mischievous.

Let us start with the dubious attempt to reduce the situation in the party to a contest between Bala Mohammed and Atiku Abubakar over who controls the party. Why should there be any contest between the former vice president and Governor Bala Mohammed when none of them is gunning to become the chairman of the party?

The answer can be found in the attempt to establish the basis for the even more ridiculous claim that Bala Mohammed is laying the structure that would place him in pole position, to clinch the PDP nomination for the 2027 presidential elections.

Examined critically, therefore, and that should surprise no one familiar with it, this campaign of calumny is not about Atiku running for President because that has been his permanent project since 1993. The unspoken motive for these smear campaigns is to portray Bala Mohammed as an inordinately ambitious politician who is positioning himself for a presidential run against incumbent President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2027.

By extension, it will not be wrong to conclude that, at play is a grand strategy by some of Atiku’s loyalists to whip up anti-Bala Mohammed sentiments in Aso Rock, to the extent that President Tinubu could mobilize the enormous resources at his disposal to deal with the governor, the same way some people had threatened to deal with him, albeit unsuccessfully, before the last governorship elections. To fuel their conspiracy theory, the same group of people have claimed, albeit falsely, that Bala Mohammed and the FCT minister Barrister Nyesom Wike have held a secret meeting over the 2027 elections. It is an interesting coincidence that the story is coming on the heels of Wike’s denial of any plan to contest against Tinubu in 2027.

Be that as it may, Bala Mohammed’s traducers are only pursuing their selfish agenda and not motivated by any altruistic considerations. The implication is that the PDP crisis is likely to persist since it is highly improbable that Bala Mohammed can be dislodged from the party at this point. Moreover, the divergences between Bala Mohammed and some strategic members of the Atiku camp can be likened to the difference between day and night. To cite a few examples, while to Bala Mohammed, with the elections are over, governance should take centre-stage, to the Atiku loyalists, no concession should be made to either the All Progressive Alliance party (APC) or the President. Secondly, while to Bala Mohammed, responsible opposition should not preclude collaboration with government on matters of common interest, to the Atiku loyalists, any form of interaction with the Tinubu Administration, no matter its constitutional justification, is considered inappropriate and therefore condemnable. A third possibility could be the upbringing of the dramatis personae in the unfolding drama. While by his upbringing,  Bala Mohammed, grew up with his district head father and therefore imbibed deference to authority from childhood, it is possible that Atiku’s loyalists spearheading the “no co-operation” posture are possessed by a mindset that repudiates such deference except on their own terms.

Thus, it appears that the strongest point of disagreement between Bala Mohammed and the Atiku group is how to relate with the President Tinubu Administration. Bala Mohammed’s position is consistent with his principle that, confronted with a threat to national unity and political stability, leaders should defrock themselves of rigidity and personal ego and wear the gown of flexibility; that politicians should become statesmen who think less about elections but the future of their children, and adversaries, like enemies in a looming shipwreck, should discard their misgivings and save the ship from sinking lest everyone perishes. To Bala Mohammed, that is the Nigerian condition.

His posture reminds me of one of the ‘Ten Commandments’ of the late Secretary of State of the United States of America, Colin Powell which, paraphrased states, “never allow you ego to stand with your position on an issue so that when you position falls, your ego does not fall with it”. It will seem that some members of the Atiku camp have assumed such a consuming ego that they now unwittingly evince a sense of entitlement that negates all democratic principles.

Those are the people who are reluctant to concede to Bala Mohammed, assuming he is so inclined, the right to nurse a presidential ambition, to which he is entitled. Those are the people who consider it a crime to run against Atiku? It is such people who forget that Atiku Abubakar had no qualms exercising his democratic right by promoting his presidential ambition to unseat the then sitting President Olusegun Obasanjo, the man who picked him as vice president. That is why Atiku should not listen to such loyalists.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to emphasize that the disrespect and demonization of Bala Mohammed by Atiku’s loyalists will not confer any advantage on the former Vice president. If anything, it will be construed as a manifestation of the now discredited pastime of denying the young the respect and recognition they deserve.

That said, I am inclined to believe that Atiku Abubakar is not privy to the overbearing intolerance of some of his loyalists who do not seem to share his democratic credentials or whose penchant for demonizing innocent leaders of the party could provoke ugly consequences. We make this point against the background of the unjustified insults being hurled at Bala Mohammed, a sitting Governor who, as the records show, has consistently used every available opportunity to demonstrate his respect for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

To buttress the above point, it would be recalled that despite Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s open rebuff of Bala Mohammed by visiting every other contestant after the presidential primaries except him, the Governor ate humble pie by personally visiting the Waziri, his party’s presidential candidate, to pledge his loyalty.

Six months earlier, I was in Bauchi when Bala Mohammed set aside an entire day to accord the former vice president what could be described as a “state” party on the occasion of his 75th birthday. The event was crowned with the naming of a street, and I dare say deservedly, after the former vice president.

I do not want to believe the grapevine stories that part of Atiku’s grouse against Bala Mohammed is that the governor ‘allowed’ President Tinubu to score almost 49 percent of electoral votes in Bauchi State, a performance that helped him to scale the required hurdle for victory. Assuming that to be true, Bala Mohammed will have no apologies to offer in a matter over which he had no control whatsoever. It is trite knowledge that neither was he in a position to dictate to INEC, nor could he have  stopped the other parties from canvassing for votes. Even at that, what is most important is that the former vice president scored over 45 percent of the votes in Bauchi, courtesy of the sound campaign structure that Bala Mohammed established, sponsored and led.

Quite frankly, I find it discomfiting that such mutual affectation is being squandered at a time that the party and the nation need both leaders in the quest to steady the tottering ship of state. Regrettably, the dilemma is worsened by those in the Atiku camp who insist that Bala Mohammed should pull down the bridges he built in his over forty years of national service as a federal civil servant, a Senator, a minister and now a governor. They expect him to abandon his friends just to satisfy some political correctness. It is people with that mindset that expect Bala Mohammed to declare Nyesom Wike an enemy so as to demonstrate his loyalty to Atiku, forgetting that there is always a life after politics. If my close relationship with Bala Mohammed, a relationship that has spanned all of forty years since we first met in Jos in 1983 is anything to go by, barring human fallibility, I can say without fear of contradiction that his friendship with Wike could be like the Catholic marriage: till death do part them.  

In all seriousness, it will be a sad day when personal friendships are dictated by political conveniences, when every political disagreement translates into enmity, when the dictum is that the friend of your enemy automatically becomes your enemy. The Bala Mohammed that I know will never subscribe to such an ignominious dictum if it can be so called.

To put matters in perspective, to the best of my knowledge, at no time has Bala Mohammed indicated or done anything to remotely suggest that he is interested in running for president in 2027. At the risk of sounding immodest, I can also confidently say that should Bala Mohammed decide to run for president in 2027, I will be among the first persons to know. By  now, it should be clear to all that he is not one to sneak in through the back door and will not leave such a serious decision to the devious speculation of jobbers but launch it frontally, without fear or favour as he did in 2022. In fact, he considers it disrespectful and irresponsible for anyone to prioritize 2027 over the immediate task of providing succour to the millions of suffering Nigerians.

Thus, for now, beyond his family which is paramount, I know of three other immediate priorities. First, is to build on the successes of his first term as Governor and to deliver democracy dividends to the electorate who overwhelmingly re-elected him for a second and final term. Second is to continually collaborate with his compatriots to forge a bi-partisan national consensus that reduces rancour and by so doing, provide a conducive environment for the Tinubu-led Federal Government to restore confidence in the country, revive the economy and guarantee the security of lives and property. Third, as he has always done in the past, to join hands with kindred spirits to rebuild and rebrand the PDP into a virile and constructive opposition that the citizenry can trust and respect.

To my mind, those are indeed lofty dreams that should command the buy-in and support of his compatriots instead of the unmerited campaign of calumny that, in my considered opinion, is bound to fail.

Emma Agu is media consultant to Governor Bala Mohammed