It will be a needless tautology to say that the attention of the whole nation has now shifted to 2019 elections. There is more keen interest in what might be the outcome of the elections for so many reasons. First, the elections, in some states, will mark the end of two terms of some governors and the beginning of a new hand in the mantle of leadership. It is also the election that will see President Muhammadu Buhari seeking another opportunity to consolidate on his achievements and usher in a legacy of the rule of All Progressives Congress (APC) whose focus remains social justice and development. The elections are also decisive because of they will mark a milestone of continuous smooth transition of power through the ballots. However, one of the states that will be closely watched is Yobe state, which is a state that had stood by progressive politics since 1999. Beyond the end of what will amount to ten years of the governorship of Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam, 2019 elections will mark a moment of thorough soul searching and posing of pertinent questions on which direction the state will take in this journey of democratic governance.
Key soul searching is moving Yobe state to rapid development. Development challenges the state has been facing and continuous to face is one of the major reasons why the state needs a new direction. The staggering impact of the Boko Haram insurgency had set some parts of the state backwards in so many ways. Educationally, Yobe state is still one the states at the bottom of the table, likewise in the areas of healthcare, agricultural development, investment and youths employment. The state is in dare need of rapid infrastructural development. Education is in need of aggressive and planned rescue that will see the rise of school enrollment, and quality of teaching and learning; especially at secondary and primary levels. Desertification continues to diminish the prospects for boom in agriculture. Increasing impact of climate change on Lake Chad has been adversely affecting social and economic life of people living along the great lake. The bigger challenge was the fact that Yobe state is in the league of states with level of poverty below national average, according to National Bureau of Statistics.
The elections of 2019 present an opportunity for Yobe state to change direction and take a new path with emphasis on rural development, social welfare, massive youth employment and infrastructural development. But for these to become a reality there are key issues that must be addressed to set the state on the path of equality, social justice and progress.
Let us now start with justice and fairness which are key to the harmony that allows social development to prevail. It is important that power shifts from Zone A; which comprises of the local governments that produced Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim who ruled the state for 10 years and Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam who by 2019 will as well clock ten years as governor of the state. This zone though has 23% of the population of the state hold sway in almost every sense. All the major federal appointments of Yobe state come from this zone. They include; the current governor of the state, current minister of state for foreign affairs, ambassador appointed from Yobe state, national secretary of the ruling APC, INEC commissioner representing Yobe state, and even the federal permanent secretary (though his was on his merit of service) The other zones of the state; B and C that account for 40% and 38% of the population of the state can be described as mere onlookers in the governance of their own state. Apart from creating an atmosphere of inequality, these one-sided appointments are gradually widening what appears to be a systematic exclusion of other parts of the state from governance. Other parts of the state are beginning to feel on the margin, without a stake - both at state and federal levels. The atmosphere is just that of feeling of marginalization.
Since 1999 the people of Yobe state have stuck with progressive political leaning and it was in continuation of this that the state is right now firmly in the hands of APC. But this loyalty of the people of Yobe state needs to be translated concrete rewards of justice and fairness. The current leadership of APC under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole must sustain this loyalty by ensuring that all upcoming part primaries across the state are conducted through direct primaries that empower the people, as clearly seen from the example of Osun. Divisive outcome of delegate system of primaries as seen in the recent Bauchi South senatorial by-election primaries shows the danger it poses to party harmony and justice. The fact that general elections have been taking place in Yobe peacefully is an indication that direct party primary elections are feasible and can be a testimony of President Muhammadu Buhari’s successful defeat of Boko Haram insurgency. Direct primaries will empower the people and ensure that right from the scratch the choice of leaders is people driven. Oshiomhole has so far shown commitment to ensuring justice in the party by giving the people the power to determine who will lead them – directly; eliminating the political ‘middlemen’ called ‘delegates.’ No state deserves direct party primaries more than Yobe where people yearn of inclusion – in every sense. APC will be making a mistake if it misses the opportunity of rewarding the royalty of the people of Yobe state with direct party primaries that can do away with the selective and easily manipulative nature of delegate’s party primaries. Any argument against direct party primary elections in Yobe state will amount to further exclusion of the people and a litmus test for APC.
APC must also be wary of antics of governors who want to eat their cake and have it. Doing away with delegate system of party primaries can only enhance people’s right and diminish the capacity of governors to hand pick candidates for all elective posts. The party leadership at the national level must resist any trap and any attempt to use any platform within or outside the party to manipulate party primaries system.
Twenty-nineteen election is also an opportunity for Governor Ibrahim Geidam to consolidate his legacy by ensuring, as he promised, a level playing field has been provided for all aspirants; no matter their tribe. It is an opportunity to ensure that all parts of state and all the people of the state are given equal opportunity that will ensure justice and fairness.
It is hoped that both President Muhammadu Buhari and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole will pay keen attention to politics in Yobe state. Particularly President Buhari has been the choice of the people of our state at all elections. The president can only pay us back by ensuring that there is fairness, equality and justice in the way the state is run, as well as elect its leaders.
*Adam Mukhtar Jajimaji, Sabon Pegi, Damaturu, Yobe State. Email: [email protected]