By Kabiru Danladi Lawanti, PhD
As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lifted the ban on the 2023 elections campaigns, attention has now shifted to analysing candidates’ policies and programmes. In Gombe State, like in many states, the governor seeks a second term. Governor Inuwa Yahaya of the All Progressive Congress (APC) is facing a tough battle with People’s Democratic Party’s Alhaji Jibrin Barde (Danbarde), a former banker turned politician. Danbarde was the first runner-up in the 2018 APC primary and was defeated by the incumbent Governor, Inuwa Yahaya. However, he defected to PDP in 2021, ascribing his action to bad governance in the state.
As the 2023 elections fast approach, the two leading candidates are gearing up to face each other again, not at primaries, but in the murky waters of campaigns and the general election in 2023. Already political permutations and predictions have started flowing from those in support or against the two candidates. With the reconciliation between the Governor and his erstwhile friend turned political enemy – Alhaji Danjuma Goje, many predicted that Inuwa Yahaya would have an easy sail in 2023. Coupled with incumbency and support from a political heavyweight in the state, the Governor seem to have no serious challenge going into the elections.
Things took a new turn some weeks ago when Goje appeared to have scrapped the earlier reconciliation efforts by the APC reconciliation committee weeks before the party’s National Convention. Instead, Goje remains as unpredictable as the weather in recent times. Some political pundits on conventional and social media believe Goje may support Danbarde in 2023. This was very clear when he insisted that all candidates seen as Inuwa’s supporters were to be dropped for his anointed candidates during the primaries. It took the intervention of some party stalwarts at the state and national levels to agree to allow these candidates to participate in the primaries.
However, for politicians, especially those who look to the future of who becomes Governor in 2027 in the state, support for who becomes the Governor in 2023 will be based on the odds for those contesting in 2027. For instance, since the return to democracy in 1999, Gombe state has had four governors, including the incumbent, Inuwa Yahaya. Three of these governors came from the Gombe North Senatorial District. These are Abubakar Habu Hashidu (Dukku LGA), Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo and Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe LGA). Only Danjuma Goje came from Gombe Central (Akko LGA). On the other hand, Gombe South has never produced a governor, though all the deputy governors were from that senatorial district.
Suppose the other Senatorial Districts decided to support the PDP’s Danbarde, and eventually, he becomes the Governor. In that case, it means Gombe Central and Gombe South have to wait for another eight years to have a chance to present a candidate for the number one office. This is also tricky because they may decide to support Inuwa Yahaya, with the understanding that APC may consider zoning the Governorship position to either Gombe Central or Gombe South. Can Gombe South buy this mouthwatering offer and support Inuwa? Others think that Gombe South has nothing to lose on whoever becomes the Governor in 2023, as far as the Governorship position is concerned, because they are assured of the position of Deputy Governor for any election year. It is a tradition maintained by all Governorship candidates in both parties since 1999.
This may leave only the Gombe Central Senatorial district with a serious dilemma. Already the district’s political heavyweights have started their permutations. Most believe that supporting Danbarde means handing over the number one seat to Gombe North for 18 years. Dankwambo 8 years, Inuwa 8 years and Danbarde 8 years. Therefore, support for Inuwa Yahaya in the forthcoming elections is like a national duty if any of their sons is aiming for the Governorship seat in 2027. The two local governments that made up the senatorial district are crucial and strategic in the state’s political equation. With the state’s highest number and registered voters, they had the highest voter turn-out in the 2019 general elections.
Whatever decision the politicians and the electorates take in the forthcoming elections in 2023, they should remember that it can either make or mar their chances of producing the next Governor in 2027. Therefore, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, Alhaji Usman Bello Kumo, Abubakar Mu’azu, Barrister Idris Umar Abdullahi and other politicians from the district need to look beyond their disagreements and think ahead for the senatorial district. This may sound like another push for regional considerations, but some of these choices usually guide rational choices in politics. While no one can doubt the good performances of Inuwa Yahaya in the last four years, Gombe Central’s support for him goes beyond his perceived performance and anticipation for a more common public good. Therefore, the votes from this senatorial zone should/must be used to negotiate a power shift to the senatorial district.
This is politics.