2023: Yahaya, Goje lock horns over Gombe’s control

Chima Azubuike writes  about the intrigues, blame game between Governor Muhammadu Inuwa of Gombe State and a former governor of the state, Danjuma Goje, which led to the November 5, 2021 clash along the Gombe-Bauchi expressway

To active political watchers, it was only a matter of time for the ticking bomb in the relationship between Gombe State Governor, Muhammadu Yahaya, and his political mentor, Danjuma Goje, lawmaker representing Gombe Central District in the Senate, to explode.

This may not be too far from the known tradition where a jolly relationship among politicians turns sour usually after the elections. Some instances in this regard include Lamidi Adedibu/Rashidi Ladoja tussle (Oyo), Chris Uba/Chris Ngige debacle (Anambra), and Orji Kalu/Theodore Orji rivalry (Abia), Bola Tinubu/Akinwunmi Ambode crisis (Lagos), Adams Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki political imbroglio (Edo).

To many, after Yahaya was declared winner of the 2019 governorship elections, that was when the countdown to the expected fight began. Other observers said since Yahaya, who served as finance commissioner under Goje allegedly did not get the support of his former principal (Goje) when he first showed interest, there would be crisis between the two politicians now that Yahaya had won. Now, it is time to seize the party structure from the former governor after Yahaya won the 2019 governorship election.

However, some also predicted that the two years the state benefitted from the romance between the two politicians were more like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. It was widely speculated that their relationship was peaceful because the governor allowed Goje to determine the scheme of things. This relationship continued to blossom even in May when the former governor, now senator, acknowledged that since 2011 when he left office, May 2021 was the first time he entered Government House Council Chamber in Gombe. At the chamber, Goje lauded the efforts of his political son cum friend. He spoke when he led members of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (North-East Zone) to the state.

Goje said, “This governor is our governor; he is doing very well. He has picked up from where we left and he is even doing better than we did and therefore, he deserves our support. So, I want to use this opportunity to call on the people of Gombe State, particularly the political elite to rally round the governor and give him the moral support that he needs so as to do better.

“Before I talk on what brought us to Gombe, I think it’s important to let the public know that since I left this Government House 10 years ago, this is my first courtesy call. For obvious reasons, in the last dispensation, I was never here and I never came to the Government House; of course, there was no need for me to be here then.”

Not many suspected that the May courtesy call would be the beginning of what has turned out to be a battle between the two men. The romance continued through to Eid celebration where the duo moved from the Eid prayer ground to the Emir of Gombe durbar ground to relish the moment as special guests.

Goje, Yahaya and other stakeholders of the governing All Progressives Congress, on July 22, 2021, agreed to have a consensus arrangement for electing party officials. While setting the stage and giving an overview of the meeting, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Abubakar Kari, said the stakeholders’ meeting was convened to deliberate on how best to approach the congresses in the state following the release of the timetable by the national headquarters of the party.

Also speaking, Goje expressed satisfaction with the consensus arrangement and threw his weight behind it to demonstrate the unity among members of the party in the state.

He said, “Let’s allow the governor to chart the course for the party in the state and I have the conviction that the governor will do justice in that regard.”

He, therefore, called for understanding and cooperation across the board irrespective of the outcome of the congresses, saying it was only by so doing that the party would wax stronger and continue to provide good leadership in the state.

In a two-point communiqué read by Yahaya after the meeting, the APC stalwarts unanimously affirmed their unalloyed loyalty to him towards providing direction to the party both in the build-up to and during the congresses in the state and always. The communiqué read in part, “The meeting resolved to adopt consensus arrangement in the forthcoming congresses of the party at the ward, local government and state levels. The meeting also affirmed loyalty to the leadership of Governor Yahaya in providing direction to the party in the conduct of all congresses that will come up very soon at all levels in the state.”

This event soon set the tone for what played out on November 5 as the former governor stayed away from the ward, local government and state executive members’ inauguration. The state soon witnessed a rain of vote of confidence across various quarters – from the state House of Assembly to emirs, to senatorial districts- all endorsing the governor for a second term.

At one of the endorsements in Gombe Central, which is Goje’s constituency, rallies were held but the former governor still stayed away.

Speaking at the event, Habu Muazu, a former youth leader of the Peoples Democratic Party while Goje was the governor, decried a situation where the former governor (Goje) would be fighting the current administration when he (Goje) had enjoyed 100 per cent loyalty from the incumbent (Yahaya), adding that key loyalists of Goje, including his family and friends were given appointments.

Muazu, who is now a member of the APC, said, “Inuwa (governor) knew that Goje did not vote for him in 2019. I’m telling you this so that you won’t think that Inuwa was the one who rushed into a fight with him. Some people would lie to you that he (Goje) was the one that helped him (Yahaya) to become governor.

“When we wanted to appoint commissioners, we advised the governor not to appoint a commissioner that will represent Akko from Kashere because there is a senator and a Head of Service from Kashere. We are supposed to appoint a commissioner from Pindiga, since they don’t have anyone representing them in government. Because of dignity, what first caused rift between Ibrahim Dankwambo (Goje’s successor) and Goje was that after election, he (Goje) wanted his daughter to be appointed as a commissioner and Dankwambo refused.”

Muazu added, “Inuwa wanted to accord Goje respect by appointing his daughter as a commissioner. So, for God’s sake, whoever does this for you, what will make you fight the person? In this government Goje’s daughter is a commissioner, his son-in-law is a commissioner, and his friends and family are all given positions. What exactly will make you fight Inuwa?”

On his part, a member representing Akko Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Usman Kumo, who has been having a running battle with the senator, his erstwhile political benefactor, said, “Inuwa plays politics of maturity and tolerance. We mobilised for this meeting without the governor’s contribution. Attempt by anyone to humiliate the governor will never be allowed. He remains the leader of the party, follow the governor or find yourself another leader.”

Reacting to the enmity between Yahaya and Goje, a public affairs commentator, Cliff Stanley, said the event which culminated into the attack, would best be described as political error.

Stanley said, “What happened on that fateful Friday between Governor Yahaya and Senator Goje is political error by both political actors. These are leaders that were in PDP from 2003-2011, and APC in 2015. In 2019, Yahaya contested and emerged as the state governor.

“Most of the electorate expect that there will be political cohesion between them having worked together in both parties, but political survival and the politics of 2023 have pitched Governor Yahaya against Senator Goje after the party congresses at the ward, local and state levels, which the governor hijacked. The rhetorical statement made by the governor about the difference between a senator and a governor affected the relationship they earlier enjoyed as political gladiators.”

He added, “The governor should show leadership while Senator Goje should show statesmanship for the state to continue to enjoy the relative peace it currently enjoys. As they say, all politics is local; what is happening in Gombe is the politics of 2023 manifesting in action.”

Also, a member of the PDP and lecturer at the Gombe State University, Hadu Ligari, appealed to the two groups to sheathe their swords. He described the current disagreement between the two politicians as an attempt to bring back the years of thuggery, adding that the governor’s second term ambition might be challenging.

Ligari said, “The tendency of reawakening thuggery is high. They (other political gladiators) will be joining forces against the present governor. The prospect of the incumbent getting a second term in office is low. However, among the three gladiators seeking the seat, if he is wise, he can get one on his side. That can give him a ray of hope.

“In general, I think truth be told, Yahaya can still get his way back to the seat in 2023. Once he can be democratic, he can pull a surprise. Politics works with emotions. But for now, the forces against him in Gombe seem huge a task for him. So, we are expecting money politics from next year. These men are fighting him; Dankwambo, Jubril Danbarde, Bayero Nafada, Binta Bello, Ali Isa and Goje.

“He needs to be more democratic; he seems to be running the government alone. His party men, who  helped in 2019, are angry. They are yet to reap; so, they feel he needs to be democratic and engaging with politicians. He also needs to feel the pulse of his people. His economic policies for the state need to be gradually introduced. They are good policies for Gombe.”

The recent clash was the climax of the brewing war where Goje was alleged to have been attacked by sponsored thugs on his way to Gombe metropolis from Lawanti Airport. This eventually led to the resignation of the former Commissioner for Environment and Forest Resources, Dr Husaina Goje, who returned to her plum job with Fiscal Responsibility Commission as an Assistant Director. She is the daughter of the former governor.

Although she refused to state the reason she threw in the towel as a commissioner in Yahaya’s cabinet, observers believed she did so because of the disagreement between the governor and her father. However, it remained unclear if Goje’s son-in-law, Jalo Waziri; who superintends the Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs Ministry as well as commissioners for Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Muhammad Getado; Women Affairs, Naomi Awak; and his many other loyalists would follow suit.

Goje, through a press statement by his media aide, Lilian Nworie, maintained that he was attacked by the governor’s security details.

Nworie said, “Distinguished senator’s trip was peaceful until when the governor’s aides, including his aide-de-camp, blocked the road. For two hours, they unleashed terror on Senator Goje and those in his convoy.

“It is unfortunate that one life was lost and many cars vandalised, including the senator’s vehicle. They smashed the windscreen. All efforts to make the governor’s aide-de-camp remove the blockade yielded no result as he insisted that he got instruction from the above that the former governor should not be allowed into the town.”

She said the governor’s driver, Aminu Hula, and Gombe State APC Youth Leader, Kawu Lero, had been arrested by the state Police Command.

“They have been arrested, but the aide-de-camp, who led the people to attack the former governor, has since returned to those who sent him. The aide-de-camp said he was acting based on an order from above. In this case, it is his boss, Gombe State Governor,” she added.

Describing the former governor as a peace-loving leader of the state, Husaina urged her father’s supporters to be calm and be law-abiding, while calling for independent investigation of the matter.

On the other hand, the Gombe chapter of the All Progressives Congress, through its Publicity Secretary, Moses Kyari, asked Goje to tender an apology to the people of the state for allegedly masterminding the violence.

Kyari said, “The All Progressives Congress condemns in very strong terms the incidence where the recent violent crowd of the Senator Danjuma Goje’s supporters led to the loss of five lives, destroying property of the APC worth millions of naira. The party will not condone this barbaric act and will take measures to discipline any party member no matter how highly placed he or she is. We call on security men to carry out appropriate investigation into the matter and whosoever is found culpable must be punished according to the laws of the land.

“The party has agreed to compel Senator Danjuma Goje to tender unreserved apology to members of the party and indigenes of Gombe State over this unfortunate incident.  We want to assure our supporters in the state that the APC remains a strong and united party under the leadership of Inuwa Yahaya, the Governor of Gombe State, and under his watch, no indigene of the state will be injured or harmed for any reason.”

While the government claimed five persons were killed, with some others injured, Goje’s aide stated that only one person died in the violence. This was corroborated by the state police command.

Responding to journalists in Abuja, Yahaya debunked insinuations that his men started the crisis.

“The authorities concerned will find out the truth since he (Goje) has reported it. That matter will be investigated. Let’s wait for the outcome of the investigation, but whoever knows the history of Gombe knows who Goje is and they know who Inuwa (the current governor) is. People know the difference between us,” he said. Commenting on the possibility of his re-election as the cause of the violence, he noted that his political future would be determined by God. According to him, only God knows if both he and Goje will be alive in 2023.

What you need to know is that only God knows tomorrow. Both Goje and I don’t know if we will see the year 2023. My major aim is to stand firm and fulfill the pledges I made to the people in line with my oath of office in 2019 as well as bring development to our state with peace and tranquillity prevailing because without peace, there won’t be development.”

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