President Goodluck Jonathan’s reenergised campaign for a second term at the weekend suffered a puncture when two of his key associates from the Northeast entered a political brawl that is bound to embarrass the president and elicit enthusiasm from the opposition.
The stoning of President Jonathan’s campaign team in Bauchi and Katsina had drawn strong rebuke from the president’s associates who saw it as a demonstration of the reported inclination for violence by the opposition.
The reaction of President Jonathan’s key associates from the South-South was equally foreboding. A meeting of former militants summoned by Governor Serikae Dickson last weekend in Yenogoa ended with a stern resolution that the president must not be harassed out of office by his traducers.
The opposition All Progressives Congress, APC presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was also apparently disturbed by the development and saw it as a potential danger for his campaign. Handlers of the APC presidential candidate at the weekend sought the platform of the BBC to air a message from Buhari in Hausa language to distance himself from such attacks on the president.
The PDP had on its part blamed the APC for the attacks.
However, all such permutations that the violence was sponsored by the APC or induced by its supporters took an embarrassing turn for the PDP last weekend when Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State seemingly exonerated the APC and accused the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed of sponsoring the attacks.
The assertion from the governor was a bombshell and fell into nearly the position articulated by the APC that the attacks were a fall out from the internal discord within the APC.
“The Minister and his group sponsored small boys of not more than seven years of age and gave them brooms to give the impression that they were from the opposition party whereas they were all wearing T-shirts branded with his name and that of TAN,” Governor Yuguda, one of the president’s key associates in the Northeast said.
“Before the arrival of the boys the presidential rally was going on smoothly. When they entered the venue they started signing “sai Jonathan”, “sai Jonathan” only for them to begin to chant “ sai Buhari”, “sai Buhari” to the bewilderment of all present.”
“I feel very bad over the sad incident caused by Bala and his group to discredit me and all that I have been able to accomplish in Bauchi. I must say that I am very sad and disappointed by the antics of the minister.”
The assertion from the governor was, however, rebuffed by the minister who ironically was equally pelted at the rally last Thursday.
“It is totally illogical, irreconcilable, wicked and fallacious for anybody to insinuate that the Hon. Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed imported thugs to stone and attack himself while addressing the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s presidential campaign rally in his home state, Bauchi,” Bala said in a statement issued by his spokesman Nosike Ogbuenyi.
“The question begging for answer is ‘why wasn’t Governor Yuguda stoned by the rampaging thugs when he was on the podium addressing the same rally?”
“ Every sincere person in this country can attest to the fact that the loyalty of the FCT Minister to President Goodluck Jonathan and his commitment to the success of the PDP in all elections have never been in doubt.
Whatever, the story of the discord between Governor Yuguda and his one time key aide and special assistant as minister of aviation is one of many intrigues.
Bala, a former journalist turned politician was at a time a key strategist in Yuguda’s political machine and was instrumental in the popular rebellion against Governor Ahmadu Mu‘azu that led to the installation of Yuguda as governor on the ticket of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP after he had been shut out by Mu‘azu in the PDP in 2007.
However, Yuguda’s decision to seemingly eat his vomit in returning to the PDP in 2009 led to him and his onetime Man Friday parting ways. From friends they became bitter foes.
Remarkably, when President Umaru Yar‘Adua took ill, Bala became a kingpin in the group of senators known as the National Interest Group, NIG who met regularly in the residence of Senator Ehigie Uzamere. The group of about 70 senators was instrumental to the installation of Dr. Jonathan as acting president and as a pay back, members decided that the group must be rewarded with one of them being appointed minister of FCT and Bala was the choice of the group.
Having jumped to the other side, Bala became strong loyalist of the president and remarkably, turned into a near relative of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
Like his former boss he also made desperate efforts to return to the PDP but obstacles were repeatedly put on his way reportedly by Yuguda, but he eventually returned setting the stage for what everyone expected to be his bid for the governorship.
However, reportedly on the advice of Aso Rock, he refused to follow other ministers who had gubernatorial ambitions in leaving the cabinet last October as he was stopped by the powers that be in Abuja.
Yuguda meanwhile had in concert with the national chairman of the party, Mu‘azu, successfully positioned his own man, Awaal Jutau as the PDP governorship candidate. The governor was also alleged to have also helped to position Abubakar Mohammed as the APC candidate, so that head or tail, he would not lose out. The governor has, however, denied the insinuation saying that he could not work for the opposition.
Bala’s failure to get the ticket was, however, a sore if not to him, but to many who had rallied round him in the state.
A recent meeting of Bala’s political leg men in Bauchi was said to have been laced with much antagonism against the governor. Remarkably the governor heard of the ill-feelings poured against him at the meeting where Bala was present but what Bala said remains unknown.
That development was said to have again festered the sour in the relationship between the two men leading to the latest development.
Remarkably, the stoning incident last Thursday was against the background of the reported resurgence of the APC in the state.
So when the president’s convoy was attacked as he left the den of the opposition, the governor was not surprisingly uncomfortable and against assertions by party officials traced the attack to Bala.
The internal brickbat between two of the president’s foremost supporters is a serious drawback for him and his party and gives the opposition the opportunity to take a respite from the tirade of the PDP that it is the harbinger of violence.