How come the last man standing in northeast geopolitical zone fell like a sandcastle? Was the defeat of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Gombe State by opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) anything to do with the absence of a succession plan or perceived poor execution? Could it be that Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, who defied the President Muhammadu Buhari-inspired electoral hurricane in 2015, decided to requite his party, PDP, for not gifting him with the it's 2019 presidential ticket?
During the build up to the recent general election, Dankwambo was among the possible names associated with the PDP presidential ticket, to the extent that it was speculated that the two-term Gombe State governor would be pairing with former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, to usher in the much expected paradigm shift in Nigeria's leadership conundrum.
Given the not-too-young-to-run sentiment that gained public traction as the 2019 poll approached and the sterling performance of the former Cross River governor, the Dankwambo/Duke ticket was canvassed as a winning formula and game-changer to reverse the progressive recycling of effete leaders on the national level of politics and governance.
With that flowery public profile, Dankwambo bided his time, even as proxy canvassers continued to make nationwide consultations for his eventual declaration and possible emergence as the PDP standard bearer. At that time, Dankwambo and other emerging leaders in the northeast geopolitical zone began to hold meetings across party lines in search of possible ways to upscale the political fortunes of the zone.
With his years as Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) being burnished as evidence of his professional competence and fiscal wizardry, Dankwambo was becoming very hopeful by the day.
And knowing the predilection of APC and President Buhari's handlers to seek to tar any contender with the dark brush of corruption, the Gombe State governor contracted a private firm to audit the accounts of his government pending the time he would throw his hat in the ring.
While he was quietly getting ready to contest the 2019 presidency, Talban Gombe kept his aides guessing as to whom he would throw up just he as worked behind the scene examining possible governorship aspirants to support as successor.
As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the time table of activities for the 2019 election, the name of the current Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO), Dr. Jamilu Isyaku Gwamna, Sarduanan Gombe, started making the rounds in the state as the man Dankwambo has settled for as possible successor.
Crash, crisis of ambitions
Things happened fast and thus altered a lot of schemes both within PDP and inside Gombe. Fourth republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, left APC and returned to PDP. With Atiku's re-entry into the presidential race, the earlier considerations, especially the dream of a possible paradigm change crashed. The new singsongs were capacity, clout and easy name recognition to confront an incumbent that was manifesting signs of desperation to retain presidential power at great costs.
With the new thinking in the country, particularly PDP, Dankwambo's rating began to dwindle as many reckoned that he lacks nationwide following, coupled with limited political experience. At the same time, perhaps sensing that he was on the path of losing out in the race for PDP ticket, some of his colleagues in the ruling APC were said to have started inundating him with tales of how impossible it was for Buhari to lose the election, just as they were said to also fly the kite of possible appointment as successor to Godwin Emefiele when he rounds of his term as Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN governor.
It was perhaps in response to that development that the Gombe governor's younger brother, defected to APC to support the governorship ambition of Dankwambo's rival in the 2015 governorship, Alhaji Muhammad Inua Yahaya. That move raised a lot of hue and cry as some stakeholders accused the younger Dankwambo of sabotaging his brother's presidential aspiration.
By the time the PDP primaries held, which returned Atiku as winner, it was already known that the man from Gombe was not among the frontrunners. But back in Gombe the governorship primary of the party was to bring home new oddities. There was some abracadabra that led to postponement of the primary, which was set to throw up Gwamna.
The next day, the Senator representing Gombe North, Senator Bayero Nafada, was returned as winner of the PDP governorship, which fueled speculations that the outgoing governor, not only reneged on his assurances to Gwamna to swap places with Nafada, so as to ostensibly contest the senatorial seat, after missing out on the presidential gamble.
Not that alone, words started making the rounds shortly after that the governor wanted to make the better of two worlds so that should APC win he could be on line for a possible appointment, while securing a senate seat at the expense of Nafada.
Incensed by the crooked governorship primary and his sudden interest in a senatorial seat, the KEDCO MD, engineered a mass revolt within Gombe PDP, leading to defection of notable politicians. The stalwarts joined Gwamna to team up with former governor Danjuma Goje, to work for the massive drubbing of PDP in the state.
With the swing of Gombe political structure in his favour, Senator Goje, bounced back as the political godfather of the state, having produced all three senators and governor on the APC platform.
In effort to make the best of his newfound ranking, Senator Goje has been working hard to regain his good name from cases instituted by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which he has been facing for the greater part of Dankwambo's eight years in office.
As Goje plans to join the race for the Senate Presidency, some of his loyalists in Gombe APC have taken it upon themselves to traduce Dankwambo, raking up muck of his eight years stint. One Muhammad Baba recently told journalists that the governor was defeated because of deception.
Baba said: "From the inception of this administration, nothing has been more certain than the lies told at every platform, which they never envisaged would resurface in manners such as we now have it.
" For years, PDP in Gombe had claimed to be developing the state while they were busy helping themselves with the wealth of the state in an alcohol-like manner, but today they are busy looking for lawyers to defend them before the court of the ballot which, even consumed the senatorial ambition of Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo."
Alluding to the governorship primary, Baba noted that PDP made democracy disgusting, distasteful and almost a taboo to many, stressing that the 2019 poll "provided the newest evidence to kick out PDP with the kind of ballot-knock-out punch that was given to the party where the party was only able to win the governor's local government through vote buying."
Following the routing of PDP the post-election recriminations between APC and Dankwambo's loyalists have left the impression that the outgoing governor has become the hunted.
Coining the compound word, 'deceptocracy' to describe the Dankwambo years, the APC chieftains try to cast Dankwambo's eight years in office as the worst in the state, especially in terms of debt profile.
For instance during the interaction with journalists, Baba took the administration to task over its achievements in the education sector, maintaining that if the state government must lie, it should not be "with education, which holds the key to brighter future for our children."
He stated: "How can a state that in spite the Paris Club refund, bail out, budget support, excessive borrowing and the huge Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and self-acclaimed transformation in the education sector, be rate so poorly on West African Examinations Council (WAEC) performance score card?
"In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Gombe State was placed 34th respectively in what seemed like a hat-trick in failure vis-à-vis WAEC performance. This abysmally poor performance is a show that the claim of the government that huge sums have been spent in education is nothing but politics of deceit.
Did the former last man standing foresee electoral loss or was the defeat forced on him by wrong calculations? The events of past two months have done much to reduce the outgoing governor's shining credentials as a good manager.
Just like Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Governor Dankwambo has gone down in history as one who started well but finished poorly in political calculations. The ongoing charges of plunging Gombe into massive public debt rubs off negatively on the governor's track record as a risk management expert and prudential manager of resources.
The allegation that the governor is responsible for the N607m debt profile of the state sounds outlandish.
However, if the outgoing administration actually abandoned Gombe airport, Pantami stadium and Gombe water project, all projects initiated by former governor Goje's administration, while constructing the magnificent International Conference Center at the cost of N4bn, the governor must have opened himself up for demonizing.
Did Dankwambo work against Atiku or was he denied by the people of Gombe in restitution for the mistake of 2015? If the outcomes of the 2019 election came as a referendum on the last four years of PDP administration in the state, it is either that Dankwambo rested on his oars or while he slept, his rivals made hay.
Nonetheless, what PDP lost in Gombe, it has regained in Adamawa State, following the sacking of Governor Mohammadu Jibrilla Bindow by the electorate in favour of Mohammed Fintiri. How far that would serve, as a consolation would be seen in the days as election petitions run their course.