By Sadan Livinus
I read the PUNCH, edition of Thursday, 24th November, where the General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor (Dr.) William Kumuyi, asked Nigerians to wake up and take advantage of the 2023 elections to elect the right set of leaders.
The report immediately, evokes, nostalgia of one man who could have easily been governor, of Adamawa state by either hook or crook when the opportunity, presented itself, but who out of consideration for posterity’s judgement was restrained, to allow that opportunity slip.
That man, is no other person, than his Excellency, Rt. Hon. James Shuaibu Barka, Adamawa’s acting governor between 26th February, 2008 and April 29th, 2008; whose quest, at the moment is to provide his constituents of Hong and Gombi, the right representation at the Federal House of Representatives.
Rt. Hon. James Barka, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Hong/Gombi federal constituency, no doubt comes with an impeccable resume of excellence in public service, one which is especially buoyed by his executive and legislative antecedent.
The truth of the importance of Kumuyi’s message to the electorate to use their background knowledge and understanding about the people seeking political office, in electing the next crop of leaders cannot be over emphasized.
Elections serve a self-actualizing purpose by confirming the worth and dignity of individual citizens as human beings. Whatever other needs voters may have, participation in an election serves to reinforce their self-esteem and self-respect. Voting gives people an opportunity to have their say and, through expressing partisanship, to satisfy their need to feel a sense of belonging.
Even non-voting satisfies the need of some people to express their alienation from the political community.
So when Pastor (Dr.) W.F Kumuyi admonished the electorates to examine candidates before voting, while flagging off the Global Crusade with Kumuyi, an evangelism outreach, he held in Adamawa, what he was literally saying was “Leadership matters a lot because it determines the direction a society will go.”
He said “Thank God for democracy. God, through our own system, has given us the chance to determine the leader that leads and rules us. So, I will say, all of our citizens should wake up, and those who are eligible to vote should look at the leaders who are emerging, and then we use our understanding, background, knowledge, and what we know about the people to vote.”
What was instructive, for me, was that choices matter. But even moreso, the need to interrogate the credentials, especially the antecedents of those seeking elective office. In Adamawa, the state of my birth, I have been particularly, curious about the political sojourn of, Ambassador James Shuaibu Barka, the House of representatives candidate, of the People’s Democratic Party, for Gombi/Hong Federal Constituency, whose life has being defined by self sacrifice and service.
He was one of those being considered as a possible candidate for governor in 2011. His consideration for high office, was accentuated by a string of political events, first, his emergence as speaker and then as acting Governor, of Adamawa State, following the February 2008 nullification of Governor Murtala Nyako’s election, anti-climaxed by his (Barka’s) brief reign as governor.
With his brief stint in office affording him executive powers, the acting governor, left no one in doubt about his leadership grit. Where success is concerned luck they say matters. His luck, in this case could be, him, being at the right place and at the right time. But, after his eventful tenure, as acting Governor, Barka, handed over to Nyako, on April 29, 2008 after, Governor Nyako won the court ordered re-run elections. By the time, he returned back to his speakership post, he had left indelible impressions, on the heart and minds of his colleagues, who thought to honour him.
As a show of gratitude, lawmakers passed a law, to award Barka a lifetime pension for his service as acting governor. It was the first time, any assembly in the country had considered such a gesture for any known elected public official at the time. The disputed law, in some respect, was symbolic, of his peers appreciation of his contributions to the legislature.
Beside sponsoring numerous bills and motions, which has impacted students, entrepreneurs, farmers, civil servants, politicians, technocrats, the security sub-sector, women and children; since his election into the assembly in 2003, Barka’s, major accomplishment, at least to the people of his constituent, in Hong is the establishment of Kulinyi Development Area, an offshoot of legislation, he facilitated which also saw the creation of development areas across the state under Governor Boni Haruna and Nyako administration. The key object of that legislation was to bring government closer to people at the grassroot.
One fact that no one can take away from Rt. Hon. James Shuaibu Barka voyage into public service remains his ability to stay focused on causes he so much believes in. He’s therefore no stranger to controversy. After, the election petition appeal tribunal upheld the nullification of Governor Nyako’s election, Barka who became the acting Governor by virtue of his position as Speaker, of the state assembly, immediately sacked, all of Nyako’s appointees, including commissioners, committee chairmen, area administrators, special advisers and assistants.
The deft move seen as a political tsunami capable of upsetting Governor Murtala’s court ordered re-run election, triggered alarm bells resulting in series of intervention brokered by late President Musa Yar’ dua and Goodluck Jonathan administration; who also sensed, the master stroke from Barka as radical an action enough which if not properly handled was capable of jeopardising PDP’s chances of winning the re-run polls against the candidate of the rival political party, which had late Ibrahim Bapetel, who was a chief of staff, to Governor Boni Haruna.
A truce was brokered, and Barka rather than continue on the path of attrition against Governor Nyako, in a dramatic political volteface threw his weight behind Nyako who won his re-run election. Though it will be acknowledged by Nyako, years later, that some of the decisions taken by Barka, contributed largely to his re-election because beside the action being pacifist, it also created a clean slate for his government to reset.
It is a testament to Barka’s vaulting stature as a pragmatic leader, came with some tangible accomplishment for him in office, thus raising his stock amongst his peers.
As acting Governor, he singlehandedly introduced constituency allowances into Budget for members to be able to execute capital projects and also jacked up the running cost of the Assembly at the time from a paltry N25 million to N75 million. This erudite and outstanding legislator, made other unforgettable contributions to strengthen democracy.
To meet up with the plight of poor educational infrastructure and ensure a community with great leaders of tomorrow, Barka ensured the upgrade of all blocks of classroom in Kala’a Central Primary School, Central Primary School Hong, Old College of Education among other schools in Hong through UBE from 2005- 2010. He facilitated the establishment of Kala’a ‘B’ primary school, Balanga Primary school with classroom blocks.
He also recorded some sterling achievements in the areas of health for his constituent, Rt. Hon. James Barka responded to the yearnings of his esteemed constituents for health facilities by facilitating the upgrade of cottage hospital Hong to General Hospital Hong and provided free drugs in all clinics within Hong Constituency on yearly basis.
Electricity and road being a critical infrastructure for economic activities to thrive, the legislator facilitated the construction of Babalmidila-Pella-Maiha Road; Electrification of both Bangshika, Fadamareke-KwananKuka ( completed under Fintiri regime by the same contractor). Others include Electrification of Gudumiya, Extension of Electricity through Kala’a town and provision of two additional transformers in Kala’a. In his determination to groom farmers of Hong Constituency, he provided and distributed free fertilizers and water pumps to aid irrigation farming across his constituency.
He further invested in human capital development through rendering financial assistance to constituents who are in dire need on a monthly basis to the tune of N2-3 million naira. To involve citizens in determining public needs and how it can be met Rt. Hon. James Barka facilitated the creation of Kulinyi Development Area and facilitated the provision of 44 boreholes across almost all the villages in Hong Constituency which includes remote villages like Holma, Uding, Pathanga, Barkari, Kwatau, Kubtava, Mutuku, Blagyang, Dulwachira, Shiwa, Kwanankuka, Gashaka, Pella, Hong Solar Borehole, Mubol, Bolinyi, Jaba, Garari, Delmava, Wurobokki, Faci etc.
As a legislator that belongs to everybody and respects individual religion and belief, he sponsored several Muslim and Christian faithfuls on pilgrimage to Mecca and Jerusalem.
Rt. Hon. James Barka served as a true Nigerian patriot, a servant of the constituency in war and peace with integrity, focus and determination to do justice to all. A man with such impeccable records surely deserves a place in democratic governance, as he seeks, the votes of his constituents, into the green chambers, of the national assembly to represent Hong/Gombi constituency.
There’s therefore the need for the voting public to know these records and carefully examine it against that of his opponent.
Antecedents matter in politics, it is my belief that a man with such diverse blend of executive and legislative experience will be a big value addition to Adamawa state in the National Assembly, for a state whose checkered history has been characterised by poor legislative representation at the nation’s capital.
It is on this note that Kumuyi’s admonishment on the electorate to examine the candidates seeking their votes before voting becomes instructive. Barka will be aiming to unseat Hon. Captain Yusuf Buba, of the rival All Progressive Congress, who’s seeking a record 4th term in the Green chambers, with little or nothing to show, for all the time spent in the national assembly.
Sadan Livinus writes from 38A, first avenue road, Manreng Estate, Gwarimpa, Abuja.