In this analysis, BIYI ADEGOROYE looks at the simmering fratricidal political war among hitherto allies in many states of the federation wondering whether an armistice would ever come
One time Vice Chancellor of University of Calabar, Prof. Emmanuel Alayande, is reputed for many controversial but pungent statements. But the one that would readily be recalled was his statement in 1991 upon creation of the University of Uyo, in Akwa Ibom State.
Observing the intractable conflict among Akwa Ibom people over opportunity given them to choose Deputy Vice Chancellors for the new university among qualified professors from that part of the country, he said: “Akwa Ibom is an atomistic society, perpetually at war with itself.”
That was about three decades ago, and since then, there has been no physical war among the Akwa-Ibomites, but one cannot rule out the issue of political and sundry wars among them and indeed some sections of the country. For instance, following the defection of the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio to the All Progressives Congress, (APC), he vowed to deliver the state to his new party- by all means.
At one of the rallies in Uyo, he boasted that the election was ‘warfare’, and the state would see ‘war’. Adopting the post-World War II axiom, “When Warsaw saw war, that became the end of the war,” he said: “(Akwa Ibom) will see war and there will be no more war.”
This belligerent posture has since defined Nigerian politicians in recent times, as the desperation of the politicians to clinch powers by all means- foul or fair, pitched brothers against one another, thereby turning most of the states to battlegrounds. Friends become foes, and tantrums are thrown in their thousands.
In a nation where politicians, brothers at that, are supposedly committed to the same patriotic cause, it beat the imagination of many that they are diametrically opposed to one another and resorting to violence in order to achieve their dreams.
For instance, soon after Abubakar Atiku emerged as presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), a group, Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian, filed a suit before Justice I. E. Ekwo of Abuja High Court, calling for the disqualification of the former Vice President from the election, claiming he is a citizen of Cameroon!
The group said that from Atiku’s own testimony” that is gazetted and published in most national dailies in circulation, he is from Jada town in Adamawa and Jada used to be in Ganye Local Government Area in Adamawa. That Ganye is regarded as the mother of the whole Chamba tribe and was never part of Nigeria legally as at the date of birth of Atiku.
“Atiku was born on November 25, 1946 in Cameroon. That none of Atiku’s parents or grandparents was born in Nigeria and his father died a citizen of Northern Cameroon in 1957 prior to the referendum of June 1, 1961 that made Northern Cameroon a part of Nigeria.”
Therefore, deposed to an affidavit, asking the judge “whether by the provisions of Section 131 (a) of the Constitution, only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for the office of president” Interestingly enough, such issue did not ensue in 1999 when he emerged governor elect in
Adamawa, and later Vice President for eight years, neither did it feature when he was cleared and contested the presidential ticket of the APC in 2015. Of course, the suit is pending in court, and may be sustained to the Supreme Court depending on the outcome of Atiku’s case against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
MRDD and Adamawa poll
Observers believe the same desperation has been displayed in the governorship election in Adamawa State, where the PDP’s candidate, scored 367,471 against APC’s Governor Jubrilla Bindow’s 334,471. But results of the March 9 election could not be announced because the margin of lead was less than 40, 988 cancelled votes in 14 local government areas until PDP won the rerun.
But before the rerun, the governorship candidate of the Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy, (MRDD), Rev. Eric Dollars, rushed to court, seeking cancellation of the entire election because INEC omitted his party’s logo on the ballot paper. Legal though his action may seem, with precedents, observers shudder at the inanity of the call for cancellation of the entire election, by a party which has never made any impact in any part of the country.
Such call suitable for mere legal exercise is an indication of the hands of Esau, than the voice of Jacob, and is akin to the call by the biblical prostitute who insisted the surviving child be killed since she thought King Solomon had no forensic evidence to determine the child’s maternity.
Rivers of blood
If the war of attrition is prevalent in Adamawa, the situation in Rivers has become a disturbing national and international disgrace. Rivers State, the heartland of the nation’s oil and gas industry, has been bedeviled by political battles in the last eight years.
Supremacy battle reared its head in 2014 when the then Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike and the then governor Rotimi Amaechi were at loggerhead over who succeeded the latter. While Amaechi who defected to the APC threw his weight behind Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Wike had the support of the then First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
The rest is history, but the ambitions of both men have thrown the state into chaos, as cult wars, shameful usilisation of soldiers and police to thwart the will of the electorate and sustain blood letting have become a norm in Rivers State.
Ironically both men rode from obscurity into prominence due to the benevolence of the state’s political leaders. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, one of the political leaders and dramatis personae in the Rivers project cannot deny he has benefitted from the magnanimity of the state’s electorate. From serving as an aide to Chief Peter Odili, the Deputy Governor of the State in the aborted Third Republic in 1992, he rose to become a lawmaker in 1999 in the state House of Assembly.
This time, his political godfather became the governor of the oil rich state, and upon the inauguration, Odili ensured Amaechi’s election as Speaker of the House, serving his two terms of eight years, when he also occupied the position of Chairman of the Conference of Speakers.
During the 2007 election when then President Olusegun Obasanjo ensured the election of Celestine Omeha as governor of the state, Amaechi, via a court decision, was recalled from self-exile, as validly nominated candidate of PDP, and was sworn in governor. Again, he served his two terms of eight years, presiding over the treasury and political affairs in the state.
Of course, the involvement of the wife of then President Goodluck Jona than in that succeeded Amaechi snowballed into political crisis in the state, and among other factors culminated in his defection to the All Progressives Congress.
His emergence as the Director-General of APC presidential election and consequent victory of President Buhari has placed much necessity on him to win the state for the party. The rest as they say is history.
Like Amaechi, Governor Wike’s ascendency to political leadership started when he was sworn in as Chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government for eight years during the tenure of Governor Peter Odili. Upon the Amaechi’s election in 2007, Wike became the new governor’s Chief of Staff from where he was appointed Minister of State for Education.
However, the duo were torn apart by Wike’s gubernatorial ambition, especially having wormed his way into the heart of the presidency during Amaechi love lost with then President Goodluck Jonathan and consequently defected to the APC.
In the political battle in 2015, the National Commission for Human Rights said not less than 40 people were killed in pre- and post election crises in Rivers State. Fueled by the swap of position, (Anarchy is a Minister in the federal government and enjoys federal support, a position Wake held until May 2015), the supremacy battle has continued even in the current dispensation.
The orgy of violence in the February 23 and March 9 elections, and massive involvement of security agencies in the state, and consequent postponement of result collations were some of the vestiges of the war.
Concerned eminent sons of the state, led by Mr. Atedo Peterside, rose to the occasion placed a advert recently titled : “Rivers Lives Also Mater,” where among other things, it condemned the role played by the military in the needles incidents of violence and horror which characterized the February 23 and March 9 elections in the state.
In particular, it said: “we are deeply troubled by the inability of the political leaders in our state to manage their rivalries and differences within acceptable norms of a civilized society as has been done in other states in Nigeria”
It expressed willingness to work with sincere and responsible stakeholders and all genuine friends of Rivers State (who understand and agree that Rivers lives also matter), to find solution to the problems that have bedeviled the state.
Ganduje /Kwankwanso’s rift
The outcome of the just-concluded governorship election in Kano State left no one in doubt about the cold war between the State Governor, Dr. Umar Ganduje of the APC and his predecessor, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso who defected to the PDP last year.
In the controversial election marred by incidents of violence and voter intimidation, PDP’s candidate led with 1,014,474 votes, while APC had secured 987,819 votes. But at the end of the supplementary elections held in 28 local governments on March 23, PDP polled a total of 10,239 votes against 45,876 votes secured by APC to win the state
Ironically, for many years, Ganduje and his predecessor, Dr. Kwankwaso were like Siamese twins. When Ganduje governed the state for eight years, Ganduje was his deputy and provided needed support to ensure his success.
And at the end of Kwankwaso’s tenure as governor and subsequent appointment as Defence Minister, Ganduje became his Special Assistant, while Alhaji Atahiru Bafarawa governed the state. Together, the Kwankwasia movement worked for the election of Ganduje while Kwnakwanso headed for the Senate.
But the defection of the Kano political godfather to the PDP ultimate pitched his against his godson, who in turn, with the support of the national leadership of the APC, contested against the PDP candidate, said to the Kwankwanso’s son in-law, and ensured he kissed the dust.
In the last four years, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara has been at gaggers drawn with the Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Muhammed Adamu, in whose election he played a major role. The sorry situation between the duo culminated in Dogara’s exit from the APC.
Putting his finger on the issue, Dogara in one of his recent interviews said the matter came to a head when three local government chairmen in his constituency, together with some elders of the party, were suspended and queried by the leadership of the party in the state for visiting him in the National Assembly, without the governor’s approval. But the governor attributed the squabble to his objection to the emergence of Dogara as Speaker and supported Femi Gbajabiamila.
Besides the above, several issues cropped up, hence it was not surprising then that Dogara led six parties to unseat Governor Adamu in the March 23 elections, where, shocking enough, some unidentified politicians disrupted election in Dogara’s stronghold for obvious reasons.
But after all prevarications, including a court order obtained by the governor against collation of Tafawa Balewa Local Government results, the PDP candidate and former FCT Minister, Bala Muhammed polled a total 515,113 votes, to defeat his closest rival, Governor Abubakar of the ruling APC who scored 500,625.
Ortom/ Akume face-off
When Dr. Samuel Ortom defected to the APC in 2014, the party’s leader in the state, former governor George Akume, received him with open arms, and immediately gave him the party’s governorship ticket. The alignment led to the defeat of PDP in the state.
However, no sooner Ortom, who built a progressive career from a former bus conductor, driver, NURTW chairman, local government chairman and Minister of State for Aviation assumed office that a relentless face-off between him and Senator Akume ensued. The unprecedented herdsmen attacks of Benue people, against Federal Government’s inaction forced the governor to bid goodbye to APC, and return to his former party.
Governor Ortom kicked out all Akume’s loyalists in his cabinet, retaining four commissioners and seven advisers who were not known to be in any way linked to the former governor. With that the stage was set for a showdown as former friends turned foes, with the minority in the state House of Assembly moving to impeach the governor.
Aligning with former Governor Gabriel Suswan, former Senate President, David Mark and former Interior Minister Abba Moro, Ortom secured a comfortable lead against the APC candidate, Emmanuel Jime, in the March 9 gubernatorial election.
The Benue State Governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been declared winner of the just concluded supplementary governorship election in the state, despite the cancellation of polls in 204 polling units in 22 local governments, which had a total of 121,299 registered voters. Ortom polled a total of 434,473 votes, against Jime’s 345,155. But the war is still underway.
While the battle shifts to courts, on the one hand, observers wonder how long this will last, or whether the gladiators will bury the hatchet in the interest of their respective states, or they will sustain the battle in a do-or-die affair.
In other climes, politicians who were driven by patriotic fervor are mending fences. After the 2017 general election in Kenya, which returned President Uhuru Kenyatta as President, in a repeat election boycotted by the opposition, the candidates towed the path of peace.
Leading the other three, Raila Odinga, Josepgh Nyagah and Abduda Dida, Kenyata declared: “Never again shall the blood of any Kenyan be shed because of an election.” Watching Kenyan opposition leader, Odinga and the rest making that commitment on a podium, after the country’s general elections brought tears down the cheeks of many Africans.
But beyond that, the statesmanship and nationalism displayed by the quartet, who, looking back into the country’s history of political violence said “when did it start raining on us?” opened a new vista of hope and self-discovery among the leaders.
The hugged, kissed and apologised to one another, saying ‘I’m sorry my brother for everything I said against you during the elections,” ending it with the Swahili greeting, “Asante Sana’ (thank you).
The last elections have been adjudged as some of the most violent in the past decade. But will the current crop of Nigerian politicians take a cue from that or sustain their current sponsor of thugs, insults, character assassination, vilification and even murder and tow the path of reconciliation in the general interest of their respective states.