Monday Discourse 204
Goje, Muazu and Yuguda are Guilty
This article has a small history. My attention was drawn to events and comments on the growing culture of violence in the politics of the Northeastern part of this country. For the first time in my history as a writer, I was confronted with indecision arising from the fear of being misunderstood. Yet, I feel that the spirit of this column must be maintained. Identity is one of the things that I learnt from al-Mutanabbi. While he ascribed to his mentor the tradition of inflicting injury in war, this column has in the past six years maintained the tradition of frankness in its analysis of events and phenomenon. I will only appeal to the three people mentioned in this article to look at it from the same constructive perspective from which I wrote it.
Muhammed Danjuma Goje is the present Governor of Gombe State, the smallest in the Northeast zone. He is serving his first tenure, and hoping to continue with the second in 2007. Like Governors before him, it is clear that he is ready to deploy any means, especially violence, to secure the second tenure.
He has consistently found violence profitable in his political career. He used it to ascend to power and maintain it. I lamented his appointment as a governor because I disliked the violence-loving image he carved for himself before the election. After learning about the level of violence he used to ‘win’ the 2003 ‘election’, I declared that Gombe will witness the institutionalisation of violence in its politics. It is unfortunate that my prediction came true. The present gang, yan kalare, which all reports are accusing him of maintaining, were his foot soldiers in the run up to the 2002 PDP convention and 2003 elections.
The essential problem with Goje, as with many of his counterparts, is not even 2007, but space. They do not want to share the political space with anyone. They want to dominate every place and everybody. They cannot accommodate anybody other than their selves. They are tyrannical. Their ego is too inflated to engage in reasonable dialogue with anyone who shows the faintest capacity to occupy a little space in the large room of opinion and politics. Their eyes can see only two colours, black and white. Hardly can you convince them that colours are in shades and that the hallmark of nature is variety. The only vocabulary they know is intimidation, humiliation and elimination.
In Goje we find the practical expression of the above theory of political space monopoly. We learnt how he brazenly told a serving minister at a wedding ceremony in the palace of Nafada to leave because he will not share the same room with him. Ordinarily, etiquettes of a good politician in the station of the governor will command him to receive the minister whenever he is in his home state as his guest and even be seen to attend ceremonies and festivities together. By drawing your opponent closer, you become aware of his thought and what he is up to such you can easily disarm him with your large heart, as al-Mutanabbi and Machiavelli would advise. The noble, according to al-Mutanabbi, is humbled by generosity. This is the route of constructive engagement. It has a tremendous advantage not only to the incumbent, but also to the political kinetics of the state. It cools the political atmosphere, enhances development, cultivates civilization, and deals away with violence and unnecessary agitation.
The pedestrian route of violence only returns us to the primitive stage of survival through aggression. A governor who takes this route soon finds himself at the mercy of the coercive forces he built. And this is the obvious position of the yan kalare vis-à-vis Goje. Of the two other PDP potential gubernatorial candidates in Gombe – the present minister, Musa Muhammed, and the former one, Murtala Aliyu – none is known to keep any gang of thugs. While the former, being a retired colonel, has been trained in the good manners of soldiering, the latter, given his academic professional experience, is more given to civilisation than to primitivism.
The yan kalare terrorist group are therefore relevant only in the political equation of Goje. They have become a pest that extorts money from allies, physically terrorise perceived opponents, and inflict injury on enemies. If it were not for the protection which the minister enjoys from the police and security personnel on that fateful day, this gang would have physically removed him from the room as they attempted, to the astonishment of other guests but to the delight of the governor. They once succeeded in turning over the podium on which Murtala Aliyu was speaking at a PDP rally before the primaries in 2002. And during the elections, the violence they inflicted on people has no precedence in the political history of the Northeast. It was this mastery of violence which combined with the interference of the Vice President that promoted Goje into power on 4-19, 2003.
Though we agree that he has the legitimate right to seek for a second term, we advise him to shun violence. Rather, the state has put at his disposal the constitutional apparatus for deterrence and coercion – the police, the state security service and the courts – which can be deployed whenever his life is at risk or when public peace is threatened. These instruments are enough to protect any incumbent whose motive is not ulterior. Abandoning legitimate instruments of state control and deploying agents of anarchy is the best sign of primitivism and failure of the individual politician to meet the threshold of tolerance that is the stamp of civilised people.
Unlike Murtala Aliyu and Musa Mohammed who resisted the temptation to recruit violence as instruments of political security and consolidation, Alhaji Isa Yuguda – the high profile ex-Minister of Aviation and aspirant for the governorship position of Bauchi State, has bought the pedestrian logic of hooliganism, something very antithetical to his soft, amiable demeanour. I think he was lured into this trap by a conglomerate of three interest groups: those who are not favourably disposed to Governor Muazu; those who Muazu is not favourably disposed to, especially on the issue of succession; and supporters of Atiku in Bauchi state.
The three groups have found in the former minister the grudge, the profile, the money and the ambition to volunteer as the cover from behind which they will hide to pelt Muazu and his favourites. Other than this, Yuguda, whom I met only once in my life – incidentally in Muazu’s parlour when the going between them was good – is one of the finest people I have ever seen, just like his intimate friend, Ahmadu Adamu Muazu.
I am particularly not happy to see how Yuguda has camped with politicians that are not better than the thugs they are hiring and who have a pathological hatred for Muazu. According to ancient Arab poet, Zuhair, the character of one’s friends is the surest way of knowing his character. Unless he withdraws his association with them, we will soon witness the formation of “Yuguda the thug. And For Yuguda to recruit, directly or through his associates, the services of political thugs is certainly a miscalculation and something that is surely not in his character. He has the opportunity to revert to his amicable disposition as quick as possible.
Everybody could be in his shoes, though. Here is a graduate who rose to the position of Managing Director of a reputable bank. Then he was nominated to a ministerial position by a governor together with whom he has lived through thin and thick politically and economically. He served as a minister for five years, perhaps the longest serving in the Obasanjo cabinet. Then the end came, and as usual someone is to blame. To this point everything is certain. However, in the remainder of the story, it is difficult to separate the chaff from the grain in the narration of either Muazu or Yuguda, for politicians are like quarrelling women in a polygamous house. Each will tell only the half of the story that will project her innocence in the quarrel, concealing the other half in which she is guilty. No one wants to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Therefore, we have no option but to believe both sides,
On the side of Yuguda, he is saying Muazu, the incumbent governor of his state, is after his life, after being instrumental to his sacking as a Minister. He does not like him to become prominent or vie for the governorship position that Muazu is vacating next year. This charge against Muazu is widespread, though if it were true in the case of Yuguda, Muazu would not have nominated him to the ministerial position in the first place. Yuguda claims to see the hands of Muazu in his removal as Minister and his replacement by a subservient cabinet member of the Muazu administration.
The bitterness of his removal and the grudges he holds for the perceived forces behind it, chief among them Muazu, has made Yuguda to walk away from the Governor. The two, who until a year were the best of friends you can imagine, have not seen each other since the sacking of Yuguda as Minister of Aviation last year. And with separation, the Prophet said, there is pain. It is this pain, which essentially arises from their separation, which has found expression in their mutual antagonism. This is a case of a former husband who divorced, or was divorced by his favourite wife.
Back from Abuja, Yuguda found allies already among people who were not favourably disposed to Muazu as well as those whom Muazu is not favourably disposed to them. If I were Yuguda I would seek to give the people of Bauchi State an alternative to hooliganism. I will appeal to their conscience by addressing issues and articulating better positions. I will drag Muazu into a public debate on his performance and on anything I think he did in office which is not credible. To take the alternative route, violence, by deploying thugs for any purpose deflates his personality as a gentleman. This leads to tension and very deadly mistakes as we have seen in the Azare episode where both Yuguda and Muazu performed below my expectation.
The Muazu version of that scenario was that the governor’s convoy were attacked by thugs hired, of course, by Yuguda. The independent mind may not believe this completely unless it is assured that Yuguda is the only opponent of Muazu in the state. After subduing the thugs, Muazu, according to Yuguda camp, ordered the killing of Yuguda. This too, as I said before, is difficult to ascertain. What is true here are two things: one, the governor’s convoy was attacked before they entered Azare by a group of thugs, and, two, later, Yuguda was attacked in the house of a friend where he was resting in Azare town. The witch cried last night and the child died today. It is left to the reader to figure out whose camp hired which thugs. When the details are put together, however, both parties are liable in the deployment of thuggery, or at least in supporting it. It is in this context that we find them guilty. That people loyal to Yuguda were arrested gives us only a partial picture of the culpability of the parties. They are the natural targets of the police. The thugs supporting Muazu are not expected to be arrested, at least in Nigeria, or as long as he is in power.
Resorting to violence will surely harm Yuguda more than Muazu, given the incumbency position of the latter. The best for Yuguda, therefore, is to deploy reason as the chief tool for irritating Muazu, not violence which Muazu as an incumbent governor has the capacity to deploy many times better. Muazu also has resources at his disposal which he can use to buy over the thugs in Yuguda’s camp, leaving him more vulnerable, miserable and inconsequential.
Muazu will earn part of my blame for the political violence in the state for three reasons. First and foremost, he is the incumbent governor. At his disposal are state resources and personnel he can use to ensure his safety and the prevalence of peace. Using them, he can handle Yuguda in several ways without firing a single shot or shedding a drop of blood.
If Yuguda has resorted to violence as the Muazu camp claims, then Muazu should deploy constitutional means of handling him. Take for instance the Azare episode. The Governor is supposed to allow enough time for security agents and the police to survey every path he will take and give him the clearance for safety passage. Once they are given enough notice on the trip, they will do it diligently because it is their job. It is undeserving of a state governor to advance into a group of thugs, whom he knew were waiting for him, exchange fire with them, and so on. There is a fundamental security flaw here. I have noticed that politicians, regardless of their positions, make themselves vulnerable because they hate submitting themselves to routines of organisational behaviour.
The response of Muazu to the attack was more disastrous. Muazu will swear by his honour that he never ordered the attack on Yuguda, in Azare or anywhere else. That is expected. But Yuguda was attacked in Azare, by the account of almost everybody who visited Azare that day. And whose supporters would have done it? Certainly he was attacked by the supporters of Muazu, though they might not have done so under his direct order. Here, Muazu carries a vicarious liability. If he had never supported any thug since he came to power six and a half years ago, thuggery would have become too unprofitable in the state for any one to engage in. But when politicians are patronised based on their capacity to foment trouble, then little is left for people of decorum, and nothing, certainly, for people of peace, merit, and civilisation. Thus, violence gains currency and becomes vicious, each action justifying its reaction, and so on.
Second, Muazu should have by this time gathered enough experience in the period of political growth that will enable him tackle opposition with the dexterity which his office commands. At the back of his mind, he should always remember that he is not only Muazu, but also the Governor of Bauchi State. Some things may be allowed Yuguda, and forbidden to him, by virtue of his office.
Third, Muazu has a higher ambition than governorship. He would want to become a Senator or the President, as many of his counterparts. He cannot deny this because he is finishing his second tenure and he has not intimated anyone that he will retire from politics. Yuguda, on the other hand, is at best aiming to be a governor. So there is no conflict in the primary zones of their ambitions as politicians. Muazu knows very well that without his effort, there are other factors that make Yuguda one of the most unlikely candidates to succeed him. So why the fuss about this Yuguda since he is at best only an irritant, as far as the equation of 2007 in Bauchi State is concerned?
Fourth, I will be disappointed with my friend Muazu if he does take a ride to Yuguda’s house and meet him eye ball to eye ball, ke-ke da ke-ke, and sort out things as old friends. Let them travel back on the memory lane to their good old days, when they used to connive and determine the outcome of Inland Bank’s board meetings, when they used to go out together for social causes, when one of them helped the other to become the MD of the bank while the beneficiary helped back with loans and campaign funds for the other to win a gubernatorial election; after winning this other paid back with a ministerial nomination. etc. It is a symbiotic chain. Let the two, for old times sake sit as men, with courage and face each other. I don’t know Yuguda much, but I can write a book on Muazu. He is courageous and I have thrown the challenge at him. To win my heart for the presidency, this is the first test he must pass.
In the concluding part of this article, I will appeal to the tshree to please burry their machetes. Let them all understand that civilisation means tolerance and due process of law. It is the height of injustice for anyone to bruise our conscience by deploying violence to achieve his political ambition. Bauchi State for example produced the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, the owner of the golden voice that was never heard speaking even a foul language against his political opponents. If the present politicians lack his substance, they should not use the resources they illegitimately acquired to destroy our society. And I find no better way of destroying a society than making it insecure or using its youth to perpetrate violence after smoking Indian hemp and rubber solution. Merciless politicians are recruiting the children of others to do this nasty job, while their own children are busy studying in universities at home and overseas. This injustice must stop.
Goje, Muazu and Yuguda need to reform themselves. They must understand that violence begets violence. It boomerangs and consumes its sponsor. We have seen this several times. They must embrace peaceful means in dealing with opposition or when seeking office. All of them are graduates, and we expect that they behave in a civilised manner that allows for sharing of the political space through dialogue and mutual respect. Finally, they must listen to al-Mutanabbi, who once said, “Whoever deploys a lion as his hunting bird, the lion will (one day) hunt him among his prey.”