In the build up to the 2015 elections, the lot fell on me to address a political rally in Wukari, Taraba State. A prominent national politician was originally billed to do the job but he was busy with something else more important so he delegated me.
As an amateur politician, I thought I did my best. The focus of my message to the assembled crowd was that they should vote for General Muhammadu Buhari who was a presidential candidate of the APC. I recalled my knowledge of him as a news reporter in 1983 when as the GOC in Jos, he chased some renegade Chadian soldiers who invaded Nigeria and also in 1984 when he swiftly put down the Maitastine insurgency in Yola the Gonogola State capital as a military Head of State.
I told the crowd that as a reporter, I had covered both events for the New Nigerian newspapers and I was sure Buhari was better placed than Goodluck Jonathan to tackle the insurgency in the North East which had become a regional, national and international embarrassment.
Sadly, the crowd did not respond favorably to my spontaneous oratory. Where I expected cheers, I was greeted with jeers. My speech got the wrong mood of the crowd. As a Christian, talking to a predominantly Christian audience, they expected me to speak in support of a fellow Christian – Goodluck Jonathan who was in the race against a Muslim- Muhammadu Buhari. In my naivety as an inexperienced politician, I based my argument not on religious sentiment but competence to handle security matters.
The security situation in Wukari at the time of my speech was rather perilous. Clashes between herdsmen and sedentary farmers in the hinterland surrounding the town had snowballed into major confrontations in the town itself. In the past two decades or so, Wukari had gained its fame from the ethnic wars between the Tiv and the Jukun. But by 2014, the story had changed; it was no longer ethnic conflict but religious.
The fight between herdsmen and sedentary farmers heightened religious tension in the town. It became a fight between Muslims and Christians. At the time of my speech, Wukari had stopped burning because having reduced the whole town to rubbles, there was really nothing more to burn. For a Christian to mount the soapbox under such an atmosphere to drum up support for a Muslim was considered heresy by my largely Christian audience.
I was lucky to escape without any harm. My father was not so lucky in his days. In 1960, when he had tried to drum up support for his political hero at our ancestral village of Shagu in the precincts of Wukari, he paid dearly for it. He mounted the improvised podium made up of a market table and bellowed “Tarka, Tarka, Tarka” in an effort to warm up the small crowd at the market for his lecture. Suddenly the ubiquitous Native Authority Police appeared and violently pushed him down from the ‘podium’.
Those of us watching were shocked. As a professional teacher, my father was always impeccably attired in the accoutrements of an English gentleman. When he moved, his steps were measured and calculated. But the Native Authority Policemen who proceeded to put him under arrest after violently attacking him on the podium had no time for all these niceties. As they marched him to the home of the local judge, the alkali, those of us who followed could see that their sense of speed was not in accord with my old man’s sense of dignity.
By the time we got to the alkali’s house, the Native Authority Policemen proudly announced to him that that they had arrested the troublemaker. The alkali was then having his bath and from the comfort of his bathroom came the damning judgment which sentenced my father to six months imprisonment. From the way he pronounced it, it was as if his bath would take him six months because he promised to look into the case after he finished taking his bath.
You can now see why I was lucky to have gotten away with only jeers in my pro Buhari speech in 2014 in Wukari.
At the 2015 presidential elections, Muhammadu Buhari had a resounding victory regardless of the hostile reaction I experienced at Wukari. I was happy he won, hoping he was going to tackle the insecurity problems as I tried to convince my hostile crowd in my ill-fated lecture. In my enthusiasm, I sent frantic messages to my friend Ahmed Salkida who had fled into exile after constant harassment from security agencies. I told him to come back home, a more responsible group had taken over, he should come and help Nigeria out of the Boko Haram scourge – his field of expertise.
Eventually, Ahmed Salkida came back to Nigeria and after meetings with the DSS came to brief me. I still remember his exacts words ringing in my disturbed ear that morning at a secret meeting point in a decrepit mechanic workshop. In response to my question on how he found the mental status of the security men this time as compared to the Goodluck Jonathan era, he simply replied: “Oga, nothing has changed”. He left me cold.
My little knowledge of the fight against internal insurgency is that a lot depends on intelligence gathering. Ahmed Salkida had and still has a throve of information that could be useful. Tragically, our security agencies in the Jonathan era frustrated, bullied and drove him into exile; and under Buhari, the government that advertised itself as the agent of change, here was Salkida telling me that nothing has changed.
The vortex of this monumental failure in intelligence gathering under President Buhari is to be found in Lawal Daura, his preferred spymaster. I have said it on several occasions on this page that President Buhari, my preferred candidate in the 2015 elections is poorly served.
When President Buhari nominated the name of Magu to the Senate for confirmation as substantive Chairman of the EFCC, Daura countered with a damning report against the preferred candidate of the president – not once but twice. Amazingly, the President Commander in Chief allowed Daura to stay in office and continue contradicting him.
Not only was Daura satisfied with contradicting his employer in the executive branch, he moved over to wage war on the Judiciary; he sent hooded armed operatives to invade the homes of judges, some of them of the apex court in the wee hours of the night. These were things that we used to hear Idi Amin Dada do in Uganda in the 70’s. We used to say then that such things will never happen in Nigeria. Thanks to Daura, Buhari’s spy master, we are witnesses to it today.
Having overpowered the president in the executive branch over Magu’s appointment, invaded the judiciary at midnight night and disobeyed court orders, the dream to complete the capture of the whole federal government with an attack on the legislature was only a matter of time to become a reality.
The news about the Daura saga of last week is not that the all-powerful spymaster of President Buhari was sacked. It is that it took so long to kick him out. President Buhari should have known that his spymaster was nothing but a quack. [myad]