By Femi Aribisala
VIce-Admiral Murtala Nyako is the Governor of Adamawa State. He was once Governor of Niger State. He was formerly Chief of Naval Staff of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was also formerly Deputy Chief of Defense Staff. All this suggests he is a man with enough pedigree to occupy the highest echelons of government in Nigeria. However, his memo to the Northern States Governors’ Forum of April 16, 2014 and his other recent public pronouncements now indicate otherwise. Going by these, Nyako is no longer fit to be governor of Adamawa State, or any state in Nigeria for that matter.
In his memo, Nyako redefined Nigeria, creating a new country out of it which he referred to as “the North.” Therefore, he addressed his broadside to “Fellow Governors and Citizens of the North.” Nyako insists: “Northern Nigeria is on its own.” But we may well ask the governor when the North became a country by itself. Having conferred statehood on the North, Nyako asks his Northern compatriots: “should we not… consider a declaration of Northern Nigerian Amnesty to the culprits (of the Northern insurgency) and consequently squarely address all other matters connected with the Amnesty and Boko-Haram syndrome?”
In effect, Nyako usurps the prerogatives of the Federal Government and attributes them to the Northern country of his creation. He then presents the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a mortal enemy of this so-called Northern country. His position is that the Jonathan administration: “is bent on bringing wars in the North between Muslim and Christians and within them and between one ethnic group and another or others in various communities in the region.”
In detailing some of his unsubstantiated alleged atrocities committed by the Nigerian government against his Northern country, Nyako says: “There have been attempts to assassinate the Senate President (Northerner) in Imo State, two Executive Governors of States in the North (the Governor of Benue State and my humble self), two of our most prominent Traditional leaders (Shehu of Borno and the Emir of Kano), Senators and others too numerous to mention, all from Northern Nigeria.” These alleged assassination attempts are all laid at the doorstep of the Federal Government.
Phantom Boko Haram: Nyako maintains the Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria is bogus. He describes the terrorist activities in the North as: “induced calamity by the Federal Administration.” He even goes as far as deny the very existence of the Boko Haram itself. He refers to the terrorist group as the “so-called Boko-Haram” and insists they are a “phantom,” meaning they don’t exist.
Therefore, he argues that many of the explosions in the North attributed to the Boko Haram are fabricated by the Nigerian government.
Nyako declares the Boko Haram innocent and the Federal Government guilty. Hear him: “We no longer accept let alone believe that our prominent Mallams in the Mosques in Kano and Zaria have been killed by ‘innocent’ Boko-Haram members or Christians in the North, nor do we believe that the killing of the Pastor and other worshippers in the Christ Apostolic Church in Jimeta-Yola was done by any Muslim or Boko-Haram members.”
Who then are the perpetrators of these atrocities? It is the Nigerian government, according to Nyako. He insists these incidents are orchestrated by “the Hitler-like evil-mindedness” of the government of President Jonathan. Says Nyako: “the Administration has hired militia from all across especially North Africa who have been deceived into accepting to come because they were made to believe that they would be fighting infidels.” “Fulani communities in parts of the North who have been in their locations for over 100 years are now being raided and uprooted by paid killers within the Nigerian Army for the satisfaction of the Federal administration.”
Nyako says furthermore: “It is a well-known fact that virtually all the soldiers of Northern Nigerian origin recently recruited to fight Boko-Haram have been deceived in that aspect. They are being poorly trained, totally ill-equipped, given only uniform and are killed by their trainers in Nigerian Army training centres as soon as they arrive in the Nigerian Army camps being used by so-called Boko-Haram insurgents.” He alleges the government “deliberately recruited murderers embedded in our traditional Defence and Security forces/organisation.” As a result, he says “virtually all the Nigerian Army soldiers killed/murdered in these operations so far are of Northern Nigerian origin.”
Murtala Nyako is an angry and a dangerous man. He is one of those Northerners who have been threatening that if Jonathan runs for re-election there would be civil war in Nigeria. He now seems to be upping the ante by trying to provoke civil strife. In a press briefing entitled “Govenor Murtala Nyako: Desperate Agent of Destabilization,” a coalition of Northern civil-society organisations, including the Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice, Transparency Centre Network, Northern Emancipation Network, and Arewa Transformation Advocacy Movement, took great exception to the governor’s incendiary statement.
They said: “By accusing the Federal Government headed by a Christian from the Southern part of the country of the grave crime of promoting and sponsoring genocide, Nyako’s memo was patently intended to be a call to arms by the Muslim population in the Northern part of the country.
He also said President Goodluck Jonathan was from the same South Eastern part of the country who during the early 1960s, joined hands to kill sons of the North, including their revered leader, the ‘Sardauna’, an issue many have interpreted to mean that Governor Nyako is trying to instigate a civil war.”
If Nyako had not been a governor, and thereby protected from arrest and prosecution under the immunity clause of the Constitution, it would have been necessary to arrest and prosecute him for his memo, especially since he is unable and unprepared to substantiate his allegations.
I met the governor many years ago at a conference in NIPSS, Kuru. He made a big impression on me then. The “young Turk” Nyako that I remember was “an officer and a gentleman.” He was extremely intelligent, highly articulate and very forthright in expressing his views. Something seems to have gone wrong with him somewhere. His memo is more than an error of judgment. It is a letter written by a closet-enemy of Nigeria; a sectionalist as opposed to a citizen of Nigeria. In many regards, it is a treasonable document designed to divide the country along regional and ethnic lines and to incite Northerners against the Federal Government.
Nyako’s call-to-arms against the Jonathan administration has found no takers. Instead, he has been roundly condemned by all and sundry, including the expanded meeting of the nation’s Security Council. As a result, Nyako has had a 365 degree somersault, now describing President Jonathan as “a superb leader.” However, Nyako should not just be given a slap on the wrist. He should be removed as governor of Adamawa State. Should he remain as governor, he will constitute a clog in the wheel of the security operations in the state. As it is, the military can no longer trust the governor. Neither can they expect his cooperation after this kind of invective.
The Adamawa State legislature could do the state and country a favour by impeaching the mischievous governor. Barring that, the president should remove Nyako under the emergency rule proclaimed in the state and a military administrator should be appointed to replace him.
Section 305(c) of the 1999 Constitution empowers the President to take recourse to ‘extraordinary measures to restore peace and security’ where there is ‘breakdown of public order and public safety.’ Under that provision, the governors of Ekiti and Plateau states were relieved of their positions under President Obasanjo.
Northern cop-out: Certain elements in the North promised that if a Northerner was not elected president in 2011, they would make Nigeria ungovernable. Well, Nigeria has not become ungovernable, but certain parts of the North have become ungovernable. In short, the threat of some Northerners has backfired. Whatever kind of limited insurgency they sought to promote against the Jonathan administration out of disenchantment that a non-Northerner from the South-South is now president of Nigeria has gone out of control.
A statement credited to Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State in this regard is very telling. At a one-day general meeting on the security situation in the North held in Kaduna, the Governor said: “The situation has gone beyond the normal pattern that we gave to Boko Haram and I think we need to really appreciate the gravity of the situation.” This implies that, at one stage, the Boko Haram and certain elements in the North were in cahoots. Indeed, a spokesman of the Boko Haram once alleged that they used to be on the monthly payroll of Northern governors. Instead of decrying the murderous activities of the insurgents, some Northern elements like the NEF have been attacking the government forces fighting against them.
President Jonathan is responsible for bringing Northern insurgency under control. However, it is people like Nyako, a two-time governor of two Northern states, who are responsible for the emergence of the insurgency in the first place. Boko Haram apparently means “Western education is a sin.” If Northern leaders had paid more attention to the education of the people as opposed to their pockets, the insurgents would not be so incensed against education. But while governments in the South were promoting free and universal education, whole swathes of Northern youth were allowed to languish and wallow in poverty and neglect.
Limits of opposition
Governor Nyako is an example of those Northerners who are implacably opposed to a Southerner being president. This opposition has reached such level that some are even prepared to politicise the nation’s security and to use it to score points. Even more ominous is the determination of these people that they would rather have a divided Nigeria than have a Southern president. This position should not be tolerated. People like Murtala Nyako are dangerous for this country. They should not be treated with kids’ gloves.