By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Events that shaped the political landscape in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, in the last two weeks, are apt for a blockbuster. Yes, as the dramatic persona, including top-raking politicians from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PD) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), soldiers, lawmakers and judicial workers took their epic performance to hotels, clubs, courtrooms and the streets of Yola.
The mission was clear and the goal unmistakable: Get the common foe, Murtala Hammanyero Nyako, out of the Government House and replace him with one of their own.
Nyako, who retired as an Admiral from the Nigerian Navy and had held fort as the Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff before going into full time commercial farming, can be said to be the architect of his own misfortune.
Baba Mai Mangoro, a coinage from the fact that he remains the highest and most successful mango farmer in Nigeria, must have unwittingly boxed himself into the political doldrums that he’s currently battling to extricate himself. Nyako is the one who plunged himself from his exalted comfort zone to the current nauseating dilemma that may suddenly sweep him off the political radar into oblivion.
Although the governor has fought many battles and still nurses a scar of the Nigerian civil war on his leg, he has displayed tactless optimism in the way he has played politics with his fellow compatriots, among them ravenous hawks, traitors posing as friends in the corridors of power, and above all, his tactless decision to jump ship from his former party (the PDP) to the APC last December.
Of all the atrocities that he is deemed to have committed, the single act of crossing from the PDP to the APC appears to have been his greatest ruination, opening the flanks for his opponents to attack him from all fronts. Even though those who are close to Nyako readily justify his exit from the PDP to the APC, given the irreconcilable differences between him and the former National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, others, who understand the situation better, believe his action was more of a shot on the foot.
They argue that it would have been a wise political undertaking for him to remain in the PDP and confront his adversaries with his army of foot soldiers both in the House of Assembly and the party than to jump ship and float alone as a leper.
According to those who really understand the politics of the state, it was immature for Nyako to have left the PDP for the APC leaving behind his deputy, James Bala Ngilari, and virtually all the state lawmakers in the PDP.
It is that political indiscretion by the governor that his avowed political enemies have carefully exploited to, not only cage Nyako but have also successfully exploit to get an upper hand in the move to send him packing from the Government House only a year to the end of the administration.
Beyond the miscalculation by Nyako, he is accused of not carrying along all the political actors in the state and not very enthusiastic in paying ‘gratis’ to those who matter in the state politics. One source painted a scenario that has come back to haunt Nyako as a plague. He is said to have rejected all entreaties to pay a once-off huge sum of money to members of the state House of Assembly or grant them self-accounting status as what obtains in many assemblies in the country so as to enjoy lasting peace with the members but he bluntly refused, arguing that the state did not have such amount to spend on a particular set of people.
Separating state from family
Nyako was actively presiding over a state, whose legislators were constantly ‘starved’ of all the freebies that their counterparts from other states take for granted. He might as well been incurring the wrath of his political opponents by not separating members of his family from the affairs of the state, thereby inadvertently playing into their hands.
The governor’s cup became full last week when the Adamawa lawmakers, who had perfected their plans to remove him from office through impeachment for sundry offences, some not worth bearing, raised a seven-man panel to probe his administration.
Apart from raising 20 strong allegations of misdeeds against Nyako, the House of Assembly members refused to budge when the court ruled that they should personally serve the governor the impeachment notice instead of doing so through substituted means, which the Supreme Court had decidedly cited as non-service in two clear cases.
The acting Chief Judge, Ambrose Mammadi, had told the lawmakers that they either complied with his order to serve the governor and his deputy as stipulated by law or be ready to face his wrath by the time they would want him to raise an investigative panel against the governor and his deputy. But it was a stunning volta-face, penultimate Friday, when the same judge inexplicably caused to be announced on public radio and television stations the names of seven persons to probe the governor without waiting for them to personally serve the governor.
Since the committee came into existence, many dramatic events have continued to be unfolded in its bid to get cracking with its assignment. First hurdle on its path was the inability to secure a safe venue to conduct its affairs. Under a tight security provided by armed soldiers, who also provided unsolicited protection to the acting CJ Mammadi until he had set up the committee, the men sat in the comfort arena of the J and J Hotel, Yola for only a day.
The owners raised the alarm on the second day that its fortunes were dwindling as a result of the unusual heavy presence of armed soldiers. The members were left with no option than to relocate. Leaving the hotel was easier than securing another facility for its meeting following the seeming resentment that the committee was getting from the people, as they began to suspect that the military was being deployed to stampede the House of Assembly and the CJ to evict Nyako from the Government House.
That might largely explain why it became difficult for the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, the Nigeria Union of Teachers and many other groups to open their offices for the probe panelists to conduct their affairs. One after the other, the groups rejected offers from the House of Assembly for them to accommodate the panelists and the resentment seemed to surge as the days went by.
Plea for mercy
Whether the investigating panel will be fair to Nyako or not, the mindset of his political opponents is that he should go down fast and forever. Nyako, looking forlorn like an orphan abandoned by its foster parents, is not, however, lying low. Already left in the cold by those who had once stood by him and even passed a vote of confidence on him when they were expected to ditch him, Nyako is beginning to rethink some of his past deeds and perhaps make amends, as the clock ticks for his ouster.
Last Monday, he was reported to have visited President Goodluck Jonathan with two former heads of state to plead for mercy but the meeting did not turn out well in his favour as the president reportedly gave the visitors an impossible condition for the governor to fulfill. Jonathan, who is still nursing the wounds inflicted on him by Nyako’s repugnant letter to northern governors accusing him of committing genocide in the region in the name of fighting terrorism, asked him to first withdraw the offensive correspondence and publicly apologise to him or be ready to go down.
Although feeling the heat of the ongoing impeachment process, the former naval chief, bluntly told Jonathan, he was ready to resign rather than recant his missive. But he is reported to have made some overtures to the members of the House of Assembly, who once had a good time with him and enjoyed his fatherly support in many ways before parting ways.
As part of the effort to find a truce and stand down the impeachment, the governor held series of meetings with some of the lawmakers in Abuja for most part of last week before returning to Yola on Thursday morning. Although he did not win the support of all the members to withdraw their support for his impeachment, he, however, got some ray of hope after the parley, which reviewed some of the issues that gave rise to the impeachment and what should be done to bring about peace.
Apparently out of the seeming light at the end of the tunnel, Nyako rushed to Yola and immediately inaugurated the chairmen and secretaries of 37 Development Area Authorities, DAA, which had been set up several years back but did not have heads to run them.
The non-inauguration of the officials, most of who were selected by lawmakers, formed part of the sore points between Nyako and the House of Assembly.
The embattled governor may come out of the murky water with some scars that may make him wiser as a politician and begin to learn how to relate better with fellow compatriots. He may also have a leeway because those who packaged the impeachment with some hope of achieving higher rewards may not after all be so lucky to go home with any laurel.
The Speaker, Ahmadu Fintiri, who hails from the same Magadali Local Government Area with the Deputy Governor, Bala Ngilari, might have discovered late in the day that the forces in Abuja would not allow the deputy governor to be swept away with Nyako and pave the way for him to take over as the governor.
If Nyako does not go down with Ngilari, it also means that Fintiri will have to step down as Speaker once Ngilari takes over as governor as two of them from same LGA cannot hold court as governor and speaker at the same time.
Similarly, it has become clear to the traditional rulers that easing out the Adamawa governor could spell doom for the entire state, which has been on the edge of ethno-religious tensions for some time. For that reason, the eight first class royal fathers met, on Tuesday, asked the aggrieved lawmakers to take it easy with Nyako. They did not ask them to go ahead with the impeachment or not.
As the gloom rises over Nyako’s head, the PDP issued a statement, commending the lawmakers for taking the step to impeach the governor and pave the way for one of its own to take over the reins of governance. Whether Nyako succeeds to ward off the raging storm against him or not, it will be written in history someday that he came, saw but did not successfully conquer because of the haste with which he jumped ship and treated serious political issues as if he was merely feeding his cows or tending his mango farm, which has fetched him both fortune and fame at home and abroad.