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Isa Yuguda: The serial opportunist’s burden

Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
ISA Yuguda, the Bauchi State governor, seems to be angry! So angry that he decided to do what amounts to a grand Northern regional version of “apostacy”. Isa’s grand posturing is related to the crisis within the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.

He says that he will not attend the regional forum again, until “anyone of his colleagues publicly admits that he breached the agreement to adopt Da Jonah Jang as the consensus Northern candidate”.

Yuguda told DAILY TRUST, as reported on Monday, June 3, 2013: “I don’t see any reason why I should attend the Northern Governors’ meeting again. Yes! If that is what we will do, I am not going to be part of it. For the remaining two years of my tenure I will not be part of the Northern Governors’ Forum”. What could have irritated Yuguda so much to take that extreme decision?

Extreme decision

It was apparently the rumour making the rounds that Yuguda was one of the governors who voted against Jonah Jang, even when he had previously been adopted as the Northern consensus candidate to face ChibuikeAmaechi. As the whole world knows, Jonah Jang was defeated in the election.

Yuguda is very angry that he was apparently found out to have voted against Jang; or had somehow become contrite or was actually on Jang’s side from the beginning, because Jang was Goodluck Jonathan’s candidate.

Yuguda would not be caught dead or alive doing anything that Jonathan could frown at. But for all who know Yuguda, his Jonathan-for-life posture is actually a grand expression of opportunism; the opportunism that the master opportunist himself alone can muster! Once upon a time, during the reign of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, there was a troika which ruled the roost at the Aso Villa: Isa Yuguda, Bukola Saraki and James Ibori.

The troika was larger than life! Yuguda’s route to prominence inYar’Adua’s Aso Villa was the hurriedly arranged marriage to Yar’Adua’s daughter. There is a story that might possibly be apocryphal, but was indicative of those times.

It was said that then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan once sent an emissary to Yuguda to find out if he, Jonathan, had offended Yuguda, the “first son-in-law”.

It was said that he would ignore or refuse outright, to acknowledge greetings from the Vice President.

It was also the time that Ibori and his tag team brother, Bukola Saraki were responsible for many of the appointments to juicy positions in Nigeria! Then the president died and the man they used to ignore became president of Nigeria. Yuguda was better than most at doing a volte-face.

He became the most grovelling defender of the Jonathan hegemony. It is as if such grovelling posture can erase the arrogance of the past; and Yuguda is making a good show of the new posture. The latest quixotic tilting at the windmills of principle is so out of place, because no serious person identifies Yuguda’s politics with principles! No way.

Yuguda is the archetypal serial opportunist in the Nigerian political space. He had decamped to the ANPP in the lead to the 2007 elections, when his former friend, Adamu Muazu, then Bauchi governor, squeezed him out of the PDP governorship race.

The brazen effort to deny Yuguda his right to run, angered people in Bauchi, all over the North and the country. By decamping to the ANPP, he was literally running on autopilot to governorship because there was the over-riding General Muhammadu Buhari’s factor.

Yuguda milked that fully and once he won the governorship election, the man turned his back against Buhari and the ANPP and not only that, he forced every other person elected on the ANPP to join him in his return to the PDP.

That pressure to decamp to the PDP was resisted by his deputy; and the old man was promptly thrown out of office! To underline his newfound loyalty to Yar’Adua, Yuguda made the grandest gesture: took the president’s daughter as wife! Somersaults are central to the gentleman’s politics.

He has to survive and such a basic political-cum-human instinct does not lend itself to noble gestures, idealism or principles. Yuguda learnt that political lesson early in life and is two years away from completing eight years as governor.

Maybe a senatorial seat is already being kept in escrow for the great survivor and he is also going to end the eight-year rule a materially comfortable and contented man.

But Yuguda should spare all of us of histrionics! His threat to stop attending the Northern Governors’ Forum resembles an overkill. In the first place, the Forum has gradually deteriorated into a conclave of governors; individuals whose very tall egos often get in the way of serious efforts to collectively solve the problems facing the people of the region.

Facing the people’s wrath

When the majority of these governors supported Jonathan in the 2011 election, against the general feeling of people in the North, they could no longer hold their meetings in the regional capital, Kaduna, because it had become too hot to handle, and they were afraid of facing the people’s wrath in the political centre of the region; it became an affair of the Niger governor’s residence in Abuja.

For most people in the North, the Forum, which had very lofty origins, gradually became alienated from the concerns of the Northerners. But even in the midst of its problems, the Northern Governors’ Forum still possesses very strong elements of symbolism; that feeling that the North will somehow continue to find collective solutions to its problems.

There is a sense in which that symbolism and the latent possibilities of the Forum, have always been found uncomfortable, politically, in some quarters in other parts of Nigeria. Objectively, President Jonathan will be very happy to have the Northern Governors’ Forum become weaker and ineffectual.

So by threatening to stop attending the Forum, Yuguda is posturing in Jonathan’s favour. But the man might need to be reminded that he is attending because there are issues of common interests to Bauchi and other Northern states.

His tall ego should not becloud him to forget that fact. But this is Nigeria and the way it is presently set up, it is politicians, like Yuguda, who make a success of things. That is why we continue to run in circles!

Sule Lamido, Jigawa Summit and what Obasanjo didn’t say

LAST Thursday morning, I placed a call to Sam Nda-Isaiah, Chairman of LEADERSHIP newspaper. He said he was at an event, would call me later, but he never did. I wanted to point out that LEADERSHIP newspaper’s lead story from the Jigawa Investment Summit, which quoted Obasanjo as having said that if somebody was not up to the job, Sule Lamido was able or ready to do it, was a very “ingenious” form of editorializing, as we say in the industry.

The reporter read into the report far more than Obasanjo said. I knew this, because I was one of the two rapporteurs for the opening session of the summit where Obasanjo spoke. I took copious notes and we also did a verbatim recording! But I was not surprised that the sensational political slant was what was played up in the LEADERSHIP report; but it did a disservice to journalism which is based on reporting the FACTS of any situation.

I am an old-fashioned believer in basic journalistic ethics. This was an issue we used to debate a lot at DAILY TRUST. I always felt that we should stay with the basics: report the facts and if we felt strongly about the issues in the news, then accompany the report with an analytical sidebar! But some of my colleagues pitched for what they describe as perspective reporting: a mixture of facts and conscious editorialising. It seems that the current shifted a long time ago in the direction of perspective reporting, especially in political reportage in Nigeria. I have never agreed with that tendency and last Thursday’s lead story from LEADERSHIP newspaper just showed all that could go wrong with perspective journalism. This is because Obasanjo spoke only within the context of the developments in Jigawa and Lamido’s strides as governor in the past six years. The context was then elasticized to take in the politics of 2015.

Unnecessary controversy

It made very good reading; helped to up the political ante, especially given the stories which followed in subsequent days, that in response to Obasanjo’s statement in Dutse, Jonathan was planning to probe Obasanjo and the prompt denial from the Presidency! I just think that reporters should stick to reporting the facts of events and avoid the unnecessary controversy of editorializing the news! I have always believed that two institutions are central to democracy consolidation in Nigeria, and these are the judiciary and the media. Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution obliges the media to hold government accountable to the Nigerian people. I am not aware of any other institution of society which has such a weighty obligation to Nigeria. That is why the media must carry out its functions strictly within the professional canons. There is no other way!


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