July 3, 2016

Nigerian Governors: Their ways and their friends

President Muhammadu Buhari flanked by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Chairman Goverbors’ Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State while Governor Akinwumi Ambode 0f Lagos State (l); Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State (r) joined other State Executives in a group photograph after the first meeting between the President and State Governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

By Tonnie Iredia

Comedies are probably the best channels of effectively transmitting messages to a number of people. Unlike the media that concentrate more on information and education, which many people in a recession hardly patronize, the comedian relies more on entertainment for sending messages to people who when fully amused by the comedian’s jokes assimilate the messages more easily.

The last time I watched one, was last year when a comedian humorously sold a story of how big men in society have the same tendencies as thugs, hooligans and criminals.

The story according to the comedian was about a group of rascals in a community who held an all night party where anyone in attendance got so much to eat with a sizeable number were left drunk.

They were celebrating one of their own, who was promoted to the post of Commissioner of Police a few days earlier. The comedian’s concluding statement was that the story explains why the police sometimes watch thugs engage in criminal activities undisturbed.

Anyone who doubts the lesson the comedian sought to teach, may never understand why some of our governors have so many miscreants as friends and associates. We hear the posture guarantees what is known as nuisance value.

Some of our governors and political office holders enjoy the proverbial primitive accumulation of wealth in which they appropriate unto themselves far more wealth than they and their children yet unborn would need for over 100 years.

They squander public resources without regards for the adverse effects such a posture could have on their constituents who have for long looked up to them in vain for a change to their impoverished situation. Some of them charter flights because they can’t really afford to travel with the rest of us in a passenger aircraft.

If a journey from their state capital to Abuja to pick-up their share of the monthly federation allocation is by road, then so much gets spent on an entourage of about 15 cars in addition to the number on ground in their liaison offices in Abuja. The same extravagance is extended to spouses and other relations. Although the trend has been slightly reduced by the current economic gloom, so much of the little that comes is still wasted on frivolities while salaries of teachers and civil servants are left unpaid for months.

Quite often, our Ogas criminalize dissent, making sycophants the only people who are free in society. Any other person whatsoever, who disagrees with their view point, would have to face not only the Oga but his numerous friends and associates.

The issue at stake is irrelevant; be it electioneering which includes voting, the counting of votes and declaration of winners in an election or an election petition by a tribunal or any case in any court of justice. It can also be labour unrest which of recent features non-payment of workers’ salaries.  It is usually in respect any of these issues that the nuisance value referred to earlier is brought to play.

Bearing in mind that there are many political parties, there would always be tension in the polity as other politicians may oppose those in power. Considering also that many people like civil servants and pensioners will have to bear the brunt of reckless spending in government, they too will have to face the so called friends of those in authority who are generally violent. These supporters take different forms.

In a study in 2013, a Researcher, Shankyula Tersoo Samuel found that in the Northern part of Nigeria, most of them are known as Karare, a youth group of people between the ages of 8 – 35 years, some of them being school drop-outs and drug addicts.

In Kaduna, they are called Kawaye or ‘yan mage’ while in Borno, the name is ecomog. In Kano they are called “yan daba”.  Bauchi people call them “sara suka” just as they are known as “area boys” in Lagos. They are used by politicians at all times to intimidate political opponents into accepting the position of their sponsors.

Before the 2015 elections, political opponents credited the existence of thugs (“Kalare”) in Gombe to former Governor Goje just as those in Rivers are credited to Governor Wike and his predecessor Rotimi Amaechi.  In Bayelsa State, thugs who attacked a high court in Yenogoa were allegedly led by Governor Seriake Dickson. A video showing the incident went virile on the Internet while the Nigerian Bar Association reportedly sent a query on it to the governor who himself is a lawyer and former Attorney General of the state.

A similar attack on a high court in Ekiti had been credited by political opponents to Governor Fayose of Ekiti State. Only two weeks back, the Edo State Government claimed that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State had recruited and dispatched 40 political thugs to each of the border villages between Edo and Delta with the sole aim of registering them as voters before engaging their services to perpetrate violence during the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State.

After the Edo deputy governor, Dr Pius Odubu fell apart with his boss, he and his followers were attacked at a rally in Auchi. Because government knows who is who in the business, it was able to know that those who operated in Auchi belonged to Odubu.

After elections, the base of our governors’ friends widens to include all unemployed and poor people looking for means of livelihood. In Oyo State, civil servants went on strike in connection with the failure of the state government to pay their salaries for several months.

The response of the governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi was to get some of his friends numbering about 50,000 artisans, traders, tailors, hairdressers, technicians, shoe makers, butchers, commercial drivers, students and a host of others to organise a rally in his favour on the subject.

A similar solidarity demonstration in support of Governor Fayose’s failure to pay salaries to Ekiti civil servants was earlier organized by some members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NUTRW) in Ado Ekiti. It is therefore obvious that our governors have the same modus operandi and similar friends