…HOW IDPs, BOKO HARAM RENEWED BOMBINGS MAY BE USED
…CHILLING DETAILS OF BORNO POLITICS, INTRIGUES AND HOW BUHARI IS BEING SABOTAGED
By DESERT HERALD
Apart from the Muhammadu Buhari factor that won the 2015 general elections at virtually all levels for APC candidates across the country, the unprecedented insecurity in Borno State prior to the poll was also a very strong factor. In fact, that factor won the election for all Borno APC contestants, including the coveted seat of the governor which Mr. Kashim Shettima is occupying today and serving his last term as Chief Executive of the troubled state. Very few APC candidates in the state during the 2015 election – from House of Assembly members, to National Assembly members and the governor – won their elections due to their individual achievements and popularity. Like in most northern states, the Buhari factor which many governors are denying today was the ultimate reason behind their successes at the polls.
But the case of Maiduguri was slightly different in 2015. The election came at a time when the PDP was the ruling party in the country, while its strongman and godfather of Borno politics, Senator Ali Modu Sherrif, welded so much power and influence at the national level under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency. The Buhari factor in Borno State then was not a certainty for the incumbent Governor Shettima to win the second term he desperately worked very hard for because of the enormous power and influence of the man popularly called SAS, the resources at his (SAS’s) disposal, and his tested ability to win the support and votes of the majority of people in the grassroots. The only option for the tension and uncertainty facing Governor Shettima then was to manipulate the state’s insecurity crisis to his advantage. The option has gone down well for the governor because in 2015 Borno is the only state in the Boko Haram ravaged North East where virtually all categories of the elections, including that of the governorship, were conducted in the state capital and at Internally Displaced Camps that are being controlled 100 percent by the state government. Despite the improved security then that saw the Nigerian Army liberating virtually all the local governments that were hitherto under Boko Haram occupation, the Borno State government through all manners of questionable security reports ensured that elections were conducted haphazardly in the IDP Camps in the state capital instead of encouraging communities with improved security to conduct the elections at their home soil to ensure that all eligible voters were given the free option to decide who to cast their votes for.
Pundits averred that in the whole of Borno State, for example, the 2015 elections were conducted only in some parts of Southern Borno notably Biu and Hawul Local Governments while largely fake and fraudulent security reports were given as an excuse why elections could not be conducted in other parts of the South. Northern Borno which includes liberated local governments like Abadam, Monguno, Magumeri, Kukawa etc were all made to cast their votes at the designated government control IDP Camps. Even liberated local governments that are ‘attached’ to the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) like Jere, Bama, Konduga, Kaga and Mafa, records have it, were all made to cast their votes at BOSG – controlled camps at the MMC while largely unjustified excuses of security report and periodic but questionable suicide bombings in some of the areas and prior to the election to justify why the areas are not safe for election were recorded. It is on record that BOSG had prior to the 2015 election closely monitored the process and distribution of Personal Voters Cards (PVCs) and in some cases according to some insiders took custody and possessions of most of the PVCs. As a result, pundits believe, the 2015 elections in Borno state – particularly that of the office of the governor and national assembly members – were not only the most less stressful but ones that were easily ‘won’ by the APC candidates on a platter of gold. The same scenario and tactics were recently adopted during the senatorial bye-election of MMC that produced the immediate past commissioner of local governments and now Senator, BabaKaka Bashir Garbai. The election that produced Mr. Garbai on the same pretext of insecurity and suicide bombings reportedly in the other local councils of the MMC [including nearby ones like Jere, Konduga and Bama local governments] were all done in the capital city of Maiduguri and in the IDP Camps that are being controlled by the BOSG, thereby making Garbai’s election and his predictable success a mere formality.
Pundits and keen observers of Borno politics were in the course of filling this report, almost unanimous in their views that the recent and renewed cases of suicide bombings and other terror attacks in the state capital and other parts of the state are not only meant to sabotage President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment and the successes he recorded so far in fighting the terrorists, but another grand mischief by desperate APC politicians in the state that have lost the support and confidence of the electorates ahead of the 2019 elections. The pundits further believe that “if an atmosphere of insecurity is created in the state ahead of 2019 like it was done in the past and in view of the fact that most of the APC elected politicians, including the governor, have lost public sympathy, support and are now very unpopular and hardly entertain or accept to attend any gathering without the intimidating presence of huge security personnel and a further backup with members of the state run Civilian JTF to prevent the rampant attacks on them by angry citizens which has now become the order of the day, it will then be easy for the state government to convince INEC and other security agencies to centralise most if not all of the 2019 elections to be conducted in the state capital and at the IDP Camps like it was done in 2015. If that is done successfully, the pundits averred, the current APC representatives in the state including the person that will succeed the incumbent governor despite their individual dismal performance will be ‘re-elected’ on a platter of gold and against the wishes of the electorates’’.
Even though Governor Shettima has no more worries for any struggle for second term, which many observers believe was the reason why he has of recent transformed to a dictator and has become largely dictatorial and impatient, the governor certainly wants to maintain a political empire controlled by him even after he finishes his eight – year mandate. The calculation of the governor, according to close insiders, is that if his reported ambition to be Vice President either now or during his party’s primary election to choose candidates for the 2019 elections does not go in his favour, he will contest the senatorial seat. But the shrewd Shettima, having tested his declining popularity particularly at his constituency of many years which is the MMC and their level of political enlightenment, had recently and in preparation for 2019, changed his constituency and senatorial zone to Northern Borno. With what many believe was a pre-planned resumption of suicide bombings and if the federal government did not take decisive steps to apprehend and punish those that are sabotaging its sincere efforts, Northern Borno local governments may likely cast their votes again in 2019 under the watch of BOSG officials at the IDP Camps in Maiduguri. If that is done, it will be a sure and guaranteed victory for Mr. Shettima’s second political option to be at the red chamber which is the reason why he shifted from MMC to Northern Borno.
As the political strategy of the Borno APC under the leadership of Mr. Kashim Shettima ahead of 2019 is being exposed, casualties of suicide bombings and other terror attacks that are highly questionable in nature is expected to increase if the security agencies did not check the impunity, desperation and excesses of mainly the APC politicians and some hired thugs that are long being suspected to be the promoters and executors of terror attacks in the name of Boko Haram. Already, virtually all those that were recently arrested allegedly in connection with Boko Haram terror activities in the state, including the influential leader of the state owned Civilian JTF, Bah Lawan, two associates of Reps member, Kadiri Rahis, former vice chairman of Kaga Local Government, one Mallam Abacha etc are all known to be very close to the government and the governor. How they were reportedly cleared and controversially released is also a story of its own in subsequent follow-up stories. To many political watchers that offered their views to this reporter, the last minute decision by the leader of the Civilian JTF, Bah Lawan, not to follow the team of soldiers, Civilian JTF, oil exploration workers and some University of Maiduguri staffers that were recently massacred by Boko Haram is not a coincidence. He had, instead, tactically complained of headaches and offered his car to follow the team. They believed that Bah Lawan, being a thug that was widely associated with Boko Haram which was why he was recently arrested, had prior knowledge of what was about to happen to his colleagues. This suspicion grew loud among residents of Maiduguri when Bah Lawan’s car turned out to be the only one among many that was spared during the attack. All the other cars were either burnt down, taken away while their occupants were brutally killed. Victims of the CJTF that sustained various degrees of destruction due to gun shots during the attack were abandoned and left to their faith at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) when this reporter visited the hospital two weeks ago. A particular CJTF member, who was shot in the head during the attack and the sum of only N130,000 was required to remove the bullet eventually died because his family cannot afford the sum while BOSG has abandoned such critical cases. What BOSG only did at the end of the attack through the Deputy Governor, Usman Durkwa, was to visit the families of the over twenty members of the CJTF that lost their lives during the attack with N400,000 and one cow given to each of the families of the deceased CJTF members. As a Sharia state and having sacrificed their lives for others in the state, a respected Ulama, Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, told DESERT HERALD that the least the BOSG should do to such victims is to pay their Diya which is above N20 million for each life lost and to fully pay for any medical expenses that will arise in the cause of their treatment.
For now and until the 2019 final political onslaught against the people of Borno is executed by the embattled BOSG, it remains to be seen if the strategy of 2015 they adopted and won will work for Mr. Shettima and the APC in the state this time around. What is for now clearly visible to even a blind man on the street of Maiduguri and other LGAs across the state is that the popularity of Kashim Shettima of yesterday is not the same with the branded Shettima of today. Recent incidences in the state capital where the governor had to be sneaked out by his security details to escape the anger of rampaging youths while his official car was pelted with stones, the glasses smashed at Gwange London Ciki area of Maiduguri, how he barely escaped being molested during the last Eid-el-Fitr prayer at the Eid prayer ground and several other incidences of this nature against the once popular governor is a testimony that all is not well with the governor in the state and that the electorates, if the next election is not manipulated for the same security reasons that are being created now, are ready to elect best candidates not on political party affiliation in 2019.
While recent survey by DESERT HERALD in the state reveals that President Buhari has remained the favourite of the electorates and that majority – including powerful gladiators of other political parties like Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff are in support of the President and are ready to cast their votes for him in 2019 if his health condition permitted – it is not the same for Governor Shettima in the state.
And as Mr. Shettima’s party at the state level allegedly plots to win the 2019 election by all means, the governor at a recent gathering – precisely before the Ramadan at the Government House – has left no one in doubt that even if it requires sacrificing lives of innocent people in the name of insecurity, the 2019 election for him and his cabal must be won. DESERT HERALD has obtained the audio recording during that ceremony where the governor invited Ward members of Hausari, Maisandari, Fizan, Bolori 1 and Bolori 2 etc for rice distribution. The governor in the said audio told the youths that they will recruit additional youths in each of the Wards into CJTF for the primary purpose of protecting and securing their votes. Apparently as a response and to intimidate the growing opposition the Borno APC is getting, the governor was quoted saying in the audio that for the purpose of the next election his government will armed the CJTF and that if anybody misbehave they will deal with any opposition and if need be they will be shot. Since the needed and desperate second term and the benefits of the office has been achieved by him, Mr. Shettima clearly said in the audio in Hausa language that “Ko yau kasuwa ta tashi dankoli yaci riba”. The message is very clear to all. It was after the governor had probably realised the implications of his dictatorial, reckless, inciting, provocative and irresponsible statement that an order was given to security personnel to delete contents of the said audio that had been recorded by some press men and other attendees. But it was rather late because some of those present had managed to secure it.
As the popularity of Kashim Shettima’s former boss and political godfather, SAS continued to increase across the state despite the recent loss by his PDP faction at the Supreme Court which was hugely celebrated by the Borno APC, it is becoming clear by the day that SAS, ahead of 2019 and in whatever political party, will stage a comeback to challenge Mr. Shettima and his remnants. It is being predicted by political pundits that intra-party rivalry within the Borno APC as 2019 approaches may eventually consume the party. The politics of who will succeed the incumbent governor and the indiscipline, rascality, and insubordination that characterize the conduct of members of the Borno APC cabal [most of who are struggling to get the governor’s endorsement for the gubernatorial ticket] may tear the party apart. There are so many interesting factors to report as the gladiators continued their dirty politics and scheming. Trust your trail-blazing DESERT HERALD to do so in the weeks and months ahead, in our usual insightful and fearless style.