By NA-ALLAH MOHAMMED ZAGGA
Credulous readers can be easily misled by sophistry and propaganda, which is intended to arrest the intelligence of undiscerning Nigerians. One cannot, therefore, resist the urge to challenge the opinion of Idang Alibi, a freelance journalist, on the outcome of the recent governorship election, which once again returned Aliyu Wamakko of the PDP as Governor. In his self-righteous and tendentious opinion, entitled “Sai Alu and Irresponsible Generosity” (Desert Herald, February-March 2012), Mr. Idang Alibi dismissed Wamakko’s election as not a reflection of any popularity. The logic of his attack on the right of Sokoto State voters to express their preference for Wamakko is incomprehensible. When a writer relies uncritically on the information fed to him by political opponents who recruited him, how does he set about the task of objective assessment of Wammako’s achievements? By Alibi’s own admission, he has not been to Sokoto State to see for himself what Governor Wamakko has done for his people so far in terms of development. And how then can he appraise him when he admitted ignorance of the political affairs of Sokoto State? Jumping into writing at the promptings of one’s wife without facts to lay the foundation of one’s arguments sounds preposterous! To suggest that Wamakko did nothing in terms of development without visiting Sokoto State to verify the claim is the height of arrogance, if not an outright insult to the readers’ intelligence.
Any sincere writer with proper knowledge of Sokoto State politics cannot turn a blind eye to the achievements of Governor Wamakko in areas such as education, health, people’s economic empowerment, poverty alleviation and other social programmes. Wamakko has a genuine love for the people and that is one of the major sources of his political strength. You may have all the money in the world, but if you don’t love the people, you may find yourself isolated. If generosity was the only secret of Wamakko ‘s popularity, as Alibi argues, he couldn’t have successfully thrown Bafarawa’s party out of office in 2007. Bafarawa is a billionaire and with political power in his hands, he had unhindered access to public funds for eight years. Even the local government funds were diverted to achieve his political objectives of absolute control. Former Governor Bafarawa was generous to a fault but it didn’t stop his fall from power. If heaven could be available for money, the former DPP Governor of Sokoto State wouldn’t have hesitated to offer it to achieve that dream. It means there is more to Wamakko’s political popularity than his reputed generosity.
For the eight years when he served as Bafarawa’s deputy Governor, Wamakko didn’t have the billions to capture power from a multibillionaire businessman like Bafarawa. The will of the people and the power of God were the only factors that strengthened the hands of Wammako against the political behemoth or goliath called Bafarawa. In fact, from an underdog status as a humiliated former deputy to Bafarawa, Wamakko defeated the candidate of his former boss at the election. Pixilated by power, Bafarawa became so vain that he once boasted that if he put his cap forward as a candidate for election it must win!
That tactless remark and other blunders were the beginning of Bafarawa’s political decline because his comment suggested the people of Sokoto State were slaves with no mind of their own. The people felt insulted and vowed to teach him a political lesson for such hubristic outpouring. Aliyu Wamakko is inherently humble and kind. And compassion plays a critical part in his private and public life. He had a foundation even before finding himself into politics through which he was offering succor to ordinary people in distress. Generosity has nothing to do with the amounts of cash available to the individual. You may come across people who are billionaires but are cold-heartedly unaffected by the plight of others. The tears of the suffering of others do not soften their hearts; instead, they harden them!
You cannot, therefore, separate generosity from popularity. These were the secrets of the late Abiola’s, Shehu Kangiwa’s and Lamidi Adedibu’s political successes. How does personal generosity interfere with a leader’s commitment to his programmes? Former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos State is reputably kind but that didn’t stop him from executing his people-oriented programmes. Currently, Wamakko is undertaking youth economic empowerment programmes and offering them trainings to be self-supporting in life. And mind you, one doesn’t have to be in government to demonstrate a generous spirit. Wamakko ‘s kindness preceded his election as Governor or Deputy Governor. His humility, affability and accessibility to the voters are unprecedented. He has demystified public office which other politicians regard as a fortress to shut out the people that gave them the mandate in the first place. In a democracy, it is difficult to harden your heart against the people. In the United States, it was reported last year that President Obama had to personally give out direct assistance to thousands of ordinary Americans who wrote him letters seeking his intervention to overcome their financial challenges. He couldn’t have solved all the financial needs of these ordinary Americans, but the symbolism of his response is still significant. You don’t have to be in government to be kind. And if you are kind by nature, it is an added advantage if you find yourself in politics.
Does Idang Alibi know better than the voters of Sokoto State about Wamakko’s performance? When he handed over to the Speaker of the Sokoto State House of Assembly as Acting Governor, Wamakko left N16 billion in the accounts of Sokoto State. Would a wasteful Governor have left behind such huge funds? Why are doctors resigning from neighbouring Kebbi State to join the Sokoto State service if Wamakko didn’t provide proper incentives for health workers? This exodus of doctors from Kebbi to Sokoto was reported by the press. If democracy is not working in Sokoto State, Wamakko couldn’t have won election repeatedly. Let me remind Alibi of the words of the British playwright, Nicholas Rowe who said that “fault-finding is the easiest task of knowledge.”
Idang Alibi and Daily Sun columnist, Dr. Amanze Obi appear to be bent on outdoing each other to impress Bafarawa with their “expert” analysis on Sokoto politics. In fact, Dr. Obi recently boasted that Bafarawa was unstoppable in his bid to retake Sokoto State. With the defeat of Bafarawa’s candidate for the second time, shouldn’t these anti-Wammako media carpet baggers eat their hats with the outcome of the governorship election going contrary to their ill-informed predictions? Their “expert” predictions of Bafarawa’s political rebound fell flat on their faces!
It is worrisome when seemingly educated writers like Idang Alibi make ignorance fashionable merely on the grounds of uninformed analysis, fed by prejudice. Alibi’s frequent pontifications in the analysis of public issues are nauseating. He once tactlessly wrote in the Daily Trust that Dr. Adinoyi-Ojo Onukaba of the Atiku Media Office lost his dear wife to cerebral malaria because he was not a good Christian! If a man mistakes his luck for his merit, he might assume that he is morally superior to others. The fact that misfortunes or sickness befall others and not us doesn’t in itself suggest we are better than others. Don’t holy men die of diseases? The late Pope John Paul, a symbol of holiness in words and deeds, died of respiratory infection. That article was a cold comfort to Dr. Ojo and it put off many readers who found it hard to comprehend Alibi’s logic.
Taking the moral high ground in the discussion of public issues as if one is better informed or more patriotic than others is the fastest way to expose one’s Achilles heels. If Alibi was convinced Wamakko didn’t bring any development, let him adduce the evidence with facts and figures. He couldn’t have done so because he never had the facts to lay the foundation of his arguments. Only recently he told his credulous readers of the wonderful achievements of Governor Shettima of Borno state, affecting a knowledge of the State more than its citizens. Media carpet baggers like Alibi cannot fool the discerning readers about the motivation behind their so-called assessments of leaders. If Wamakko was willing to pay for his opinion, his views on his administration would have been something different.
Whether he likes to acknowledge it or not, Bafarawa is at the nadir of his political career. He left the ANPP to join the DPP and then moved to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). But he left the ACN because he lost the party’s presidential ticket to Nuhu Ribadu in 2011. Desperately searching for relevance, he re-launched himself back into ANPP. The move was, however, unimpressive because none of the key party leaders attended the event to mark his return to the party. In fact, even his former DPP political associates such as Alhaji Umarun Kwabo and his former Commissioners abandoned him. Even rats desert a sinking ship, so goes an English adage. Alibi and other self-styled experts on Sokoto politics should stop deceiving themselves by attributing to Bafarawa the influence and popularity he no longer enjoys. He is in a political winter or wilderness.
ZAGGA, is a journalist based in Abuja and a writer on national issues. He E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 08065344741