Peter Obi and the North: When past speaks for present
Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, has been relentless in attacking Peter Obi to the extent of assuming his personal project. The first salvo was in 2018, in the middle of the campaigns for the 2019 presidential election. Then, Obi was the running mate to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, then the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), running against incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari.
The former Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and later Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), took to a familiar line in Nigeria’s politics – ethnic sentiments as his weapon. He particularly wanted the world to know that Obi had no respect for the North. In fact, using his own personal experience, which he linked to his region, he wanted all that cared to hear or listen to get the message that Obi hated the North with passion.
Delivering his message using his Twitter handle, he had written about how he had a raw deal in an encounter that happened when Obi was seeking a second term as Governor of Anambra State under the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
He wrote: “Peter Obi is a tribal bigot. He was widely quoted on national television that the SSS was right to detain me for 48 hours in a hotel in 2014 on the grounds that El-Rufai has no business being in Anambra State as it is not Katsina State! I sued the SSS and awarded N4m damages.”
Few months to the last general election, where Obi was now the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), El-Rufai, still unrelenting, upped the ante. Obi had visited Kaduna State on a sensitisation mission. Using the opportunity to advance his narrative of the Anambra saga, he wrote: “In 2013, I went to Anambra State as an official of the APC to witness the bye-election for governorship. Your next guest, Peter Obi, as governor, got me arrested and detained for 48 hours in my hotel room.
“Now I’m the Governor of Kaduna State and he’s coming to Kaduna. In addition to the police and the State Secret Service, I have one Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army here, if I need to arrest and detain anyone. But we are northerners, we are civilised. We don’t do things like that. I wish you all safe journey back to your destinations.”
But in another breath, the same governor wrote: “I was arrested by three state security service (SSS) officials holding AK-47 threatening me that they have directive from Abuja to restrict me to my room. The idea of restricting movements during elections is not constitutional and there is no law that says anyone has the right to restrict movements during elections. We are going to test that in court. We want the court to tell us under which law INEC or any agency of government can restrict the movement of persons around. Freedom of movement is constitutionally guaranteed.”
Obi’s reply was typical – benign and scientific. “I served with six Police Commissioners. Not one is from the South East. When I started, my first police commissioner was John Haruna from Taraba. When he left, he handed over to Musa Bello from Kwara. Then followed by Philemon Leha from Adamawa. Then Mutare from Kano. Then Nasarawa from Kebbi State. Finally Gware from Adamawa.”
Explaining what led to the incident, he said: ”There was election in my state and I, as the sitting Governor didn’t go to arrest anybody on election day or seen moving from one local government to the other, as the Governor, I went to my own local government to vote and back to Awka. El Rufai came to Anambra State on an election day and said he wants to move around the local governments. The state security services said you can’t move around. Not even the Governor is allowed to move around.
“Only accredited voters and accredited monitors in groups are allowed to move from place to place. So, for your safety, we want you to be safe, so stay in the hotel.
If you come for a party affair, you stay in the hotel which I think is right. When I was asked after that in an interview I said now listen… I Peter wouldn’t want to be in Kaduna, for the same reason on an election day. In my eight years in office, go and ask them how many people were killed in my state the way people are being killed in his state.”
Then, he threw the banger! ”My ADC was Idris from Kano and my orderly, Manya from Taraba. As you know, no Governor is in control of either Police or State security services. Ask El Rufai how many Igbo people he had entrusted his personal security in their hands.” Incidentally, the Kaduna governor, whose security apparatus is said to be all Northerners, appears to have ignored the challenge.
Instead, in February, some days to the election, he launched a fresh offensive, saying: “Peter Obi cannot win the election. He doesn’t have the number of states; he doesn’t have 25 percent — the last time we checked — in more than 16 states. He can’t go anywhere. Peter Obi is a Nollywood actor and that’s all he will be. This election is between the APC and PDP because they have the footprint; they have the spread.
“Ethnicity and religious bigotry will not take you anywhere and that’s what the Labour Party campaign is about. We are the only party with a candidate with a broad-based support across Nigeria, and by the grace of God, we are going to win.”
Obi replied again: “I thank El Rufai for what he said, at least he gave me some percentages; I’ll work hard to improve on that. The Entertainment Industry is one of the engines that will develop us as a nation, I’ll focus on that and Nollywood. And since he said I’m an actor, I’m calling on all those in the entertainment industry, including Nollywood, to support me.”
But contrary to the impression the former FCT Minister gave, Obi, put up an impressive showing, winning 12 states alongside the two other major candidates of Tinubu and Atiku and even added an icing on the cake by taking Abuja, without the rest two scoring as much as 25 per cent. That was apart from winning Lagos and making impressive showing in some Northern States, such as Nasarawa and Plateau.
Most recently, the LP candidate had to face the same allegation, this time from another attacker. Bashir Ahmed, a presidential aide to President Buhari had fired back at him. He had taken umbrage at Obi’s declaration that he would rid the North of the biting poverty it had endured in the country. He saw the statement as an insult, despite statistics from several bodies and regardless that leaders from the North, had at various times practically echoed the same position.
Obi had written: “Beyond regaining our mandate, I am committed to lifting people out of poverty, and I remain committed to transforming Nigeria, starting from the North to every part of the nation,” a statement which seemed to have incensed the presidential aide, who retorted: “Wow. At all times, this man doesn’t miss an opportunity to insult Arewa. Despite the poverty in Anambra and his region, but whenever he wants to cite an example of abject poverty, it is Arewa that his mouth calls/mention. It’s undeniable you hate us, it will never be harmful to reciprocate.”
He was soon joined by Adamu Garba, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who in echoing his sentiments, wrote: “We know you are insulting us, we the Northerners, Mr. @PeterObi and we are assuring you that as far as the Presidency of Nigeria is concerned, it shall remain in your illusionary dream forever. You’ll never come close to it. You bigoted, religious, ethnocentric merchant. You can go to Finland to contend with your new Biafra government in exile.”
Again, typical of him, no harsh words. The former governor, like he did with El-Rufai, this time relied on the words of the Northerners themselves for a reply. And it came directly from the Muslim community in Anambra State, where he was at the helm for eight years.
Alhaji Abdulraman Iman, Chief Imam, of the Onitsha Central Mosque, Anambra State, seizing the opportunity of Obi, who joined the faithful in the celebration of this year’s Eid-el-fitri, spared no words in defending the former governor against any form of ethnic tag, and in fact waxed political by stating that he hoped Obi would have the opportunity of being President of Nigeria, so that the entire nation would benefit from his de-tribalised nature.
Hear him: “We are praying for you (Peter Obi) here (in Onitsha Central Mosque) for God to deliver you and your project for a new Nigeria. You are the most transparent and detribalised Nigerian to lead Nigeria. When you were governor for eight years, you showed us love, you rebuilt this Central Mosque which was destroyed during Chris Ngige administration before your government. And you have continued to show us love since you left office, you have come today to celebrate Sallah with us. We love you, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi.”
The secretary of Arewa community in the state, Mahmud Iman, a lawyer, who was no less emphatic, added: “We follow the news, and we are not pleased with the many negative stories people tell about Obi’s relationship with the North. We here are not only close to Obi, but we have remained the consistent beneficiaries of his benevolence. So we can say, authoritatively, that the stories making the rounds online, that Peter Obi does not care for Northerners, are false.
“When our mosque was burnt down, he quickly rebuilt it for us, and made it even better. During the crisis that erupted in the state in 2006, Obi ensured that no Hausa man was hurt. He gave us maximum security in the barracks. Throughout his eight years as a Governor, he would invite us to the Government House every year during Sallah celebration, eat and celebrate with us. This time around, he decided to visit and celebrate with us in the mosque.
“Many of our people here, not less than 150, were sponsored by Peter Obi to Mecca for pilgrimage over the years. We equally watched his movements during the campaign, how he toured the Northern part of Nigeria and visited places no one expected. We are happy with our relationship with him and with the North. He is a true Nigerian.”
Obi, who presented 30 cartons of noodles, 30 cartons of Malt, bags of rice and cash gift of N500,000, while reiterating the need for Nigerians to love and appreciate one another, stated that every Nigerian should be free to live and thrive in any part of the country without intimidation or harassment.
“I am a Nigerian who believes in Nigeria. My ADC when I was Governor, Idris, is a Northerner from Kano State, and he is a good man. I have never discriminated against anyone based on religion or tribe, and I will never do that. I want the whole nation to hold me accountable on this. I will never discriminate against anybody. I will continue to support you especially in areas of education, health and your worship.”
Indeed, by now, Obi’s traducers must have learnt one lesson or two about their target. One of them must be, you must come fully loaded with facts and figures to be able to dent him. Else, you’ll be the one on the offensive.
Many people may have heard how in the same North, the biggest rice mill in the entire region, situated in Kano, was established with the help of the same Obi, who intervened through his Fidelity Bank, to assist the owner with a loan for the project. It was said that the owner of Umzo Rice, who did not know him, had after several unsuccessful efforts to get finance, approached Obi, who quickly moved in after determining the genuineness of the project.
Obi himself bore testimony to this when he said: “Many people say things about Peter Obi, Umzo Rice in Kano went to look for a loan in three banks but they didn’t give him so he came to us and I told him we will support him. He is the largest rice farmer in Kano right now, so ask him about it. I talk to him about the rich soil in the north every day, and he is aware of what I am saying. I was a good man in 2019, just as I told you all, but the only wrongdoing I committed was the fact that I want to be president of Nigeria.”
Incidentally, it was the same rice that Obi is now distributing to the Muslim faithful everywhere to celebrate their festival, a move which has further excited the owner of the project, who in his Twitter handle on Sunday wrote: “Peter Obi didn’t just support the rice farmer in Kano with funding, he is also his chief marketer! This man walks the talk. This is him celebrating the Eid with Muslim Ummah in Onitsha with Umza rice.” What could more effective than using facts to vanquish your traducer?
BREAKING: Mba in Lagos, heads elite FCID, as police fields out new AIGs
Frank Mba, Nigeria’s elite police officer, recently elevated to the position of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), would be heading the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), Annex Lagos, one of the most strategic departments in the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
This was revealed in the redeployment of all the officers promoted last week, as announced by the Sir Louis Edet House office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, on Saturday.
The redeployment, said to be in line with the IGP’s mandate and strategies to strengthen the operational structures of commands, departments, and formations, saw the promoted officers being fielded to other Departments, Commands, and Formations “in line with manpower development policy of fitting the right persons into appropriate roles.”
Olumuyiwa Adejobi, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) and spokesman of the NPF, in a statement on Saturday, said: “The following AIGs have been posted/redeployed to the duty posts indicated against their names;
i.AIG Zone 14 Katsina-AIG Ahmed Abdulrahman, mni
ii.AIG Police Mobile Force-AIG Ibrahim Sani Ka’oje, mni
iii.AIG Special Protection Unit -AIG Matthew Akinyosola, mni
iv.AIG Zone 12 Bauchi-AIG Sylvester Abiodun Alabi, fdc
v.AIG Maritime Lagos-AIG Yekini Adio Ayoku, psc(+), mni
vi.AIG Zone 13 Ukpo Dunukofia – AIG Olofu Tony Adejoh
vii.AIG Zone 7 Abuja-AIG Aliyu Garba
viii.AIG ICT FHQ Abuja-AIG Idris Dabban Dauda, fdc
“ix.AIG Research & Development – AIG Yusuf Ahmed Usman
x.AIG Zone 4 Makurdi – AIG Haladu M. Ros-Amson, fdc
xi.AIG Zone 8 Lokoja-AIG Babatunde B. Ishola
xii.AIG Counter Terrorism Unit – AIG Alexander N. Wannang
xiii.AIG Zone 2 Lagos -AIG Ari M. Ali
xiv.AIG Zone 9 Umuahia-AIG Mamman Sanda Umar, fdc
xv.Commandant Police Academy, Wudil – AIG Sadiq I. Abubakar, mni
“xvi. AIG FCID Annex Lagos – AIG Frank Emeka Mba, mni
xvii.AIG Zone 16 Yenagoa – AIG Benjamin N. Okolo, fdc
xviii.AIG DTD FHQ Abuja – AIG Oyediran A. Oyeyemi, fsi
xix.AIG FCID Annex Kaduna – AIG Babaji Sunday
xx.AIG Zone 5 Benin – AIG Arungwa Nwazue Udo, mni
xxi.Force Transport Officer – AIG Yusuf C. Usman, mni”.
“The police boss charged all newly posted and redeployed officers to put their best foot forward in ensuring that the activities of their new Commands, Formations, and Departments align with the Police Reform mandate.
“He also tasked them to ensure compliance with all standard operating procedures in the discharge of their responsibilities.The posting, the IGP said, is with immediate effect.”
Atiku to Yakubu: You’re determined to go down as worst INEC Chairman *You can’t fool Nigerians
With the confirmation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that it actually awarded the printing of sensitive materials to a company owned by a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar, on Friday, said that the commission seems determined to end up as the worst in history.
Revelations that Binani Printing Press Limited, a company owned by Aishatu Ahmed Binani, a Senator and the APC candidate for governor of Adamawa State, has left many stakeholders attacking the commission and accusing its Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu as manifestly biased.
Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner for INEC, spokesman, had acknowledged that the commission was not aware of the identity of the owners of the company, as a search did not immediately reveal the name of Binani, adding that the electoral umpire decided to award the contract to a Nigerian firm to boost local economy.
But Atiku, in a statement by his spokesman, Phrank Shaibu, scoffed at the explanation, saying INEC’s excuse was watery and unconvincing, adding that a scratch on the surface at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), easily revealed those behind the company.
Atiku, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February 25 election, described as unfortunate that despite being given an allocation of over N300billion as well as financial assistance from foreign governments including the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom, the leadership of INEC had continued to run the commission without scruples.
He said: “INEC’s latest statement cannot even fool a primary school student. An ordinary search on CAC’s portal by youths on Twitter has already revealed that Senator Binani owns Binani Printing Press Limited, a firm that was given a contract to print sensitive INEC material. The company with RC 310024, which was registered on March 13, 1997 has Senator Aishatu Ahmed listed as number one.
“It is obvious that Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has no plan of leaving a legacy of free and fair elections. With barely a year left on his tenure, his performance as INEC chairman will become a by-word for failure. This is a man who has received the highest financial allocation ever and yet cannot still run the agency effectively and deliver a credible election. It is funny that INEC claims it awarded the contract to Binani’s company in order to stimulate the local economy. One wonders whether it is the duty of INEC to stimulate the economy or conduct credible elections.”
In fact, the former VP, who said this would not be the first time Yakubu’s INEC would be caught in the same web of favouring APC, recalled that ahead of the 2019 poll, the same INEC under Yakubu also awarded a contract for the printing of Permanent Voters’ Cards to Mohammed Sani Musa, who in the same year was contesting for the Niger East senatorial election.
Atiku said: “Recall that in the run-up to the 2019 Presidential election, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu admitted that the commission indeed awarded a contract to Act Technologies Limited to print Permanent Voters’ Cards. Act Technologies, whose Managing Director, Mohammed Sani Musa, was APC candidate for Niger East senatorial district at the time, went on to win that election.”
Stressing that Musa was arrested by the Department of State Services briefly before the 2015 elections following allegations by the Spokesman for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, he said: “Despite all these complaints, INEC still insisted on awarding him a contract, adding that the same INEC, despite complaints from several political parties, also insisted on using the transport services of Musiliu Akinsanya, aka MC Oluomo, to transport ballot papers across Lagos State on the day of election.
He said: “Elections are not just supposed to be free and fair. They are expected to be free and fair. The process and credibility of an election are more important than its result. Prof. Yakubu has obviously failed Nigerians despite receiving so much money to run INEC. This latest excuse by INEC for awarding a contract to an APC candidate holds no water and is the height of the commission’s irresponsibility and incompetence.”
INEC: When hope for credible election is Nigeria’s greatest sin
The young man donning the uniform of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), would smile intermittently, in response to some complaints and sometimes, jibes from the crowd. It was difficult to ascertain his sentiments. Was he sympathetic or triumphant? His almost deadpan, passive and impersonal countenance didn’t seem to reveal much in that aspect.
But that wasn’t the same with the crowd surrounding him, whose sentiments and emotions were obvious, captured in either anger, disappointment, despondence or exasperation, among others. They had been guests to this same place for weeks if not months with one mission – to collect the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), the only instrument, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has made the sole certificate to access and vote in the 2023 general elections, which starts in a matter of two weeks.
But, instead of getting the vital instrument, they were being handed a different thing – a piece of paper in which was written to damning words – NF, meaning Not Found. In simple terms, it means that their PVCs could not be found, with the damning implication that they cannot vote in the election. Imagine that in Nigeria of today, a citizen being denied the opportunity to participate in deciding his fate, one that comes every four years.
But guess what! Virtually all victims involved are from one ethnic group in Nigeria – the Igbo of the South East. The central, but abiding indication suggests one official message – majority of them will not vote, at least, not in Lagos, not because they wish not to or for want of trying to fulfill all their parts towards participation in the exercise, but for official and institutional failures. Incidentally, this inculpatory development seems to be more deliberate than an accident. That is the dangerous and most painful aspect.
Incidentally, INEC, the institution at the centre of it all, had tried everything to conduce an official cover to the entire sad situation, in an attempt to explain it away. First, it was that the victims were engaged in multiple registration, which invalidated their cards. The latest after the victims debunked the allegation and before the NF development, was that those concerned transferred their PVCs from the South East, but failed to go to the right place to collect them.
But no matter the explanation adduced, the question continues to stick out like a sore thumb – why the South East? Is it only Ndigbo that do not understand the guidelines of INEC? That is the snag. How come all the victims are Igbo?
The only explanation is that there was and still is a plot to target them. The commission simply bowed to the whims and caprices of some vested interests to prevent Ndigbo from voting in Lagos, as one of the many strategies to keep power in the hands of certain people. There is no better and more credible explanation. There couldn’t have been, at least for anybody who could understand the happenings in his environment better than an imbecile.
Indeed, the conclusion that the Igbo are targets in Lagos, is not a mere conjecture. There is a foundation to it. In recent times, and current dispensation, Ndigbo have been seen as more or less a threat to the political arrangement in Lagos by the powers that be, who obviously do not want the lever of power disrupted or upturned.
In 2015, prior to the election of that year, Nigerians were assaulted with a blistering message by Rilwan Akiolu, the Oba of Lagos, threatening the entire Igbo race in the state that they must vote in one direction at the pain of being thrown into the lagoon. That was then. In 2019, the threat became more daring when it went physical. In many areas with a large concentration, they were physically attacked in an attempt to prevent them from voting.
Today, the story appears to be different. Nobody knows what would happen at the polls proper in the next two weeks. But even before that, the purveyors of the odious scheme, seem to have decided to switch gear by attacking the problem from the root – prevent them from getting the PVC, using INEC.
From this clear indicator, one factor is clearly discernible – the possibility of INEC delivering a credible election is now shaken from the foundation, regardless of the preachment of the commission. This obviously does not stand alone, but accompanied by other developments in recent times that give ample reason to believe that either deliberately or by default, Nigerians are not out of the woods yet in terms of determining their fate by electing their leaders through a believable, credible means.
In September last year, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), shocked Nigerians with what has now become known as the Omuma miracle, where the voters register in Omuma ward, in Oru East Local Government of Imo State, was suffused with foreign names and pictures of foreign faces and children. Till date, INEC has offered little explanation other than it would get to the root of the matter.
Months after, when the same INEC released the voters register, the problems seemed worse, when the content included not only by the foreign names, but with pictures of child-registrants, particularly in the North. Again, when confronted, no credible explanation was given, outside the fact that the register was published for claims and objections and that it was the duty of Nigerians to object to the names they were disputing, in other words, pushing the responsibility to the people, rather than doing the needful. That has been the attitude of the commission. They had always found a way of pushing back the blame for obvious failures to the people as the culprit.
Wait till the end of the election and the failure of the commission becomes clear, as it has always been. You’ll hear them absolving the commission one way or the other and pushing the blame to either the Nigerian society or politicians. It has never been different. In whatever name they are called at whatever time and for whatever reason, the Nigerian electoral umpire, has always culpable in the Nigerian conundrum of bad behaviour.
No election, since the beginning of time, ever looked totally credible, by deliberate design, rather than accident of history. Whatever contrivance they come out with, is endorsed and certified by the courts.
From the 12 – two-third majority of votes to the June 12, 1993 debacle to the days of writing results, such that an elected President, openly disowned his election to the present day of publicly disenfranchising people by sheer official policy, Nigerian electoral bodies at different times have remained an albatross in the journey to proper nationhood. Hope of a difference in the current regime, may be the greatest sin of Nigerians today. Not with the signs coming from the different INEC!
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