By Stanley Ukaegwu
The greatest trouble with history is that it casts stubborn, hard shadows! George Santayana, Spanish- American Philosopher and Writer, once noticed this when he said: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ This is profound. It is also prophetic. In its modern parallelism, it bears direct congruence to what is playing out in the public space against the spirited efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and its Chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa to tear apart the hydra headed monster of corruption in our midst.
Bello Matawalle, embattled Zamfara State governor is acting out a script. It is an old script. Faced with a corruption overload of N70billion and the attendant investigation of the sleaze by the Commission, he is crying blue murder and splashing mud on the EFCC and its leadership. This is expected and the public need not lose any sIeep over it. It will be uncharitable to beat a child and forbid him from crying. Matawalle has an inalienable right to cry, except that his lachrymal efforts should be properly directed.
From the information put out by the EFCC in the aftermath of his outburst, showed that the governor went on a contract bazaar, involving 100 companies in a state reeling in first degree poverty and privation. Funds sourced from an old generation bank for projects are funnelled into wild contracts with contractors mobilised robustly, some paid 60% of contract sums, some 50% and some more than that. A particular Abuja real estate operator was paid N6billion for a contrived contract of N10billion, another one paid over N3billion and others with various degrees of payments. The trouble really is that they were paid for doing nothing, with no service rendered, no contract terms and no visible work done anywhere. This is simply unconscionable. The governor knew all these, yet chose to take on the Commission on issues bearing no relevance to his competence.
What is Matawalle’s competence about EFCC’s asset recovery and disposal? What is his business with plea bargain arrangements? I recall, and most Nigerians will remember, that in 2022, EFCC did a widely- advertised and publicised autioning of recovered assets across its offices and zones, with every extant law and procedure fully followed. Government’s licensed auctioneers, Bureau of Public Procurement and other relevant agencies were all involved. And I understand that proceeds of the auction were paid into the Consolidated Revenue Accounts of the government and the whole nation applauded the Commission for its transparency and credibility. So, where was the Zamfara’s state governor then? Busy with his contract awards?
It is ludicrous that Matawalle could challenge the EFCC’s plea bargain procedures which betrays his ignorance of the enabling laws empowering the Commission to go about them. It is even comical that he chose to criticise the Investigative latitude of the Commission. More preposterous is his claim that the EFCC’s Chair, Bawa demanded $2million bribe from him. What will Bawa do with the bribe? Close the corruption case against him? Destroy all the weighty investigations against him? Why did the governor have to wait till now to tell the world about the bribe demand? Does it seem feasible that a character like Matawalle would turn down a bribe demand, if such actually happened?
It is evident that the nation is once again on the tumultuous route of desperate politically exposed persons hounding EFCC and its leadership. Matawalle is testing the grounds. Others may follow shortly. It is a programmed distraction and deliberate onslaught on the image and Integrity of the Commission. He has a good company in some civil society organisations making wild claims about the EFCC. They have their pay masters and the agenda is similar: give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
Now, where do all these shenanigans lead us? Cold surrender? It is often said that “ eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. Vigilance? Yes! Nigerians need to be more vigilant and circumspect at this time. The fight against corruption cannot and should not be expected to be a gentleman’s war. Corruption is an industry and its players are experienced actors. The onus is on every stakeholder in the anti- graft project to wake up and stand shoulder to shoulder with the EFCC in its determined efforts to tackle the scourge of economic and financial crimes. Every issue should be weighed on its merits. Blackmailers should be seen for who they are and be tackled more frontally.
It is not enough for us to see the tantrums, sabre rattling and name- calling of EFCC and its leadership, as usual stocks – in- trade of fraudsters in moments of national transition like this. We should challenge them collectively and break the malignant culture. If past leaders of the EFCC: Nuhu Ribadu, Ibrahim Lamorde, Farida Waziri, Ibrahim Magu were stampeded out of office, this should not be taken as a norm. Abdulrasheed Bawa has done remarkably well and outstanding in every respect. He does not deserve to be painted black by characters that have all their hands soiled in shady deals. If corruption is fighting back, we should also come in the fray and fight it to a standstill. Matawalle should come forward and answer all the questions posed by his unflattering stewardship in Zamfara State. Only then can we accord him any serious attention.
•Stanley Ukaegwu, is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State
Gombe and serial betrayers
By Ikenna Ogenna
Gombe State is among the few states where the military interregnum did not last long. This is because barely three years after it was carved out from Bauchi State, Nigeria returned to presidential democracy.
In the governorship election in 1999, it was Alhaji Abubakar Hashidu that won and therefore became the state first democratically-elected governor of the state.
But, because the euphoria of the state’s creation was very high, Governor Hashidu seemed to have been overwhelmed by the challenges confronting the state. He struggled for the right strategies to adopt in developing the state.
Consequently, the people decided to by-pass him in the 2003 governorship poll, when he stood on the same All Peoples Party (APP) to seek a second term mandate.
That led to the electorate casting massive block of votes to elect a visionary young and gifted leader, Alhaji Danjuma Mohammed Goje, as governor in the 2003 general elections. By the time Goje was elected as governor, there was nothing to suggest that he was either overwhelmed or confused as to how to pilot the affairs of the young state.
Of course, before his election as governor, Goje was armed with rich political and private sector experience. Having served in the Bauchi State House of Assembly as well as, in the Federal Ministry of Power and Steel as the Minister of State, he was clear-headed about what direction the executive should take to address the plights of the people.
But, most importantly, being a graduate of Political Science from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the governor went down to churn out impactful policies and programmes. In a short space of time, Gombe State started hugging national headlines on account of the prodigious developmental strides of Governor Goje.
Elected precisely three years after the United Nations declared the Millennium Development Goals, Goje, whose initials also spell MDG (Mohammed Danjuma Goje), embarked on aggressive expansion of access to quality healthcare and education, even as he moved to ensure the maximisation of Gombe State’s agricultural potentials.
As governor, Goje pursued very ambitious programmes and projects that lifted Gombe State from obscurity to star-status in the comity of Nigeria’s 36 states. Through these life changing projects in Healthcare, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Education, Poverty Reduction and Environmental protection, not many remembered that Gombe State was among the latest six states created by the military regime of General Sani Abacha in 1996.
Today, the Gombe State University, Pantami International Stadium, and Gombe State Airport stand prominently as part of the Lionhearted courage of Goje’s administration. Apart from the state university, the Goje administration expanded the access of women and the girl-child to formal education, just as the government gave fillip to the cause of adult education, which led to the leap-frogging of literacy in the state. He passionately influenced the setting up of the College of Horticulture at Dadin Kowa in Yamaltu Deba Local Government.
It’s obvious Gombe State is heterogeneous society with predominantly native Muslim and Christian faithful and a sprinkling of traditionalists in Southern parts of the state.
As such, to strike a sort of religious balance, the Gombe Central Mosque and Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) Centre were built. Indeed, throughout Goje’s tenure as governor, there wasn’t any religious crisis or protest of discrimination unlike what has become the order of the day currently. In recognition of his drive for peaceful coexistence among different religions in the state, Goje was the only Muslim governor decorated with a ‘Peace Award’ by CAN youth wing in Abuja at an event attended by prominent Christian leaders including; Gen. Yakubu Gowon rtd, late Solomon Lar, Pastor William Kumuyi, Bishop John Onaiyekan among many others.
Although this piece was not motivated by the need to enumerate the achievements of the Goje administration in Gombe State, it is important to note that the state witnessed improvement in security and urban sanitation. That the state enjoyed relative peace and experienced improved access to safe drinking water could be traced to Goje’s background as one-time Secretary of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos.
This author was challenged to reflect on the political evolution of Gombe State up until this present moment of petty recriminations. Coming over from Bauchi State, where persons from the present area that constitute Gombe State played in the background, Goje’s efforts at grooming a pool of emergent leaders was superlative.
A significant feature of that policy of raising future leaders could be seen in the emergence of the current governor, Inuwa Yahaya as the Gombe State chief executive. Upon Goje’s electoral triumph against Hashidu in 2003, Inuwa was among the crop of inexperienced young hands the governor recruited into the state cabinet.
And, being intentional in his determination to provide an assemblage of experienced politicians from which Gombe people could tap for various leadership positions, Governor Goje retained Inuwa as his Finance Commissioner for the two-terms he served the state as governor.
However, perhaps eager to migrate to the high office of governor, Inuwa abridged his years of tutelage to contest the governorship ticket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011. As a journalist, this writer could recall that based on the towering popularity of Governor Goje in the state, many contestants had lined up for the PDP ticket.
Of course, being Goje’s Finance Commissioner, Inuwa had jumped into the bandwagon, believing that the sound financial management and superb project conception and implementation of the Goje administration would redound to his electoral advantage.
However, just as wishes are not horses, that vaulting ambition to take the place of his principal crashed, as the former Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, dusted all the contenders to clinch the PDP governorship ticket. Dankwambo eventually won the main election.
Inuwa Yahaya could not benefit from that masterstroke of continuity, because of all the plethora of contestants for the PDP governorship ticket, it was only him and Usman Bayero Nafada that approached the court to challenge what was evidently a transparent primary.
Until today, most of the losers at the primaries against Dankwambo are angry with Goje in the mistaken belief that he favoured him to clinched the ticket. But, miserably and despite shepherding him along in the mucky waters of politics, and ensuring that he won the 2011 governorship election, Dankwambo left a dagger at the back of his benefactor through his promulgated anti-Goje’s actions and inaction. What a payback!
However, as a father who is committed to a better future for his children, Goje overlooked Inuwa’s tantrums against him after the loss of the PDP ticket in 2011. That was why as the 2015 general elections approached, the former governor carried Inuwa on his back again to join the newly-minted All Progressives Congress (APC).
Tapping on Goje’s experience and rich fund of political goodwill, APC leaders had mounted pressures on the former governor to join them in the arduous task of confronting the ruling PDP to deliver the party. However, APC won at the Presidential election, but lost the governorship. The reason is not farfetched.
At the home front, Goje charitably acceded to Inuwa’s desperation to become governor. Pushing aside the strong reservations of well-meaning leaders and influential traditional rulers, Goje forgot Inuwa’s rebellious tantrums in 2011 and supported him for the APC governorship ticket at the expense of the then House of Representatives’ Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Bayero Nafada. But, Senator Goje was severely cautioned against supporting Inuwa, because according to them supporting Inuwa would not earn him any reciprocal regard.
Nonetheless, what Goje could not do, the Gombe voters did: They turned their backs on Inuwa and re-elected Dankwambo for a second term. That Dankwambo survived what was later known as Buhari Tsunami in the North could be traced to a combination of factors, chiefly, because he was paired against a very unpopular candidate on the APC platform. Incredibly, Inuwa lost in the same state that Buhari’s got massive votes.
Yet, seeing Inuwa’s repeated failures as a dent on his political clout, in 2019, Goje again supported his governorship aspiration. The former governor took Inuwa around the 11 Local Government Areas of the state, pleading with the people to elect him as governor.
Happily, at the end of polls on March 16, 2019 the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), returned Inuwa as winner. Inuwa defeated Senator Nafada of PDP convincingly to the relief of Goje.
Posting another shocking betrayal, not long after he mounted the saddle as governor, Inuwa entered the trenches to begin a political war of destruction against his benefactor and former principal, Senator Goje. The culmination of the bad blood between them was the attack on Senator Goje’s convoy in Gombe by hoodlums said to be loyal to the incumbent governor.
In that regrettable attack of November 5, 2021, many vehicles on Goje’s convoy were badly damaged by the miscreants who were bearing deadly weapons. In a statement after the attack Lilian Nworie, the Senator’s Special Assistant on Media, expressed gratitude that her principal survived what was primed as an assassination attempt.
Insisting that the attackers were thugs loyal to Governor Inuwa, Okorie lamented that the police seemed helpless and failed to prevent the onslaught on Goje’s vehicles, stressing that the Senator showed remarkable restraint.
It is therefore worrisome that in the current siege to Goje, those he groomed to political limelight have turned his greatest adversaries with some wishing him dead. Like the police on the day, he was attacked along Gombe-Bauchi Expressway, the APC seems helpless.
The fortunes of APC in Gombe State would no doubt suffer from this betrayal syndrome, which PDP experienced in 2019 that made them lose virtually all elective positions to APC. Goje’s only crime seems to be, one, supporting Inuwa Yahaya to become the governor, and, secondly, requesting him to fulfil his campaign promises to Gombe people.
In the build-up to the 2023 general elections, Governor Inuwa programmed Goje for a defeat. But, the political colossus earned massive votes for a fourth term in the Senate. And, to show his pain at the Senator’s triumph, the governor orchestrated a dubious suspension and later expulsion process against Goje, Senator Bulus K. Amos (Gombe South) as well as Engr. Yunus Abubakar of the House of Representative.
But, knowing the sterling roles Goje played in birthing APC in Gombe by defeating PDP in 2015 and 2019, it is mindboggling that of all the many politicians groomed by Senator Goje, some turned against him and later sought for forgiveness. some of them was said to be seen on several occasions in Goje’s house in search of reconciliation, only to later turn recalcitrant and relapse to the trenches.
The ugly developments oozing out from Gombe State has thrown up mixed reactions among citizens and watchers of the state politics. Grooming young people for leadership has become a huge burden for benefactors. The experience is so sad and painful that those who support calls for youth inclusion in decision-making may flinch from granting them necessary guidance and tutelage.
In fact, if what Goje’s penchant for bringing up ordinary persons to political prominence could be rewarded in such ugly ways, it would be risky for any leader to willingly mentor anyone. The net effect is that Gombe State would be restrained from its forward march in leadership grooming which the Goje administration pioneered.
Inuwa was Goje’s political creation and on whose back, he jockeyed to be where he is today. Removing Goje’s association from Inuwa’s trajectory would reduce the governor to a mere cotton merchant.
If so, then, the emptiness of the current needless ego tripping, backstabbing, and loathing come to question. Put in another way, could Inuwa have amounted to anything politically without Goje? Many people have contrasted his rise with the inability of the governor’s biological brother, late Musa Yahaya, to win the chairmanship contest in Gombe Local Government Area, where he posted a humiliating defeat.
In the final analysis, these pertinent posers beg for answers: What is Inuwa Yahaya trying to achieve by antagonising his lone benefactor? Who does he have in mind as the ultimate beneficiary of this ugly trend?
The thinking among reasonable people within and outside Gombe is that whatever the perceived fault of Goje, his positive roles in the political progression of Governor Inuwa Yahaya makes him undeserving of these serial betrayals.
But, as Toba Beta noted, “betrayal is common for men with no conscience.” However, while political betrayal is commonplace among politicians, the betrayers in Gombe State qualify for laurels.
*Dr. Ogenna, a Media and Development analyst, writes from Abuja