KIDNAPPERS IN HIGH PLACES
I had told myself I would not write this column this week, but reading through an interview granted last week by Alhaji Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi, the Sokoto State Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) Governorship candidate in the 2007 gubernatorial election in that state, I feel one needs to raise alarm that we are gradually taking this kidnapping business too far. It all started with PDP kidnapping our votes. But they insisted that they were only 'capturing'. However, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari penultimate week reminded them that it must be called by it's name, and if they insisted it was kidnapping, then whatever they were doing to over votes was worse than kidnapping.
So, while President Goodluck Jonathan and IGP Ogbonna Onovo are busy chasing small-time kidnappers in the South East, people are busy in the Abuja, South West and North West kidnapping more important things.
How do I mean? Only last week, the Abeokuta government literally relocated to Sango-Ota to kidnap a road it did not build. But we just made noise about it for a few days and forgot all about it - the same way we have forgotten that Supreme Court had gone to Sokoto several months ago and kidnapped the judgement of the Appeal Court. Yes, the Appeal Court had actually written the judgement, we are told, and was about to deliver it when the big men in Abuja arrested it (no, kidnapped it). And they have held it hostage eversince.
Not even all the outcry and protestations by all the outspoken retired justices in the land have been able to sway anybody to do a rethink. But the worst part of this judicial kidnap is that they are not even asking for ransom. They have just kept mute. And, trust Nigerians, as soon as you do not say anything in your own matter, people begin to say things for you, or say things and attribute it to you (ask Dimeji Bankole and his media men).
yes, our rumour mill that has remained very fecund in this part of the world. It is the only mill still rolling. NEPA (sorry, PHCN) and an uncaring government have since forced other mills to close shop.
So, if you keep quiet, our rumour mill will help you out. They have manufactured so many stories in the Sokoto judgement hijack that people are now beginning to think that the incumbent governor has actually lost. That Dingyadi is a governor-in-waiting. They are saying that some big men in Sokoto do not want Attahiru Bafarawa back to power by proxy, though installation of Dingyadi. But I do not want to mention the name of the big man they are accusing, for the gods forbid that such thoughts (let alone, words), should enter the head of the living. I know all this is not true, but could their lordships please, prove these detractors wrong by declaring the result.
Has anybody thought that if by any stroke of fate the judgment goes the other way that the winner of an election would have been denied exercising the mandate freely given him by his people? What happens after the expiration of the four-year tenure and it turns out that Aliyu Wammako was not supposed to be Sokoto Governor? would Dingyadi start a fresh 4-year term without another election? I guess that is why I am not a lawyer. Or I would have charged someone for kidnapping, illegal arrest and detention of a judgement, or something like that.
And while we are on this issue of kidnapping, I went to Sango-Ota (the scene of another kidnap incident) last weekend. Now, don't get me wrong, I did not go to Ota to see my father-in-law Obasanjo. How could I? When my pastor saw a vision two months ago and told me that there are plans to return that dreaded, infamous notice on the gate: 'out of bounds to dogs and journalists'.
Surprisingly too, I did not even go to Ota to see that bridge of trouble that has opened a new vista to the war between Governor Gbenga Daniel and Speaker Dimeji Bankole war. Yes, there is a war - even if the Speaker refuses to acknowledge it. We all know that troops have been deployed, at least from the Abeokuta end.
Rather than the bridge, I went to Sango-Ota last Saturday to commiserate with my Deputy, Alhaji Abdulfatah Oladeinde, who lost his mother the previous night.
Of course, as every death invariably reminds all of us about the ephemeral nature of our very existence on this part of creation, I left Abdulfatah's house, after the burial, crest-fallen. Reminded of the vanity of all the things we erroneously regard as priority. And as I write, this Monday night, the image of the small grave, the mat, the white cloth and the brevity of the entire Muslim burial accorded Alhaja Gbagada (as some of her friends called her) have yet to leave my mind's eye.
That Saturday evening, I merely said a mechanical goodbye to the bereaved as I left their compound - because it would be unthinkable that I just walked away. But my mind had already wandered away. Like a zombie, I entered the car and just kept moping as the driver meandered through the death-traps they call inner city roads in that forgotten part of the world. I could not even remember the bump-and-toss ride through all those many inner dirt roads, or even the shameful Ijoko Road, which has patches of asphalt doting the many gullies and craters that have now become its lot - a reminder that the road was once tarred (when we, the people, still factored in he calculations of government - federal, state or council).
But I only noticed all that on my way to the Oladeindes. On my return journey, I was lost in my new world, totally oblivious of everything – until one bold beggar at the foot of the controversial Ota Bridge tapped the car's glass soliciting for arms. It was then that I was jerked back to reality.
But, again, I was overcome by another wave of thoughts: what is it about this bridge that destroys men of power? Obasanjo who awarded the contract for its construction, I am told, would not dare go anywhere near it without good security back-up. Whatever was left of his reputation in the eyes of the people had been squandered at the foot of that bridge. I am told that the residents of the area are still angry with OBJ for starting the bridge and abandoning it for nearly three years.
Incidentally, Bankole who everyone agrees resuscitated the contract and actually facilitated the release of fund for its completion, and who was invited to come and commission it suddenly became unwanted too, as Governor Daniel not only pulled a fast one on him but actually made it look like the Speaker was the aggressor. So, much so that even when the speaker could not summon the guts to address the press at the venue, preferring to do so at the airport, OGD's men (whose return trip to Abeokuta from Ota suddenly included a curious detour though the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos) followed Bankole there too.
Now, you would think that Daniel, by his obviously smarter political maneuvering, has impressed it on the people that he has delivered another democracy dividend with the completion of the Sango-Ota Bridge? But you can't be more wrong. My findings at the foot of that bridge last Saturday showed that the people did not even know what transpired at the commissioning, until it was all over. In fact, many still believed it was the Speaker who made completion of the road possible. They are still waiting for Daniel to come do his own part of the road project: fix the adjoining roads, and not 'kidnap' the one done by OBJ and Bankole.
But come to think of it, who would deny that this bridge is in Ogun state? And that it was one of the federal projects attracted to the state when OGD was governor? But we all know the fracas last week was not about bridge, road or any such thing. It was all about the Oke Mosan Government House, 2011, return ticket to National Assembly, real and imagined fears of real and imagined ambitions. That is why I don't want to talk about Minister Daggash. He just got caught up in the middle (maybe, a willing or unwilling tool).