Credit for ‘choristers of death’, goes to Festus Adedayo, that beautiful and cerebral writer who features frequently in Tribune at Ibadan and some other newspapers. It was Adedayo’s coinage for the violence that had been the lot of the people of Kogi State since nearly eight years that Yahya Bello became their governor. Yahya Bello was not the winner of the election for that election cycle but the winner, Abubakar Audu an older hand who had once ruled the state but came back for a second term but died and Yahya was picked in peculiarly Nigerian way to be governor, even over the running mate of Abubakar Audu, James Faleke. I think Yahya Bello was favoured in the political calculation of political bookmaker Bola Tinubu, now the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, for two reasons: one he was runner up in the party primary and is from a well populated tribe in Kogi, Ebira and since election is determined by tribal consideration, Yahya Bello stepped in. Secondly, Yahya Bello is young and the ‘not too young to rule’ cry is the clamour in the atmosphere in Nigeria then and now. The older generation has failed the nation and the younger generation must take over to save the nation. But commentators have since been pointing to the reign of Yahya as a proof that age is not the determinant of performance in politics.
Yahya rules from Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State but another relatively young man rules in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state. Seyi Makinde is the governor of Oyo where violence is surging again. In Lokoja when Yahya decided that Dangote must be punished for an offence that is yet to be known and seen but that many think is only contrived because Dangote Cement was not playing the rentier game where the rent seeker contribute nothing to productivity but just add wealth, Yahya set up what he called Technical Committee, headed by the Secretary to Kogi State government, Folashade Ayoade to look into the legality of the transfer of Obajana Cement now known as Dangote Cement to Dangote in 2010, about ten years ago. Promptly, Folashade Ayoade committee returned the verdict that the transfer was “null and void.” Folashade may have been a lawyer, but she was not sitting in a court and where she found that legal term to use is amazing. That is the stuff in Nigeria, when leaders have something illegal and sometimes criminal to do, they quickly put together a team that has been well-briefed according to the intention of the leader in that matter and it subsequently return the predetermined verdict.
With the Technical Committee’s report and the facts contained therein, the next thing for Yahya Bello was to go to court but that will waste time and may not end until May next year when Yahya’s tenure will expire; so, Yahya gathered a Vigilante group, another name for thugs and invaded Dangote Cement Industries. The job done but not before 27 workers of the company have been wounded. They weren’t wounded by mere fists; they were wounded by sophisticated weapons in the hands of untrained vigilante. Why Yahya Bello did not send the police who are officially trained and empowered to enforce order and why he didn’t go to court to get a ruling against the company is difficult to understand. But certainly, it is one kind of lawlessness that is common with our governments here. How would a governor enforce order when the very criminals who cause the disorderliness also become the instrument of government to carry out illegality against the citizens over which they rule?
In Oyo State, similar bizarre things are happening. In Ibadan, the capital of the state, the fear of hoodlums is the beginning of wisdom. There are vigilantes which are officially recognized by government and carry guns that are lethal. Where I live, they shot at a young boy in the name of attacking hoodlums which landed the boy in a traditional hospital where bullets were extracted from his body. Traditional hospitals are having a field day making huge money from jobs of extracting bullets from the bodies of those who have fallen victims of the hoodlums. For some months this year, the city had some measure of peace, the governor himself confirmed that the indices of crime had reduced drastically. But crime is surging again, no thanks to the war over who becomes governor in 2023. The sitting governor, Seyi Makinde has won the ticket of his party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for a second time. So also, his main opponent, Teslim Folarin, of APC, was described by close political associates as tough, who had fought and won many ‘bloody” battles in the past. He was said to have won the battle with a certain “Elewe Omo,” translated as roughly one who deals in herbs for children. This in real terms means one who is so well-equipped with juju. In short, a battle-tested political enforcer. In a battle fought on election day, Elewe Omo allegedly was felled and killed by the team of Folarin.
Now Governor Seyi Makinde has corralled to his side a faction of the dreaded NURTW, the motor park touts. A political source told this reporter that Seyi Makinde on assuming power purposely released from prison Mukaila, aka “Auxiliary,” head of a faction of NURTW, that his predecessor, Governor Isiaka Ajimobi had earlier detained. Makinde thereafter appointed “Auxiliary” his special assistant on security. He also transferred the management of the motor parks to him in the guise of a reorganization that created Park Management. He thus relieved the former NURTW officials and gave the parks to “Auxiliary.” Therefore “Auxiliary” became king in the city, going about in a convoy of cars and with siren blaring to herald his approach. “Auxiliary” became a proud owner of an estate of about four houses in Ibadan.
Recently, also “Auxiliary”, released a video that also trended on social media boasting and challenging Teslim Folarin of the APC. That set the stage for the current upsurge of violence in the city. Recently, Teslim Folarin decided to hold a rally in the city, and while on that the thugs of “Auxiliary” clashed with those of APC during which many people were wounded. On the night of 5 October, at 9 pm, thugs belonging reportedly to APC came to Olunloyo area in Kudeti to revenge the attack on them in the afternoon by another group nicknamed “one million boys,” probably working for the PDP. An eyewitness told this reporter that they came fully loaded in commercial tricycles dressed in black outfits and as soon as they got to the abode of the “one million boys” began to shoot everything on sight. By the time they left, three persons had died including a man shot in his scrotum, a teenage boy who had come to a traditional bone setting hospital to set his leg which had fractured and was just getting better was shot in the head as he went to buy food for himself. Two women petty traders were macheted while many others had bullet injuries and had to be rushed to traditional hospitals to extract the bullets lodged in their bodies after the attackers left.
The sad comments on the lips of people who live in the areas are why innocent citizens should bear the brunt of the clash between the governor and his opponent just for their quest to capture power. They are asking why the government should empower known hooligans. They are asking why a governor who is saddled with the responsibility for the protection of lives and properties of citizens should encourage thuggery. “On one hand they claim to protect the citizens, on the other, they unleash thugs on the citizenry while many die in the process,” a concerned citizen observed. The sad story is that when such things happen, no attempt is made to investigate them. The hapless citizens just bury their dead. In this Olunloyo story, the only police officer that visited the traditional bone-setting hospital where the teenage boy was killed came to commiserate with the family and to release a curse on whoever was responsible for the death of the innocent boy: “whoever killed this boy, the policeman reportedly said, ” will not see this December.” From Lokoja to Ibadan, leaders in Nigeria step on blood to get to power, and choristers of death render ugly music of officially inspired mayhem on citizens they want to rule over.
Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.