M. D. Belgore and the unfinished work in Kwara State

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LAST week, the Suprem Court affirmed that Abdulfatai Ahmed, was winner of the April 2011 gubernatorial election in Kwara state. The verdict effectively closed the judicial challenge which followed arguably, the most keenly contested governorship election in recent history, in Kwara state.

The 2003 challenge by Bukola Saraki against the late Muhammed Lawal, had a very bitter edge to it, because of a set of historical, political and even family issues that all came together, to provide the heated background for the election

Bukola Saraki enjoyed two terms in power, and in eight years, the Saraki family was politically demystified, as Kwara’s position as a single family’s fiefdom became increasingly irritating for the majority of its people. Over  eight years, that majority got increasingly young, and by the time the state was ready for the election, the majority of the electorate was under the age of thirty.

They had lived under the yoke of the hegemony of a single family, which consolidated its power and wealth, as it turned the state and its resources into something close to a sole business. Change became the mantra of the moment.

In the appearance of Muhammed Dele Belgore (MDB) on the political stage of the state, the mantra and the moment met their man. MD Belgore was not the archetypal politician; here was a lawyer with a very solid professional background built upon the most impeccable family pedigree in Ilorin. The combination was very attractive; and before long, MDB was able to galvanize the young people, bringing them into the centre stage of politicking in Kwara. It was such a mass movement, that the Saraki dynasty necessarily had to respond.

Nobody has exact figures, but it is generally acknowledged that the April 2011 governorship election was perhaps, the most expensive, that they ever ran. Traditional rulers, politicians and civil servants were corralled to deliver votes, and open and subtle threats were part of the baggage of the electoral process, which eventually delivered the governorship for Bukola’s personally-endorsed successor, Abdulfatai Ahmed.

It was in fact a tribute to the galvanising of the youth, which MDB’s candidacy achieved, that the incumbent governor, Abdulfatai Ahmed, has made the productive engagement of the youth a central point of his work since assumption of power. Bukola Saraki, deep down in his mind, knew that he was almost completely rejected by the young people, especially in the Ilorin Emirate. The reasons are legion, but that is not the issue in this piece.

Following the Supreme Court verdict, MD Belgore addressed his supporters and the press last weekend, saying that “while that decision therefore brings an end to the legal challenge…the agitation for good governance and the struggle for the liberation of the people of Kwara continues. Our cause continues. All our efforts move full steam ahead…

And that work is not done until we get the Kwara state that we all yearn for, which is a state where people are economically empowered, a state that belongs to all and not a few…” These are very significant words; but it is equally important for MDB and his team to also re-think a lot of issues about his campaign.

MDB is my cousin and I was strongly linked to his campaign, but for me, the most difficult issue all through, was the choice of platform, the ACN, as vehicle for the ambition of providing an alternative to the Saraki domination of the state. Ilorin Emirate alone has about 48 percent of the population of Kwara state. A central issue in Ilorin, even amongst the modern elite, is the deep suspicion of the Southwest-based ACN!

The ACN aversion

I spoke with hundreds of people in Ilorin who said they accepted there was the need to end the Saraki hegemony; they knew that MDB is THEIRS in every sense, but the platform of ACN is completely alien to our history and tradition! They are fed up with the Saraki hegemony, but they do not want a state where Bola Tinubu will come to determine our lives; or a situation where our governor, as a member of the ACN, will begin to attend meetings of Southwest governors!

This viewpoint was so strongly canvassed, that a lot of people who would have supported MDB’s campaign became either indifferent or hostile. The majority of Kwara state (especially in Ilorin Emirate, the Nupe and Batonbu peoples) do not want to become a conquered territory controlled by Bola Tinubu; and that is very clear!

So how MDB retains his incredible attraction with the mass of the young; as well as stay a harbinger of hope while his people reject anything that is fundamentally seen as opposed to their tradition and history, is one of the major issues that will have to be confronted into the next couple of years in Kwara state. MD Belgore has assisted the genie of political consciousness out of the bottle of one-family dominance of Kwara, but there are deeply underlining contradictions that will continue to hamstring the struggle for liberation.

This is because in truth, the majority of the people of Kwara state do not equate Bola Tinubu and his ACN platform with liberation. They loathe them in fact! MDB has his work cut out in the next four years!

The Sokoto anti-terrorism rescue effort: The facts just didn’t add up

WHEN the two Western Engineers, Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara, were kidnapped last year from the construction site in Birnin Kebbi, there were whispers within construction circles, that the kidnap had taken place as a result of the bitter rivalry between the companies which struggled for the multi-billion naira contract. The Italian company Stabilini got the job in the long run, and it was from them, that the two unfortunate men were taken.

Over the past one year, the kidnap fed into a national situation which had every elements of a tragic script that has been played out in an ever-deepening crises phenomena: killings by Boko Haram; franchise killings by other criminal gangs, that became increasingly blamed on Boko Haram; suspicions of Fifth Column killings and even more sinister allegations of security forces’ complicity; and a nation which has become deeply caught up in the grips of hysteria and greater divide along its notorious fault-lines. This is the backdrop against which the botched rescue mission was authorised and the anti-climax of its spectacular failure!

There are so many questions which immediately came to mind, soon as the news of the failed rescue attempt broke. How extensive and reliable was the intelligence? What was the nature of the preparation for the assault? What about the element of surprise that such an assault would normally need and was it really ensured? How come the scene of the botched attempt was not secured after it took place, for forensic analysis?

There were incredible pictures of local people invading the scenes of the bullet-riddled house, with toilets awash in the blood of the unfortunate victims, subsequently. The only definitive point is that we got confirmation, despite earlier denials, that the armed forces of the imperialist powers actually enter Nigeria to carry out operations. In Sokoto, it went wrong for the British government and their Nigerian clients, with tragic consequences for the unfortunate individuals they attempted to rescue. As we also now know, the British did not even inform their Italian NATO allies! That became another point of diplomatic disquiet and anger.

By the beginning of this
week, DAILY TRUST was quoting a Mauritanian news agency allegedly “with close contacts among militants”, that “about N207million ransom was paid to kidnappers holding British and Italian hostages in Sokoto before Thursday’s botched rescue operation”.

Intricate network of conspiracy

The story deepened the intricate network of conspiracy which sucked in various characters around West Africa: an opposition politician in Mauritania, Moustapha Imam Chafi, who had previously worked as a special advisor to Burkinabe President Blaise Campaore (the assassin, who killed Thomas Sankara and known for involvement in many of the wars in West Africa over the past 30 years); the kidnap group itself led by Khaled Al-Barnaoui and said to be linked to AQIM. Nigerian security sources, in the meantime, were said to have found the clues which led to the botched Sokoto operation in Zaria, when a leader of an alleged Boko Haram splinter group, Abu Muhammed was captured. In the days after the Sokoto operation, Boko Haram came out to say that it did not carry out the kidnapping in the first place! So we are back where we started from; who

really kidnapped the unfortunate hostages?

Was there a link to business rivalry and if so was that link properly investigated? Was money paid to secure the freedom of the hostages? How did AQIM become part of the negotiations? At what point did the British enter the fray leading to authorisation for the use of British Special Forces on Nigerian soil? Why was the rescue operation so badly bungled? The facts just didn’t add up! The Nigerian government owes us the type of openness which the British government showed its own people. That is what democracy is all about!

The Nigerian variant of the ‘War on Terror’ is obviously not up to scratch. It has been bungled all through. The Nigerian government deployed troops at the heart of the crises in Borno and the most difficult part of the process is the increasing accusation of extra-judicial killings. As that continues apace, the troops’ actions have alienated the majority of people who ordinarily should be the source of intelligence. Caught in a hole, the security apparatus continued to dig, using the same failed tactics over and over.

On the other hand, there is the encouraged propaganda that presents the country as being literally at war against itself: Muslim against Christian; Northerner against Southerner. In the meantime, the security budget,of almost One Trillion Naira,must be justified by the Nigerian security apparatus, by any means necessary. It is freebies time for security contractors and their Nigerian allies. To understand all that is happening around us today, we must not lose sight of the political economy of security spending!



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