15 January 2014

Nigeria: How the Latest Maiduguri Trouble Started

Photo: Leadership
Car blast.

Maiduguri — The death of the emir of Shani, Alhaji Muhammadu Mailafiya, about three weeks ago set the stage for the latest political crisis in Borno State which raised security concerns after sustained peace in Maiduguri for many months.

Former Governor Ali Sheriff has been away from the state capital for 11 months and several attempts he made to come in proved impossible partly because of what sources described as "security threats."

However, five days after the burial of the Shani monarch, Sheriff decided to pay a condolence visit and landed at the Gombe airport in a private jet in company of four members of the House of the House of Representatives. He then proceeded to Shani in Borno State in a convoy of over 100 vehicles.

Among those who received him were Deputy Governor Zanna Umar Mustapha, who sources said was detailed by Shettima to receive the former governor, as well as commissioners, special advisers and chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

While Sheriff was in Shani on Saturday, trouble broke in Maiduguri when some thugs, said to be loyal to him, gathered around the Maiduguri airport roundabout, waiting for the arrival of Mohammed Imam, a former chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), who also served as commissioner and chairman of Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC).

Imam, who landed in a presidential aircraft, is being referred to as the "anointed replacement of Shettima" in the 2015 elections even though the governor is serving his first term and therefore qualified to seek re-election.

Before the arrival of Imam, Governor Kashim Shettima was pelted by the thugs while on his way to the airport to inspect some equipment meant for repairs for the re-opening of the airport which was closed in December.

Shettima, through his spokesman Isa Umar Gusau, described the attack on the governor as "the handiwork of desperate politicians who hired thugs from outside the state."

Following this, Sheriff passed a night at Biu and proceeded to Maiduguri on Sunday in a long motorcade. He was received at Molai, the last village before Maiduguri, by thousands of people, including members of the state House of Assembly, led by Speaker Abdulkareem Lawan.

On Monday, the former governor embarked on visits and some thugs, allegedly hired by the government intercepted and pelted his convoy after visiting the Shehu of Borno, apparently in retaliation over what happened to the governor on Saturday.

However, the trend of events took a different dimension with yesterday's bomb blast which claimed the lives of dozens of people. Soon after the blast, hundreds of youths took to the street on rampage. They burnt structures associated with Sheriff and targeted his home and the home of his father, alleging that the former governor had a hand in the emerging threats to peace in the state capital. The chain of events in the past days has cast a shadow on the peace experienced in Maiduguri for nearly a year.

With the sharp political division between Shettima's supporters and those of his estranged boss, there is anxiety in the trembling state capital as to where all this will lead to.

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