Nigeria: Hiding in Plain Sight

4 August 2021

Some perceived political opponents are being persecuted.

The February 2023 election is about 18 months away and we are already seeing signs that interested parties, individuals and institutions are already warming up. Some are already angling for vantage positions.

As is normal, certain moves are already being made by different political interests. In some states, people are moving against the opposition -- trying to ensure that the opposition is not in a position to upstage the ruling party. In some states, governors are already taking serious punitive measures against people that they consider sympathisers of the opposition.

This is not new. We witnessed it in the first republic when opponents were arbitrarily arrested by local police men and kept away from the election. Also, in the second republic, the police were used against opponents at the state and federal level at the time. The police were the only major law enforcement being deployed by politicians against their opponents.

Today, there are many law enforcement agents that can be used against political opponents. Now, there is the Department of State Services (DSS). And here, you have many cases of people being arrested and kept like the Dunamis 5. Particularly if the allegation against them is defined as having something to do with state security.

You have the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and then the anti-graft agencies -- EFCC and ICPC. Perhaps EFCC has assumed notoriety in the recent past. Particularly before the advent of the new administration that has been trying to clean up things. This is why recent arrests and interrogations and invitations of the political elite are interpreted in light of the following.

Thus, when Umaru Al-Makura, former Governor of Nasarawa State and his wife were invited, people said that it is in connection with his All Progressives Congress (APC) chairmanship. The APC is planning a convention to elect a new national chairman in place of the interim national chairman. Many people believe that the new cabal consisting of the interim chairman and three other governors and one minister are scheming to retain Mai Mala Buni -- Governor of Yobe State and the interim chairman in office by some manipulations and machinations.

Now, this goes against the grain of Al-Makura who is strongly bidding for the chairmanship of the APC, with the support of his governor and successor, Abdul Sule. Suddenly, Al-Makura became a subject of interest in the EFCC alongside his wife. Many people in Nasarawa, Abuja and across the nation, believe that this has something to do with the APC chairmanship.

In the same vein, the renewed interest of the EFCC, in the corruption allegations against the former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, is seen also as another fallout of the struggle for the APC ticket. Yari is also a strong candidate for the chairmanship of the APC. He is said to have the support of some governors, who are his colleagues in the Nigeria Governors' Forum. He is also said to have opposed the defection into the APC of Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State. This is not sitting well with the APC cabal. Suddenly, the EFCC is calling him in.

Additionally, last Saturday July 31, 2021, the man who is regarded as the real leader of the opposition, Bukola Saraki, a former Governor of Kwara State, has also come under another round of scrutiny by the EFCC. Before then, during the hearing of the fundamental human rights case filed by Saraki, the EFCC had claimed before a judge that the order which restrained the EFCC from investigating him was preventing them from doing their job.

Suddenly, last Saturday, the news space was awash with news of his arrest. However, he clarified and he voluntarily decided to go and answer questions in order to clear the claim that he was preventing the EFCC from doing its work.

There are many people who believe that this is just a case of putting another obstacle on a man whose opponents believe will run for the presidency. In many quarters, this seems like another attempt to persecute and suppress the man.

Saraki has experienced this since 2013 and 2014, first under Goodluck Jonathan -- where he was investigated under the Police Anti-Fraud Unit. This is one of the reasons why he left the party.

After he won the Senate Presidency against the wishes of some members of his party, the federal government then instituted cases against Saraki that included his assets declaration, a made-up case of the forgery of the Senate's standing rules, in addition to periodically using the EFCC to threaten him.

We believe that there should be an end to regressive politicking. Politicians should seek to beat each other based on the superiority of their ideas, policies, programs and creative solutions to the problems that the country is facing. They should also cease from bastardising or politicising institutions of state, which are created to solve certain problems in the society. This dirty method of unleashing state apparatus against perceived political opponents, only ends up destroying state institutions and derailing them from their set objectives.

Needless to say, Saraki not only survived, but he thrived over the four-year period that he was the Nigerian President of the Senate.

Quassim wrote from Abuja

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