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I find Governor Murtala Nyako’s belligerent policies, politics and discriminatory style of governance completely out of place. His mean posture is completely out of tune with the Adamawa spirit I have known and lived with. He stands alone today and unless he retraces his steps, he will be a ghastly figure in the history of Adamawa – Emmanuel Yawe’s column, Peoples Daily; Monday, February 22, 2010.
My first and only private encounter with Murtala Nyako took place in Abuja in the middle of Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency. My all weather friend and brother, the inevitable Alhaji Abdullahi No Sweat arranged the meeting.
As a rural boy, the man won my heart when, on retirement from the Navy, he established a sprawling farm in his rural Mayo Belwa homeland of Adamawa state. Abdullahi who attended Yola Middle School with Nyako in the pre independence era of the 50s wanted me to interview him for Crystal Magazine where I worked as Editor. I agreed on the condition that the interview was to be non-political and limited to only his activities as a farmer. At that time, I reasoned – wrongly with the turn of events – that a man who had played military politics as military governor of Niger state in 1976, and rose to be an Admiral and appointed Chief of Naval Staff in December 1989 must have seen all that was there to see in Nigerian politics.
Consequently I limited my questions to farming. But strangely, the man had this proclivity of giving political answers to my farming questions. It was a queer interview but I still squeezed water out of the rock. Headlined “Nigeria makes me sad –Nyako”; it was our cover story for the month. Now with what he has done with his name and his state since that interview, I can say that ‘Nyako makes me sad’.
By the time of the interview, Nyako looked to me too advanced in age to plunge into Nigerian politics. Much earlier in my life, 1979 – 1980, I had worked with an old man – Chief Adekunle Ajasin, then governor of old Ondo state and the experience was not funny. Nyako I felt was better off on the farm. But the man thought otherwise of himself. The final bait was the violent quarrel which pitched Obasanjo against his Vice, Atiku Abubakar.
President Obasanjo had a secret plan to ostracize his ambitious deputy from the all conquering behemoth – the PDP. He then came out with a membership revalidation scheme nationwide. The result of that national exercise showed that it was only aimed at one or two people – Atiku Abubakar and his fanatical follower at that time Boni Haruna, the governor of Adamawa state. At the end of the exercise, they lost their membership of the party. It was no secret at that time that Prof Jibril Aminu, then a senator and the anchor man of the membership revalidation exercise in Adamawa was collaborating with Murtala Nyako.
Poor Boni Haruna was at the receiving end of the complex manoeuvring that was going on. The EFCC, the ‘impeachment expert’ in those days joined the fray. Harassed and harried, Boni took flight to foreign lands as the government of Obasanjo froze the accounts of the Adamawa state government and withheld its statutory allocations.
The picture became clear as the drama continued. The PDP primaries were tailored to produce only one candidate for the gubernatorial contest – Murtala Nyako. On the day of the primaries, all other aspirants who went to Lamido cinema – venue of the exercise – were met by stern looking policemen who proceeded to drive them and their supporters away. At the end of ‘the election like event of 2007,’ which international observers said was the worst kind of election they had witnessed anywhere in the world, Nyako emerged governor of Adamawa.
Those of us with vested interests in Adamawa soon became awed by the speed and direction of his government. He turned violently against Prof Jibril Aminu who did not only skew the process of his becoming governor but sourced for the only funds that were available to him. Even my poor Abdullahi No Sweat, who coordinated the media during his campaign was chased out of the governor’s entourage and put to shame. Prof Aminu who was in the senate was subjected to multiple marine attacks and lost his senatorial seat to Nyako’s Chief of Staff. The Admiral was cruising his ship at the frightening speed of over one million nautical miles per hour. The world has never seen such speed before and we all stood aside gazing at where he will land.
It was in the middle of this mesmerising performance by the governor that I made my prediction in 2010 that he was going to end up as a ghastly figure in the history of Adamawa. The prediction was based on the fact that he stood alone.
On his way to becoming governor, he fought Atiku Abubakar the Vice President of Nigeria at the time. Apart from being the highest political office holder in Adamawa at the time, Atiku is a very rugged fighter. As governor, he became a renegade against Jibril Aminu, his comrade of just yesterday. He moved fast against my former boss, Bamanga Tukur who eventually became the PDP National Chairman. But so far, the most outrageous thing he did against an individual was his war of attrition against Atiku Abubakar, the home boy who wanted to be President of Nigeria.
At the PDP primaries, preparatory to the 2011 elections, Murtala Nyako was neck deep in the machinations to return President Goodluck as the PDP presidential candidate. When the delegates to the party’s national convention were all gathered in Abuja, Atiku the homeboy was looking for the Adamawa state contingent to shake hands with them and canvass for their votes. He found none. They had all been kidnapped and hidden away beyond his reach. Who arranged the kidnap? Governor Murtala Nyako.
As governor, Nyako did not only fight powerful individuals, he fought powerful institutions too. At a point, he ordered the police to chase away state legislators from the Assembly complex, locked it up and put the key in his pocket. He is so far the only governor in Nigeria to banish the legislature of his state.
Not done with the legislature, he also moved against the judiciary. Adamawa, for reasons best known to Nyako has operated in the past four years without a substantive Chief Judge. By the time the legislature moved against him, the judiciary was willing to play ball.
Nyako’s strongest point was the executive arm where he had supreme control. The ministries were neatly grouped and shared out to his wives to supervise with the commissioners reporting to the wives. Then he planted his children in the governor’s office with pompous titles.
Finally, Nyako committed suicide when he wrote a letter accusing the President of genocide against the North. If Nyako had a little credibility left, that letter would have led Nigeria to a civil war. Because he had none, he simply added the President’s name to the list of his powerful enemies who ensured that he is today a ghostly figure in the history of Adamawa.