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Published On: Sun, Dec 14th, 2014

Political corruption in Adamawa

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Nuhu-Ribadu2Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe | 08024565402

Almost all the national dailies in the first week of this month carried the incredible story of how members of the Election Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party mandated by the National Headquarters of the party to conduct House of Assembly primary elections in Adamawa State were “kidnapped.” The story reads like a script from a Nollywood drama. But it was in reality sourced from a petition signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the committee, Ambassador Tim Ihemadu and Mrs. Victoria Nyam-Isha respectively.

Captioned “Forceful Abduction, Assault, Threat and Confiscation of Election Materials by Agents of the Adamawa State Government,” the petition gave details of the traumatic experiences of the committee members in Yola in their bid to conduct the primaries. From their account, it would appear as if the governor, Bala James Ngilari collaborated with some chieftains of the party in the state viz Chief Joel Madaki and Mr A. T. Shehu in this criminal act. The petition did not spare even the Police Commissioner and Director of Secret Service in the state.

The Committee members complained that while they were held hostage, party thugs with the help of government officials freely rigged the elections and gave them the results which they announced to the media under duress. The panel disowned the results, and urged the party to do same. The Peoples Democratic Party subsequently ordered all Adamawa State primaries including state assembly, governorship and those of the national assembly moved to Abuja without giving any reason.

This has since been done; the results of such primaries held in Abuja have been announced. Unfortunately this has not brought harmony to the fractured status of the party in the state. All the Governorship, Senatorial and House of Representatives candidates of the party in the state with the exception of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu attended a press conference addressed by their spokesman Professor Andrawus Sawa last week.

They lamented that without due recourse to the party’s constitution of a 7 days notice, the purported primaries took place in Abuja instead of Adamawa. “More to that, the purported election was conducted in contravention of a court order restraining the PDP and INEC from using any delegates list other than the one recognized by all the party executives at all levels”, they added.

The current situation in the Adamawa branch of the party where primaries are held far away from where its grass root members reside raises a number of fundamental issues. Primary election for such offices as state houses of assembly and governorship are supposed to be held in the locale of such offices. To take them far way in distant lands denies the local folks the sense of participation and political education which are all essential ingredients of democracy. This abnormal practice has the potential of becoming the norm whereby all state primaries even for the Local Councils will be moved to Abuja. This will certainly raise questions about the federal system of government we are running. Already, following fast on the Adamawa example, the Yobe State gubernatorial primaries were held at the Legacy House in Abuja on the 9th December. Taraba state followed. In the case of Yobe, this attracted an immediate response from three out of the four gubernatorial contestants. In a Newspaper advertisement, the three politicians, Dr Yerima Ngama, Malam Ibrahim Talbe and  Alhaji Hassan Kafayos argued that the act contravened section 50 of the PDP Constitution and the 2014 electoral guidelines of the party. In any case, if the PDP, the ruling party, cannot guarantee the credibility of its own party elections in a state like Adamawa, how can it guarantee the credibility of a general election in the state?

Personally, I feel taken aback. Late In 1982, I took a flight from Kaduna to cover the NPN gubernatorial primaries in Yola, then the Gongola State capital for my newspaper, the New Nigerian. The major contestants were Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Edward Aliyedeno. On the flight, a rumour started making the rounds that Edward had stepped down for Bamanga. In Yola, I drove straight from the Yola Airport to Lamido Cinema, the venue of the primaries. Initially it looked to me as if the in flight rumour was true.  It was yellow, yellow everywhere. Yellow was the colour allocated to Bamanga. But it turned out that Edward was still very much in the race.

Accreditation and voting soon began. It was an endless and boring but transparent process. At the end of the day, Bamanga won with a landslide. The loser, Edward stood up and made a stammering but moving speech, conceding defeat. Then Bamanga stood up to give his acceptance speech. It was all very moving. As a young graduate of political science and a reporter, I went to bed contented that I had just witnessed a practical example of what I had read in my political science text books.

Tragically, thirty two years after that demonstration of political maturity, Adamawa which should have moved from there to the next level has degenerated to political rascality and suffocating corruption.

The popular feeling in Adamawa political circles is that Abuja is trying to impose a governor on the state. Reference is frequently made of how Murtala Nyako was imposed on the state as a result of the Atiku/Obasanjo political shootout in Abuja. Nyako then turned out to be a curse and a comprehensive disaster on the state.

Maybe the current happenings in Adamawa would not have been so significant to me if my brother Nuhu Ribadu were not involved. As the founding Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nuhu made global impact as a frightening thief catcher. It does appear to me now that his definition of corruption was rather limited to bribe taking, contract inflation and similar such acts of financial sleaze. If not, how could Nuhu not only be part of the conspiracy to deny the ordinary citizens of Adamawa the right to choose their own governor but be the chief beneficiary of this elaborate political heist? Bribe taking and contract inflation are corrupt acts and those involved in it should receive extreme chastisement. Worse still, politicians involved in swindling their less fortunate citizens of their rights to vote are corrupt people and should be punished even more severely because the ultimate consequences of political corruption on society are even more devastating than “direct stealing”; to use Nuhu Ribadu’s words at his dramatic 2006 appearance in the Senate.

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