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Published On: Fri, Dec 19th, 2014

Zoning returns to haunt Shagari

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Muktari ShagariBy Garba Shehu.

There was an interesting episode way, way back during the Second World War in Kano City. That time, the colonialists were in power, during which they recruited very heavily from these parts. Our young men were merely given a short training and dispatched to the warfront, mostly in Asia. An order had come down that all ward heads in the vast city should each submit names of 10 able-bodied young men. Even in those times, you knew that the local ruler would not write down his son’s name or that of his beloved in-law.

In this particular ward, there was a young man called Dan Umma – ugly-looking, massively built and aggressive-looking. No doubt about it, he was much hated by the war head. For this reason, Dan Umma himself knew that there was no way he could escape this hate list. His was the first name on it. As with the others, he was given his due share of Atampa wax print, a white fabric, ten Shillings and was asked to report at the Polo Ground where the recruitment officer would make his final selection. They lined up in their knickers and the white military officer made the rounds for his choices.

He looked at this young man up and down, then marked “x” against his name on the sheet of paper he held. “Dan Umma”, he thundered, “go home, you are rejected.” Delighted and relieved, the first stop he made was the court of the ward head. “Dan Umma”, queried the ruler, “you are supposed to report today at the Polo Ground. Why are you here?” The recruitment reject’s answer was that everything has its time. “You may be my ward head but that is not to say your will must be done. The wish of a ruler is not a law” and he vanished from the court. This is the lesson I wish to take forward.

The out-going Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Muktari Shagari, has come last in the primary election organized for governorship aspirants in his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and since then, he has not stopped talking about why he feels cheated and that the results should be upturned so that he can get the ticket. Shagari claims that he was promised the ticket eight years ago in a deal brokered by the national leadership of the party which, he now says, must be respected.

A report of the Sokoto primaries in the Hausa newspaper, Rariya, said that the winner, Ambassador Abdullahi Wali, obtained 547 of the total votes cast. Senator Abubakar Gada and Minister Yusuf Suleiman came second and third and that Muktari Shagari got just a single vote, the one possibly cast by himself.

Since this incident was reported by this newspaper, it has touched off a chain of online reactions, with many of the commentators asking why Shagari, having lost the election, is now crying to the party establishment in Abuja to retrieve the ticket from the winner and hand it over to him. Some are asking: does he know the party he belongs to? Does honour exist in PDP? Do they keep promises made? Certainly no.

Muktari Shagari claims that eight years back, he won 80 percent of the votes in the PDP to stand as their governorship candidate. In his manner of doing things, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo looked at their candidate and party, and convinced himself that they did not stand a chance. He went on to negotiate a deal with a faction of the then All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP) led by now Governor Aliyu Wamakko. And because Wamakko looked more promising upon defection to the PDP, the President gave the governorship ticket to the decampee and that is how Wamakko was made governor and Shagari attached to him as deputy. It is possible that Shagari was promised the governorship upon Wamakko’s completion of term, but how many promises did the PDP make which they did not fulfill?

PDP is on the record as having broken the major principle upon which it evolved, one that endeared it to Nigerians, North and South – the policy of power rotation just so that it could suit the convenience of the sitting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Who did Mr. Jonathan use as footmen to sell this betrayal of the North to the North? Muktari Shagari was among the outspoken Northern leaders who urged the party on to break its rule and confer the title upon the President in 2011 and they are threatening to do the same in 2015.

When, therefore, he reeled out his story of the refrigerated or is it archived ticket, it shook many BBC Hausa listeners with laughter over the weekend. That was like rewriting the history in which he played a big part in smashing up. The whole North rose up to speak against the injustice of Dr. Jonathan continuing in office in 2011, that is, after completing the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s term. The country said to PDP, uphold your agreements, allow power to shift to the North. Muktari Shagari and his ilk made nuisance of these calls even as his boss, Governor Wamakko, stood solidly in support of the zoning agreement. Now, Mr. Shagari has become a victim of broken promises by PDP, there he is crying like a lost sheep.

Meanwhile, in total disregard of his cries, the PDP leadership in Sokoto had shrugged and moved on. Their Chairman says that “any such agreement, if it exists, is between you and Abuja. Go there and get its redemption. For us here in Sokoto, we were asked to organize primaries for all the contestants, which is what we just did. The winners have emerged and we are going ahead to submit the list of their names.”

Beyond the outward expression of the state party chairman, the hidden message he is sending to the aggrieved Deputy Governor is that if the man is looking for his promised free ticket, he should go and ask President Obasanjo who gave that promise. When President Yar’adua died, President Obasanjo pushed to have Shagari appointed as Vice President to acting President Jonathan. Today, not only is Obasanjo out of office, he is equally out of the loop of political power. He has no ticket to give anyone.

The story of Muktari Shagari is the story of the wheel of God. This man was one of the architects of a shameless chapter in the history of the country’s ruling party. He chose to side with untruth and as the wheel of God turns against betrayers and the unjust, the best action for all decent men and women to take is to watch and remain silent. He enjoyed the deprivation of his people’s right to take their turn to govern, but cries out that his own turn is being taken away. What kind of a selfish person is this? In other communities, Muktari Shagari would have been placed on the permanent blacklist of the betrayers of his community. He deserves his fate.

Editor’s note:

This piece by Garba Shehu ought to have appeared under his weekly Wednesday Column which, due to production hiccups, we couldn’t take on December 18. We’re running it today, two clear days after. We sincerely apologize to his numerous readers who must have missed the clarity of his thoughts and poignancy of his style.


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