Offa is not far from our troubles By Dare Babarinsa

Nigerians are following with bated breath the revelations coming from the police headquarters, Abuja, over the brutal robbery in Offa, Kwara State, during which 33 persons, including nine policemen, were killed. A brutal crime has landed squarely at the epicenter of Nigerian power game ensnaring the important attention of the Senate and its embattled president, Bukola Saraki. It is good that, Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector-General of Police has dropped his insistence that Senator Saraki, the President of the Senate, must report to the police concerning allegations linking him with suspects of the robbery. Saraki is also said to have agreed to make a response in writing.
Both Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State have been freely mentioned by the suspects as being their godfathers. One of them referred to Saraki as “the leader.” What one could deduce from the revelations so far is that the boys, some of who are almost 50, were the enforcers of the Saraki political empire centred on Kwara State and with branches in some other places, especially Kogi State. They had access to the corridors of power and could pull strings that would make them the envy of their neighbours. They were favoured with cash and the materiel of war. They were supposed to be political thugs; the attack dogs to be unleashed when necessary. But they were unfaithful criminals despite the indulgence they were pampered with by their principals. They love to moonlight.

We do not know how many moonlighting operations they may have been engaged in since they started their romance with the men of power. But the one in Offa on April 5, 2018, was in a class of its own. They decided to rob the banks in Offa and in the process killed 33 people, including some pregnant women. To kill on such a vast scale and still think of escaping the long arms of the law and the catholic law of Nemesis shows how deluded they were about the omnipotence of their godfathers. Only the so-called Fulani herdsmen can kill and maim on a vast scale across Nigeria and still remain un-arrestable.

The Offa robbers were arrested and they started to sing. They sang about their connections to the powers-that-be in Kwara State. In one of their confessional songs, they were alleged to have also mentioned the names of high-ranking members of the Kwara State government. In the aftermath of this, two senior aides of the governor, including his Chief of Staff, were pulled in. The police say investigations are continuing and we should be ready for more salacious revelations.

There is no doubt that the Offa episode provides unexpected bun to the opponents of Saraki whose ambition to be President of the Republic is well known. He is a brilliant strategist much feared and loathed by his opponents for his ability to hunt in the forbidden forest. His accession to the presidency of the Senate was because he dared to confront the ruling party’s fathers and extended his hands of fellowship to supposed new foes. The Offa saga is going to create new complications for him.

Indeed, the Offa saga is yet to fully unravel. It is what is called a running story and its implications for 2019 and beyond cannot yet be gauged yet. However, it is a pointer to what has been happening to us since General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over power to President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, ending decades of military rule punctuated only by a four-year interregnum of the Second Republic. Politicians, who are the main beneficiaries of our votes, have found ways to cheat the system. They rob the voters by hiring muscle men and thugs; arming them with guns, money, charms and power. They can do anything and they believe they can get away with anything. They have the power. The people are powerless for they are in their power.

We may say that the nature of our democracy and democratic practices creates room for the muscle men. No wonder, democracy has led to the development of new drugs that was hitherto not in the lexicon of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA. Some few weeks ago, the government closed down a major production line of a leading pharmaceutical company which for many years had been producing codeine for various ailments, including cough. The youths have found new use for codeine as a drug for getting high and the company suddenly realized that the market was booming!

The bitter truth is that the politicians are at the root of this booming market of shame. Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan grappled with the Boko Haram insurgents which had mutated from the tough boys recruited by politicians in Borno State into the Boko Haram, a vicious terrorist group. Former Governor Ali Modu-Sheriff was believed to have been responsible for this monster but he has consistently denied its paternity. Nearly all the big politicians have their stalwarts, party boys, musclemen and faithful fronts. It is only their opponents who call them thugs. Now from the confessions of the Offa suspects, we now have reasons to believe that these boys love moonlighting, especially during their idle moments when another election is not immediately in sight and when the boss has not asked them to go crack some new heads.

We have travelled a long way on this road to perfidy. In 1994, the late literary giant, Ken Saro-Wiwa, the leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, visited us at the TELL magazine headquarters on Acme Road, Ikeja. He was saddened by the reported clashes between his Ogoni people and their neighbours. “Where are we going to get money for these sophisticated weapons?” Saro-Wiwa asked helplessly. “We are as poor as our neigbours. Where are we going to get money for these weapons? We don’t even have enough money for scholarships?”

He believed the militants were being armed by agents of the military dictatorship in order to divert attention from his struggle for justice and create chaos in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Before long, these agents of the state were to infiltrate everywhere, including the labour movements, student bodies and youth groups. Before you know it, these interventions have led to the developments of new and vicious cult groups who have access to the best weapons and killed at random. Now the chickens are rooting in our homes.

Believe it or not, many politicians are keeping private armies, to rob, to kill and to destroy. They know their boys, they arm them and when the boys turn vicious, they turn their faces somewhere else and pretend to be blind, deaf and dumb. These boys have participated in every election since 1999. In 2012, General Muhammadu Buhari, the 2011 presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, warned ominously: “If what happened in 2011 should happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would be soaked in blood.” He knew what he was talking about.

Now Buhari is President and he needs to find solution to this for the baboons and the monkeys are soaking everywhere in blood. The first thing to do is to call a summit of the leaders of all political parties so that they can agree on a violence-free 2019 General Elections. The second is that elected leaders should take immediate steps to tackle unemployment. I don’t know of any state government in Nigeria that is facing the issue of unemployment head-on. In Lagos State, many old factories have become churches and entertainment centers. Deprived of hope, many of our youths have transformed unemployment into a profession in which they now have many years of experience. One of the alleged ring leaders of the Offa robbery claimed that he was a former student of one of the leading universities in the South West.For Saraki and his protégé, Governor Ahmed, this is a defining experience, an unexpected strike of lightening. They should know by now that Fate does hold all the aces.

Guardian

News Reporter

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