While anger and frustration over slow governance outcomes continue to grow in the country, impatient youths in the North have over the period, set off a trend of singling out their representatives in the National Assembly for frustration-anchored violent attacks. AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH writes.
Barely 19 months to the end of their tenure, resentments to the current senators by their constituents have become regular and diverse. What used to be only jeering, insults, booing or pelting of sachet water or dust, now involves attempts at physical assaults, hurling of stones, attack with sticks, clubs, knives, cutlasses and even with guns by rampaging constituents against their senators.
Except the “Wild, Wild, West or Operation Wetiee’’ scenarios witnessed in the Western Region in the sixties, the frequency and violent nature of the attacks on some of the serving senators of the 8th Senate have never been this pronounced since the return of democracy in 1999.
The 8th Senate was inaugurated on June 9, 2015, following the reading of President Muhammadu Buhari’s proclamation letter ordering the inauguration of the assembly. The letter was read by the then Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa. The 8th Senate will run a course that terminates onJune 9, 2019 when the 9th Senate shall be inaugurated.
The reason for this attack appears to be multi-dimensional. But remarkable is that all the incidents have been confined within the three geopolitical regions of North.
The attacks started out against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and those who supported him in his quest for Senate presidency.
The underlying factor for the current attack appears to be driven by hunger ravaging most communities in the north, but the attacking mob will tell anybody that cares to listen that the under fire senator is giving them poor representation.
Often among the attackers are youth thugs the senators used and dumped.
The role of the senate according to Section Four of the 1999 Constitution as amended is mainly to make laws for good governance, peace and welfare of the people while also serving as a check on the executive arm of government. But some attackers accuse their senators of poor performance because he failed to influence the location of government projects in their communities.
According to Barrister Abanika Muktar, “it is a pay-back time for the senators that choose to pass even the 2017 national budget by June 2017. What time do they expect the budget to be implemented? Besides, they muddled up the budget through material alterations or padding to an extent that over 4000 projects were introduced in the 2017 budget alone.
“They think they can run President Buhari’s government down, not knowing they would be the first to be hit by non-performing budgets these senators have been passing since this government came to be.”
The catalogue of the attacks:
Senate President, Bukola Saraki
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki was stoned at a prayer ground in Ilorin on September 24, 2015 shortly after he and other political as well as religious dignitaries arrived for Eid Barak prayers. The chief imam of Ilorin and several dignitaries were with Saraki when an irate mob started hurling stones and sachets of water at him.
Saraki was standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged false assets declaration then. The CCT has since acquitted him of all the charges, while Court of Appeal sitting Abuja has reserved judgement in the appeal the Federal Government has entered against the decision of the CCT in the matter.
Report has it that the mob’s tempers flared when some hired female praise singers took to the microphone in the midst of prayers and began chanting the senator’s praises. In response, many of the Muslim faithful began shouting “Ole, Ole, Ole!” and then started shelling the Senate president and his guests with stones and sachets of water. “Ole” is a Yoruba word for a thief.
In the ensuing pandemonium, the chief imam abruptly ended the prayers as the police and Saraki’s private security quickly ferried him away from the prayer grounds.
The violent reaction to the singing of Saraki’s praises was said to have reflected a growing impatience on the part of state and local government employees who have not been paid for several months, even when Governor Fatai Ahmed received Federal Government’s bailout funds and Paris Club refunds that were meant to clear the arrears of salaries owed to workers.
Senator Isah Misau
On April 19, 2016, the media were awash that Senator Isah Misau (Bauchi Central, APC) was allegedly attacked by irate youths on Saturday April 16, 2016 in the Ningi area of his constituency while attending a social function.
Eyewitness stated that, it was at the social function that the Senator was apparently pelted with stones and bottles.
“That’s why people were throwing stones and bottles at him. He brought four cars but left with the smallest because others were damaged. He left his cap and shoe while trying to escape,” eye witness stated.
The chairman Senate Committee on Navy was allegedly stoned by angry youths who wanted to lynch him in his constituency for supporting the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The senator was the sponsor of a bill to amend the CCT Act then which the people alleged was brought about to stall the trial of the Senate president at the CCT.
The youths were chanting abusive words, hurling stones and charging towards him when they sighted him. The senator was however saved by the military personnel manning a checkpoint located close to Ningi town where the youths attacked the senator.
Senator Misau admitted to the press that he was in Ningi “as part of my constituency tour” said the mob action never happened. He said he was in Ningi to condole with one Captain Ningi who was bereaved.
“You know when we go like that, we give people money,” the senator said. “So it may be that the violence started after I left when they were trying to share money. But there is nothing like that (that he was attacked). I am not aware myself. I read the report online too.”
Senator Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South) and Hon Amiru Tukur
April 16, 2017, Senator Abu Ibrahim, Katsina South and Amiru Tukur, the member representing Bakori/Danja Federal constituency in the House of Representatives narrowly escaped mob action at a political event organized by the Katsina State chapter of APC in Funtua.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that it took a combined teams of security personnel to rescue the notable politicians as they came under attack from protesters.
Stones and shoes were used in attacking the dignitaries. Some vehicles in the entourage of the governor were smashed by the irate youths while security personnel had to use tear-gas to disperse the crowds and free the dignitaries.
The event was an APC rally where the ruling party was accepting defectors from the PDP, APGA, PDM and other parties into its fold. The event, had to however, end abruptly to save the lives of the lawmakers.
Reports say the trouble started when some youths started chanting “Bamaso Abu Ibrahim’’ (We don’t want Abu Ibrahim) and then started throwing stones and shoes at dignitaries and entertainers invited to perform at the event.
Amiru Tukur, the House of Representative members from the area, picked up an injury while attempt was made to physically assault Abu Ibrahim, along with some of his aides and supporters, who were trying to rescue the senator.
Senator Ibrahim however described the disruptions at the political event as normal, especially as the APC he noted, was receiving hundreds of defectors from different political groups, who chanted the praises of their respective political leaders.
He alleged that the disruption was from political opponents looking for recognition at all costs and enjoined party loyalists to disregard their antics.
“I have contested and won elections in all my polling units at various times without a single record of using thugs or rigging elections,” Senator Ibrahim noted.
Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe South, APC)
Senate majority leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, was ordered back by angry youth in his constituency, making it impossible for him to attend a wedding ceremony at the Emir of Bade’s palace on Saturday May 20, 2017.
The youths, who accused the senator of abandonment since he was voted into the Senate took to Nguru-Gashua Road, stopping his convoy at Gashua community.
The senator had flown into Kano the previous day and had travelled by road to Gashua to attend the wedding. He reportedly overtook the protesting youths and successfully passed through Nguru, but they immediately alerted other communities. The youths of Gasma community allegedly laid siege to the road, and on sighting the senator, ordered him to turn back. His pleas reportedly were not heeded, and when the situation deteriorated into violence, the senator allegedly turned back with his convoy which included his security detail. It was learnt that the youths’ grouse was the alleged non-performance of the senator since his election.
One of the notable youths of Gasma, Buba Isa, who also leads the Gasma Youths Association, told journalists on phone in Damaturu that the decision of the protesting youths was to send a strong message to the majority leader that he was not welcomed in his constituency as long as he was not ready to fulfill alleged promises he made.
Senator Lawan however denied being tackled by angry youths in his district.
Raising concerns through order 43 at plenary on May 23, 2017. Lawan explained that he never traveled to his state the previous weekend as he has to attend a wedding in Daura, Katsina state alongside Senator Sani Yerima, Ali Wakili and a few others and dismissed the story of his molestation as made up.
Senator Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi West)
Senator Dino Melaye escaped death by the whiskers as gunmen invaded his house in the early hours of Saturday April 15, 2017 at Ayetoro-Gbede, Ijumu local government area in Kogi State.
News Agency of Nigeria, NAN reported that the gunmen numbering about 10 arrived the house at about midnightthrough the bush and opened fire on the house from different directions. The house was riddled with bullets while two of the vehicles the senator parked in his residence were damaged by the hoodlums. Melaye was at home for the Easter holiday at the time of the attack
On his part, Melaye said the hoodlums arrived at aboutmidnight and started shooting sporadically at the main building in the compound. He said the shooting lasted for almost one hour, adding that apart from the building was riddled with bullets, two of his vehicles were damaged.
“At about midnight, we started hearing gunshots. They fired more than 200 rounds of bullets into the house. This attempt to kill me will not stop me from speaking the truth,” the senator said.
The attack was, however, followed by hundreds of his constituents who took to the streets to protest at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lokoja, demanding his (Melaye)’s recall on June 3, 2017.
The protesters said they were fed up with what they described as “continuous embarrassment” and poor representation by Melaye, hence their resolve to recall him.
Spokesman of the protesters, Pius Kolawole, said they were from the seven local government areas that make up Kogi West and had listed 18 offences allegedly committed by Melaye upon which they based their demand for his recall.
Campaigners said 188,588 signatures were submitted to INEC, which is more than 52 per cent of about 260,000 voters in the constituency.
On June 22, INEC notified Melaye of the recall process. His lawyers responded with a lawsuit the next day, asking the electoral body to stay all actions relating to the exercise. INEC, however, said it would proceed with the recall process since there was no court injunction stopping it.
Senators Shehu Sani, Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna, APC)
Two senators from Kaduna State, Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi, were on July 30, 2017 attacked in Kaduna. The senators were about to address newsmen when a mob stormed the venue. The incident occurred at the Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Kaduna, Kaduna State.
Sani and Hunkuyi were rushed to safety by their security aides and journalists. The assailants destroyed the vehicle that conveyed the senators to the event. They also damaged properties, including midgets, cameras, tripods for cameras and chairs, at the Press Centre.
Senator Shehu Sani later confirmed the attack on him and his colleague, Suleiman Hunkuyi. Sani, in a statement on his Facebook page, said a police officer led the attack. He wrote: “The invasion of the Kaduna NUJ secretariat by sponsored armed thugs during our press conference was an attempt to kill us in order to silence us. The attack was aided by a police DPO.
Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North, APC)
On November 3, 2017, Senate’s spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi was assaulted and stoned in Kontagora, the head quarter of his constituency. He received severe insults, and ill treatments by the executives of the party in Kontagora.
Curiously, it was he that called the executive for a meeting which was held in the town hall in Kontagora, the first time he was said to have had such a meeting since after his election in 2015.
During the meeting, his constituents demanded explanation why he was calling for the meeting when it’s just barely a year to 2019 General Election. This was just as they asked him to list the projects if any that he had executed or attracted to Kontagora or if he gave any financial support for students of his constituency.
His response, which was that the Buhari government has not given them any money nor funded their constituency projects, gave him out, as his constituents began to list projects his colleagues have done at home with Buhari or no Buhari.
The executives also accused the senator of collaborating with the Senate president Saraki and other senators to frustrate the good programmes of Buhari. They told him to his face that his god father Sen Saraki cannot save him come 2019. They demanded to know from him where he got money to buy an alleged twin duplex located on Kainji Crescent in Maitama, Abuja, which they claim worth over N650 million and belong to him. They further alleged that they are aware of houses he built/ bought in Ilorin, Kwara State. The presence of the security personnel did not deter the executives from assaulting the senator.
Senenator Mohammed Sha’aba Lafiagi (APC-Kwara North)
On November 18, 2017, photos emerged that suggested that youths in Kwara State have allegedly set the house of Senator Mohammed Shaba Lafiagi who represents Kwara North ablaze in the state for allegedly ordering soldiers to shoot three people who were among those protesting his alleged misrepresentation of his constituents in the state.
The Kwara State command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps confirmed same day that three persons were shot dead in Lafiagi, Edu local government area of the state on Friday. Mr Kunle Bilesanmi, the Public Relations Officer of the command, told newsmen on Saturday that some persons also burnt down a portion of the residence of Senator Sha’aba.
Bilesanmi, however, said the command could not ascertain the identities of those who were shot dead. Meanwhile, it was learnt that crisis erupted when some youths barred Sha’aba, a former governor of the state, from entering the town. The youths’ action it was reported, resulted from the alleged failure of the senator to assist the community in repairing a collapsed culvert on the road leading to the town. The youths were said to have barricaded the road when Sha’aba was coming home for the council poll.
They allegedly insisted that he would not pass through the culvert that they mobilized personal resources to repair. It was claimed that when the senator found it difficult to access the town, he requested for a security help. The mostly soldiers who arrived, allegedly shot sporadically and killed three persons. The action of the security personnel it was reported, led the youths to burn the residence of the senator.
As the 2019 General Elections draw nearer, it is certain that more more national legislators and other political office holders would likely taste the wrath of the wrath of their kith and kin as anger over low governance outcomes continues to grow among voters.
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