ANKELI EMMANUEL writes on the rise in political thuggery in Sokoto State ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Like a script acted out on stage, except the Ondo State House of Assembly is not a stage, members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) invaded the State House beating up lawmakers who had impeached the speaker of the Assembly, Mr Bamidele Oleyeloogin and his deputy Mr Iroju Ogundeji to a pulp.
The NURTW members were armed with dangerous weapons to include machetes, axes, cudgel and sticks and were led by their Chairman, Mr Jacob Adebo as they descended on any one in sight indiscriminately attacking lawmakers, Assembly staff, journalists and security agents.
This comes in the forefront of recent violence by political thugs in Sokoto state, deployed to unleash mayhem in the name of politics.
If this Vice is not checked with desired urgency, it portends a very serious disaster in waiting. As the saying goes, ‘A stitch in time saves nine More worrisome is the fact that, these young persons between the ages of 10 to 35 used as political thugs are either school drop outs or outright illiterates.
Investigations can reveal that the thugs, better known as ‘area boys’ in the state, have garnered so much guts that they brazenly display their weapons in a manner that sends cold shivers down the spine of both the politicians and electorates.
This scenario has repeatedly raised the questions as to the parents of the youths and who their sponsors are. Answers to these near rethoric questions have remained elusive as accusations and counter accusations amongst political gladiators in the state is enough to forecast, wrongly or rightly, the brains behind them.
But as the race for 2019 general elections gets messier, the once peaceful state is beginning to witness yet another round of orchestrated mayhem by the ‘area boys’. The recent attack by thugs on the motorcade of governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on his return to the state days after the PDP presidential primaries, was quite instructive.
Interestingly, as brute as the clash was, these thugs were seen brandishing all categories of weapons even in front of security operatives. It was reported however that, attempt to disperse the thugs led to a loss of innocent life courtesy of stray bullet.
Shortly after that incident, the state had some relative peace until governor Tambuwal once again raised alarm that information made available to him proves that some notable politicians in the state were importing thugs into the state with sole aim of unleashing mayhem on innocent people.
True to his fears, another round of mayhem was let loose in the state few weeks later. The thugs, this time around, were said to have struck in three locations, leaving behind bitter tales of destruction.
Expressing worry over the development, state publicity secretary of PDP, Abdullahi Hausawa, in a statement titled, “Flaying the Gangster APC” accused the opposition of being behind the attack.
According to him, “The leadership and members of the PDP in Sokoto State wish to condemn in strong terms, the unwarranted armed attack on its members Sunday, by gangsters and hoodlums, under the command of APC senator, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko in Sokoto.
“The planned assault occurred at three locations in Sokoto Metropolis, namely:- The Sokoto Cinema Area residence of Alhaji Abdullahi Maigwandu, nominee to the State Executive Council, where unprovoked political thugs in the convoy of Senator Wamakko and under his watch, wrecked mayhem and wielding dangerous weapons, destroyed several vehicles of innocent passersby and residents.
“The Atiku Abubakar Campaign Headquarters, along Kano Road, Sokoto, which was attacked by the APC political thugs, who did substantial damage to the building and vehicles parked in its vicinity, again while Senator Wamakko was leading.
“The residence of Alhaji Mustafa Sarkin Alhazzai in Gobirawa Area, Sokoto, where the APC hoodlums terrorized residents and passersby, destroying vehicles and vandalizing property, while Senator Wamakko looked on”.
While calling on the relevant security agencies to do the needful by bringing perpetrators to book, Abdullahi admonished his party members to be law abiding and never think of taking the law into their hands.
The APC leadership however debunked the allegation saying, PDP is only trying to evoke sentiments even when it is a known fact that they are behind every thuggery activity in the state.
APC in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Sambo Bello Danchadi, accused the governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal-led PDP administration of witch-hunting civil servants loyal to the APC.
In their response captioned, “PDP and Political Thuggery, Whom The Cap Fits” the APC listed other offences of the PDP to include ownership and sponsorship of the thugs whom they claim to have banned from the state.
Part of the statement read, “the good people of the state may wish to recall that on Sunday 4th of August 2018, the APC staged a welcome rally in honour of its leader, Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, a rally that was greater than that of the PDP by many folds.
“The most interesting part of the event, is that not even a chicken was killed during the rally. Indeed, it was adjudged the best and most successful in recent history. Nobody was killed. No one’s property was destroyed and the state was peaceful through out.
“However, the PDP held it’s own rally on Sunday 13th October 2018 and what did we have? Properties belonging to parties other than that of the PDP were destroyed, including residence of Kasarawa and Bado Villages which bore the signs of other parties, especially the APC. In fact, an innocent onlooker was shot dead by a stray bullet from the governor’s police escort.
“We therefore wish to dismiss the PDP insinuations and reaffirm that we the APC have no political thugs. We are a peaceful and peace loving party and we intend to remain so,” he said.
Although the two major parties in the state have admitted that political thuggery has become a major cause for concern. Analysts opine that the resort to blame games by the parties only seems to further politicise the menace rather than strategically address it.
Evidently, these hoodlums are largely a reflection of not just a failed social system but the reflection of a political class that tends to deliberately groom and use them for selfish reasons.
Though most of the politicians in the state claim not to have anything to do with them, the reality remains that thuggery has become increasingly prevalent in political activities.
But experts are agreed that the goverment must strategically address the issue of politicians arming youths to serve as political thugs. While the challenge of politics will abound, the question of strategy also matters.
A former Minister of Science and Technology, General Sam Momah, urged the federal government to prosecute politicians found sponsoring armed political thugs.
According to General Momah, such could only lead to evil grooming of the youth and supporting of illegal groupings and rebellion against constituted authority.
Citing the Boko Haram and Niger Delta militancy as the offshoot of armed political thuggery, Momah said: “Enough is enough. The Federal Government must put a stop to the arming of thugs by politicians. The Federal Government should make sure that those who are guilty face the full wrath of the law by prosecuting culprits.”
On his part, Colonel David Binitie (rtd) declared that there was no provision for any other person apart from security agents to bear arms in the country. “And when I say security agents, I mean the military, police and paramilitary. These are the only set of people that are legally expected to be in possessions of arms,” he said.