"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 07/13/19

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Senator Abbo, APC, and Politics of Toxic Partisanship

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The well-justified national outrage that was sparked by a video of first-term Adamawa Senator Ishaku Elisha Abbo assaulting a nursing mother has also highlighted the depth and toxicity of political partisanship in Nigeria. It shows that many Nigerians’ morality is mediated by political loyalties and primordial solidarity.  

My first, admittedly visceral, social media reaction to the video, which was shared widely, was to call Senator Abbo a “senatorial beast” and a “medieval idiot” who should be suspended from the senate as a first resort and recalled by his constituents as a final action. While the update was generally well-received a band of self-identified northern Christians launched vicious personal attacks on me on Twitter and attributed my condemnation of Senator Abbo to the fact of my being a northern Muslim.

Nonetheless, at the time I shared my update, I frankly had no awareness what Abbo’s religious identity was. I know enough about Adamawa to know that outside of Yola and Jimeta, religious identification merely from the sound of names is always tricky. Until he declared himself the “ambassador of Christ,” which was a day after my social media update, I had no idea that he was a Christian. Nor should it matter.

In any case, in spite of being a northern Muslim who has personally related with Buhari many times in the past and who has personal familiarity with several of his ministers and close aides, I am one of his severest critics. If I were a person who is animated by passions of religious and regional solidarity, I wouldn’t have stuck out my neck to become one of the most visible critics of this maladministration.

As I’ve mentioned here before, since 2016, at least three northern governors have reached out to me to arrange a “reconciliation” with Buhari. I froze off their overtures, not because I derive any joy in criticizing the Buhari regime for the hell of it but because it would be a betrayal both of Islam and of the ideals my father brought me up to internalize and cherish if I look the other way while Buhari smolders the foundations of Nigeria with his loathsome, unheard-of incompetence. Certainly not when I was also critical of past southern Christian presidents.

It’s also broadly true that the primary reason Senator Abbo’s barbarous brutality toward the innocent nursing mother is attracting official consequence is that he is not a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress. Had he been an APC member, the authenticity of the video would have been called into question, the same way Buhari wondered “what technology was used” to show Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano collecting kickbacks from contractors in several video clips.

The APC propaganda machine even hired an IT professional to write a column about “deepfake technology” just to muddle the waters and cast doubts on the authenticity of the obviously credible videos of the governor accepting bribes.

As I pointed out in a recent social media update, when I see Senator Abbo, I see a violent thug who should be in jail, who has no business being a senator, but APC minions see a PDP man who must be punished for not being an APC man. When I see Governor Ganduje, I also see a malefactor who should be in jail, but APC minions see a party man who must be defended and protected.

For instance, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, didn’t see an aggressive and violent assaulter when he looked at Abbo; she saw a PDP man. In a July 2, 2019 tweet, she wrote: “To think that this PDP guy was said to have ‘defeated’ one of our most respected female parliamentarians, Senator Binta Masi Garba. The Senate must not protect him. He should be charged. The footage is enough evidence. He deserves to be in Prison.”

It’s obvious that had Abbo been an APC man, which he was before he switched parties like all Nigerian politicians do, he would have been defended and protected by the APC propaganda machine. Being in APC cleanses sinners of their iniquities. APC chairman Adams Oshiomhole actually literally said that on January 17, 2019 in Benin City during a political rally. "Yes, once you join the APC, your sins are forgiven,” he said.

 If Abbo rejoins APC today, the Senate would no longer investigate him, the police would let him off the hook, and his court case would be withdrawn. And this isn’t hyperbole. Danjuma Goje, a former two-term PDP governor of Gombe who is now an APC senator, has had his years-long N25 billion naira fraud trial by the EFCC summarily dismissed on July 4 after the president intervened.

About a month before a court in Jos dismissed the case, Goje had met with Buhari, withdrew his candidacy for the presidency of the senate, and pledged support for Ahmed Lawan, the presidency’s preferred candidate. Presidential protection from the consequences of his corruption was his recompense for his support for the executive takeover of the legislature.

Musiliu Obanikoro, former Minister of State for Defence in Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP government, also had his corruption trial dismissed after he defected to APC So was Godswill Akpabio, a former two-term PDP governor and Senate Minority Leader who defected to APC. That was precisely what Oshiomhole meant when he said, "Yes, once you join the APC, your sins are forgiven.”

This moral double standard isn’t exclusive to APC, to be sure. When PDP held sway, it also deployed law enforcement agencies to fight political battles and to reward loyalty. The EFCC was always an unthinking police dog doing the bidding of its master even during Obasanjo’s time. However, PDP wasn’t this brazen-faced in its assault on morality and basic decency.

 It had sense enough to deceive Nigerians with token, inconsequential convictions of its own people to justify going after its opponents. For instance, former Inspector General of Police Tafa Balogun was tried and found guilty of corruption. Former Minister of Internal Affairs Sunday Afolabi was tried over a $2 million contract scam.

Former Minister of Education Fabian Osuji was dismissed from Obasanjo’s cabinet and prosecuted over an alleged N55 million bribe. Bode George, a close political associate of Obasanjo’s and former PDP Deputy National Chairman, was tried, convicted, and jailed over an N84 billion fraud while he was chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti were PDP governors who were impeached and removed from office for alleged corruption under a PDP government.

In Buhari’s regime, unfortunately, intelligence and common sense are so scarce that no one in the highest reaches of the power structure can even suggest, much less attempt, the replication of the sort of anti-corruption showmanship we saw under Obasanjo. No one can come up with the idea of trying and convicting a few corrupt party men to justify going after bigger political enemies.

In Buhari’s Nigeria, political loyalty is the currency with which to buy immunity from the consequences of corruption and other forms of moral turpitude. Abbo hasn’t learned that yet.

Buhari’s Incoming Ministers
Muhammadu Buhari said this week that he would only appoint people "I personally know" as ministers, which is another telltale signal of impending in-your-face nepotism and subnationalism. Given that he is a reclusive, inward-looking bigot who feels like fish out of water outside his primordial comfort zone, it’s easy to guess the type of people he "personally" knows.

Nonetheless, if personal familiarity with him is the sole criterion for appointing ministers, what's taking him so long? What's difficult about appointing his relatives, friends, and acquaintances as ministers? This man represents the worst of Nigeria, the personification of the vilest form of incompetence we ever witnessed as a country.