Rise and rise of po­lit­i­cal thugs

‘Why we do bid­ding of politi­cians’

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - An­thony Ma­liki (Abuja), Yusha’u A. Ibrahim (Kano), Vic­tor Edozie (Port Har­court), Haruna Gimba Yaya (Gombe), Itodo Daniel ji(Lokoja), Abubakar Auwal, (Sokoto), Hope Abah Em­manuel, (Makurdi), Kabiru R. An­war, (Yola) & Shehu Umar, (Gusau)

Thugs, as some politi­cians told us, are a “nec­es­sary evil” in Nigerian pol­i­tics. Unof­fi­cially part of the par­ties, they do the dirty work dur­ing cam­paigns, and serve as the per­fect foil to in­tim­i­date op­po­nents and their sup­port­ers. But of­ten­times, things go very wrong and turn vi­o­lent, and some­times d+-eadly clashes break out. Like the re­cent one on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 6, at the House of Reps pri­maries of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) elec­tion for the Fed­eral cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (FCT) in Kuje. It was marred by vi­o­lence,

lead­ing to ar­son, com­mit­ted by thugs. The story can be said to be worse around the coun­try, with vary­ing de­grees of nas­ti­ness. Kano

From Septem­ber 1, 2018 to date, a to­tal of 273 po­lit­i­cal thugs were ar­rested in Kano State, po­lice spokesman SP Ma­gaji Musa Ma­jia con­firmed, say­ing that 205 out of the fig­ures had been con­victed, with 57 await­ing trial. He added that 40 sus­pected po­lit­i­cal thugs iden­ti­fied through cam­eras at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions will be pur­sued and ar­rested in due course.

Ma­jia said in ad­di­tion, po­lice had held se­ries of meet­ings with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing man­age­ment of me­dia houses, per­son­nel of Nigerian Broadcasting Com­mis­sion (NBC), chair­men, sec­re­taries, youth and women lead­ers of all po­lit­i­cal par­ties, as well as lo­cal po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cates lo­cally known as So­jo­jin

Baka with a view to en­lighten them on the need to pro­mote peace and har­mony within po­lit­i­cal cir­cles. La­gos

In La­gos State, it is open knowl­edge that politi­cians draw what­ever thug­gery ser­vice they re­quire from trans­port unions, and cult con­fra­ter­ni­ties. Also, re­cruit­ing po­lit­i­cal thugs in La­gos is an easy task: In many cor­ners lurk le­gions of young­sters, un­em­ployed and seek­ing sur­vival by all means. A politi­cian, who didn’t want to be men­tioned, told Daily Trust Satur­day that to dis­rupt a rally, a politi­cian only needs to give about 20 thugs, wield­ing guns, cut­lasses and cud­gels, N2,000 each. All the hood­lums re­quire is money for drugs and a meal. Some­times, the politi­cian sup­plies the guns, which are hardly re­turned to him after any po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tion. One hood­lum in the Mushin area of La­gos boasted he

could get our cor­re­spon­dent a good gun for only N10,000. Rivers

Po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence had in the past dot­ted Rivers po­lit­i­cal land­scape, and elec­tion­eer­ing cam­paigns, and the elec­tions proper, had in the past been marred by killings of po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. The APC in the state has claimed that more than 1,000 of its sup­port­ers were killed in po­lit­i­cal­ly­mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence in the state be­tween 2014 and 2015. This re­mains un­ver­i­fied how­ever.

Po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence was preva­lent in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA of the state. Be­tween 2014 and 2015, scores of res­i­dents were killed. The area was con­trolled by a no­to­ri­ous cultist, Don Wanye, un­til he was killed by se­cu­rity agents early this year.

In the 2016 re­run elec­tion for both the House of Reps and the Se­nate, scores died in po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence that erupted. A youth who at­tempted to

stop some thugs from snatch­ing bal­lot pa­per was shot. Gombe

‘Kalare’ thugs have for a time been a night­mare for the peo­ple of Gombe State, es­pe­cially res­i­dents of Gombe me­trop­o­lis and its sub­urbs. They started as a youth wing dur­ing po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns, when politi­cians hired and armed them to pro­vide some kind of se­cu­rity.

How­ever, their ac­tiv­i­ties in Gombe be­came more pro­nounced to­wards the build-up to the 2003 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tions, when the then can­di­date of the op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) Muham­mad Dan­juma Goje was try­ing to wres­tle power from the then gov­er­nor, late Abubakar Habu Hashidu of the de­funct All Nige­ria Peo­ples Party (ANPP).

How­ever, with the re­turn of

pol­i­tick­ing ahead of the 2019 elec­tions, ac­tiv­i­ties of the dread­ful mis­cre­ants are resur­fac­ing in the state.

On Septem­ber 15, 2018 at Kumo, head­quar­ters of Akko LGA, in­no­cent passersby in­clud­ing a po­lice­man, were at­tacked and in­jured with cut­lasses and sticks, fol­low­ing a dis­agree­ment be­tween ri­val Kalare groups while shar­ing money given by a politi­cian, dur­ing the buildup of the just-con­cluded pri­maries.

Gombe’s Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice, Mr Shina Tairu Olukolu, on Septem­ber 18 pa­raded about 15 other sus­pected Kalare thugs ar­rested dur­ing a raid. Ac­cord­ing to the po­lice, be­tween Oc­to­ber 2017 and Au­gust 2018, a to­tal of 160 sus­pected thugs were ar­rested and pros­e­cuted by the com­mand. Kogi

The ac­tiv­i­ties of po­lit­i­cal thugs across Kogi State ap­pear to have height­ened with the elec­tion­eer­ing pe­riod al­ready un­der­way. Dur­ing the just-con­cluded pri­maries con­ducted by the var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties across the state, there were re­ported cases of po­lit­i­cal thugs at­tack­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents in the con­test.

Dur­ing the House of Reps pri­maries for Ankpa/Olam­aboro/ Omala, one of the as­pi­rants, Mr Ben Adaji al­leged that po­lit­i­cal thugs loyal to a top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial at­tacked him and his agent in the pres­ence of se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

Adaji was not alone, as there were re­ports of in­tim­i­da­tion and ha­rass­ment by po­lit­i­cal thugs dur­ing the pri­maries held in West, Cen­tral and Eastern Se­na­to­rial dis­trict of the state.

Dur­ing the Au­gust 11, 2018 House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives by-elec­tion for Lokoja/Kogi-Ko­tonkarfe, there were wide­spread re­ports of thugs in­vad­ing polling units to dis­rupt the elec­toral process.

In Lokoja, vot­ing was dis­rupted at Pa­paranda Polling Unit in Ward B and bal­lot boxes and elec­toral ma­te­ri­als snatched by thugs who al­legedly in­vaded the area in com­pany of some se­cu­rity agents. It was on record that two per­sons died, and oth­ers were in­jured.

Early this year, thugs in­vaded the cham­bers of the Kogi State House Assem­bly in Lokoja and un­leashed may­hem on law­mak­ers, forc­ing the assem­bly to end its pro­ceed­ings abruptly.

Kogi State is reg­u­larly in the news for one in­ci­dent of po­lit­i­cal thug­gery or the other. Sokoto The stakes in Sokoto State seem higher this time around, as there ap­pears to be po­lit­i­cal fric­tion be­tween a po­lit­i­cal god­fa­ther and his former god­son. While former Gov­er­nor Aliyu Wa­makko of the APC will fight to re­tain his grip on the state, Gov­er­nor Aminu Tam­buwal has cho­sen the PDP as launch­ing pad to as­sert firm con­trol.

Po­lit­i­cal thugs were seen bran­dish­ing dan­ger­ous weapons at the gath­er­ings of ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the state de­spite the pres­ence of armed se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives.

Ac­cord­ing to the spokesper­son of the Sokoto State Po­lice Com­mand, DSP Cordelia Nwawe, the com­mand had from 2017 to date ar­rested 232 po­lit­i­cal thugs.

She added that 109 of them were charged and con­victed last year, while the re­main­ing who were ar­rested this year, in­clud­ing two women, were ar­raigned be­fore the com­pe­tent court of ju­ris­dic­tion.

Benue

The wor­ry­ing trend is not an ex­cep­tion in Benue State, as in­stances where they dis­rupted meet­ings or other ac­tiv­i­ties abound. There have been sev­eral cases of thug­gery, even in the just-com­pleted po­lit­i­cal pri­maries across the 23 LGAs of the state.

Po­lice spokesman, DSP Moses Yamu, said only one per­son was ar­rested in Kwande, with a pis­tol, with the case un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But ac­tiv­i­ties of po­lit­i­cal thugs had on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 4, caused pan­de­mo­nium and dis­rupted an on­go­ing Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) pri­mary elec­tion for the Benue South se­na­to­rial dis­trict at the Aper Aku Sta­dium in Makurdi. The Na­tional and State Assem­bly pri­maries of the PDP had barely com­menced with ac­cred­i­ta­tion of del­e­gates when trou­ble started as some peo­ple had al­legedly dis­agreed with the list of del­e­gates from three lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas of the dis­trict.

The af­fected del­e­gates were still ar­gu­ing, when sud­denly hood­lums at about 7:30pm be­gan to fire guns, a sit­u­a­tion which se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives had a dif­fi­cult time bring­ing un­der con­trol.

Se­quel to that, the ex­er­cise ear­lier failed to hold in Otukpo, the se­na­to­rial head­quar­ters of the Idoma na­tion, be­fore it was re­lo­cated to Makurdi. Sim­i­larly, some ag­grieved as­pi­rants of So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP) in had rea­son to call for the im­me­di­ate can­cel­la­tion of its pri­mary elec­tions, even be­fore results were de­clared. They al­leged that there was snatch­ing of elec­toral ma­te­ri­als by hired thugs, and oth­ers.

In Makurdi, Sen­a­tor Joseph Akaagerger, al­leged that as a re­sult of the thugs’ ac­tiv­i­ties, elec­tions were not held in some of the ar­eas which made up the Benue North East se­na­to­rial dis­trict.

In April, at least two peo­ple lost their lives after thugs cap­i­talised on the bit­ter ri­valry be­tween two war­ring politi­cians and fought dur­ing an APC ex­panded Benue south se­na­to­rial cau­cus meet­ing held in Otukpo.

Adamawa

Re­cently, at Gov­er­nor Muham­madu Jib­rilla’s dec­la­ra­tion rally in Yola, Adamawa State, a group of armed thugs robbed sev­eral mo­torists in­clud­ing a se­nior DSS of­fi­cer, a po­lice sergeant of their phones. They bran­dished dag­gers and knives, near Ribadu Square, the venue of the rally for the gov­er­nor’s re­elec­tion around 3:00pm when the crowd was dis­pers­ing, at­tack­ing ve­hi­cles and forc­ing their vic­tims to sur­ren­der valu­ables.

One of the vic­tims, Salma Tahir, said the rob­bers stopped her tri­cy­cle and asked the pas­sen­gers to sur­ren­der their mo­bile phones.

Eye­wit­nesses re­ported that a team of DSS per­son­nel later mo­bilised to the scene in pur­suit of the cul­prits and suc­ceeded in ar­rest­ing at least two per­sons, with one of the sus­pects fa­tally in­jured by the se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

Po­lice spokesman Habibu Musa said one of the stolen mo­bile phones had been re­cov­ered from a sus­pect who was help­ing the po­lice in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Be­fore the re­cent gov­er­nor­ship pri­maries, youths sus­pected to be sup­port­ers of Gov­er­nor Muham­madu Jib­rilla had at­tacked the pri­vate of­fice of the former Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion dur­ing a meet­ing of Di­mas Ezra fac­tion of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) that had been push­ing for di­rect pri­maries in Adamawa. One per­son sus­tained in­juries while ve­hi­cles were de­stroyed.

A se­na­to­rial as­pi­rant, Ibrahim Waziri, said the per­son who con­veyed the thugs had been iden­ti­fied and he be­lieved the hood­lums were work­ing for the gov­er­nor. Re­act­ing, Dick­son Martins, a Spe­cial As­sis­tant to the gov­er­nor, dis­missed the al­le­ga­tion as base­less and an ef­fort to smear the gov­er­nor’s rep­u­ta­tion.

With 2019 elec­tions ap­proach­ing, the dreaded ‘Shila Boys’, a no­to­ri­ous gang of phone-snatch­ers com­pris­ing mainly of teens, may find jobs around politi­cians, thereby in­creas­ing the ten­dency of armed thug­gery.

Zam­fara

In Zam­fara State, po­lit­i­cal thugs are known as ‘True Way Boys’, and are be­com­ing more vis­i­ble re­cently. They are re­port­edly be­ing em­ployed by politi­cians to in­tim­i­date op­po­nents, bran­dish­ing ma­chetes, ready to use them. Some of them are said to have in­ter­nal squab­bles which have re­sulted in bloody in­fight­ing. They also en­gage in brazen phone theft, mug­ging, and other crimes.

In Gusau me­trop­o­lis, ar­eas such as Tul­lukawa , Birnin Ruwa, Do­gon Dabino, Bakin Silma , Kongo, Hira Da Kwaddi, Hayin Malam Ibrahim, Gadar Baga, and Sabon Fegi, are no­to­ri­ous for har­bour­ing thugs. Last Week, two peo­ple were hacked with ma­chetes be­yond recog­ni­tion by thugs at Hayin Malam Sani.

A res­i­dent, Sani Umar, said there are ar­eas in Gusau where he would not be will­ing to stay even if given free ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Ear­lier, Zam­fara State po­lice had de­nied al­le­ga­tions that they set such thugs free on re­quest of politi­cians. The state com­mand, through spokesman SP Muham­mad Shehu, said in view of the forth­com­ing 2019 elec­tions, they have re-strate­gized. He said they are hav­ing reg­u­lar in­ter­face with mem­bers of in­ter-agency com­mit­tee on elec­tions se­cu­rity and po­lice de­ploy­ment and ad­just­ment to cover all the 147 wards of the 14 LGAs.

But go­ing by re­cent head­lines, po­lit­i­cal thug­gery re­mains in full force, and at its most vi­o­lent.

Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 13, 2018

This file photo shows some po­lit­i­cal thugs re­cently ar­rested by the Kano State Po­lice Com­mand, after a ma­jor vi­o­lent in­ci­dent.Po­lit­i­cal thugs

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