The cold-blooded murder of Hon. Ahmed Gulak, former Speaker of the Adamawa House of Assembly, former Special Adviser on Political Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, former national co-ordinator of the Goodluck Support Group (GSG) and former Governorship aspirant under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is yet another tragic indication of the crisis of insecurity that Nigeria faces. It is disturbing and frightening because this was a Northern politician who had gone to the South East only to be brutally cut down by “unknown gunmen” on his way to the airport after concluding his visit to Imo State.
This was a clear case of assassination. There were two other persons with him according to reports. The assassins, true to type, identified their quarry, murdered him and didn’t bother about the witnesses. It is all the more curious because Gulak has a recent history of association with Imo State. He was the leader of the APC team that organised the controversial party primaries in Imo State ahead of the 2019 Gubernatorial elections. Gulak it was said, was under pressure to sign the papers declaring an associate and relation of the then Governor Rochas Okorocha, as the winner of the primaries. Gulak refused and sneaked out of town under the cover of night. He alleged that he was offered a $2 million bribe and a private jet. Whatever may be the circumstances that took him to Imo State this time around, he obviously also wanted to sneak out of town without drawing attention to himself. If he had known that he was a person of interest in that part of the country, he probably would have stayed away. Or did anyone trail him to Imo State, monitored his movements and struck at a convenient spot and time? Did his assassins choose the place of attack deliberately to hide their trail, and divert attention?
In most cases of this nature, the Nigeria Police are often so lazy, so unimaginative. They easily jump to conclusions, latching on to the most convenient lead. This explains why the initial reaction from the Imo State Police Command was that Gulak made himself a target by not asking for security escort. For us to feel safe and have a good country, it must be possible for anyone at all to move around freely in Nigeria without having to seek police escort. Section 14(2) of the 1999 Constitution states clearly that the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. Section 41 of the same Constitution guarantees the freedom of movement. Section 34 talks about the right to the dignity of the human person. These are three major areas in which the Nigerian government has failed the people over the years. Why should citizens seek police protection in order to travel from their homes or hotel rooms to the airport? If we all do so, there will no policeman left on routine duty.
The sad part of it is that we live in a country where no one is safe anymore, not even school children, students and their teachers, wives, husbands, and the ordinary man. The state is in recess. It is absent. Its institutions are too fragile to help the people. The people are like orphans in their own country. Gulak’s death should be a warning sign of how dangerously Nigeria sits on the brink of the precipice and the edge of a knife. This is why the security agents handling the investigations must learn to think before opening their mouths. In less than 24 hours after the killing, the Police not only blamed Gulak for killing himself (because he did not ask for police security! Imagine!), they also immediately concluded that bandits were behind the killing. In 24 hours, they opened a case file and closed it. This kind of beer-parlour-policing is unacceptable. I expect the Police headquarters in Abuja to take charge directly from the office of the Inspector General of Police. We have been told that the Police have since apprehended Gulak’s killers. So fast? Are the suspects in custody really the killers? Or is this a case of lazy policing?
The murder of Hon. Ahmed Gulak is bound to widen the distrust between the South and the North. The optics are bad. The signs are ominous. Gulak did not go to Imo State to graze cattle, and even if he did, he did not deserve to be murdered. It should not be surprising therefore, that his murder is being located in the growing North-South politics of difference, and the rights of every Nigerian under the Constitution. Hence, much effort has been made to ethnicize his murder, or lend it an ethnic colouration. That is the dangerous part of it, and it is the reason the Nigerian government must not treat this as just another murder. The First World War was ignited by the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo by Serbian terrorists, the Black Hand. He was the presumptive heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne. The Great War started a month after his death, and went on for four years. And over 20 million people died. It takes only one incident to ignite others and turn embers into a huge conflagration.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State governor, Chair of the Southern Governors Forum and APC chieftain, is right to have described the killing of Ahmed Gulak as “one murder too many” and an attempt “to instigate Nigerians against each other, particularly Northerners against the Igbo living outside the South East.” Toeing the same line, human rights activist, author, and politician Comrade Shehu Sani, member of the 8th National Assembly, who represented Kaduna Central, has also appealed to youths in Northern Nigeria not to seek vengeance for the murder of Ahmed Gulak in the South East. Nigeria’s civil war, 1967 -1970 was ignited by ethnic sentiments and reprisal killings. No country survives two civil wars. We all have to be careful. There is an evil wind blowing across the country. On Sunday, the Coalition of Northern Groups issued a statement to say that the murder of Ahmed Gulak is an indication that the North can no longer continue to co-exist with people of Igbo extraction inside Nigeria. The group accused South East leaders of funding the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to cause havoc and “replicate the ugly events of 1966”. The Northern Youths Council of Nigeria (NYCN) also called on the Governor of Imo State to produce Gulak’s killers within two weeks or risk being declared “persona non grata in the North”. This same NYCN has since toned down its rhetoric and praised the police. The volte-face is suspicious but helpful.
It is good news also that the IPOB and ESN, the militant, political and security units defending Igbo and secessionist Biafra interests have declared that they have no hand in the Gulak assassination, and that in no way was he a person of concern to them. What no one can deny however, is that the South East has become a war zone. Whereas it is possible to talk about insurgents, terrorists, and kidnappers in Northern Nigeria occupying the Sambisa Forest or what they now call, the Timbuktu Triangle, the South East of Nigeria is now the operation field of a strange phenomenon called “unknown gunmen.” Nigeria must be the only country in the world where ghosts and unidentifiable objects cause so much havoc and the state is so terribly helpless. From Ebonyi to Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Imo and every part of the South East, human beings are being killed, kidnapped, murdered, assaulted, offices and facilities belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police, the immigration service, the judiciary are being set ablaze and all we hear is that “unknown gunmen” are behind it all. Is there anything that is known to the Nigerian government at all?
In the last 3 days, there have been other assassinations: The Chief Provost of Nigerian Immigration Service, Imo State Command, Okiemute Mrere was murdered on Saturday night on Owerri-Port Harcourt Road. In Niger State, bandits are on rampage. They have set a police station ablaze and kidnapped persons, including 200 school children. In Ibadan, Oyo State a popular businessman, Maduabuchi Owuamanam was also assassinated on Saturday, May 29, along Mokola-Sango Road. In Abuja, yesterday, Omoyele Sowore, leader of the #RevolutionNow movement had a life-threatening encounter with assassins in state uniform. In his own case, he lives to tell the story, asking his followers to carry on with the revolution even if he gets killed. Dead men don’t tell stories. The truth is this: nobody is safe in this country anymore, and whereas this may sound repetitive, note this: not even the foetuses in blessed wombs waiting to join the Nigerian nightmare are safe. The country is that bad.
I knew Ahmed Gulak. We worked together in the Jonathan administration. He advised the President on Political Matters, and was later the co-ordinator of the Goodluck Support Group. In the latter capacity, he stepped on some powerful and sensitive toes as he went around the country in the lead up to the 2015 elections, and that was what led to his exit. I announced his appointment and his exit. But the Ahmed Gulak I remember, is a political man of action. He was articulate, knowledgeable and experienced. Having served as Speaker of the House of Assembly in Adamawa, and entrenched as he was in party politics, he carried himself with the aplomb of a man who had been here and there. He was friendly and approachable. In a sense, he was one of us, the boys in the Jonathan inner circle, that is the “the main body”. There were persons who were not permanently with the Principal but who wielded much influence because they had access. He was one of them. President Jonathan liked him a lot. The story of his exit will not be told here, except to say that one Governor at the time felt Ahmed Gulak had the temerity to visit his state without his permission and held meetings without his approval, and that was it. The Governor raised hell. Those were the days. I am under no obligation to say more. With his death, we have lost a man who enjoyed the art of politics and sought to excel in it. He was confident, assertive and always well turned out. He was one of the shining stars in his part of the country. He was detribalised. His murder on the streets of Imo State is most unfortunate because that was a man who felt at home in any part of the country. Nigeria has lost a gem, and as always, it is the country that has been shot in the foot. His death should not end up as another item in Nigeria’s long list of unresolved political assassinations.
II: Dapo Abiodun And Honour For Olusegun Osoba
I was in Abeokuta on Tuesday, May 25, to attend the commissioning of a Press Centre at the Government Secretariat, Oke Mosan in honour of Chief Olusegun Osoba, two-time Governor of Ogun State (1992 -1993) and (1999 -2003). It is curious that the Ogun State Government since 1976 when the state was created had no press centre for journalists reporting on the activities of the state government. The main infrastructure, before now, where press meetings could be comfortably held is the Nigeria Union of Journalists Press Centre at Oke-Ilewo, opposite the old secretariat. This NUJ centre is a multi-purpose arena. It is one of the most popular Amala and Suya joints in Abeokuta! When Governor Dapo Abiodun assumed office in 2019, he promised to build a modern-day, state of the art media centre for journalists in Ogun State, to facilitate their work and promote the freedom of information. He has kept his promise. I was one of the guests.
Immediately after The Morning Show on Arise TV, on May 25, I hit the expressway. I was curious. I also wanted to honour Chief Olusegun Osoba, after whom the new edifice is named. Chief Osoba may have been a two-time Governor (Social Democratic Party and Alliance for Democracy), he may be known today as a co-founder and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but his main bona fide is in journalism – the profession where he proved his mettle, and rose to become a living legend of the art and craft of newspaper reporting. At 82, Chief Osoba identifies himself first and foremost as a newspaper reporter. He was the man who as a Daily Times correspondent discovered the bullet-ridden body of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa in January 1966. He also reported the civil war. He was the only reporter of his time who had a telephone at home. He also had a Vespa scooter. He broke stories, gained many scoops and took the paths where angels of the trade feared to tread. Reporter, sub-editor, deputy editor, editor, General Manager, Managing Director from Daily Times to The Herald, to The Sketch newspaper and back to The Daily Times in 1984, Osoba’s story is well told in his autobiography, Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics which, in my view, is a must read. Osoba, first Nieman Fellow in Journalism from Nigeria, is highly revered, deservedly.
Governor Dapo Abiodun has built a befitting media work station to honour him. Even if they were not in the same political party, there is no other person more deserving of the honour. In the past week, as Prince Dapo Abiodun marks his second anniversary in office, he has been showcasing his achievements in various sectors of the state economy and how well he has fulfilled his campaign promises and delivered on them. I was asked to say a few words at the event, and I made it clear that I am impressed. Ethnic one-upmanship is the biggest problem in Ogun State. By playing neutral and liberal politics, Prince Abiodun has been able to stay above the fray.
The high moment of the event was when Chief Olusegun Osoba disclosed that the last time he got a good reception at the Ogun State Secretariat was his last day in office in 2003. For eight years, his immediate successor declared him a persona non grata. For another eight years, another successor fought him. And yet, 18 years later, he returned to see a Press Centre being commissioned in his honour. He said he wore an “aso etu”, a special Yoruba garment, to show how important the event was for him. Many lessons to be learnt from Osoba and Dapo Abiodun’s examples. Thank you, Governor Abiodun. Congratulations, Chief Osoba.