awaits Supreme Court ruling: Like Amaechi Like Albishir?
By Oladipo Sanusi
Since Thursday Oct. 18
when the seven-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Aloysius Katsina-Ala declared Celestine Omehia’s
occupation of the governorship seat of Rivers state illegal and ordered that former speaker of the state House of Assembly
Rotimi Amaechi be “immediately” sworn in, political temperature has risen in far away Yobe state.
The apex court concluded
its ruling on the Rivers case with an adjournment of an appeal brought before it by Sen. Usman Albishir challenging his wrongful
substitution by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in Yobe to Nov. 20 for definite hearing and perhaps judgement.
The reverberation of
the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Amaechi has understandably become the subject of political discourse in the north east
state of Yobe since the landmark ruling, and will, no doubt, remain in the front burner until Nov. 20 when their Lordships
are expected to give verdict.
The similarities in the
Rivers and Yobe state governorship election contest are all too glaring even though on two different political party platforms.
While Amaechi battled
his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to a standstill for contravening the provisions of Section 34 (2) of the Electoral Act,
2006, former senate minority leader Usman Albishir is telling his All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that “oh you’ve
erred” on the same ground.
Amaechi and Albishir,
after emerging the lawful candidates of their respective parties for the April 14, 2007 governorship election, were substituted by their political
parties with new men who eventually emerged winners at the poll.
Amaechi was substituted
with Celestine Omehia by the PDP just as the ANPP replaced Usman Albishir with Sen. Mamman Ali, now the Yobe state governor.
were as jubilant as Rotimi Amaechi’s after the court ruling at Abuja.
Counsel to the embattled
ANPP chieftain Tochukwu Unwugbufor (SAN) noted that the similarities in his client’s appeal and that of the new Rivers
state governor Amaechi are reasons for the enthusiasm among “our supporters”.
Also speaking with The
Mark, media assistant to Sen. Usman Albishir, Mr Seun Akingbile said: “Without prejudice to the outcome of the Supreme
Court, we are very optimistic that the same justice done to Gov. Amaechi would be done to us.
“It is obvious
that our appeal is the same as that of Amaechi. While we wait patiently for the ruling of the court, we will continue to pray
that our expectations to see all the past injustices done to our candidate, who is the party’s legitimate candidate,
Sen. Albishir, be undone by the Supreme Court.”
In anticipation for the
take-over of government in Yobe by his boss, Akingbile added that within five months of assuming office “the people
of Yobe will feel the difference between the current caretaker government and ours”.
Reacting to the recent
comment by the former governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim assuring Gov Mamman Ali that the much expected ruling would not change the
status quo in Yobe, Akingbile said:
nor Mamman Ali can be bigger than the Supreme Court. The judiciary has proved beyond reasonable doubt that it holds the key
to the sustenance of the nation’s democracy through its landmark pronouncements in recent time. So, the question of
somebody or a group of people manipulating the judges or their decision does not even arise.”
Conversely, a serving
commissioner in Gov Mamman Ali’s administration (names withheld) said “equating the Rivers case with that of Yobe
is a mistake”, adding: “I want to categorically say that ANPP followed due process to replace Albishir with the
present governor after 60 days notice.”
The commissioner also
disclosed that “the EFCC advised the party to take precaution due to the corruption allegation against Albishir before
“Well we will wait
for Nov. 13 case in Jos and that of Nov. 20 in Abuja. I know the skies will not
fall,” he said, noting that “those warming up for the replacement of Gov Mamman Ali with Albishir are coming to
embezzle and squander the money on ground.”
He praised the governor
for changing the culture of waste and ensuring that the state account is no more in red.
“Never in the history
of Yobe had there been so much money in reserve as we have in Mamman Ali’s administration. The state’s account
was always in red during the past government,” the commissioner said, concluding on a philosophical note: “God
will do His will”.
In the same vein, a reliable
source at the Government House Damaturu waived aside the claim that the similarities in Rivers and Yobe cases may ultimately
result to replacement of Gov Mamman Ali with Sen. Usman Albishir come Nov. 20.
think anything will change in Yobe. Even though some of us are not really happy with the present government, it seems the
man is sure nothing like that of Rivers will happen here. Can’t you see the way he carries on”, the source said.
The ruling party in Yobe,
All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) is largely divided between Mamman Ali and Usman Albishir. The Mark can authoritatively
reveal that the majority of top echelon of the party are clearly pro Albishir.
Many of them, apparently
dissatisfied with the manner in which the former governor and party leader, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, suddenly switched allegiance
from his erstwhile friend and financier, Albishir, to Mamman Ali few days before the April 14 poll, are anxiously waiting
for a change of guards at the state Government House.
Since the Oct. 18 Supreme
Court ruling ordering the swearing-in of Rotimi Amaechi as the governor of Rivers State, activities have picked up among the
Sen Usman Albishir’s supporters in anticipation of a favourable judgement from the apex court next week.
A senior member of the
group told The Mark that a recent meeting of the group held at Sabon Pegi area of Damaturu, the state capital had in attendance
two serving chairmen of local government councils, serving special advisers and even commissioners.
This, according to him,
led to a threat by the government to sack any member of the administration caught romancing with the opposition.
“The turn of event
in Rivers state is an indication that this rude man Mamman Ali will soon pack out of the Government House”, a former
member of the state House of Assembly and close ally of Sen. Usman Albishir told The Mark on condition of anonymity.
The former lawmaker,
dissecting the last five months of Mamman Ali in government, deplored the former senator’s style of politics. According
to him, “the governor is the only clean and holy person in the state”.
“How can you see
everybody as a thief, going about insulting everyone that comes near you as if you are a Saint. Insha Allah, his days are numbered,” he concluded.
The party secretariat
in Damaturu was a ghost of its old lively centre when The Mark visited last week. A group of young men smoking away their
boredom, who volunteered comment, told our correspondent: “There is nobody you can talk to here. Things have changed.
No one comes here again. Maybe you can trace them to their houses”.
A source close to the
party executive disclosed to The Mark that the state Gov Mamman Ali recently called the attention of the state chairman and
former finance commissioner of finance, Alhaji Lawan Goroma to all the crises plaguing the ruling party in an attempt to gain
the party leaders’ confidence.
According to the source,
the party chairman Goroma bluntly blamed the near death of the ruling party in the state on the governor himself. “Ever
since you came to office, you have not given the party a kobo to run the secretariat. This is why the party office is deserted”,
the source quoted the party chairman.
Efforts to get some of
the party leaders for comment proved abortive as many of them were said to have sworn not to be any where near the capital
“because of the unfriendly disposition of the state governor” to those who he perceived as sympathetic to Albishir’s
A former senior special
assistant, who did not want his name in print however told The Mark that “the ANPP is almost dead in the state”,
adding “the outcome of the court case will determine if its coffin will finally be nailed or a sort of revival effort
will be done if the Supreme Court verdict favour Albishir.”
The Mark also learnt
from a reliable source that a mass decampment of top ANPP members to the opposition PDP may not be ruled out. This, the source
explained, is planned to slight the former governor whose inconsistency has been the bane of the party in the state.
“Whether or not
Usman Albishir is declared the governor of the state by the Supreme Court, I can assure you that the ANPP will never remain
the same again. This party may never win election in the state again. Many of us will move to the PDP because we are not sure
Bukar himself has not even moved. It is however better for us to move before he does so. After all, he has also failed to
carry us along in his past decisions”, the source said.
Public opinion on people’s
expectation from the Supreme Court conducted across the state by The Mark, however, showed that while the court ruling which
replaced Celestine Omehia with Rotimi Amaechi was saluted, over seventy percent of the respondents frowned at this political
development replicated in Yobe.
In this category are
educated non indigenes, who deplored the culture of waste and indolence prevailing in the state before the coming of Gov.
rule out the fact that people don’t take lightly to change especially as it affects bad behavioural attitude which has
proved profitable to them. This is the problem those who are complaining about Mamman Ali have”, Ibrahim Jaja, a senior
civil servant in one of the Federal Ministries said.
In the same vein, the
down-trodden, who have watched with awe the culture of stealing in the state in the last eight years, would not want a return
to the bad past. Two-third of those who spoke to The Mark expressed hope that the Mamman Ali’s administration promises
a bright future for the state.
They however, agreed
with the governor’s critics that his style is a bit too high handed, advising that civil servants in the state should
not be starved of their monthly pay, a phenomenon that came with the new government.
Maryam, a mother of three,
who fries bean cake to support her family lamented: “Our business is not the same again. People cannot even afford to
buy kose (bean cake). But I think things will get better; let him just release
Bunmi, a hair dresser,
also complained of low turn out of customers since the assumption of office of Gov Mamman Ali, praying that the Supreme Court
would put an end to her hardship and near death of her business with the replacement of Mamman Ali.
“I want the present
governor to leave office. Things are too hard. People don’t come to make hair like before. They either complain of lack
of money or unpaid salary”, she explained.
The Mark reports that
the league of critics and political foes of Gov Mamman Ali has soared in recent time. This is not unconnected with his government’s
delay in payment of salary.
In the past, Yobe ranked
among the first three states in the country where civil servants’ monthly dues are paid promptly. But this merry seemed
to be over with the coming of the present administration as workers’ salaries are sometimes delayed into the second
week of a new month.
For a largely civil servant
state like Yobe, it is a political suicide by any government to toy with workers monthly pay. The governor, on assumption
of office, noticed that the state monthly wage was over-bloated, hence his introduction of verification exercise before payment
of salary. No doubt, the revelation from the exercise was mind-blowing.
Ghost workers abound
especially in the local government areas where it was discovered that certain individuals collect salaries of about 30 to
40 people on monthly basis.
The intention of government
to block these conduit pipes was commended by well meaning political watchers, leaving only those who have benefited from
the corrupt practices over the years to mouth the criticism of Mamman’s administration. But all this changed when the
exercise became over-flogged, causing untold hardship to workers whose only source of income and survival is the monthly wage.
Rumour of Gov Ali’s
alleged underground financial deal including contract award to his brother and the new hospital projects when the existing
ones could just be renovated and made to serve the people better, all these did not help a government yet to be on proper
Ethnic meaning has also
been given to some of his recent steps. There are allegations of fixing his people from Potiskum area in ‘juicy’
positions to the detriment of others especially from his arch rival’s constituency. This could not however be substantiated
when The Mark made effort to do so from the accusers.
Nevertheless, Nov. 20
is a date with destiny in the political history of Yobe. Will Sen. Usman Albishir, whose appeal is similar to that of Gov
Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, get a
similar verdict from the Supreme Court while Mamman Ali joins the already swelling number of casualties from the electoral
fašade of April 2007? The apex court has the answer – and the waiting will not be too long any longer.