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Obi, Shehu Mahdi And Bagauda Kaltho Obi, Shehu Mahdi And Bagauda Kaltho
by Ovi Magazine Guest
2022-09-28 08:05:35
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Obi, Shehu Mahdi And Bagauda Kaltho
By Tunde Akande

Labour Party's standard bearer, Peter Obi, who is the rave of the moment in Nigerian politics, has thrown his weight behind the restructuring of Nigeria. Obi has said that political restructuring of Nigeria will boost the nation’s economy and end insecurity. Mr Obi said this at the fourth Adada Public Lecture organised by the Association of Nsukka Professors (ANP) at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). He said with restructuring, governors would look inward to make their states productive, while state, local and community police would be set up to tackle criminality within their areas.

Also, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has canvased restructuring. He once boasted he would restructure Nigeria but that was many years ago when things had not gotten to a head like it is now. Peter Obi who has appeared on television, radio and social media platforms and has spoken more than any current Nigerian politician on virtually all issues has not been specific on restructuring. Not even the flagbearer of the All Progressive Party, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said much on restructuring. For Tinubu, that can be expected. Recall that in 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan mooted the idea of a national conference to consider Nigeria's future constitution, and indeed set up the conference, but Bola Tinubu was undecided. Tinubu at first criticized the conference for being unnecessary because, according to him, there is nothing wrong with the 1999 constitution. When restructuring surfaced in the manifesto of APC, the party Tinubu helped put together, observers were surprised at that volte-face. Some thought it was a vote-catching gimmick.

But Peter Obi who seem to be regarded by youths from across the length and breadth of Nigeria as the messiah Nigeria needs must be more forthcoming on restructuring. Perhaps, restructuring as being advocated by Obi will help reset Nigeria since Obi is from a section of the country, the Southeast that has been saying they are marginalized. A strong group in the Southeast, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB has been moving to secede. If secession will not be possible, a crosssection of Nigerians think restructuring may be acceptable to the Southeast and thus calm the frayed nerves of agitation and violence in that region.

If the other two frontrunners in the current race have not been more categorical on restructuring, we can understand them, they have been around for a long time playing Nigeria’s kind of politics, one that does not knock issues on their heads. But Obi is new and he's doing things differently. Obi got to Anambra government house not by choice but by selection. He was comfortable as a businessman, he likes to call himself a trader, but Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, the popular leader of the Biafran revolt, who is from Anambra State, needed somebody to turn around the fortunes of the state which had been battered by some previous governors. He tapped Professor ABC Nwosu, a frontline politician, who said he was too old to be governor but accepted to shop for a candidate with the requisite capacity and competence for the job. ABC Nwosu thought Obi will be able do the job and interviewed him, finding him very qualified. That was the beginning of Obi's foray into the murky waters of politics, swimming among sharks, so to speak. Soon after he became governor. Later Obi was impeached; but he fought his way through the courts and got his seat back. He garnered experiences in government, he did things the way he thought fit, not the way of convention. I think that convinced him he can make a change in the centre. So his foray into the national scene is deliberate. Obi thinks he can turn Nigeria around and he's been around everywhere convincing everybody. A recent poll said he will win the election.

But Shehu Mahdi, a medical doctor and a political activist seem to be throwing a spanner in the works for Obi. Everything Obi has said, coupled with his impeccable character, which makes him likable, seem to have convinced Nigerian from all sections of his sincerity of purpose. One issue will prove a hardnut for Obi, and that is Tinubu's APC Muslim-Muslim ticket. That ticket is a permutation to get the Muslim votes which some think are the majority in the North. The Northern Christiams are debating that. They are angry with the APC and Tinubu that floated the idea of same faith ticket. A rally held in Jos, Plateau State, a predominantly Christian state, recently was a testimony to that anger. The massive turnout at that rally indicates that Plateau is not ready to stay under a Muslim-Muslim ticket and is prepared to welcome Obi to power. Would that trend of Northern Christian support for Obi continue and result in an Obi victory? Time will tell.

If Shehu Mahdi's campaign goes unchallenged, then things might turn sour for Obi. Addressing a group of Northern Christians, Mahdi told them they must not vote for Obi because when they vote for Obi, though they may be voting for a good Catholic but they are not voting for a Christian. Mahdi thus played on one thing the Catholic Church has held out for long. The Catholic hardly regard itself as Christian but as Catholics. If that punch hits, another more deadly one came when Mahdi told his audience that a vote for Obi is a vote for IPOB. However, Obi has said several times that nobody should vote for him because he is Igbo, Mahdi seem to want people not to heed that. That is a very hard blow to the face. The IPOB campaign has been a very violent one and against the Fulani and sometimes against even the Hausas. Mahdi asked his audience to give him one benefit which they will derive from voting a southerner. By saying this, Mahdi took his war to the entire south and not just Obi alone but also Tinubu. Tinubu, himself will not be a beneficiary of Mahdi’s campaign.

Shehu Mahdi has been very critical of Tinubu recently, especially his health. Now, he has said the Northern Christians have nothing to benefit from either an Obi or a Tinubu presidency. By implication, Shehu Mahdi has narrowed the choice of his audience tactically to Atiku Abubakar. Though the body language of the audience does not show agreement. Shehu Mahdi did not tell his audience what the years of Northern access to power have done positively to the Christians or even to the Muslims. Christians have been killed and church buildings razed. In many places, including Bauchi and Borno States, to get permission to erect a church facility is like passing through the biblical eye of the needle. It’s quite possible that Mahdi is working for Atiku and he should not be underrated.

Meanwhile, Shehu Mahdi featured on Arise Television interview recently during which he narrated the way and manner Bagauda Kaltho, a journalist on the stable of The News, a Lagos media group that is so friendly with Bola Tinubu, died in 1995. The former Managing Director of that media group, Bayo Onanuga is now the head of media for the Tinubu campaign. In that interview, Shehu Mahdi alleged that he was set up by a political officer of the American Embassy in Nigeria, Russel Hanks to deliver a parcel at a bookshop in Kaduna. But he declined the offer, despite a mouthwatering offer of a huge amount of money. But on that fateful day, as he went out of the Hamdala hotel, Kaduna where he met with the Russel Hanks, he saw Bagauda Kaltho at the door coming in to meet the same man. Mahdi further claimed in the interview that he was promised one million naira for the job, half of that before and half to be received after the job was done. Mahdi stated that a few hours after his meeting with Hanks in Hamdala hotel he heard that Bagauda Kaltho had been killed in a bomb blast exactly where the America had asked him to place the parcel; obviously a letter-bomb, in a bookshop in another nearby hotel. By that he concluded Bagauda Kaltho had obviously accepted to do the job he declined. Thus Bagauda and possibly the 500,000 naira got blasted and killed. He declared that the intention was to make it look like it was General Sani Abacha, then Nigeria's military head of state who planned to transist to a civilian president, who organized the bombing. According to Mahdi, Hanks left the country immediately after the death of Bagauda Kaltho. However, Bagauda Kaltho's family has debunked all this allegations, describing Mahdi's claims as false and unsubstantiated.

Furthermore, Mahdi disclosed that he passed the information to the military authorities in Kaduna and by the next day, he saw General Sani Abacha in Abuja and told him the same thing. Mahdi is an activist but he is well-connected. When he talks, his words must be taken seriously.

Still, Peter Obi needs to tell the nation his plan for restructuring. It is the only assurance of stability in Nigeria. The South is clamouring for it because it is the resource base of the nation; the North is not because it is resource deficient. Tinubu won't talk about it because it is not appealing to the North which he is bending over backwards to curry favour to ensure his electoral victory. On the other hand, PDP standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar has told the nation that he is going to pass an open-grazing law, which by implication will give Fulani herdsmen a free reign in all parts of the nation, and therefore, it presupposes that he can't subscribe to restructuring because that will make his open-grazing law impossible. Being a breath of fresh air, Obi must commit to restructuring for it holds the key to Nigeria's progress and rapid development.

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Masters degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

First published for METRO

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