Labaran Maku and his frenzied attacks on northern leaders, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

If I sat in a jury to decide who among the three in the President’s circle is doing the most damage to “enemy” Northern leaders between Edwin Clark, Asari Dokubo and the Minster of Information Labaran Maku, I will not hesitate to choose Maku and will tell you why. Maku is not only adept at linguistic pedagogy and propaganda, but he also has the courage to take the fight to enemy’s territory just as he did in Kaduna recently.

At the rate he is going, especially with the recent addition of the defence portfolio to his cap, Maku may run the Ijaw leaders out of business and succeed in having all to himself, the heart of the President. That prospect alone should worry those who love the minister.

Beyond occasional insults hurled at men and women, past and present in power in the North, Maku’s edge over the two others is that he speaks Hausa to the BBC and the Voice of America, which gives him direct connections to the hearts and minds of the Northern masses. Talking about his courage, who but Maku could go to Kaduna, the so-called home of the “Kaduna Mafia” – famous for running and ruining Nigeria (?) – to tell the Northerners that they should forget the Presidency in 2015 because “power can never return to the North” (Nigeria Observer), and that “Northern leaders lack the moral reasons to lead the country come 2015”?

Maku alone can look at the Northern political elite and tell them that they are tied to ethnic politics and religious bigotry. In Kaduna at the self-styled “townhall meeting” he pronounced that the emancipation of the North would not come from a Northerner (which curiously includes himself). “Every day, we keep advising people that politics is not madness, it is not about religious bigotry, it is like market… All the Propaganda and fight for political power are only retarding the North’s development.”

In his view, the people should jettison ethnic politics and support the President, meaning that the democratic right to differ belongs to only the President and those on his side, and all others who disagree with them are tribalists. Short of saying that Northern Nigeria is at war with the rest of the country using the Boko Haram, Maku has used every given opportunity to give the impression that the political leaders in the North as those who are responsible or that are behind the senseless insurgency going on.

On this occasion of the Kaduna homily, it was surprising to many that he skipped the equally senseless killings going on between Fulani herdsmen and the other tribesmen in the Middle Belt. Not a word from him on the Ombatse violence that saw the killing of nearly 100 policemen and secret service personnel by a cult formed by his own Eggon tribe and about which nothing of any serious consequence has been done to punish the perpetrators.

In America, the Mecca and Jerusalem of our political and mental compass, a certain Michael Dukakis lost steam and momentum in a presidential nomination race he was about to win by talking lightly of the killing by an outlaw of a single policeman. In a report that he vigorously objected to, The Sunday Tribune linked the Ombatse cult murder of the security men to the existing political disagreement over 2015 between Minister Maku and Governor Al-Makura. This denial notwithstanding, the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, went on to denounce his promotion as Supervising Minister of Defence and not few pages of advertorial were published in opposition by some other Nassarawa State communities.

The pressure of these lingering accusations notwithstanding, Maku continues to make important contributions to the Jonathan administration through the demonization of Northern leaders past and present whenever the opportunity presents itself. When he spoke in Kaduna, he rubbed pepper into their eyes when he said “clearly, clearly, clearly (three times), the North had not had it better under any President than we have it under Jonathan.”

At this point, you asked yourself, which north is the Minister talking about? Is it the same North that Muslims and Christians are both feeling unsafe because the government has failed in its constitutional duty of protecting their life and property? You don’t have to be a Christian to feel the agony they feel when, as Goza in Borno State, you have 80 Churches now reduced to only eight and no week passes without one more being torched and worshippers shelled with bullets by extremists. Nor are the Muslims safe from the madness, given the fact that more of them have actually been killed with bombs and guns as illustrated by reports the Human Rights Watch has published. Both groups need a government that would protect them. As if Maku had forgotten that the primary duty of government is the protection of life and property, he went on “Radio Link” a talk show by the Federal Radio Corporation, FRCN run by him and launched what was described as a “frontal attack on Northern leaders”, in which he blamed them for every wrong of the country, past and present and exonerated the President who gave him two cabinet jobs to run at once as a man deserving of accolades.

Would anyone be right to remain quiet, or abandon the quest for public office through democratic election in a country as we have, where a snapshot by Daily Trust showed that Niger Delta, one of the six geo-political zones got 86% of total projects approved by the Federal Executive Council between March and August 2011? That this sub-region alone got projects, in terms of budget implementation in that period worth N760billion out of N883billion they had paid?

At another occasion, he thundered that “the fiction in the North that President Jonathan and Vice President Sambo are not developing the North, is the fiction whipped up by politicians who see nothing other than their blind ambitions. When they want to do it (leadership), they continue to talk about the North. When they come to power, you don’t see anything. In terms of development, what we are witnessing is momentous, not only in Northern Nigeria but Nigeria as a whole”.

I asked a former friend of the Minister if they thought the time had come for some senior people to address Mr. Maku on his continuing attacks on a victim people and he said to me “perish the thought”. He said there are Ministers in this government who don’t feel embarrassed by claims coming from some of the most respected and admired clerics and other leaders that their calls are not being picked.

A man who calls himself the “Angry Blogger”, Twitter @aderinola, and worried that the Minister is busy chasing shadows and attacking victims said that “there are serious allegations of missing trillions of Naira against his government… Your Boss cannot deal with … corrupt men and women in the executives (sic)” and Maku has given all his energy attacking perceived political enemies of the President in the North. What is this but shadow boxing?


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