By SANI UMAR
The person of the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and, in fact, the entire people of Sokoto State, are being blackmailed, scandalised, impugned and insulted outright over an alleged physical assault by the governor on certain officials of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
From a news report credited to the acting Managing Director of the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company (KEDC), Malam Muhammed Adamu and the ensuing actions and utterances of the leadership of the organised labour in the power sector, one cannot but design a planned and an orchestrated machination of vendetta, slander and libel hatched and built on bare-faced lies and shameless falsification. According to the initial report over which Governor Wamakko has been called all sorts of defamatory names and invectives and, over which the entire Sokoto State has been deliberately shut out of electricity supply, the governor and his security aides were alleged to have variously beaten three PHCN officials: Engineer Moses Osigwe, Malam Isyaku Dauran and Malam Nurudeen Muhammed.
In the quoted words of Malam Muhammed Adamu, Governor Wamakko was said to have “brought out a horsewhip and lashed him (Engineer Osigwe) to a pulp. His Excellency’s brutality did not just end with him alone, as he also invited and instructed two hefty mobile policemen to continue with the beating spree until the business manager fell to the ground and became unconscious.” For this alleged actions, the national leadership of the National Union of Electricity Employees has demanded a “public apology” from him or “not only Wamakko (his home town) will be in darkness but his entire state and that includes the Government House.”
That threat from the Union’s Secretary General, Comrade Joe Ajaero, has since been carried out! All these fretting, impunity, arbitrariness, insults and assaults on the people of Sokoto State are without foundation, logic and sanity. The fact of what happened was that Engineer Moses Osigwe, accompanied by two of his subordinate staffers, had honoured an invitation by the governor for explanations on the persistent lack of electricity in Wamakko and other towns of the state for several months.
The invitation by the governor was against the backdrop of the strident complaints from people across the length and breadth of the state over the lack of electricity. The dismally poor, erratic and near absence of electricity was particularly puzzling, in the face of the numerous financial and other material assistance given by the state government to the PHCN in the state in a bid by the government to provide electricity to the citizens. Engineer Osigwe, who has enjoyed a cordial relationship with the governor, was, in fact, the one who usually requested for such material and financial advancements because ,in his words, “Sokoto will have to wait for eternity if we are to wait for the National Headquarters to provide our needs.”
Specifically, the governor wanted to know from Engineer Osigwe why electricity had not been restored to Wamakko town and environs close to two years after he had demanded and was given the sum of N17 million, which he had said was the amount required to rectify the problems. To the amazement, and of course, guile of officials of government and visitors present, Engineer Moses Osigwe was not only not forthcoming with plausible, convincing explanations; he was also rude and haughty. His statements were to the effect that he felt insulted and lowered in esteem for being “bothered over paltry sums of money.” To him, he had honoured the invitation in the “belief that Your Excellency had something much more serious to discuss with me.”
The governor, at a point, was furious and ordered him out of his sight with the words: “You will have to explain at the appropriate quarters!” Rather than tendering apologies for his lack of comportment and decorum or to take his leave, Engineer Osigwe, in raised voice, said the governor could do nothing to him because he was “neither his boy nor an employee of the state government.” On this note, the governor simply and, in his normal, and well known characteristic calm posture, asked his security aides to walk them out of his sight.
It is an ungodly, callous and wicked lies that some people went to town with the heinous tale that Wamakko descended so low to the unthinkable level of “using a horse whip to whip Engineer Osigwe” or any of his companions on that occasion. It is equally a patent fabrication that the security aides of the governor were ordered by him to beat up the PHCN officials. If, and only if there was anything like a physical contact between Engineer Osigwe and the Police aides, such was certainly neither on the orders of the governor nor did it occur in his presence!
As a matter of fact, Isyaku Dauran, who is the service engineer in charge of Wamakko area, said, in his statement to their regional office, that the governor only told them to shut up and say when the job would be done. In any case, discerning members of the public have been wondering about the physical strength of the governor, the length of time it took him and the type of horse whip used to beat Engineer Osigwe to the point of unconsciousness! It is pertinent and very auspicious here to tell the world a bit of how Engineer Moses Osigwe has been conducting himself as the head of the PHCN in Sokoto all these years.
Under him, the people of Sokoto have been made to shoulder the costs of repairs and installation of electricity facilities just as they have groaning under the heavy tariff charged for, in all cases, services not rendered. He has made it a character of talking down and passing derogatory remarks about the people of Sokoto State. For instance, on the people’s complaints over the high bills from PHCN, Engineer Osigwe has been reported to always retorted: “Please, let me be: why should they be complaining when paying electricity bills is about the only contribution of Sokoto State to the national coffers. What else does Sokoto contribute?”
Engineer Osigwe’s response to the governor on the occasion in reference, was in that frame of arrogance and disdain for the people and everything about Sokoto. The status of the governor notwithstanding and the financial advancements he had regularly received on his so frequent requests personally from the governor and officially from the state government could not even temper his attitude toward the chief executive of the state. It is not the least surprising that Engineer Osigwe has since embarked on a game of falsification, campaign of calumny and vendetta because, in retrospect, it is now clear that he had a prepared script to play out in the event of being asked to answer questions of probity, diligence and efficiency.
What is, however, perplexing is the way and ease with which Engineer Osigwe seems to have been able to convince some people to buy into his tell tale and infantile story. The action of the National Union of the Electricity Workers is particularly worrisome because, assuming, for the sake of argument, that Governor Wamakko actually and indeed, went as slow as he is being portrayed, where is the common sense, where is the logic, where is the justice and equity in the action of PHCN in throwing an entire population of over five million into darkness? How many children and the poor needing medical attention in hospitals and those in schools are being made to suffer for an action they knew nothing about? One is forced to conclude that the whole episode has a political undertone.
In which case, only the Osigwes and disgruntled elements, especially those in the position think that they are succeeding. Take a vox populi in Sokoto today on the state of darkness and you will find out that more than ever before, Governor Wamakko has not been painted in the colours the perpetrators thought and hoped would be the outcome of their machination. From where should apologies be demanded? • Umar is Special Adviser on Media to Gov Wamakko