After accessing the presidential and National Assembly election, OHOMBA VINCENT, our Gombe State Correspondent, writes that emergent security threat in the state demand that security agencies should be up and doing to prevent any security breach.
Considering the 2011 post election scenario in Nigeria, prediction of the country’s probable disintegration this year and the usual sit-tight posture of many African leaders, the 2015 general elections came with palpable fear and tension among most Nigerians especially those from the southern division of the country and Christians generally.
The prevailing insecurity situation perpetrated through the activities of the deadly Islamic sect, Boko Haram and their naked threat to destabilize the elections made through the note they distributed during their Valentine’s Day attack on Gombe state further heightened the fears of many Nigerians. But it was the youths’ body language cum open threat to make the 2011 post-election violence a child’s play if President Jonathan returned elected that actually drove jitters into the spine of Nigerians from other parts.
Therefore, temporal relocation of families, relocation of family members without breadwinners and permanent relocation entire families back home with panic sales of landed property characterised the pre-2015 presidential election period in Gombe state. In the same vein, indigenous minority northern Christians moved massively to their native villages where there is domineering Christian population or because there is the communal life and love that transcend religious divide.
Such migrants reasoned it was better to disenfranchise oneself now and stay alive to vote later when Nigerians would have learnt to accommodate our diversity and eschewed undue sentiments from the polity. While Nigerians were busy ransacking their brains for possible ways out in the event of post-election violence or disturbance, God was busy preparing a safe landing for all in the form of result that meet the expectations of some Nigerians.
Eventually, Nigeria undoubtedly became the cynosure of international communities for conducting the most peaceful and best election ever in the history of Africa’s most populous nation; while applauding President Jonathan for his conduct and unprecedented spirit of sportsmanship towards the exercise.
Kudos must however be given to the various security agencies for making what they termed adequate preparations towards ensuring a peaceful elections. The Police convened quite a number of stakeholders’ meetings where it schooled politicians and political party leaders on the need to steer their supporters towards ensuring they do not constitute a nuisance before, during and after the election proper.
Gombe state Commissioner of Police, Kudu Abdillahi Nma also announced a ban on local security outfits such as local vigilante, Man ‘O’ War, Peace Corps, State Marshals, etc. because they do not have the constitutional mandate to dress in uniforms for elections duties. He said there were enough personnel drawn from all security agencies to adequately police the exercise.
The security agencies preparedness notwithstanding, it could not stop the people of Gombe state from having a cause to panic as some fleeing insurgents struck on election day to make it look like they were making real their threats to destabilise the election. They burnt about five polling units and their electoral materials at Bage in Funakaye local government, killed two Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, staff and a policeman at Shole in Nafada local government, they killed one more person at Wawa village also in Nafada LG.
They proceeded from there to Dukku local government where they burnt a police station and killed three persons, one of whom was a member of Gombe state House of Assembly, Hon Umar. The joint security operatives would not take that with a pinch of salt. Therefore, they retaliated with the killing of five of the insurgent and successfully repelling them.
The assailants were a splinter group of insurgents fleeing the heat from Nigerian troops and their counterparts from Benin Republic Cameroun, Chad and Niger and seeking a safe haven. This became obvious when the 301 Artillery Regiment (General Support) killed three insurgents and captured one alive at Dukku on Monday, March 30 while people were anxiously waiting the collation of Gombe state results.
Two days after the announcement of results, the insurgents came knocking again through a female bomber who at about 8:30 to 9:00pm dropped a bag of explosives at the entrance of Bauchi Motor Park where vehicles station to load at night after the Park would have closed for the day. She walked away, pretending to be making a call leaving the bag behind. The explosion that followed killed about seven people and injured 15 others.
While this was happening, the insurgents elsewhere at Pindiga in Akko local government of the state were unfortunately taking a sweet revenge on the Army by killing five helpless soldiers who were involved in an accident.
The next day witnessed moments of helter-skelter running of people following rumours of the invasion of Gombe metropolis by Boko Haram, just because they heard a gunshot which later turned out to be that of security operative who shot in the air in an attempt to scare a road user who wanted to get through their checkpoint without stopping for the normal routine check.
These happened after the Police earlier in the day frustrated attempts by some celebrants of APC’s electoral victory take laws into their hands with repeated attempts to loot people’s shops. Spokesman for Gombe state Police Command, Fwaje Atajiri DSP who confirmed the incident said they had to disperse the crowds of celebrants as their activities were beginning to assume a wild dimension. He said they have also warned that the Police would not spare anyone who takes the law into his hands as they are committed to sustaining the peace in the state.
Reacting to the security before and after the Presidential and National Assembly elections, Williams Attah, a practicing journalist in Gombe state described arrangements as unsatisfactory because the polling units were not adequately secured. “From my observation, thank God I was fortunate to go round; I wasn’t restricted based on my profession. I think much needs to be done, especially in the rural areas. The security was not as I expected. You will see a very large school with many polling units with very few policemen”.
“And after the election, we thank God that the case (result) was not the reverse. If it were so, I wonder what would have happened. I was thinking government would deploy the military. Although the opposition as it were never like that, but to me, my security is very important” he said.
On people relocating because of election, William Attah said “that is also a very interesting one. Initially, I never liked the idea because to me as a true Nigerian, I don’t see the need for being called a Nigerian and I cannot stay in a particular part of the country. It really dampened my spirit as a Nigerian. “But then, if you go round and hear the way people talk, obviously, people will be afraid. That is why I excuse those that ran away. But it is very, very unfortunate.
“It just tells me that as a Nigerian, we have a very, very long way to go – an extremely long way to go because of this movement. Why? People are not supposed to be afraid. But obviously they became afraid and had to go and it is not very encouraging as a Nigerian.”
“I think the security arrangement is ok. No problem. As for the Boko Haram attack, thank God it was not more serious that what we experienced because we do have answers to their attack,” said Dahiru Tukur, a business man in Gombe metropolis.
But he does not believe such scenario would replay during the governorship and state legislators elections hence he advised that “government to provide more security for the governorship, at least one because at Mai Ungwar Hadeja polling unit at Shamaki Ward in Gombe metropolis had no security but we did it peacefully because almost everybody had a common interest as to who to vote for.
“But this time it is not like that. So government should provide more security because both Inuwa and Dankwambo are from the same place and they both have their supporters. So we need security to protect our votes and lives.”
According to one Mr Uzor, a businessman, he said he had to take his family home because if he had to start running from wherever he found himself, it would be easy because there is no one else to think of but himself. But he wondered why we call ourselves Nigerians if people from certain part cannot rule the country. But thank God nothing happened and we had not reason to be apprehensive “since they got what they wanted.”
One Bashir Ibrahim said he was almost mobbed because he thumb printed PDP and the person behind him who saw it raised alarm and the people started gearing up to give him the beating of his life, but was rescued through the intervention of security agents and the respected people who knew him around there. Magaji was not that lucky because beaten up by some of the youths at the polling unit for voting PDP. He spent a couple of days recuperating at the hospital.
Nevertheless, the presidential and National Assembly elections may have come and gone peacefully, but it is not without overriding need to beef up security arrangements for polling units. Also, the rapid response squad personnel need to be increased, more alert and more mobile and rapid response to distress calls because youths in Gombe have this inclination for celebrating electoral results prematurely. That is, they add up unit(s) and Ward result with rumour and start to celebrate the victory of choice candidates who may end up failing after full compilation or or actual results.
To name a few of such instances, they did that with Shehu Turaki (Gombe North senatorial seat) in 2003 and he eventually failed, they did it with Buhari in 2011 and we all knew how it ended. They already started this time around, but thank God expectations were fulfilled. Besides, there are reports that the insurgents who have been rummaging between Gombe and Bauchi for safe haven were sighted by villagers in one of the bushes on Gombe – Bauchi road.
While a lot of people expect the security to be on their heels with surveillance helicopters, not even a police dog is after them. One of the villagers who does not want to be mentioned said the insurgents forcefully seize some villagers to show them round the bushes. By so doing, they are gradually studying the geography of the area with a view to probably expand their areas of operation or site another base for operations.