Old students of Sardauna Memorial College (SMC), Kaduna, would remember Sergeant Shu’aibu, though not exactly with fond memories. Sergeant Shu’aibu, simply known as ‘Sergeant,’ was a retired soldier employed to instill discipline among the students of SMC, an all-boys school. His favourite instrument was a deadly looking three-thong horse whip. And his major function was to flog erring students – on the instructions of the principal, vice principal, teachers and even school prefects. He carried out his job with uncommon zeal.
So when reports emerged that Sokoto State Governor, Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako, had flogged a staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Engineer Moses Osigwe, I was immediately reminded of Sergeant Shu’aibu. Sergeant was at his meanest when flogging students in front of the Assembly Hall – with the entire school watching the humiliation. With every thud of the whip, a cloud of dust would go up and the students would cringe. If you met Sergeant anywhere, even if you hadn’t committed any offence, the best way to escape his tyranny was to shout, ‘Up Sergeant!’ He would snarl, but let you go.
The story from Sokoto is that on October 20, 2012, Governor Wamakko had invited Osigwe to his personal residence at Gawon Nama. Osigwe not only honoured the invitation, but also went along with some of his staff. On arrival they were ushered into the governor’s living room, where they found him seated. According to one Mike Gyang, who claimed to have witnessed the incident, the governor, visibly angry, said, “Why did you leave my village in darkness?” As Osigwe tried to explain, the governor brought out a horsewhip and flogged him with it, shouting at the same time, “You are sabotaging me!”
As the flogging got more frantic, one of Osigwe’s assistants tried to intervene between Osigwe and the governor, but Wamakko then invited two burly mobile policemen and ordered them to continue the beating. They did, until Osigwe fell to the ground, unconscious. Gyang claims he saw Osigwe’s injuries from the beating.
One Sani Umar, an aide to Governor Wamakko, has a different story, though, claiming that at the meeting, the governor was furious and ordered Osigwe out of his sight with the words: “You will have to explain at the appropriate quarters”. Umar added that the governor had paid N17 million to have electricity restored to his village, but that the money had disappeared without trace and to no effect.
On the other hand, Gyang disputes that any money exchanged hands, saying, “I challenge Sani Umar and others in the state government to publish every detail of the alleged transaction on the pages of newspaper to prove the claim, i.e., how was the money disbursed to Osigwe; who gave it out, and when?” He also insists that Osigwe is one of the finest engineers the PHCN has and was only reluctantly released to serve in Sokoto.
Wamakko has a right to be angry and frustrated when things are not working. Every Nigerian has a right to be crossed and exasperated with PHCN. It is a shame that despite the hundreds of billions of naira sunk into the power generation and distribution network in Nigeria, the whole country generates about the same amount of electricity – about 3,500 megawatts – that just one city in South Africa, Johannesburg, consumes.
True, inadequate power supply has huge economic costs, has stifled economic activity and helped to worsen unemployment. Every Nigerian (except those that import and sell generators and diesel) are suffering from PHCN’s corruption and incompetence. In a sense, the entire country is a victim if its inability to invest in, and maintain power stations, distribution networks, not to talk of the monumental corruption that trails every attempt to improve the sector – including the recent sale of power plants to vested interests.
Nevertheless, has it occurred to Governor Wamakko that if Nigerians were to flog our leaders for every failing, he would long have been flogged to death? Has he forgotten the National Bureau of Statistics report that Sokoto state had the worst incidence of poverty in Nigeria? How many jobs has he created for the mobs of knife-wielding ‘Sai Alu’ youths that he uses for his election campaigns? Has he forgotten the injustices he suffered at the hands of his predecessor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa? Has he forgotten that he is governor of the state only on account of Justice Katsina Alu’s illegal legal gymnastics?
If Wamakko truly flogged Engineer Osigwe, as all reports seem to indicate, it would be a reflection of the lawlessness and brutality that has become commonplace in Nigeria, even among elected representatives of the people. No governor has the constitutional powers to try, let alone convict and mete out punishment to any citizen, under any guise and regardless of the circumstances. That is why we have the judiciary.
Still, like the infamous Sergeant Shu’aibu of SMC, the next time I see Wamakko, I will make haste to shout, “Up Sergeant!”, even if I have done nothing wrong. Just in case.