I woke up Wednesday morning at the Command Guest Hotel, at the Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri, Borno State. Being the “Home of Peace,” I thought the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential campaign rally I came to the city to attend later in the day was going to be peaceful. I was wrong.
I started noticing some unusualness as I drove along Baga Road into the city to visit a mechanic’s garage on Lagos Street. On both sides of Baga Road were hundreds of Keke NAPEP parked and lined up with each bearing APC campaign posters which carried the pictures of Bola Tinubu, Kashim Shettima, Governor Zulum and the deputy governor. Although the sight was unusual, I never linked the APC display to the PDP presidential rally. I drove on.
On coming to the Westend Roundabout, I turned right towards the former Leventis Stores. I noticed that there were no PDP flags adorning the street. All I could see were APC flags and banners such that if I wasn’t aware of the PDP rally holding close by, I would have thought the APC was holding its presidential campaign rally at the nearby Murtala Muhammed Square that day. It was then a warning of impending danger jolted my fears that something unseemly was bound to happen in Maiduguri that day. I drove on.
On getting to the Welcome to Maiduguri Roundabout, the cacophony of noise there was deafening. Thugs, some wrapped in APC flag, displaying sticks and brooms, danced to the blaring sound of “Jagaba shine gaba” on the side of the Roundabout that the convoy of the PDP presidential candidate would pass through. My fears of the looming violence grew, but I drove on.
As I approached the GRA, I noticed that the APC in Maiduguri had activated a full-blown campaign the day the PDP was holding its presidential campaign rally. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that that was a recipe for violent bloodshed and destruction. I started thinking: “What is the Borno State government up to?” I drove on, though.
On getting to Lagos Street, I saw a number of government school buses ferrying hundreds of youths towards Bama Road. On investigation, I learned that the Borno State government was paying them to stay away from the venue of the PDP campaign rally. “What a smart move,” I thought.
I also learned that the lines of parked Keke NAPEP I earlier saw along Baga Road, were paid by the State government to keep off the streets to frustrate attendance of the PDP rally. An equally smart move, I thought. Then I received a call from a national executive member of the PDP.
“Uncle Mustash, where are you?” the caller asked. “I am at the mechanic’s fixing my car’s door lock,” I replied. “Waziri has arrived and we are at the venue,” the caller said, adding that “it’s sad, APC thugs jeered at Waziri’s convoy and stoned it.” My fears were confirmed.
After leaving the mechanic’s, I headed to the rally, driving back through the same route I earlier took. At the Welcome to Maiduguri Roundabout, I noticed that the APC thugs had crossed over to the side leading back to the airport, while the few policemen stationed there watched on. I drove on.
When I got to the rally venue, Sen. Dino Melaye was on the podium doing what he knows to do best. Knowing that the rally was ending after Atiku’s speech, I went back to my car ready to join Atiku’s convoy back to the airport, at the point Atiku was promising the crowd that he would revamp the Chad Basin Development project. I wanted to see firsthand, what would happen at the Welcome to Maiduguri Roundabout.
I was hoping that given the experience of the violent reception that the Zulum government organized the APC thugs to give Atiku, the police would prevent a violent farewell from the thugs. I was disappointed. The thugs threw stones at us and some of them holding sticks rushed closer to the passing convoy aiming at the jeeps in which one of them was carrying the presidential candidate.
When we got to the airport, I took pictures of the jeeps on the airport tarmac that were hit by the APC thugs.
Feeling sad and let down by a professor, an academic from very humble beginning, I headed back to the safety of my Maimalari Barracks hotel accommodation. I noticed that the violent crowd at the Welcome to Maiduguri Roundabout had dispersed. Their job accomplished!
I felt sorry for Governor Zulum. “Here’s a guy hated by those he governs, trying to cancel the huge love and affection people outside his state have for him,” I thought.
I concluded he’s heading towards a tragedy.
I decided to write this eyewitness account when on the morning of the day after the rally, I read a report stating that the Borno State Commissioner of Police termed the report of the shameful violent incidence, “fake news.”