BEYOND SATOMI’S SELF EXONERATION: Attack on Fadila Confirms Political Thuggery Thrives in Borno

On Monday, January 24, a member of the Federal House of Representatives from Borno state, Ahmed Satomi, issued a press statement where he tried to come clean of a “false” accusation that he had a hand in the assault of a lady, Fadila Abdulrahman, by a gang of political thugs, apparently loyal to him. The lady was assaulted over a uncomplimentary Facebook post she authored to denigrate the Abuja lawmaker. 

In the viral video, a bunch of young men were seen slapping, kicking, and at some point chasing Ms Fadila with clubs while recording all the actions.

A loud and studio-clear male voice was heard causing the estranged lady with threats to annihilate her “and nothing will happen”, for daring to encroach on the “respected” personality of the lawmaker. One of the young men was heard saying in Hausa that they have sworn to lay down their lives “over Satomi’s matter”.  

All the while, the lady, a renowned mini restaurant operator and a sideline politician, kept begging for mercy for the sake of God, as her assailants repeatedly slapped her face. Petrified by the threat on her life, Ms Fadila was forced to promise never to insult the personality of the Rep member. 

The video, regardless the stretch arguments given as its justification, violates the grains of human dignity and civil decorum. It was as mundane as it was outlandish. It is a validation of how lowly the woman folk is ranked in a patriarchal clime like that of northern Nigeria.

While the police tried to arrest the culprits, Rep Satomi had to issue a press statement which was followed by a news conference in one of his Maiduguri offices to vehemently deny any link with the actions of the thugs. Though some of the young men that were seen are suspected to be his political aids, Mr Satomi insisted he had nothing to do with either the culprits or their action against Ms Fadila. 

The police eventually paraded three suspects who confessed to commission of assault against the woman. A ring leader in the assault, Saadu Suleiman Nakande, who was declared to be at large, had on Tuesday, in a recorded video shared on social media, admitted fault and promised to hand himself over to the authorities. But he did not end his 5 minutes and 42-seconds video without re-echoing his group’s love and support for the Rep member and how Fadila was so wrong in denigrating a “good leader” like Mr Satomi.

In his attempt to justify the public assault on Fadila, Nakande, who said be has not met with Rep Satomi for ten days before the incident on Sunday, insisted that the lady had bitten the finger that had once fed her and doing so was inexcusable. 

But this article is essentially not even about Honorable Satomi or whether he was behind the attack on the politically active local food vendor. That can be an endless conjecture. At least the lawmaker has come out loudly to say he was unaware of the action of his diehard supporters who said it on record that they can shed their blood to defend his name and earned integrity because he is a very good leader and man of the people. 

For the records here are Satomi’s words: “I want to make it very clear that I am not a supporter of violence on any individual and I have zero tolerance to Gender Based Violence in whatever form. I am categorically exonerating my humble self from this act and any of such that may occur in the future…I want to use this medium to assure the general public that since I received this news, I have alerted the relevant security agencies to carry out full investigation and bring the perpetrators of this to book and justice for Fadila will be served as appropriate.

He even added that he “would want to reiterate the fact that I am and would never be a harbour to criminals and their acts, I do not support ECOMOGS as widely stipulated and I am in support of Governor Babagana Umara Zulums policy on banning of all thuggery activities across Borno state and will ensure that together we achieve zero tolerance to any form of violence across our dear state. On a final note, I sympathise with Ms. Fadila on the unfortunate incidence.”

So, this piece is tersely expressing a profound concern over the fact that despite all that Borno had passed through, political thuggery still thrives and has even grown wings. 

It was shocking that thugs now publicly assault people and even record their actions for archival purposes.  

The Fadila incident came just some few months after the no-nonsense Governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum, vowed to arrest and even demolish the house of any person caught in the act of political thuggery. 

It is on record that Governor Zulum had on October 19, 2021, declared his administration’s zero-tolerance for political thuggery. 

The Governor had even threatened to severe relations with any member of his cabinet or any elected National Assembly member who was found in a chummy relationship with thugs, best known as Ecomog, in Borno state.  Governor could remembered to have exactly said:

“Any politician, no matter how highly placed he is, if found harbouring or sponsoring thugs, we will deal with him accordingly. This administration will not condone any act of indiscipline”, Zulum threatened.

The Governor said the decade-plus Boko Haram insurgency cannot be blamed on Late Muhammad Yusuf alone; that the thug youth too had played a major role in birthing the insurgency?

“Even if you are a House of Representative member or senator, I will not get along with that person,” he declared.

“Borno is the only place we have,  we can’t allow a few of you to destroy the state. I believe you are not the only people in Borno, we have over six million people in the state. We can’t allow you to continue terrorizing the population, we can’t tolerate that anymore”. 

The governor, going by the above quotes, had made it clear that thuggery is a taboo in the state. 

But here we are, about three months after the he had read out his riot act, thugs still walk the streets of Maiduguri unchecked. This set of thugs have even gone beyond the checklist of the crimes listed by the governor to include harassment and physically assaulting persons they deemed to be an adversary or critics of any influential or money-bag politician. 

Before the advent of Boko Haram Borno had no doubt seen thuggery in its superlative stature when the then government had even accorded them some sought of official recognition. In those darker days, the fear of Ecomog was the beginning of political wisdom for any opposition. 

Those gloomy days gradually disappeared to be replaced by Boko Haram terrorism. At one point, some people strongly thought Boko Haram was an evolution of Ecomog, not until when it was observed later that the group spare no soul, including the thugs themselves in their hostility. 

We all thought Boko Haram may have thought us a bitter lesson to make us abhor any kind of political thuggery. But here we are still having to deal with their menace. 

In today’s Ecomog even younger children of school-age are seen as happy perpetrators. Youth gangsterism has now become a rising social disorder in the state. Almost every nooks and cranny of Maiduguri has numbers of your gang group who have over time grown so powerful that they can commit any violent crime like attacking persons with knives, clubs to harassing hapless females and still go about freely because they have also crowdfunded a purse to pay their way out of police trouble. Yes. The police commissioner had confirmed that in November last year. 

The attack on Fadila by the thugs was not an introduction of a new phenomenon in the Borno political landscape, rather it was an expose of a social decay that had been covered up by even unscrupulous politicians. A social malady, if not well managed can be more destructive than the menace of Boko Haram. 

The attack on Ms Fadila has also exposed that we’ve been sitting on a ticking time bomb that may sooner or later explode if we do not act fast. We are now watching and waiting for Governor Zulum to do the needful by living out his threat to “demolish their houses, withdraw support for any politician that are associated with thugs and deal decisive with them, no matter how highly placed they are. 

As we wait to see bulldozers moving toward some identified abodes of the thugs, we also expect to see heads rolling out of the corridor of power for identifying with thugs.

Governor Zulum has in the past made ample examples with errant civil servants by either suspending them or relieving them of their duties. Thugs and their harborers should also be made an example of to forestall future harassment of people because they had freely expressed their minds. 

A stitch in time saves nine. 

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