So far, there have been three Muhammadu Gonis in the political history of Nigeria.
The first is the vibrant and resourceful governor of old Borno State (comprising the present Borno and Yobe states) on the ticket of the defunct Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) founded by the multimillionaire Waziri Ibrahim of blessed memory in the defunct Second Republic.
The second is a Muhammadu Goni who contested the governorship of the present Borno State on the platform of the now mainstream opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 elections.
The third is the present-day Muhammadu Goni, a 74-year-old Borno elder, radiating some sagely disposition, hibernating and, yes, savouring repose in a ‘siddon look’ political resort.
The first and second Muhammadu Gonis built up into the third.
Muhammadu Goni hails from Kareto, a village near Damasak, in Mobar Local Government Area of present day Borno State.
After graduating from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1967, he started work as the first Assistant District Officer (ADO) in charge of Ningi Native Authority in the Bauchi Division. Thereafter, he was transferred to Katagum and, finally Gombe, where he married his first wife in 1971.
With the creation of Borno State, he transferred his service to the then newly created state, soldiering on as a public administrator until the advent of politics in the Second Republic when he joined partisan politics, on the platform of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP); the party of his kinsman, Waziri Ibrahim, of the politics-without-bitterness (siyasa bad a gaba ba) fame. He got elected as the first civilian governor of the state (then comprising the present Borno and Yobe states). He served in that capacity from 1979 to 1983.
Goni lost his second term bid to Asheik Jarma of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) who was governor for only three months before the Second Republic was crashed by a military coup that saw Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State.
Since then, especially after learning some ‘lessons’ on having to keep quiet from his arrest and subsequent acquittal, he had withdrawn to his political sanctum, savouring repose and, perhaps, watching affairs as they unfurl, oftentimes pained, not just by affairs and their courses, but by his lack of the capacity to help reshape them in the ways he felt best for the polity.
“Everything has deteriorated to a pathetic level, but what else can one do other than watch and lament over issues because no one has ever come forward to seek advice on how some affairs should be conducted,” Muhammadu Goni, holding a copy of Daily Trust newspaper, said. “As you can see, I am not rich in the sense of amassing wealth illegally from public coffers, and I can only afford just one newspaper now,” he added.
Savouring the quietude of his Old GRA Maiduguri home, Muhammadu Goni grieves over the neglect of his political personality by “this irreverent generation of politicians who feel so self-sufficient in terms of wisdom and how best to go about doing things, and are intransigent in their views and decisions that they see no need seeking the advice of people like us. No one comes here to consult me on the conduct of governance as a political forebearer.”
He was so particular in his angst, “Kashim Shettima is better, at least he regards me as a father even if he doesn’t come to consult me on things; but Ali Modu Sherrif? He has no regard for me whatsoever. If he has ever had any regard for me, I wouldn’t have allowed him to cause this innocent killing of people,” alleging that the current insurgency is mainly the product of former Governor Sherrif’s lackadaisical attitude towards nipping the problems that gave birth to it in the bud.
“He destroyed the future of the youth he mobilized against me in 2011,” he alleged.
Muhammadu Goni remained in political hibernation until the eve of the 2011 election when his peers and other well-meaning people of Borno converged and pulled him out, dressed him gorgeously in what they brandished as his impressive Second Republic accomplishments and marketed him as governorship candidate on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He lost, and resigned to fate after a ‘devastating’ Supreme Court ruling.
“No one comes here for any consultation,” he stressed. As though severely agonized by abandonment he queried: “how would you even expect them to respect me or seek my advice on the conduct of governance? They are scared by people like me; today’s politicians in the state fear that if they give me this latitude, I will overshadow them with my accomplishments.”
“I built the now famous Chibok Secondary School during my time. Up to this day, whenever I go to Chibok, it would be day of jubilation for the entire community. Go to Chibok and mention my name and you will testify to this,” he said.
Goni believes the succeeding crop of governors in the state seem to have lost ideas on the true essence of governance.
“The foremost essence of governance is the provision of security to the citizens and their property; where is that security in this state now? Look at my village for instance; there are about 500 soldiers permanently there now. Everyone knows that those soldiers are the government. Anywhere towards the border like Baga, Doron Baga and in other communities, Boko Haram is still the government; it is very painful,” he said.
Muhammadu Goni would not foresee any development in Borno and Yobe, states he still holds dear to his heart, with any remnant of Boko Haram across sections of their terrains.
“These two states can never develop with Boko Haram around; they are in a pathetic situation,” he said.
Muhammadu Goni wouldn’t reveal his membership of any political party now, but said, “I initially didn’t like Buhari; one because both of us were not in the same party and two, he did not perform as military head of state. But today I admire him because of his commitment to fighting Boko Haram and restoring security to Borno and Yobe, and should he indicate interest for a second term, I would support him.”
He is still interested in partisan politics, but not interested in the way governance is being run, which is why he decided to stay aloof and keep mum, carefully choreographing his political movements and utterances.
Goni still seems popular and relevant, especially at the grassroots and among the elders, who still celebrate his Second Republic accomplishments.
“He is still very popular and relevant among the people. Up to this day, no governor of the state can match him in terms of performance; and I can tell you that he actually won the 2011 election,” Alhaji Aminu Abubakar Gwandu, the Borno State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), admitted.
“I cannot tell with certainty which party he belongs to now; but I, a member of the APC, can tell you that he is still very popular among majority of the people, and relevant among the elders, even if he is out of grace with the so called political movers and shakers of the state,” an top-notch member of the ruling APC in the state who craved anonymity, admitted.
“Whether he will play partisan politics to the point of contesting again, I can’t tell you, but I doubt that,” the APC member concluded.
Barely comfortable, but satisfied with his achievements, the ‘just-one-newspaper-affording’ Muhammadu Goni now watches things from his ‘siddon look’ resort.