One of the most gruesome acts of political perfidy in history was committed on the Ides of March, 44 BC when Roman dictator, Julius Caesar, streamed into the Roman Senate, toga in hand to deliver an address but was instead stabbed 23 times by his own senators. Their reason was that Caesar, a wildly popular figure, was growing too powerful. For Caesar, as realisation about his impending death at the hands of his lawmakers dawned, one thing shocked him the most, if we are to believe history and literature. One of those 23 stabs was delivered by his protégé Brutus.
Brutus’ stab might not have been the fatal blow but it was one that carried the greatest emotional weight and led Caesar to utter the Latin words that have become the mantra for betrayals ever since. “Et tu, Brute?” And you, Brutus? What Caesar would never know was that Brutus was one of the major plotters of his assassination.
In Gombe in May 2021, a version of something similar, Nigerian style, of course, would have played out, if we are to believe one party in that incident. In this version, there was no orgy of stabbing by distinguished members of the senate even though the target was and still is a member of the Nigerian Senate. Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje was travelling home to Gombe from Abuja for his granddaughter’s wedding when his convoy was waylaid by some hoodlums. These thugs attacked, hurled crude missiles at his convoy, and slashed with cudgels and machetes. The senator escaped unhurt but some five persons didn’t as they were fatally wounded.
Shortly after, Goje’s spokesperson Lilian Nworie announced that it was an assassination attempt orchestrated by the state governor, Inuwa Yahya. Ironically, the state commissioner for information Julius Ishaya Lepes wasted no time in blaming Goje for the attack on his own convoy. Soon after, it became an almost all-out war between supporters of Senator Goje, a former governor of Gombe and the incumbent Gov Yahya.
Like Caesar and Brutus, the two men have been in cahoots before, with Goje playing the Caesar role to Yahya, who served as his finance commissioner while Goje was governor between 2003 and 2011. But mostly, Goje, who had built a huge political machinery in the state had championed and spearheaded the emergence of Gov Yahya in 2019.
This is not the first falling out between a godfather and his chosen successor that we have seen in Nigeria’s political history. We have had the theatrics of the Rabiu Kwankwaso and Abdullahi Ganduje drama in Kano, the belligerent swange dance between George Akume and Samuel Ortom in Benue, Lamidi Adedibu and Rashidi Ladoja’s dance in the forest in Oyo, the ‘nzogbu-nzogbu’ fireworks of Jim Nwobodo and Chimaroke Nnamani in Anambra and the ‘O to ge’ dynasty-ending saga of Sola Saraki and Mohammed Lawal in Kwara.
What has made the case in Gombe outstanding though is the threat to life that has been alleged, and the street clashes between the supporters of the duo that this has elicited. It got so bad so quickly that the APC, to which both Gov Yahya and Senator Goje belonged, staged an intervention led by the then-acting party chairman, Mai Mala Buni and the new vice president of the republic, Kashim Shettima. The two belligerents reportedly reconciled and decided to work towards the party’s success at the 2023 polls.
That peace was flaky however and the two parties have since returned to the trenches just after the 2023 elections. Those elections did not go according to plans. The APC lost two of its Senate seats in Gombe. The only surviving senator was Danjuma Goje. The party also lost the presidential elections in the state to the PDP. Threatened by the losses, Governor Yahya had to double down to secure his second term in office. As soon as that was done, he pointed fingers at Goje for the APC’s poor electoral performances in the state and a plot to castrate Goje’s influence in the state resulted in the Kashere ward of the party expelling the former governor from its fold.
The whole drama played out like a Nollywood-scripted political saga, without finesse or cogent reasonable order. As of today, both Senator Goje and Governor Yahya are in courts fighting various battles—Goje to challenge his expulsion from the party by the Kashere ward executives and Gov. Yahya to hold on to his gubernatorial seat after his election was challenged.
It goes without saying that Gov Inuwa owes his political fortunes to Senator Goje, who had appointed him commissioner for finance for eight years and to borrow the term a certain Fani-Kayode detests, politically bankrolled his 2019 election as governor.
Is Gov Yahya being an ingrate or a Brutus? It is hard to say because the exact cause of their falling out in the first instance remains unclear. It might be that like Brutus, Gov Yahya is wary of Sen Goje’s overwhelming influence in the state’s politics and his continued relevance.
Goje can be an overbearing force sometimes. As governor of Gombe State between 2003 and 2011, he was once said to have described himself as a bulldozer who needed to demolish to build. He went about this with some pizzaz and did build up significant infrastructure in the state. I admit it was impressive what he did. One of his earliest projects was the rather impressive Gombe State University which was established barely a year into his administration.
While the political brouhaha in the state might make for entertaining reading for neutrals because it has intrigues, subterfuge, fake reconciliations and spectacular falling outs—it is in many ways harmful to the state. The constant clashes between the supporters of the two politicians continuously put the lives and property of the residents at risk. That is inherently inimical to the development of the state as Gov. Yahya has said he was committed to.
Also, it is damaging to both politicians as a united APC had a far superior showing in the 2019 elections than its plucky performance this time out. In addition to the two Senate seats they lost, they have also lost five of the six House of Representatives seats in the state. Most Nigerians won’t care about this as elections only matter every four years or so. But for the politicians, it is something of concern.
I suppose the national leadership of the APC recognised this disaster and attempted to fix it with the Buni-led intervention at that time. Whatever they did then, that intervention has come undone and if the APC is intent on good governance, just as Gov Yahya should be in his ambition to build up his state, the party needs to intervene and apply a far healthier dose of Super Glue to patch the rift between the two figures or else. The ‘or else’ here is that the two politicians would invest far too much time battling each other over political superiority and control in the state that the true victims of this imbroglio, the good people of the state, would continue to suffer the consequences both in terms of social and economic development and security-wise.
These people should be the principal focus of both the governor and the senator and that should be where they channel their energies to champion the development of the state. President Bola Tinubu has proven himself to be more of a party politician than his predecessor and would probably move in to strengthen his party’s shaky hold on the state. It did not end well for Rome when the senate turned on Caesar. It won’t end well for Gombe if this dirty fight continues.