In a matter of months, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano has had to axe another senior appointee in his government for expressing personal views on social media that impugn the president and the presidency.
Is this symptomatic of the sentiment in government circles in Kano?
For the second time in less than a year, an appointee of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State has been axed for unguarded criticisms of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Sunday’s suspension of Malam Salihu Tanko Yakasai, the media aide to the governor, brings to two the number of senior political appointees in Ganduje’s government to be whacked for their social media criticism of the president in six months.
Earlier, the controversial commissioner of works and Infrastructure development in the state, Engineer Muaz Magaji was sacked for his social media posts seemingly celebrating the death of Buhari’s late chief of staff, Abba Kyari in April 2020.
This twin occurrence in such a short period is raising questions to the possibilities that these officials might have inadvertently let slip the true sentiments within Ganduje’s government towards the president and his government.
Incidentally, Mr Magaji’s sack in April was announced by Mr Yakasai, who said the then commissioner’s “unguarded utterances against the person of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari,” prompted the termination of his appointment.
Shortly after Mr Kyari’s death from COVID-19 related complications was announced on April 17, Mr Magaji had taken to Facebook to make a series of post.
“Nigeria is bigger than any individual…While praying for the president’s late support staff, ours is to prevent a repeat of his non-accountable domineering era,” one of his posts said.
Another of the commissioner’s post read: “I am not a hypocrite and I won’t pretend! While at a personal level I pray Allah grant Abba Kyari Jannah… I sincerely believe Nigeria needed a better CoS.”
Considering the huge support President Buhari enjoys in Kano and the ties between the President and the governor, these comments from his aides were shocking but Engr Muazu insisted in a subsequent post that he was fully aware of the consequence of his comments.
Shortly after, Presidential Aide on Social Media, Bashir Ahmad through his verified twitter reacted to the comments and called on the Kano State government to act.
“I am really disappointed and pained by the Kano State Commissioner for Works, Engr. Muazu Magaji’s remarks on Mallam Abba Kyari’s demise, the commissioner was seen publicly celebrating the death on his Facebook page. I hope @KanoStateNG and @GovUmarGanduje will call him to order.”
Within hours of the presidential aide’s tweet, Mr Yakasai took to Twitter to announce the disengagement of the commissioner.
In a further irony, weeks later, sacked commissioner Mr Magaji would himself test positive for COVID-19 and was put away in an isolation centre. Fortunately, he has since recovered.
The irony did not end there as Mr Yakasai would take to social media to fall on his sword, as the commissioner whose sack he announced months before had done.
Yakasai’s attack was directly on the President himself following Buhari’s failure to address #EndSARS protests.
The aide would Tweet: “I have never seen a government with zero empathy like that of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“So many times when his people are going through a difficult time[s] and expect some sort of tap on [the] shoulder to reassure them that he is in charge, but he failed (sic) to do so.
“The ‘I don’t care attitude’ is on another level.
“To speak to your own people over issues that are bedevilling them has become something like a favour you are doing to them.
“Over and over again, you cannot spare five minutes to address the nation to calm them down, the same people you went to the 36 states to beg for their votes, it is heartbreaking,” Yakasai said.
These tweets were enough to provoke the governor to suspend Yakasai from his office and in relieving Yakasai, the governor used almost the exact same words that had been used to see out Engr Magaji.
Yakasai was suspended for “unguarded utterances on the person of President Muhammadu Buhari on the social media platform.”
Many social media users have observed Yakasai playing too close to the edge of the well with his recent tweets chipping away at the heels of the president and the ruling party.
In one of his tweets after APC’s defeat in Edo, Yakasai said the outcome of the elections has some great lessons for the APC as a party, not just in Edo but at the centre.
Yakasai, on his certified Twitter handle, @dawisu added that, “But most importantly the outcome has some insight into the future of the party as well, let’s look inward and outward and do some soul searching for our survival.”
Interestingly, Yakasai’s boss, Governor Ganduje, happened to be the APC’s campaign chairman for the elections in which the APC suffered a major defeat.
Reactions have since trailed Yakasai’s suspension notably from former commissioner, Magaji, who took to Facebook to say, “It’s absolutely sad to see Salihu Tanko Yakasai once again removed from the circle of protection of H.E Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. Salihu is a trusted close aide of H.E Ganduje… I feel sad he is out… May Allah give him a better landing also.”
Others, such as Idris Bashir El-Cas, a social media commentator based in Kano, feel the suspension or sack of government officials over issues regarding their utterances is a clear indication of poor orientation on effective use of social media platforms.
“The truth here is that government officials lack training on effective use of social media handles and as such they usually end up digging their graves by themselves,” he said. “They fail to understand that the moment they accept an appointment in Nigeria, they have lost their self-identity. Whatever they do or say is being seen and regarded as their master’s bidding, even when it isn’t.”
Similarly, Professor Kamilu Sani Fagge of the Political Science Department, Bayero University, Kano (BUK) said the suspension of the media aide for airing his personal view on national issues is wrong adding that, there are measures ought to have been taken that before the suspension.
“Every Nigerian has a right to his opinion on national issues, and I believe that there are measures that needed to have been taken before the suspension, but I don’t know if such measures were taken.”
However, a political analyst, Mohammed Sa’id Faragai said, what happened to the media aide was just a case of nemesis.
“Those who are busy sympathizing with the suspended media aide were the ones laughing when he was busy abusing the dethroned Emir of Kano during the crisis that led to his dethronement. We all knew it was wrong, but because he was doing the bidding of his masters, we never cautioned him and now that he had extended his atrocities to the no-go area and stepped on the toes of his masters, we are busy saying it is wrong. This is a clear case of nemesis and therefore he who calls for it should wait for it,” he said.
Dr Aminu Hayatu also of the Political Science Department (BUK) faults the suspension.
“In as much as the aide didn’t attribute his posts to his boss, the suspension given to him is wrong,” he said.
Following his suspension and reactions to it, Yakasai on Monday 12th October, 2020, took to Twitter to thank his supporters.
“I want to sincerely extend my heartfelt appreciation to all those who supported me yesterday, particularly those who called or sent messages through several platforms and those on the timeline…I was overwhelmed and I tried to reply all but couldn’t. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Whether this views critical of the president sneaking out of Ganduje’s appointees are more widespread or not, this will probably force other officials to guard their words more carefully.