When the news of the callous murder of Ahmed Gulak filtered into the social media just before noon, the penultimate Sunday, I took it with a pinch of salt. I was sceptical because he was said to have been killed in Owerri, a place where he would have felt as safe as in his village – Gulak, a name that he had popularised immensely. It is commonly known that Gulak had been very close to the highest rungs in the government of the Imo State, perhaps due to the supreme role he played in the APC primary elections leading to selection of the gubernatorial candidate who is now the governor of the state.
But as that Sunday unrolled, and more facts unravelled, it became clear that indeed Gulak had lost his life in what looked like an assassination. I felt a touch of sadness at how the life of this statesman was terminated by a bunch of hoodlums, who probably did not know his worth. It is those who knew his worth and calibre and bore unforgivable grudges against him that made sure that the hoodlums singled him out for assassination.
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I never had the privilege of working with Gulak even though I had worked closely with his predecessors for eight years in the Political Office of the Vice-President. When he was appointed to take charge of Political Office of the new Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2007, I had already been posted to take my place among the directors in the more anonymous general administration wing of the Villa. Nevertheless, I kept an eye on him to see how he would cope with the office. I had a nagging feeling that it would be a tough act following in the heels of Dr Usman Bugaje and Professor Ali Danlami Yahaya, his predecessors in the office of Atiku Abubakar, who had expanded the scope of that office to make it arguably the most visible in the President Obasanjo tenure.
Within a short time and probably as a result of the unfolding tragic circumstances in the Presidency at that time which propelled Goodluck Jonathan to assume more powers, the talents of Gulak as a versatile political adviser became fully manifest. By the time necessity made it possible for his principal to assume the Presidency, Gulak had become his own man and had brought his personality to fully bear on the office. I guess he must have been invaluable to President Jonathan as he must have brought to the table his wide grassroots experience. Gulak, after all, began his political odyssey out there in the field, starting from becoming a member of Adamawa House of Assembly and rising to hold the post of Speaker.
At the Villa, he was everywhere, particularly on television where he had great presence, exuding confidence and knowledge. He never parried questions from interlocutors and was a great delight to viewers. In the build-up to the 2011 elections, Gulak went even further to expand his role when he was appointed the national coordinator of the Goodluck Support Group (GSG). When his principal won the election, Gulak became even more visible in the affairs of the state. At the approach of the 2015 election, he returned to the field as the national coordinator of the GSG to build up support for his principal against a more formidable challenge by the newly registered APC.
Gulak was everywhere in the country and even out in the USA and many other countries drumming up support for the candidature of Goodluck Jonathan. It was in that role that Gulak probably overdid his brief and stepped on many sore toes in the party, particularly heavyweights such as Governor Akpabio of Akwa Ibom and the party chairman, Adamu Muazu. When the complaints became persistent, it was only a matter of days for Gulak to leave the Villa. Under intense pressure, President Jonathan was at last compelled to throw Gulak under the bus in April 2014, by taking him off from the post of Political Adviser. A few days later, Gulak also resigned from the post of national coordinator of the GSG, ending his high flying career on this sad note.
After the elections which his principal lost, Gulak remained in the PDP, hoping to remain relevant. The party was in disarray having suffered its first defeat since 1999, and Gulak saw a role for himself to rebuild the party. At a stage when the squabbles in the party became intractable and they could not even elect a chairman, Gulak declared himself as the chairman of the party. Somehow, he found the situation within the PDP stifling and had to relocate to the rival APC. In due course, within the APC, Gulak rebuilt his career and even found acceptance in the inner sanctum of the party, so much so that in the last elections, the APC could entrust him with the sensitive assignment of chairing the primary elections in Imo State that brought up Uzodinma as the gubernatorial candidate. It was one of the most contentious primaries ever and it was only the strength of character that Gulak exhibited that saved the situation and made sure that things were done properly.
The murder of Ahmed Gulak would have wide implications. We shall return to the subject in due course to examine the matters that could arise.