Alhaji Abubakar Yahaya Karaku, a grassroots politician is a special adviser to the Kogi state governor who hails from Okene local government area of the state. In this interview with OYIBO SALIHU, the former council chairman of Okene local government relives his experience and the sacrifice he made while trying to restore peace to the then crisis-torn area. The governor’s aide who assures that the PDP will win the 2015 elections hands down, recalls how PDP members were becoming refugees in the state. Karaku also explains why it is difficult to stem the dangerous tide of kidnapping in some parts of the state, saying to offer any advice could be at one’s peril, even as he says violence is not part of his style of politics
Reason for being in politics
I am into politics not out of interest but because I met my father in it while trying to build up myself as a growing young man, since going to higher institution was a problem to me. Because of the financial predicament I suffered then, I keyed into politics.
Situation in Kogi Central
It has been hectic, turbulent and full of crises particularly since 2003. The defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) antagonized members of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP) in the area. During the governorship election of 2007, the PDP only recorded 47 votes in Okene as against over 99,000 votes recorded by ACN. During that election. virtually all the people from central voted for their own candidate which is Kabiru Shuaibu who contested for governorship position on the platform of UNCP. The second election was when Alhaji Ibrahim Idris was re-contesting in 2007 after the court annulled the election. In that election, PDP only managed to get less than 200 votes because virtually all the PDP supporters in the area were chased out of Okene and Adavi local governments. Although, our candidate still won the election. That time you cannot call yourself a PDP member in central senatorial district of the state, we became a refugee in Lokoja and its environs. I was appointed care-taker chairman 30th January, 2008. The level of political crises that time was very high.
I am still surprised when some people began to insinuate that Yahaya Karaku killed people, what of my people that were killed, who killed them? Is it the same Karaku that killed them? That time we the PDP will be in our houses, the ACN members would mobilize in their large number with dangerous weapons searching for us to kill. To pave ways for peace in Okene I set a peace and reconciliation committee comprising of members from all clans in Okene to fashion out ways through which peace can be restored. Aside this committee, there were other committees I constituted because I inherited so many crises, like the skirmishes in Obehira between the supporters of a nocturnal masquerade called Erenuohi and Sementi which started as far back as 2003 where many houses were burnt down, many lives lost, property worth several millions were destroyed, and as the chief executive of the local government, I had to wade in to settle the crises.
I also met a lot of illegal barracks in Okene where the hoodlums hibernated and harassed innocent people, robbed them of their belongings and even killed people at will. The boys were heavily armed with all sort of dangerous weapons. I fought them headlong and I was able to dislodge the boys and today there is no single illegal barrack in the whole of Ebira land.
In the course of my struggle to return peace to Okene, I lost six of my younger brothers and clan members too numerous to mention, my family house and my personal house were burnt. One of my clan members who lectured at Federal College of Education(FCE) Okene was also killed. I am saying this without any fear of contradiction that I have never fought anybody in my life. I have never used my money to buy gun for any boy, whoever believes that I bought guns for him can come out with prove. I aspired to become council chairman of Okene because of the high level of insecurity in the land, where there is no discipline and leaders in the area used the hoodlums against themselves which I believed is not good and it can not lead us to prosperity.
As the crises in Okene then became tense and almost gotten out of hand, Justice Moses Bello called me, invited Senator Salihu Ohize to find a lasting solution to the crises in Okene. I used the dialogue to recover so many weapons being used to perpetrate all sort of heinous activities in all parts of the land. I also encouraged the introduction of youth peace initiative which helped tremendously in restoring peace. We achieved the feat of recovering various types of guns ranging from Ak-47, Kalachika pump action and the host of other types of ammunitions. 150 of such weapons were recovered from the boys. I did not stop at recovery of weapon, I led other four council chairmen from the central to the then Inspector General of police Mr. Mike Okiro to request for special squad whose responsibility was geared towards recovery of arms and ammunition. The I.G gave approval having scrutinized our request.
Relationship with other politicians
My relationship with some of my people today is not cordial because I have decided to stay alone that was why they have been looking for a way to crucify me for a crime I don’t know. I cannot involve myself in issues my people did not bargain for. We did not ask for acting governor in the state, we asked for speaker of the state House of Assembly and we were gladly given, we did not ask for acting governor and I cannot be part of those who are struggling for the position. I have been working with people politically and I work with sincerity. Our relationship with the government almost turned bad because of some people’s selfish interest.
Secret of your popularity in central senatorial district
Well, if you do your best and go closer to your people, they would like you. I am very close to my people, I stay with them, naming ceremony I will be there, burial I will be there and they knew that I have concern for them. The level of physical development I provided to local government when God gave me the leadership of the council was another reason my people cannot forget me. Remember that nobody can buy love, but you can display sincerity to earn love from your people.
Kidnapping saga in Okene
If the man at the helm of affairs of the local government is willing to learn from those of us that occupied the position, we will offer our sincere advice that can assist in solving the problem. But in a situation where you offer your genuine and sincere advice and criminals are sent to kill you, if you have advice or suggestion you will prefer to keep it to yourself. If at all, we want to put an end to this incessant kidnapping in Ebira land, the first time it happened in Adavi where the family of the council chairman was the victim, we the leaders of the land suppose to come together deliberate on it and find a lasting solution to the criminal act. It is sad that everybody fold their arms as if nothing happens and few months after the kidnap, another one took place. And this time around two children of the serving speaker of the State House of Assembly were abducted. We are praying that whoever kidnapped these children, God should touch their heart and return them because they are too young for this kind of trauma. If we are sincere and we have resolved to return Captain Idris Wada for second term as the governor of the state, we should all come together and work as one indivisible entity so that we can achieve our objectives.
There is a leader in Okene they called Ikwe-Kala what is the meaning of Ikwe-Kala we want to know. The security agents should ask or investigate the name because the name has no meaning in Ebira land. The security agents should also investigate what happened since coming into Ebira land as Igwe-Kala. The security agents should call all the political leaders in the land together so that the truth about the insecurity in the land can come out.
PDP’s chances in 2015
First and foremost, there is no faction in PDP in Kogi State and we have started preparation both in the township and at the grassroots. In my local government series of meetings are going on and I am optimistic that PDP will win all the elections in the 2015 general elections. On my next political interest as you have demanded to know, I have interest to contest for the chairmanship of our great party (PDP) in Kogi state. I am using this medium to solicit support from the governor, political elders and other stakeholders. I have served as publicity secretary in the party and I believed that I can handle the leadership of the party in the state.