FEBRUARY 25, 2023, the date for the presidential and national assembly election was one which the residents of Tudun Wada Local Government Area (LGA) in Kano state anticipated as it was a time for them to exercise their franchise through the ballot, but little did they know that it would become the eve of a horror scene the community will not forget anytime soon.
On Sunday, February 26 while the collation of results was ongoing, mayhem struck Tudun Wada when thugs attacked. The office of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP) located in Sabon Gari Ward was set ablaze, and scores were burnt to death. Some residents were shot dead, while some luckily escaped.
Many of the residents, survivors and eyewitnesses interviewed by The ICIR pointed accusing fingers at Alhassan Ado Doguwa, as the person “led the thugs and caused violence while possessing firearms” on that day.
Doguwa is the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives of Nigeria. He is an All Progressive Congress (APC) member representing the Doguwa/Tudun Wada Federal constituency of Kano state.
Doguwa was first elected member of the House of Representatives for the constituency in 1992 and returned to the green chamber in 2007 where he was consistently re-elected and has been the representative of that constituency since.
Approximately six weeks after the incident, 35-year-old Auwalu Bala survived the attack, but he is still incapacitated. The father of three can no longer work to fend for his family because, till the time of filing this report, he is unable to resume his job as a labourer. The injuries he sustained still affect his health and he now lives at the mercy of his extended family members who make provisions for him and his household.
“As I was about to perform my prayers in the mosque on that day, I heard people echoing ‘Doguwa’s Boys are here’ Bala told The ICIR “, but I was less concerned because I am not a party supporter, and I always mind my business.”
“When the tension was high, I made my way out of the mosque, where seven thugs surrounded me and started beating me ruthlessly with heavy sticks and other weapons”, he narrated.
“I pleaded with them to have mercy on me because I don’t participate in political activities, but they did not. All they kept saying was ‘sa mu aka yi’, meaning ‘we were sent’. While beating me, I got weakened, fell to the ground and then they macheted my back, after which I started bleeding profusely, with a hand broken.”
He said, adding that he is grateful that the injury didn’t affect his spinal cord.
Bala said he spent 10 days at the hospital and, while on his sickbed, was so worried about his mother, wife and children. “I prayed to Allah to keep them safe from the violence and also help me recover because the pain was too much. The hurt of not being able to provide for my household as a man because of my present condition weakens me mentally.”
“I don’t know why they attacked me because I don’t have anything to do with political activities aside from voting during elections,” Bala said.
He was, however, unfazed as he added that he would still vote in the supplementary elections slated for April 15.
Kano state was among the states the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held a supplementary election.
The Kano Resident Electoral Commissioner, Abdul Zango while speaking at a stakeholder meeting with the police, civil society, political party representatives and the media at the headquarters of INEC ahead of the supplementary elections in Kano stated that violence was among the major reasons why the supplementary elections were held in Kano.
He said, “The only reason why we are conducting the supplementary election is because of violence”.
Zango added that a lot of the violence unleashed on people isn’t always from a directive of the political class, as “some supporters can unleash mayhem on the opposition without getting a directive from a politician but one can’t tell the limit so please eschew violence.”
“We can never forgive, we want justice!”
Eighteen-year-old Labaran Sule escaped death by the whiskers. Not only was he shot in his shoulder, he was also macheted close to his neck. He was in a pool of blood by the roadside when help came his way, and was taken to the hospital.
He told The ICIR that he is still angry at the incident and cannot forgive Alhassan Doguwa and the thugs who he accused of attacking him.
“It was about 3 p.m. in the afternoon when I came out of the mosque and saw the office of NNPP on fire, and Doguwa had two guns in his hands. The distance between myself and him wasn’t much, and before I knew what happened, he shot me in the shoulder for no reason. I was crawling and trying to escape when he ordered a thug with a machete to cut me or give him the machete to do it.”
“After I was cut, I used the last energy in me to escape by crawling on the floor, and I fell close to the house of a community member who tried to help me but got shot in the hand. I was in a coma for three days, and when I woke up, I discovered that I was in the hospital. I am always bitter whenever I remember what happened that day because I also lost a friend and fellow community members.” Sule said as he tried to catch his breath.
Sule’s mother, Zainabu, told The ICIR that she could never forgive her son’s assailants
“I leave all of them in the hands of Allah”, she said. “I was in my house when people rushed to tell me that my son was lying on the street but was taken to the hospital. This boy is my last born, and he is the one that always keeps me company in the house and whenever he goes out to work, he buys food and other things for me.”
“I cried for 21 days, and my eyes were always swollen. I am happy that he is alive and I am pleading with the government or those who can assist me to provide a job for my son so that he can be actively engaged,” she adds.
A 30-year-old farmer, Sani Bala, still limps to walk after he was shot in the leg on that fateful day. He barely spent five minutes after leaving his house to pay his friend a visit when he saw a multitude of people running helter-skelter towards him, leaving him in a confused state he told The ICIR.
On realising that danger was abound when he heard gunshots, Bala tried to find the fastest escape route but wasn’t fast enough as a bullet pierced his feet.
”Before I could find a safe place to run to, I got shot, and I started limping to save my life. Luckily, a community member who was hiding in a container building saw my condition, opened the door, and I jumped inside, and he locked it.”
“We waited there till we were sure the assailants were gone and subsequently, we came out, and I was rushed to the hospital while bleeding. What surprised me the most and broke my heart is that I saw my representative Alhassan Doguwa when he pulled the trigger and shot me. Everyone saw it, so he can’t deny it because he shot other people too.”
“We have been listening to the news on the radio, and nothing concrete has been done to him. We could have taken laws into our hands, but the Constitution does not give us the right to do so. What we want is justice, and to date, I have not forgiven him for what he did. Yes I will not forgive! There is nothing that can make me forgive him, never!” Bala stated emphatically.
“Why won’t I be angry? I am not a politician, I don’t take part in political activities aside to cast my vote, why then will I be attacked? What offence did I commit? People were burnt at the office of the NNPP. I swear to God, we cannot forgive him,” he added.
The reporter made his way to Kasuwan Tudun Wada, where to speak with Abdul Sarkin-Power as he is fondly called. Sarkin-Power regrets the day his 25-year-old son Mumammed was in the office of the NNPP, where he got burnt to death.
For Sarkin-Power, he wants human rights organisations, the government and relevant authorities to get justice for his murdered son, whom he saw has a bright future in after completing his secondary education and getting his Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) certificate.
“Mumammed usually helps me out in my stall where I sell meat, but now, his younger brother Abubakar who isn’t mature enough, has to join me in the market. So much money was spent to send Muhammad to school, and when the time to reap the fruits of my labour is close, someone just murdered him for no reason.”
“I want the law to take its course on Doguwa and the thugs that caused the death of my son, and I cannot forgive him because he has cheated me. He feels like no one can bring him to order when he was walking around on that day, causing violence. My prayer and plea to the government and human rights defenders is that they should serve justice to my late son and nothing more”, Sarkin Power stated.
The pain of losing a friend
Twenty-one-year-old Kamisu Usaini, an eyewitness, lost two of his friends, Alaska, 32, and Amiru, 27, to the fire at the office of the NNPP. He wished he could save them from the fire but couldn’t do so, and watched how his friends got burnt before he hurriedly left the scene out of fear.
On a normal day, Usaini, would watch how Alaska and Amiru make jest of themselves and make him laugh. Irrespective of the fact that they were older than him, they took him as their friend and spent long hours with him to the extent that age didn’t matter in their relationship because they discussed personal things as well as happenings in the community, he told The ICIR.
“Sometimes we hang out till about past 10 p.m. after which Alaska sees me off to my house. They were just like big brothers to me, but now they are no more,” Usaini said, with a teary face and a cracked voice.
“When the building was burning, many community members told those trapped inside to come out, but the assailants said they would kill whoever helped them. I was scared and couldn’t bear to watch the incident. Whoever did this to my friends, may Allah do the same to them”, he said.
Usaini couldn’t continue to answer the questions the reporter asked him as he tried not to give in to his emotions and then bent his head to avoid his younger sibling from seeing his teary face.
Aliyu Rabiu, the ward head of Tsohon Gari ward in Tudun Wada isn’t happy about the incident.
According to him, intolerance was the cause of the event that cost lives and, thus, urged community members and party supporters to tolerate each other and desist from fueling violence in the name of politics.
Aliyu who spoke to The ICIR before the supplementary election said “As regards the forthcoming supplementary elections coming up on April 15, I am confident that the electorate in Tudun Wada will come out to cast their vote, and hopefully, there will be no rancour. During the governorship elections that took place recently, there was no violence of any sort. Therefore, I am confident that peace will reign in Tudun Wada.
“Some family members of the deceased, like Sarkin-Power who I saw, voted in the governorship election, and I believe there will be no violence going forward. I urge all community members to come out and vote and not involve in anything that will disrupt the peace of the community,” Rabiu stated.
The supplementary election held with no incident.
This reporter subsequently went to Tudun Wada General Hospital, where the victims were taken to, and a source in the hospital who pleaded anonymity said two people were confirmed dead in the hospital from bullet wounds while another was referred to Kano for further treatment but died.
The source also stated that two burnt victims were brought to the hospital but didn’t survive and were subsequently buried. The ICIR couldn’t ascertain the number of burnt victims because another staff of the hospital prevented the source from accessing the records of the victims.
Arrest of Alhassan Doguwa
Following allegations of murder, the Kano state police command arrested Doguwa. The police spokesperson Haruna Kiyawa said the lawmaker was arrested in connection to a suspected case of criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide, causing grievous hurt, mischief by fire and inciting disturbance.
He was subsequently charged to court, after which a federal high court in Kano granted him bail of N500 million with two sureties. The case was adjourned till April 10 for the continuation of trial.
On April 10, the court didn’t sit, and when contacted, the registrar of court two, where Doguwa was tried, said the case was adjourned to May 10.
However, a coalition of over 140 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of the Kano Civil Society Forum (KCS) led by Ibrahim Waiya, who is also the chairman of the Kano Peace Committee, recently raised concerns over the seemingly slow pace in the trial of Doguwa.
In a public petition signed by 500 members and issued by Waiya, he urged the Kano state government to accelerate the legal process to establish the role of the Doguwa in the murder case.
“It has come to our notice that there were reported political violence at Doguwa and Tudun Wada local councils and other areas in the state during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
“We are deliberately giving prominence to these two local councils because they happened to be the theatre of killings and burning of property, as reported. Doguwa, member of the National Assembly representing Doguwa/Tudun Wada Federal Constituency, was accused and arrested on the allegation of leading thugs and unleashing attacks on some innocent people, which led to the death of scores and left many seriously injured.
“As concerned groups and those that believe in the sanctity of human lives, we are worried by the slow and unprecedented delay to frame charges and arraign the suspects, particularly Doguwa, who was accused of playing the lead role in the destruction of life and property. He ought to have been arraigned before a competent court of law by now to face the music,” the coalition chairman said.
In November 2022, the deputy governorship candidate of Kano state under the APC accused Doguwa of attacking him with a tea cup during a meeting. He told the BBC Hausa that “When he invaded the meeting, he started disagreeing that he was not involved in the meeting because it was a time of sharing money but when it comes to the difficult task of the party he will be invited,” Murtala Garo said.
“But the deputy governor replied that they are not sharing money because nobody gives them money to share, he then asked why he was not invited despite his position as the majority leader, and that is how the argument turned into quarrel. “Mr Doguwa accused me of destroying his banners which I denied, he grabbed a teacup in front of the deputy governor and threw it at me,” Garo said.
On his part, Doguwa denied the allegation, stating that he was asking the Deputy Governor why he wasn’t invited, but Garo responded to him abusively and “in the process, he broke a teacup and slipped into it, injuring himself.”
“Contrary to what people are saying, I did not throw a teacup at him,” Doguwa told BBC Hausa.
Doguwa was also reported to have slapped Abdullahi Yakubu, a correspondent of Leadership newspaper in Kano, during a press conference. The journalist dragged the lawmaker to court, and the duo subsequently settled their rift.
Later that year, there was outrage when a video uploaded by the Leadership newspaper showed the lawmaker telling his constituents to either vote for his party or be dealt with.
“This is mere political forgery, Doguwa is a responsible man” – Kano APC chieftain
Ahmed Aruwa, the publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which Dogwa is a member, believes that the lawmaker is falsely accused of causing violence in Tudun Wada, pointing out that Doguwa’s political opponents are trying to paint his image in a bad light.
“Doguwa won the election in his constituency, which comprises Doguwa and Tudun Wada LGA, so can anyone who won the election take a gun and shoot his constituents or burn down a property where they reside?
“Assuming he lost the election, it could have been a different story. The opposition are only trying to blackmail him because he is a very strong political figure and is a prominent APC member. His opponents are trying all means to stop him from advancing his political career.” Aruwa said.
Similarly, Shamsu Sani the spokesperson to Doguwa when contacted, told The ICIR that “the case is before the court, Doguwa was charged has been prosecuted.”
While speaking at a stakeholders meeting for the conduct of the supplementary polls, the REC Ambassador Abdul described the violence that took place in Tudun Wada as abysmal as INEC staff, and party agents were attacked and were taken to the hospital.
“I give credit to the collation and the returning officer who ensured that the results were intact. He told us that he was made to declare the election results under duress. Irrespective of the violence which also took place in other parts of the state, we are ready to conduct the election, which will be rancour-free and will gradually change the narrative in Kano.” The REC said.
Similarly, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in the Department of Operations Mu’azu Muhammed, hinted that the will secure the now-concluded election with armed and unarmed police officers.
“Don’t be surprised if you see more than 10 unarmed police officers in a Polling Unit (PU) as well as multiple armed police officers 300 meters away from the PU because I know that as we are making plans for a hitch-free election, the thugs and their sponsors are also making plans”, he had stated.
Following the gory event that trailed the election, the poll was cancelled by INEC on the basis of electoral violence. It was rescheduled to April 15 for a supplementary election, which held and Alhassan Doguwa was declared the winner after polling 41,573 votes to defeat his closest rival, Yushau Salihu Abdullahi, the candidate of the NNPP, who got 34,831 votes.
The power dynamics in Kano changed between a third force (NNPP) came into being to struggle for leadership of the state between the ruling APC and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The NNPP which is led by a former Governor of Kano, Rabiu Kwankwaso was initially dismissed by pundits after he dumped the PDP but surprisingly took the political space by storm after clinching Kano state with over one million votes during the presidential poll but lost in general, to Bola Tinubu of the APC.