The Bulldozer Bully versus The Music House -By Emmanuel Ugwu

Filed under: National Issues |


Executive thuggery in Nigeria has entered a phase. Departing from the conventional use of drugged miscreants and crude weapons, state governors are embracing the innovation of mechanized bullying. They now deploy bulldozers to the addresses of their real and imagined enemies.

The efficiency of bulldozers fits the desperation of the tin god governors. Bulldozers make a quick work of destroying the edifices associated with the opposition. It is the urgent desire of the small-minded despots to damage the commercial interest of their rivals by reducing their brick and mortar assets to debris.

The demolition of the 800 million naira Music House Ibadan, a crown jewel that also houses the thriving radio outfit, Fresh FM, by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, is part of an emergent culture of intolerant politics.

In an apparent move of politically motivated overkill, Ajimobi pulled down Yinka Ayefele’s corporate office to show the singer that running a media house that was critical of the government had a high price. Ajimobi flexed his muscles to demonstrate that with might was on his side. He could tear down your business and years of hard work if you were not singing from his hymn book!

Ajimobi was in a mad hurry to destroy the Music House. He sent the bulldozers at 4:00 am on Sunday, a non-working day. He couldn’t bear to wait till Monday to learn the outcome of a legal challenge filed by Ayefele against the planned demolition. The man who owes his office to the constitution needed to step forth at dawn to overtake a matter that was sub judice.

Ajimobi had to demolish the building before the court would have the opportunity to restrain him. He needed to foist a fait accompli. He rushed to do the damage before a determination on whether the proposed demolition was in order or not could be made. And surely, he did the damage before an injunction materialized: he brought the building down and the knocked the radio station off the airwaves.

Governor Ajimobi fulfilled his personal wish in pushing Fresh FM off air. He was simply out to shut up the radio with a shut down. The needless rush to demolish the radio house in the midst of the pendency of a relevant suit before a competent court of law proves the point of Ajimobi’s wicked ulterior motive.

The official rationale that the Music House was erected in violation of town planning regulations is a mere excuse to justify the malicious demolition. The real reason why Ajimobi destroyed the Music House was that its owner had refused that it serve as the echoing medium of government propaganda. Ajimobi himself previously confessed that his aides had advised to move against the station because it was transmitting inconvenient truths.

With this inexplicable demolition of a radio house, Ajimobi has cemented his notoriety for exaggerated interpretation of the powers of the governor and his contempt for free speech.

Last year, a group of LAUTECH students went to the governor’s office to protest against their 8 months-long idleness on account of the protracted strike of the institution’s lecturers. They meant to dramatize the need for Ajimobi to intervene in the industrial dispute and facilitate the re-opening of the school for academic activities. He took the demonstration personally and talked down on the students like a snobbish emperor.

Ajimobi told the students that they were an unruly and uncouth mob. They had not deigned to prostrate and tender their request respectfully to him, the ‘’constituted authority of Oyo state”. He said they were ranting as if an 8 month long closure of the university was unprecedented in the annals of Nigerian history.

Ajimobi is a power drunk thug. He is a conceited man, intoxicated by his delusion of omnipotence. He is a reckless man that has proved to be deficient in tact and temperance. He seems unable to resist the temptation to introduce himself as a person who is unfit to lead anyone except himself..

In a bid to spite the Olubadan of Ibadan and undermine his revered throne, Ajimobi arbitrarily balkanized the kingdom and created a profusion of puppet chiefs whose installation had no roots in the custom of the people.

Ajimobi views the powers of the governor as a tool to be used in service of his private whims. He is driven by the congenital impulse to destroy anything and anybody that he deems unfriendly.

Ajimobi’s resort to the bulldozer illustrates the architecture of his thought processes. His mental reflex is to fantasize about the collapse of anybody he considers a rival. His use of a bulldozer to destroy Music House represents an image of his dream capacity for destruction. He would have loved to be able to turn himself into bulldozer so that he would easily destroy his putative enemies by himself.

Ajimobi borrowed a leaf from the demolition manual of his Kaduna counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai. El-Rufai personally supervised the demolition of the building of Suleiman Hunkuyi, a serving senator who was not in alignment with his camp. El-Rufai said the senator had defaulted in the payment of ‘’ground rent.’’

The utility of politically motivated demolition of people’s property is to intimidate. When a governor crashes the towering edifice of a malcontent, he is not just victimizing his immediate target, he is sending a clear note of warning to the public: I brook no opposition. Count the cost before you choose to oppose me.

The destruction of Yinka Ayefele’s Music House irks in a special way because the singer built it with his sweat and talent. He worked hard for years to earn the money that he invested in the building. He didn’t steal to build it. He had never held a public office in his life. Nor has he ever been charged for fraud.

Ajimobi felt threatened by Ayefele’s Fresh FM because the broadcasting outfit would not to lend itself to the governor’s control. The radio station was rising in credibility and popularity as it presented news and views with classical journalistic independence. It scared Ajimobi that the radio station might shape voters’ decision in this election year.

The increasing attacks on journalists and journalism has a native context in the politicians’ attempt to dictate the narrative and corner favourable coverage in the run-up to the general elections. The media is powerful. The politicians are struggling to wrest power from the media so that the electorate won’t have an alternative to their single story.

The growing intolerance for free speech and press freedom by state actors should worry every sentient lover of democracy in Nigeria. It’s a bad omen that political bullies are having a field day at the expense of civil liberties. They are redrawing the borders of human rights as it were their preserve to define the permissible limits.

The global journalism watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, counts Nigeria as a country where journalism practice is under intense threat. In 2018, Nigeria ranked 119 out of 180 on its World Press Freedom Index. The organization remarked that ‘’In Nigeria, it is difficult to cover stories involving politics, terrorism, and financial embezzlement by the powerful. Journalists are often threatened, subjected to physical violence, or denied access to information by government officials…’’

Reporters without Borders singled out the state governors for mention: ‘’the all-powerful regional governors are often the media’s most determined persecutors and act with complete impunity.’’

The demolition of Music House bears witness that state governors are malevolent harassers of the press.


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