Leader of the ‘unseen’ persons ruling us, Alhaji Mamman Daura, spoke last week. He said enough of turn-by-turn presidency for Nigeria. He decreed that North-South rotation of the presidency of Nigeria should be dead; from 2023, the most competent among contenders would be put in the Presidential Villa. The Afenifere reacted sharply; the North is silent; the Ohanaeze spoke hard. Leaders of the Niger Delta also kicked against Daura’s executive order banning zoning of the presidency. But what can their puny noise do to a people who built their confidence on solid rock? When a man whose lips rarely move decides to speak out, you had better drop all you are doing and listen carefully. The man who spoke is not known to be a flippant person. He spoke as the mouthpiece of a mysterious clan of northern electoral deciders. Ignore the fuddling statement from Muhammadu Buhari that Mamman’s statement was his personal opinion. The eighty-something-year-old man didn’t speak for himself. He spoke for the opaque, predatory system he represents which has benefitted from the opposite of competence all through our national history.
The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) produced the Federal Government that succeeded the British. It started almost immediately to lower standards in virtually all areas so that the North could lead. That was where Nigeria got its knock-kneed, unbalanced load it forever carries. The case of the army, as recorded in the biography of Nigeria’s first minister of defence, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu, is particularly galling. The Balewa government said it “found it difficult and frustrating to find sufficient Nigerian officers the army needed” and therefore “ordered the lowering of the academic admission standard.” Under the British, potential officers “had to have four credits, including English, in the School Certificate Examination,” the Balewa government “lowered this to four passes.” It “still found it difficult to fill the quota of certain areas” and ordered “further lowering to a Teachers Grade 11 Certificate or Royal Society of Arts Stage 11 Examination.” The “maximum age of entry was raised from 22 years to 25 – just to make it possible for areas where schooling started late to make it…” The ‘reforms’ made it possible for certain recruits to go train at Mons, OCS, Aldershot, England “and be back in Nigeria as a second lieutenant within sixteen months after leaving secondary school” (See ‘The Power of Powers: A biography of The Late Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu’ on page 37)
The tragedy of these records is that they were put in that book as part of the achievements of the Balewa government. There are records too of rapidly promoted persons in some state civil service transferred to federal service to senior positions. Products of this standard-lowering policy later seized Nigeria in 1966 and have remained in power since. They ruled yesterday; they are in power today. They are the ones now teaching us the merit of ‘competence’ over zoning.
There was an audacious organisation called Kaduna Mafia. The rump of that old order is what we call the cabal today. The Mafia was a band of well-read, ultra-conservative Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri elite. It was founded to advance Lugard’s agenda and make southern Nigeria a helpless colony of the North. We heard so much of these persons and their group in the years from the 1970s to the very early 1990s. We were told (and we knew) that these were not ordinary men. They worked very hard and thought deeply and pushed hard enough to arrive at today’s near-absolute northern vice-hold on Nigeria. In December 2009 when a key member of that clan, Ibrahim Tahir, died, Mamman Daura wrote a very beautiful piece he entitled ‘Ibrahim Tahir: An Appreciation.’ The tribute almost said the unknown about the Mafia and its nocturnal ways. He revealed that after the civil war, “there was an intellectual core of young Northerners who influenced the direction of the country’s policy.” These people, he wrote, “were drawn from all disciplines.” He gave their names: “Adamu Fika, Adamu Ciroma, Iya Abubakar, Gidado Idris, Mahmud Tukur, Umaru Dikko, Tunji Oyinloye, Salihi Ilyasu, Datti Ahmad, Jibril Aminu, Mike Angulu, Ibrahim Tahir, Rilwan Lukman, Suleiman Kumo, Yaya Abubakar, Abubakar Koko, Baba Gana Kingibe and Paul Belabo.” He forgot to name himself, Ahmed Joda, Umaru Muttalab, Ibrahim Damcida, Hamza Rafindadi Zayyad, Sani Daura, Ismaila Isa Funtua and Mohammed Rafindadi as members. He did not also remember their military strategists led by Generals Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Muhammadu Buhari and Abba Kyari (not the one who was in the Villa and died recently. This Kyari was military governor of North-Central State between 1967 and 1974). But Mamman Daura remembered to describe all these people as “men who were passionate about their country and contributed to the betterment of their region and their country,” men who would start “a meeting at 8 pm and go on till 4 or 5 am”…and “reconvene at 9 am,” keeping this up for straight four or five days. They were that hardheaded and focused on their goal of keeping Nigeria forever as a worthy bequest from their fathers to their own children. An author said the Kaduna Mafia operated “almost at the same level with the CIA. The CIA could plant something on the most unusual places; they could get the most unusual people to do certain things for them.”
They talk less; they think and plan more. They never let even their friends into the bedroom of their thoughts and that was why the stunned called them a Mafia. The Kaduna Mafia and its successor cabal had/has a blueprint, an agenda which they pass from regime to regime. They win over and use or destroy whoever stands in their way. And they appear to have finally succeeded now — especially with the absolutist Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri-centric government we have had since 2015.
Many of the original Mafia members are late now; one died last month but just before he (Isa Funtua) died, a video of him saying something close to what Mamman Daura said last week circulated in the social media. Perhaps because it did not trend enough, the big masquerade, Mamman, had to repackage and relaunch the missile through their good, old BBC Hausa Service. Their presidency on Saturday weighed in with its own part, seeking to confuse the stupid with claims that Mamman’s Hausa was mis-translated. It did not tell us who did the ‘bad’ translation; it did not give us the correct version of what he said. It did not tell us why the well-read man chose to speak Hausa and not English that would need no translation and which the whole country understands. Or is Hausa the language of competence?
If you heard what Mamman Daura said last week, just know that he spoke on behalf of the living and the dead on the Mafia list above. What he said wasn’t a hollow homily. It was a deliberate proclamation, a call to ‘war.’ The ‘competence’ he mentioned was a euphemism for feudal sit-tight in the presidential seat. The die is cast, the North is ready for the next level in its engagement with the South; it is not letting go of the presidency in 2023. It is now an advocate of merit in presidential contests.
For the past five years, the North has ruled Nigeria like a colony. There has never been any such unpretentiously sectional government at our centre since independence. Everything that is held in common is put in the northern warehouse, hoarded for its regional benefit. The attitude down south is that Buhari’s ‘northern’ government is ‘sùúrù to l’ójó’ (patience that is timed). Because the very long years are about to end – and they must end – the executioner is now afraid of all swords, real and imagined. He wants to change the rules of engagement so that his parochial business can continue as usual. It doesn’t work like that. My people say the stingy is red-eyed twice — when he eats his food alone and when his neighbours eat theirs.
The North is now talking about competence after using incompetence to hold down the other parts. Mamman Daura did not define what he meant by ‘competence.’ I would have clapped for that suggestion but history has a way of warning humanity about rule makers who have never obeyed any of their own rules. Let me, however, counsel against abusing Mamman. The wise should rather think and counter his mafia’s plans to have its cake after eating it. If you are not happy about what he said, tell your own small and large intestines to think deep and plan well on how to be free from the net of the fowler. For instance, why should we be talking competence only about the top job? Someone said a sound society evolves from a bottom-top approach. Can we start talking ‘merit’ and ‘competence’ from the basics by scrapping our obnoxious quota system today ahead of 2023? Can Mamman Daura and President Buhari and their clan lead in insisting on merit in school admissions, enlistment into the forces, work placements and promotion in the federal service?
Mamman Daura seeks competence’ was the headline of a newspaper story last week. My people say he who would clothe another must first be seen clothed. A naked king decreeing that his successor must have a thousand babanriga needs a mirror for self-assessment. Every person who has been a beneficiary or an enabler of the institutionalisation of mediocre culture in Nigeria is not qualified to talk about competence or merit in 2020 for 2023 and forever. Daura’s strategic leak was an insult that must be sent back to the sender.
*Olagunju, PhD, is Editor of the Saturday Tribune