Cease-fire, Mr. Vice-President
I have resumed. I will start by expressing my appreciation to the Editor for keeping the column lively, despite the short notice I gave him, by publishing the contributions of others. I enjoyed the presence of these guests because some were educating; others were entertaining.
I was in fact surprised that some of the rejoinders were about the Vice President (V-P), Atiku Abubakar. As a weekly, we have limited space. Courtesy demands that I publish opinions that contradict mine; moreover, by so doing, I will accord both our readers and myself the chance to see issues from other angles. So I deliberately suppressed those who wrote in support of my stand, and do hope that they will forgive me. The intention was not to generate a debate about somebody, no matter how important he may be in government, but to advice him, particularly when he is our brother, whenever doing so becomes necessary. This will continue to be our obligation in Friday Discourse. We shall continue with it, in sha Allah.
Nevertheless, to clear the air I think I need to answer a question. What defense do I have for writing Atiku and His Excess Luggage? It seems that I am a poor communicator, for different people gave that article different interpretations depending on their relationship with the V-P. On the one hand, many people would ordinarily feel that I was against the vice-president. Atiku and his aides must have thought so also. They will think that they have found an additional enemy in Tilde, if they were looking for one. The V-P himself would abandon his favorite column – Friday Discourse – and imagine that I have colluded with ‘enemies of the administration’ to muddle up his personality. On the other hand, his political opponents might have viewed me differently; they would be rejoicing that they have cheaply found an ally against Atiku who has just appeared from the blues.
Both camps are wrong. I am neither an antagonist of the vice-president nor an enemy of this administration. Absolutely not, for three simple reasons. One, if my friends here were to be heard, they would have recounted how I greeted Obasanjo’s candidature with all enthusiasm. The articles that I wrote then in this weekly vindicate me. To charge me now, together with many other northerners like me, with enmity ‘against the administration’ would certainly be incorrect. Two, I am not a politician, aiming at something up there. Politicians are people that have ambition in power; they want to get hold of it, retain it or influence it. I am never bothered with all these. Three, where would I get the muscle to antagonize a whole vice-president? Drop this unfair charge.
However, what should concern the administration and the V-P in particular is why do people like me sometimes appear to be antagonistic to them? To find out an answer to this question, the administration should not listen to courtiers who are just after the acquisition of presidential largesse, those that are quick to expound the ‘mischief theory’ to explain the disposition of innocent people like Tilde. No other group has earned past administrations gross public dissatisfaction and hatred like this coterie of flatterers that leave the master struggling with the horn while they enjoy milking the cow for themselves. This administration must be aware of them. They were there in Aso Rock yesterday; they are also there today. The fate that befell the occupants of the villa yesterday should scare its occupants of today. For us, the citizenry, we know that ba a mugun sarki, sai mugun bafade.
With this single strike, I have rejected their charges as a reflection of their bad intention and personality. This column is a mirror that reflects what stands before it. If you are ugly, you will hate the picture, and even attempt to smash the mirror. But that does not make you look better. If on the other hand you are handsome, just give me a smile, and I will make your face shine and your teeth will appear brighter like fresh pearls, hail-stones, camomile flowers, palm shoot and bubbles – to borrow from the composition of al-Hariri.
But have the proponents of the ‘mischief theory’ not heard about the following verse of Abu al-Tayyib al-Motanabbi in one of his spectacular poetic improvisations before Kafour, the one time ruler of Egypt? “If the actions of a person are bad, his thoughts become bad too; and he believes whatever illusions occur to him. He will fight his friends with the words of his enemies and becomes engulfed in the stark darkness of (his) doubts.”
Some of my guests were deliberate in their condemnation. Take Hassan Umar for example. The Hassan that I know for the past twenty years to be objective and thorough, for whatever reason, started by goofing awfully. He titled his article Hajj 2000-let our heads rule us. But did the head of Hassan rule him, even in that article? Read the first sentence: “Two write-ups by Dr. Tilde appeared in your edition Vol. 3 No. 10 of April 21-27..bla bla.” Foul, Engineer Hassan! If you had used your head a bit, you would have realized that only the first was written by Tilde; our respected brother, Dr. Siraj Abdulkarim, wrote the second.
Then Hassan went to charge me in the most reckless manner, saying: “Only two facts are worthy of consideration as it is full of sarcasm, and it smacks of some mischief against the person of the Vice President. The President should therefore disregard it. As for the Vice President, I am sure the bias against him is because of his pronouncement on Sharia. What has happened has happened, and the continuous bombardment against him is in fact un-Islamic. As he himself has said, it is the price of leadership, and I implore him to continue to look at it that way.”
Foul again, my dear! Both the President and his deputy were not impressed by these cheap appeals. So they have decided that the federal government will henceforth absolve itself of Hajj operations. The vice-president has already announced this resolve, and I believe that he will keep his promise. But it will interest Hassan to know precisely why the government took this decision even before the National Commission on Hajj submitted its report on the last Hajj. It is for no other reason but the very one that I expressed in my article which was cleverly pushed aside by Hassan who dismissed them as ‘not worthy of consideration’ or ‘full of contradictions and sarcasm’. It was simply because of the gross inefficiency and corruption that characterized the operation of the last Hajj. If anybody doubts this he is free to confirm it from the villa.
Hassan may need to learn to give consideration to facts of speech from Dodo na Alkali, an old song that the late Shata recorded for the late Emir of Zazzau, Aminu (may God have mercy on them both), when we were kids. In it, he narrated how his prophecy – that Aminu will one day become the Emir – was dismissed as ‘worthless words of a drunkard.’ But when Aminu became Emir, Shata had this to say: ‘to ga zancen giyan nan ai, na Ahmadu ya zame Sarkin Zazzau.”
The rest of Hassan’s article was just mere theory, nothing more, that ended in dumping the blame for the failure on innocent pilgrims whose hard-earned money was used to fund the ‘charity’ accorded some individuals by our ‘nascent airlines’, as Hassan called them. Well, we are tired of theories. Hajj is over 40 years old; if people entrusted with it can only earn Muslims shame by wasting our personal and public resources, let them go, and go forever. I do not trust the travel agencies either. However, I do still believe that state governments have the competence to handle the affairs of their pilgrims. If any state would like to hire Kabo next year, let it go ahead.
I wonder what heads would rule us better than those of the President, his deputy and that of the minister of state for foreign affairs who, having witnessed the suffering of our pilgrims in Jeddah, declared to the world that it was an embarrassment. Moreover, some members of the Hajj Commission are privately singing a different song from the one Hassan was singing. I wonder why suddenly my Hassan was trying to be more Catholic than the Pope?
Hassan was also wrong in relating my opinion on Hajj to the vice-president’s position on shariah. Men, this is court politics and too skewed to be true. If Hassan were a constant reader of this column, he would have allowed his head to rule him on this matter. In my controversial article on the V-P, I wrote on the shariah saying, “To me, it is time to pardon him for this, especially when we recognize the situation under which the ‘slip of tongue’ was made. The issue is not over, and Atiku has the ample opportunity, if he wishes, to improve his image with the Muslim majority.” A ah! Does Hassan want the V-P to behead me? This is dangerous. Well, Hassan, you will be the first to cry if he does so. Come on, Hassan, be yourself, the role of a courtier does not befit you. Remain the Hassan that I know, thorough and objective.
This brings us back to where we started. What have I got to gain by destroying vice-president? Have I not heard what Mutawakkil al-Laithi said, “if you humiliate your brother or expose him deliberately, you are the one humiliated and the blameworthy?”
If anybody cares to know why a section of the North is bitter about him, he needs to read the famous moallaqah of the ancient young poet and prince, Tarafeh. In it, he said, “the injustice of the kindred is more painful on a person than a strike of a swift-cutting sword.” If we do not deserve the objectivity, respect and gratitude of Obasanjo and the southern press, we feel that we deserve that of Atiku, whom we consider to be one of us. Unfortunately, this young politician fell victim to the ill advice from those that have his ear. Agreed that he, along with his mentor, Shehu Yar’adua were persecuted during the Abacha era, it was still wrong for a politician to assume the puritanical stand of a cleric on his pulpit.
His political associates seem to be terribly poor in mastering the game of power. Feeling of triumph has daunted their adeptness in handling political arithmetic. Their policy would have avoided turning their friends into enemies, the very friends in the North from whom they solicited for votes and were given generously. In fact, they would have moved quickly after their appointments to assist the administration to consolidate its electoral victory by retaining the support of those who voted for it and even going further to win over its opponents. If the opponents appear stubborn, I expected them to tactfully disarm them of their followers, as Haile Selesie did to Balcha of Sidamo in 1927. Once you do that, unless under a very rare circumstance, the opponent has no choice but to come over and kiss your feet, asking for forgiveness.
Instead, the administration is struggling to apply crude and archaic laws like ‘divide and rule’, thus squandering the greatest opportunity for political reconciliation in the political history of modern Nigeria. Do we need ‘divide and rule’ today? Do we need to divide a people that voted us into power so massively as it happened during the last election before we can rule them? This is injustice and a fallacy in the logic of power.
But for the vice-president in particular, the bitterness from the North comes naturally. It feels cheated because its people, leaders and values are subjected to unjustifiable desecration. If this shower of abuses were coming only from the southern press or its politicians, as usual; or even from Obasanjo, surprisingly; we would not have bothered at all. We have never been in their good books. But to have them coming, and repeatedly for that matter, from a person with whom we share similar humble background and invested a lot of hope in is totally unfortunate. And I blame his political associates for this. They would have cautioned him against this.
I am happy that this fact is gradually becoming clear to the government. The advisers themselves tend to be moving in that direction. This is a remarkable shift from the fatheaded disposition that has characterized the villa for years. I have noted, with much delight, that the vice president is working hard on this lane too, as exemplified in his recent responses on the BBC Hausa Service series. I am confident that with persistence, it will work, given that the Muslim community is a forgiving one. And we can boast that, unlike others, our hearts are large enough to forgive, once the forgiveness is sincerely sought.
All what we are asking for is fairness, objectivity and respect, not only for us but also for all Nigerians, Hausa or Yoruba, Muslims or Christians.
I believe that we all deserve a good measure of that respect. Belligerence could work in other regions, but never in the North. The home that we will continue to share with the vice-president has a very long history of civilization, tradition and esteem. We should borrow a leaf from the style of our common mentor, the late Shehu Yar’adua (may God have mercy on him abundantly), as a progressive leader and successful politician, who had a lot of differences with the Northern political establishment. Yet, he was never seen going ruthless in public. Once this is taken into consideration, I would not mind signing a cease-fire agreement.
So, Mr. Vice-president, do not listen to the proponents of the ‘mischief theory.’ It is nothing but cheap court propaganda, a very cheap one in fact. It contradicts one of the first poetry I learnt from my Quranic teacher, the late Muhammadu Baba dan-Malam Hassan. It was the poem he composed which started by saying, Mai son ta’ala, ai ba ya ki rasulu ba...
Catch you next week on this column, as usual, Mr. Vice-president.