There are forces that compel me to reluctantly vacate this page without notice, though, ordinarily, I am supposed to notify my readers and the Editor before hand. However, we are living in a world of emergencies and unpredictable social order. Sometimes, something important would arise, demanding my full attention. Yet, I must concede that, as one of my weaknesses, I am more given to inconsistency than to formality.
Having said this, I would like my generous readers and magnanimous Editor to overlook my abrupt absence whether born out of social necessities or my personal shortcoming.
My life is a ransom to the person who, if I come to him, will accept my virtues and overlook the shortcomings.
Now let’s go on with the chat, the second. We had one earlier at the end of last year titled Friday Discourse when we reviewed the features of the page in its first six months. Today also, I intend to say a word or two about it and pass across to my lovely readers some few messages.
What is our “choice of rule law” that determines the subject matter of our discourse? Before answering this question I would like to say that this column enjoys a wide readership that ranges from academicians to traders and housewives. I deliberately want it so. The readability on the Flesch Reading Scale must always be above 60%. I have read the letter of a reader that wants me to join what he called the ‘national debate.’ I doubt if anything like that exists. Everybody is talking to his people. My focus will remain the entire Northern society, ‘its peoples and problems’, as E. D. Morel called it in 1911, not only the elite that is used to the ‘exotic and esoteric lexis of the domestic intellegentsia.’ Big grammar. Count me out.
I have realized that my readers are divided on the question of interest. Some are more interested in political matters. Once I start discussing about education, women or other social issues they will feel bored and start grumbling. They want articles like Ige in Charcoal; Ige on the Run; Obasanjo has Failed; Atiku and His Excess Luggage; The Ruining Dynasty; The North is Cash and Carry; The Middle Belt, Give Me Mary; etc.
This group of readers might not know that it has a supporter in the office, Malam Isyaku Dikko, the Assistant Editor. His protest call discouraged me from writing the third part of our last education series. But I will write it as promised. He emphasized that let’s reform politics, with good leadership, education will be easily corrected. He told me about his neighbor who shut down the page when he saw the second part of the series. “Everybody knows about the problems of education”, he commented.
I often answer that repetition is a strong tool in propaganda. Tell a lie today, repeat tomorrow and continue doing so indefinitely. Very soon it will come to be firmly accepted as concrete truth, in fact better than a truth that was heard only once. In addition, the responsibility to correct the social disorder rests on all members of the society. Take education for example, government alone is not to blame, as we have seen in Parents and Education in Northern Nigeria. I was delighted that when a friend read it he made up his mind to dedicate an hour for the education of his children, as suggested in the article.
The second group prefers social issues and cares little, if at all, of politics. Some of them even see politics as a problem. I recall the first person to voice out this opinion was Mohammed Ilyasu from Idoma Close, Kaduna. My only problem with social issues is their length. While in politics I only need to discuss about a personality or a policy, social issues run deeper. As a result I have to serialize many. I myself often get bored with their length, especially when there is a cheap political issue at hand.
The third group consists of those who are, for different reasons, emotionally attached to the column. They have no problems, so far, with choice of subject matter. They feel that we can discuss politics whenever there is a need to do so. Otherwise, lets continue to x-ray our society, its crisis and contradictions, and discuss ways of making progress from our present stagnant position. This gives me the freedom to discuss virtually anything under the sun, and prevents the ‘sea from drying.’ Changing the subject matter also prevents the boredom that is typical of human beings, as once said by al-Aqqad in the following verses:
“Man longs for the winter in summer, but when the winter comes he hates it. Man does not agree with one situation. Woe to man; what has made him reject.”
All the above is theory. More often than not, the choice is guided by impulse and, on few occasions, by time. Most of them come as a result of a flash while doing something completely different, like driving or when going to sleep; a times from discussions with friends and readers; few times on requests and calculated reasoning. Of all these categories, I prefer the sudden because it rhymes with my nature. Once the flash is here, I become as restless as a chicken. I suddenly resort to the laptop and there will be no sleep until the last period is in place, the editing done and finally the sigh of relief.
An example of such articles is Shariah and Restructuring Nigeria. I have never written an article with that amount of ease. It was easy flowing, so natural. That might have something to do with the two aspects of the topic: shariah and restructuring. I believe in both, deeply. It was not surprised therefore when a professor told me that he admirably read that article twice.
The most difficult
The most difficult articles are those that take longer time to write. I keep on postponing them. And when I finally sit down to write them, kai, na real wahala. Tired Elders was the most difficult because of its delicacy. Here was I trying my best to ‘defend’ elders, when the norm is to publicly castigate them. It is not easy to swim against the tide. Many people, however, said they are convinced. Younger generations are to blame. We have seen that in the Ruining Dynasty. We shall more of it in Lazy Youths next week.
When research is required, the article is normally interesting because it reminds me of the university. But they are difficult because they require visiting the library and collating the information when, as a Jack of many trades, I have actually limited time to offer the column.
I had also some difficulty replying Hasan Umar because of our personal relationship. But after realizing that the issue at hand was not personal, I had to go beyond our mutual affection and be decisive. After all, my missile was not directed at him. Nevertheless, he intercepted it, for whatever reason, and got a commensurate counter in return. I have not heard from him since, but I know all is well with him and with our relationship.
The most interesting
Political articles register the greatest interest. For whatever reason, Atiku and His Excess Luggage carried the prize in the minds of most readers. I am glad that the article hit its target. Since then, I have not heard the Vice-President scolding the North. His trips of reconciliation together with those of his lieutenants are a testimony that they have realized that whether good or bad, they do not have a better home than the North. He has kept to the terms of our cease-fire. I have also kept mine, despite pressures from some quarters. That is why I did not care to reply Buba Mafindi.
The most queried
The most queried article was that of Mary. People have been asking me about her: does she exist? Some believe she doesn’t. They have their reasons. Others believe she exists, and ask why should ‘Malam’ live all the beautiful Fulani girls around him and start dating an Idoma, Mary for that matter. I have kept the truth to myself, though I might have conceded that I have come across many Marys, whom many people know, in my life.
However, still regarding Mary, one person, Mr. Rotshak Rinbe, has taken his reaction too far. His letter was published last week and is right here before me. It is all familiar. He was playing what biologists call ‘territoriality.’ Rotshak and others like him in the Middle Belt will soon have a heart attack. Arrangements on my wedding with Mary are in advanced stage of completion.
Not only that, I have over the years developed a chemistry for Middle Belters. I am already married to marry another Middle Belter, this time from its capital, Jos. She is from one of the most respectable families Rotshak and his people could boast of. Surprisingly, she shares my Berber features that Rotshak like to despise: long neck and pencil legs. She is a medical practitioner. Since she is a northerner, Rotshak might suggest that it is a ‘quota’ MBBS, from UNIJOS, just like his degree, if he has any.
She has agreed to undergo a deprogramming process that rid her of the inferiority complex that has precipitated in others the culture of hate and bigotry. She has learnt to look at herself as a human being, born equal to others, as a descendant of Adam. She does not need hate, but love. She associates with everyone freely and has forgotten that she was born a Birom and I a Fula.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel, a Tiv, has seen my daughter and has put in his application. Accepted, on the condition that he will also undergo deprogramming. He must also promise to return my cows and that he will not allow her, as a wife, to be stolen. I believe if everybody were as liberal as myself, there would not have been any North or South, the two entities from which a second fiddle, called the Middle, derives its geographical and political existence.
I would not have used the word ‘cure’ in any of my articles on AIDS. I have discussed the subject at length with my former student and the National Coordinator on AIDS, Dr. Nasir Sani Gwarzo. He convinced me that to say cure would not be advisable given the nature of the virus. I hereby withdraw the word. However, I am still optimistic on herbal preparations. They have something intrinsically relevant. They definitely give a relief, but whether it is everlasting or not, that is yet to be proved or disproved.
The healer I was referring to in the first article was Dr. Jacob Abdullahi of Winners Laboratory in Abuja. The girl treated is still healthy. I have personally taken the pains of meeting the herbalist that ‘relieved’ the widow in Bauchi from the disease. I am ready to give his address to anyone on request. He is from Yobe state.
Among the letters published is one requesting me to change my dress that appears on this column. Unfortunately, he did not suggest an alternative. I once presented another picture in which I was wearing a T-shirt, looking twenty years younger. The assistant Editor, Isyaku Dikko again, protested that it is too casual to be taken seriously. It does not match the column, he said.
Please, let my readers advise me on what dress they would like to see on the column. If they say traditional, they should not expect to see a babbar riga or kaftan. It is an armless shirt, a knee-length trouser, a raffia hat, a rubber sandals and, of course, a stick. Would that be interesting?
I would like to use this medium to put across some messages. One is an acknowledgement of the help that our friend in Bauchi, Engr. Habu Mamman, gives us. I always use his fax and telephone to freely communicate with the office of Weekly Trust in Kaduna. His able secretary, Eunice, another Middle Belter, also takes the pain of receiving and replying my calls and faxes. I ‘bribe’ Habu and his partner in Abuja, Engr. Nuhu Gidado, by giving them an advanced copy of the article, hot from the pan, every Monday, five days before it is printed on this page. Nevertheless, I remain most grateful and friendship has never been better.
I am also grateful to those who sent me books or allowed me borrow them from their libraries. The first is Engr. A.A. Aziz, from whom I have borrowed many books, including The 49 Laws of Power, which I am yet to return. Then Adamu Lawal Toro, from whom I borrowed The Coming Plague and A Brief History of God. There are many other materials from other sources, too numerous to mention. But I will not forget a copy of Leadership, Accountability and the Future of Nigeria from my greatest living mentor. When the book reached me, it was then I realized the true significance of what al-Motanabbi once told Saifud-Daulah: “the little from a beloved is plenty.” I am most grateful sir. Allah bar mu tare.
I am also grateful to those who make it a duty to visit me whenever they are heading towards Northeast. Most of them are friends; others are simply readers curious to meet me “eyeball to eyeball”, as one of them once wrote. I admire their city cars while they marvel at my country landscape. I sincerely regret that most of the visitors miss me because I hardly stay at home. Forgive me, I am lean.
I have been receiving mails through the Weekly Trust office in Kaduna. Unfortunately I visit Kaduna only occasionally. I have not visited it in the last four months, except for an hour last month. As a result, a lot of the mails became stalled. And people, being more given to blame than to forgiveness, give my silence a different meaning. Take for instance, the article of Faruk Sarkin Fada. It only reached me months after he has sent it to Kaduna. At last, it had to be faxed to me along with many other messages. One of his admirers thought I was sitting on it, while I requested for it in the first place. The letters’ editor, apparently an admirer of Faruk, just like myself, published a letter to that effect. Now that the article has been published, it is my hope that both Malam Faruk and myself will have a sound sleep. I cease this opportunity to thank Farouk for his wonderful contribution.
Invitations to public functions always come late for the same reason. However, there is one worth mentioning here. It was last year when I was invited to the Islamic Center on Katuru Rd. to deliver a lecture during the Ramadan. I did not turn up, to the disappointment of many of my friends and readers that showed up. But it was the fault of the organizers. I have earlier told them that I will honor the invitation only if it does not clash with our examinations at the Faculty of Law. I was not exact because ASUU was on strike. But I emphasized that since Dr. Hamid Bobboy, the Director of Arewa House and the co-speaker at the seminar, is only a stone throw from Katuru Rd., they should please make sure that he attended. After all, with all sincerity, I would say Hamid is my senior, and more competent to speak on the topic. A former student of mine personally wrote to express the disappointment caused by my failure to attend. That is why I am writing this. And it is my hope that he, together with other readers that gathered that day, will forgive me for my inability to attend, though, as I explained above, it was not really my fault.
At this juncture, I think it will ease the trouble of readers wishing to contact me if I will give them the telephone and fax address of my contact in Bauchi. They will at least be sure that the message will most likely reach me within 24hrs. If they want to speak with me personally, they can live their telephone number and time with the secretary. The numbers are:
Telephone: 077 540186
Fax: 077 540193
P.M.B. 1337, Bauchi
I am making preparations to post articles published during the last one year to those that would request for them through the E-mail.