Kano, Do Not Fail Us. Return Salisu Buhari to School
I have come across five Buharis in history. The first was the original Bukhari, who came from Bukhara and the famous compiler of Traditions of the Prophet. He left behind the second most authentic book in Islam, beginning with the Quran. The second and the third were related to the Sokoto Caliphate, one a son to Shehu Usman Danfodio and the other his grandson. The fourth Buhari is our contemporary, the revered former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari.
This first four have earned a good reputation for the surname that they were popularly known with. If it were not for the fifth, Buhari V, we would have recommended this name to parents who are keen in seeing their children grow in to people of disciplined behavior and high moral rectitude. Unfortunately, the fifth spoiled the show by choosing to be different. He is Salisu Buhari, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, who was disgraced in a fraud regarding certificate forgery and perjury over his age. At first, he refuted the allegation. But later he yielded; resigning amidst tears and confessions not hitherto witnessed in the history of Nigerian politics.
My readers will remember that I did not say a word throughout the saga. It was not because I have a ‘Mary’ in Kano. I was rather saddened by what I saw as more of a trend than an isolated case. Salisu Buhari was not alone. Only God knows how many liters of adrenaline were secreted into the blood system of many political office holders who had skeletons to hide. Some, like Buhari, were alleged to have forged certificates, some did not even have the qualification. Others had criminal records like drug pushing, jumping bail, theft and so on. Remember Tinubu, Enwerem and Kalu. It was terrible.
Had the senators and the government not moved fast to quench the fire and made Buhari the sacrificial lamb, the republic would have been brought down on its knees. We are now left to wonder what was the outcome of senate and The House committees constituted to investigate the matter. But it has gone. For the time being, let the sleeping dogs lie, as the English would put it.
I am revisiting the issue of Buhari V because this chap does not seem to be satisfied with the embarrassment that he caused us. He is staging a come back clearly to serve, in my opinion, as a stooge of the executive in its transgression against the legislative arm of government, the only difference between dictatorship and democracy. It is not impossible that by the time this article is published, the representative that was arranged to sit in for Buhari before he was pardoned might have resigned to give way for a recovery of the seat by his master.
How has our politics, especially in the North, deteriorated to this extent? To answer this question we need to ask other questions. Could Salisu Buhari and his shameful tradition be tolerated by other politicians in the First and Second Republics? Would Tafawa Balewa or Shehu Shagari have resorted to using such a person as a means of settling dispute with the legislature?
People that underwent a scandal like Salisu Buhari would not have had the courage to be seen again on the political train of the First Republic. With all its problems, the politicians of that republic are today regarded as the best crop the country could produce. No leader was produced thereafter that was equal to Balewa in tolerance as a president. Nigeria has not witnessed another resolute party leader like the Sardauna or consistent opposition leaders like Awolowo and Malam Aminu Kano. Shehu Shagari as the president of the Second Republic was diplomatic and soft-spoken. But Shagari will himself agree with me that he did not stand on the same footing with his master, Balewa. I know he is humble enough to accept the verdict of our late father, Malam Aliyu Namangi Zaria, that gyara ba zai kamar kashi ba.
Someone might come to the rescue of Buhari, arguing that these people were not better qualified or significantly older when they mounted the ladder of leadership. But three things make Salisu Buhari a drop in the ocean of their personalities. The first is their experience as teachers and administrators at that early stage of our political development. It was therefore natural that when they joined politics, they were able to utilize their administrative skills to the astonishment of their graduate counterparts.
Secondly, they were also well read. They have gone beyond the boundaries of certificates and explored knowledge, discovered it, tasted it and used it as a guide in life. Even their opponents that boasted of degrees did acknowledge their mastery of English language and literature. I remember the thunderous applause the Sardauna received when he delivered a speech at the opening of Bello hall at the University College, Ibadan, in 1962. It was incredible.
Thirdly, the values of the society were largely unaltered by corruption of the mind and body. What was paramount to them was achievement, which was not measured by the amount of money in their foreign accounts, the estates they possess or the security of their children. Rather, they measured them by the developments they brought to the population. They were neither frightened by the enormity of the task at that time nor were they discouraged by its financial and manpower constraints.
The impact of their personalities trickled down to the Second Republic, after nine years of military rule. Would Salisu Buhari have had a place in it? I doubt very much. I remember how a Minister of Defense was unceremoniously dropped from the cabinet of Shagari because of a scandal; he was never to be heard again for the remaining period of the regime. What would have been the fate of a chap that was found guilty of forging certificate and perjury? I have little doubt that he would have gone to jail.
The First and Second Republics had their problems and shortcomings. But my softness on them in this respect is informed by the poor state of politics during the Third and Fourth republics. Al-Motanabbi has said, “things become clearer when compared with their opposites.”
In the deception that reigned in the country before culminating in the annulment of the June 12 election, politics in Nigeria has been bastardized by the introduction of “new breed” concept. I have never seen or heard where a nation found it imperative to ban previous politicians from future participation. This was a grand deception that promised to bring power nearer to the young who could only earlier see it from a distance and needed a lot of hard work to walk towards it, as he grows older. Suddenly, it was dangled before his eyes and without hesitation he grabbed it. Alas, it was destruction, not power. The whole thing was meant to perpetuate the Babangida regime. And it worked until there were no more lies to tell and no more dribbles for the ‘Maradona’ to make.
It was during the SDP/NRC politics that we saw the recruitment of redundant but ambitious youth as power brokers at all levels of our politics. It was as necessary as it was easy. Seasoned politicians, with an eye on power themselves, are usually less amenable to manipulation. It was therefore necessary to recruit the nouveau who knew little about the game. It was easy because the youth at the grassroots had nothing to lose; they were redundant and with little qualification or hope to make it to the top under normal circumstances. The thumbscrew of the elderly among them was known to the regime; hence it manipulated them at will too.
Unfortunately for the country and especially for the old breed, this deceptive practice was borrowed by successive administrations. We saw a repeat of the scenario in the UNCP and now among a section of the PDP and the APP. The fight that the old breed is putting against the new is bound to fail, as exemplified in the last PDP election. The reason is simple. Politics today is rolled on a wheel of money, not honor or competence. To make matters worse, for the past thirteen years, government provides the money. And who else could be richer? That is why Obasanjo appears unperturbed in his political blunders. Once in power, money is no longer a problem. And that is all he needs to win in 2003.
This is the origin of the Salisu Buhari phenomenon. I disagree that he was pushed by his zeal to serve the nation. It was a combination of haste, greed and inexperience. What we expect from them is to prepare themselves, as early as possible for whatever role they want to play in the society through learning and acquisition of experience. They should also put public interest at heart, not simply that of an individual.
If they fail to do so, they will be at a loss. Once the master goes, they will go along with him. I recall the poet who said “if the donkey goes with Umm Amr, neither does she nor the donkey returns.” They are left with painful decades to live. Where are the numerous young and ambitious army officers that were used to stage the 1985 coup that brought the most destructive regime in our history to power? Some of them are raising birds; others have been reduced to plot hawkers in Kaduna or football managers. Where was the ambition of reaching the peak in the army? Gone with the winds! Where are the leaders of SDP, NRC and UNCP? The same fate awaits those who were in the ‘two million man march’ of Abacha when Obasanjo was languishing in prison. They have turned round today to become favorites of the present administration for reasons best known to the President. Without mincing words, I mean people like Okupe, Enwerem and Salisu Buhari. They must be assured that the wind does not blow in one direction. Never.
That is my advice to Salisu Buhari. God knows I have no grudge against anyone. I might have never met Gali Na’abba, but I admire him for the good fight he is putting. On the other hand, I may appear harsh on Salisu Buhari not because I hate him, I have never met him too, but for the fact which Abu al-Tayyib said that “whoever is decisive (in judgement) cannot afford but to be sometimes harsh on whom he is compassionate.” This country is getting more and more complex. Northerners will not continue to be taken for granted. If he is interested in becoming something in the future, let him observe one of the rules of power: he must avoid what Robert Greene and Joost Elffers called “the unhappy and the unlucky” in 48 Laws of Power. The nation has given the verdict that Obasanjo is both unhappy and unlucky because he has failed.
Secondly, as a young man, he should also know where his long term interest lies; interests that he would need in his fifties and sixties, twenty to thirty years from now. I wish he had the restraint to disappear from the scene for the next four years and focus on learning to prepare for a better return at a more auspicious time. I wish that thereafter he would have the humility to look for a master that will expose him to the power game for a while. Finally, I wish he would then have the courage to put the interest of his constituency, Kano, the North and Nigeria at heart first before that of any dictator that may reign. Once he will fulfil these conditions, he will restore to the name of Buhari the reverence it has in the history of our tradition. He will then be my hero, if I happen to be alive.
In more categorical terms I am advising that he should not return to House to serve the whims and caprices of Obasanjo. First, it is not his interest as we explained above. Secondly, it is not in the interest of the great city of Kano to which he has brought so much shame in the last one year. Third, it is not in the interest of the new North that is trying to build a sound foundation for the future based on hard work and discipline. Fourth, it is not in the interest of the country, which is losing the democracy it fought for. Finally, it is not in the interest of Obasanjo that has deafened our ears with his prattle about anti-corruption crusade.
It is his responsibility to take the right decision. But in addition it is the responsibility of his constituency, Kano, to stop him from crashing, seeing that he is “outrunning his shadow”, as the late Umm Kulthum once said in al-Atlal. Kano is the city we know that has combined commerce and scholarship for centuries. Way back in the sixteenth century, the city produced Muhammadu Rumfa the founder that fought hard to found a hold for Islam and justice in the city. He hosted great scholars like al-Maghili that assisted in improving education and conditions of living of its people. Kano supported the liberation of Hausaland by Usman Danfodio in the early nineteenth century. It also hosted Shehu Abdullahin Gwandu on his protest flight and persuaded him to remain until he writes the best masterpiece in politics ever to be produced in Hausaland, Diya al-Siyasa. Kano also put up one of the most spectacular resistances to the colonial invasions of the late nineteenth century. In post independence Nigeria, it sustained the opposition against the conservative NPC under the leadership of Malam Aminu Kano and Shiekh Muhammadu Sanusi, the only Emir that was able to possess an amazing blend of scholarship, mysticism, wealth and power. May their soul rest in peace.
It is a shame and in fact doubtful if that city, with such a long-standing history of culture of hard work and revolution, will serve as sanctuary for fraud and a bastion against our collective interest. We are satisfied with the role currently played by Na’abba in the House of Representatives. We northerners are proud of him. He is the true representative of the age long pride of Kano. As for Salisu Buhari, the inhabitants of the most important city in Northern Nigeria must have the courage, as they had in the past, to rise and ask him to return to school. Kano must not fail us on this.