Fond mem­o­ries of Marafan Sokoto

Daily Trust - - OPIN­ION -

The NRC pri­maries ended with a sched­uled run-off elec­tion be­tween Malam Adamu Ciroma and Shinkafi. Days be­fore they held, Inuwa Ab­dulka­dir and I went to see Marafa at the Ni­con Hil­ton Ho­tel in Abuja. He was pac­ing up and down his suite but he was con­fi­dent he would win the run off. It never held; Gen­eral Ba­bangida soon an­nulled the NRC and SDP pri­maries and banned 23 top politi­cians from pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing Shinkafi and Ciroma.

If Marafa was bit­ter at the ban­ning, he did not show it to me. He in­stead con­tin­ued to play pol­i­tics behind the scenes. Dur­ing NRC’s Op­tion A4 con­ven­tion in Port Har­court in March 1993, he sneaked into town, lodged at the Pres­i­den­tial Ho­tel and co­or­di­nated the suc­cess­ful cam­paign to elect his friend Dr. Kusamotu as Na­tional Chair­man.

Be­fore the pri­maries, Cit­i­zen mag­a­zine de­cided to do a cover story on each of the ma­jor as­pi­rants. My boss Mo­hammed Haruna, who knew my close­ness to Shinkafi, as­signed me to do his story. I told Marafa that I was do­ing a story on him and he in­vited me to La­gos. I put up at Ikoyi Ho­tel and that night, his aides brought to me lots of files and news­pa­per cut­tings. I sat up all night and read them. The pa­pers gave me a very good idea of the plan­ning that went into Choice 92. But there were no se­cret files!

Close­ness to Marafa brought me close to many NRC top shots and eased my po­lit­i­cal re­port­ing work for Cit­i­zen. In 1993 I went to in­ter­view new NRC chair­man Kusamotu. When he saw me, he sent ev­ery­one out of his of­fice and gave me a long in­ter­view. Rev­erend Hyde Onu­ag­u­luchi of Enugu also gave me a mem­o­rable in­ter­view partly be­cause of the Marafa con­nec­tion. As his in­for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­viser, my big­gest prob­lem with Marafa was that he said things in a highly nu­anced man­ner.

He also be­came up­set when news­pa­pers mis­quoted him. I told him that the way to avoid be­ing mis­quoted is to say things di­rectly, but he never changed. One day he called me and gave me an ar­ti­cle he had writ­ten in which he an­a­lysed the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. He wanted it pub­lished so I said, “Sir, you are too big for anal­y­sis. As a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal ac­tor, peo­ple want to hear your opin­ion. Anal­y­sis is for aca­demics and colum­nists.”

Marafa se­ri­ally re­buffed my sug­ges­tions to write his bi­og­ra­phy. Most prob­a­bly, Nige­rian spooks are not al­lowed to write books, though he never said so. The only book he was keen on writ­ing was what he called Sar­dauna’s “home front.” He first raised the is­sue with me ten years ago and he wanted the old courtiers of Sar­dauna’s house­hold to be in­ter­viewed. How­ever, the project was de­layed and most of them died out. Dur­ing my last meet­ing with him ear­lier this year, he asked me to ac­cel­er­ate work on the book.

In 1998 Marafa sued me. I had in­ter­viewed Al­haji Umaru Dikko for New Nige­rian Weekly and the for­mer Trans­port Min­is­ter al­leged that as NSO boss, Shinkafi con­nived with sol­diers to over­throw Sha­gari’s gov­ern­ment. When Dikko re­fused to re­cant the al­le­ga­tion, Marafa wrote to Pres­i­dent Shehu Sha­gari and asked him to con­firm that as NSO boss he suf­fi­ciently warned him about the im­pend­ing coup. Sha­gari wrote back to Marafa say­ing “as Fu­lani, we should ig­nore such al­le­ga­tions.” Marafa wrote back and told Sha­gari that “I am not a Fu­lani man,” a ref­er­ence to his fa­ther’s Yobe an­ces­try. Marafa then sued Dikko, New Nige­rian Weekly and I at a La­gos High Court. He later ex­cised me from the suit.

Af­ter Abacha died in June 1998 and a new tran­si­tion be­gan, Marafa waded back into pol­i­tics as an APP chief­tain. Mo­hammed Lawal, Inuwa Ab­dulka­dir and I quickly formed a small com­mit­tee to pro­vide him with some as­sis­tance. APP later ditched its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Og­bon­naya Onu, adopted AD’s can­di­date Chief Olu Falae and made Marafa his run­ning mate.

I was in quandary when I went to the polls in Fe­bru­ary 1999. I pre­ferred Obasanjo to Falae be­cause of the lat­ter’s record as “Grand Apos­tle of SAP,” but I felt it will amount to be­trayal if I did not vote for the ticket with Marafa on it. So I closed my eyes and voted for Falae. Marafa later told me that the ticket would have done bet­ter if AD had fielded Chief Bola Ige in­stead of Falae. Marafan Sokoto is no more. A colos­sus has fallen. May Al­lah grant him eter­nal rest in Al­jan­nat.

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