Fond memories of Marafan Sokoto
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.