Exit of a spy­mas­ter

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Among the most ef­fec­tive pro­pa­ganda weapons the South has used all too of­ten to den­i­grate the North has been the claim by its politi­cians that their North­ern coun­ter­parts have al­ways be­lieved they were “born to rule.” One of the most fre­quently cited ev­i­dence in sup­port of the claim is the motto of Niger State which is “Power State”, never mind the fact that the motto refers not to the sta­tus of the state as home of two for­mer mil­i­tary heads of state but rather to its sta­tus as home of all three hy­dro­elec­tric power sta­tions in the coun­try.

As is the case with all suc­cess­ful pro­pa­ganda, the ped­dlers of the born to rule North­ern com­plex have never let any fact get in the way of their claim. Al­haji Umaru Maikaura Ali Shinkafi, CON, Marafan Sokoto, the Nige­rian spy­mas­ter who died on July 6 in a Lon­don hospital at 79 af­ter a long ill­ness, was a great sym­bol of one of the facts that be­lied the “born to rule” pro­pa­ganda.

Over 18 years ago the man sac­ri­ficed what had been an ex­cel­lent po­lit­i­cal ca­reer by agree­ing to be the run­ning mate of Chief Olu Falae in a merger of his po­lit­i­cal party, the then All Peo­ples Party (APP), with Falae’s much smaller Al­liance for Democ­racy.

The AD had failed to meet the cri­te­ria of na­tional spread for regis­tra­tion as a po­lit­i­cal party dur­ing Gen­eral Ab­dul­salami Abubakar’s 11-month tran­si­tion pro­gramme into the cur­rent Repub­lic. This fail­ure pre­sented the au­thor­i­ties with a dilemma; reg­is­ter it as the party of the most vo­cal politi­cians in the coun­try or face its for­mi­da­ble pro­pa­ganda ma­chine. The dilemma was solved by al­low­ing AD to swal­low the big­ger APP. Ap­par­ently this paved the way for Dr. Og­bon­naya Onu who had emerged as the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of the APP be­fore the merger to be swapped with Shinkafi since a wholly south­ern ticket would have been a no-show for the new AD.

Shinkafi’s ac­cep­tance of his role as sec­ond fid­dle to Falae when he could have eas­ily beaten the AD chief­tain in a free and fair pri­maries fol­low­ing their merger, was in sub­mis­sion to a de­ci­sion, which looked like an act of con­tri­tion, the North­ern Es­tab­lish­ment had ap­par­ently taken af­ter “June 12”, to en­sure that the next elected pres­i­dent of the coun­try came from the South, prefer­ably the South West, home of Chief MKO Abi­ola the pu­ta­tive win­ner of the June 12 1992 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion which was in­ex­pli­ca­bly an­nulled two weeks af­ter by mil­i­tary pres­i­dent, Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida.

It is a re­flec­tion of the mea­sure of suc­cess of South­ern pro­pa­ganda against the North­ern Es­tab­lish­ment that peo­ple eas­ily for­got that the road to “June 12” was paved with the un­jus­ti­fied crip­pling of the pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions by Gen­eral Ba­bangida of po­lit­i­cal stal­warts like the Marafa, him­self a pil­lar of that Es­tab­lish­ment. It is also a re­flec­tion of that same mea­sure of suc­cess that the pub­lic also eas­ily for­got that sev­eral North­ern lead­ers like late Gen­eral Has­san Us­man Katsina and Malam Adamu Ciroma who, like Marafa, was banned by Ba­bangida’s mil­i­tary pres­i­dency as a pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rants in 1992, stood up pub­licly for “June 12.”

For Shinkafi the 1998 AD/APP merger must then have been a po­lit­i­cal anti-cli­max fol­low­ing his great po­lit­i­cal suc­cess story. That story started in 1991 af­ter one of the most suc­cess­ful ca­reers as po­lice­man and spy­mas­ter. He was Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice in the orig­i­nal Oyo State when he was ap­pointed by mil­i­tary Head of State, Gen­eral Oluse­gun Obasanjo, in 1975 as Min­is­ter of In­ter­nal Af­fairs whose main brief was in­ter­nal se­cu­rity.

This put him in good stead to suc­ceed Colonel Ab­dul­lahi Mo­hammed as the sec­ond Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NSO), es­tab­lished by Obasanjo in the wake of the Fe­bru­ary 1976 coup at­tempt which claimed the life of Obasanjo’s pre­de­ces­sor, Gen­eral Mur­tala Mo­hammed. The NSO was a merger of the Spe­cial Branch of the Nige­ria Po­lice Force and the Re­search De­part­ment of the Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­istry.

Shinkafi was DG for four years un­der Pres­i­dent Shehu Sha­gari. He left in the sec­ond month of Sha­gari’s sec­ond term, re­port­edly be­cause the pres­i­dent ig­nored his warn­ing that the mil­i­tary was plot­ting a coup against him. A month later the mil­i­tary struck.

In 1991 he threw his hat into the com­plex po­lit­i­cal arena of Gen­eral Ba­bangida’s tran­si­tion pro­gramme. That de­ci­sion brought him into po­lit­i­cal ri­valry in 1992 with Malam Adamu Ciroma, hith­erto a some­what se­nior po­lit­i­cal ally.

Both sought the pres­i­den­tial ticket of the Na­tional Repub­li­can Congress, one of only two par­ties which Ba­bangida cre­ated and funded for his tran­si­tion pro­gramme. The NRC was “a lit­tle to the right” and the other, the So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP), “a lit­tle to the left.”

The pres­i­den­tial pri­maries of the two par­ties, first in Au­gust and then in Septem­ber, saw Ciroma emerge as win­ner with Shinkafi a close sec­ond from a crowded field of many con­tes­tants. This led to de­mands by Shinkafi’s sup­port­ers for a run-off.

In the SDP, the late Ma­jor-Gen­eral Shehu Musa Yar’adua emerged a clear win­ner fol­lowed by Chief Falae, a dis­tant sec­ond from a sim­i­larly crowded field of con­tes­tants.

In both par­ties, but even more so in SDP, the losers cried fowl, al­beit not with­out some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. Jus­ti­fied or not, how­ever, the sol­diers soon obliged the huge de­mands for the can­cel­la­tion of the pri­maries. First, the re­sults of the pri­maries were can­celled. Then in Oc­to­ber af­ter two days of de­lib­er­a­tions, the Armed Forces Rul­ing Coun­cil (AFRC) dis­solved the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cils of the two par­ties, the NRC un­der Chief Tom Ikimi and the SDP un­der Am­bas­sador Baba­gana Kin­gibe. They were re­placed by care­taker com­mit­tees un­der La­teefat Okunnu (NRC) and re­tired AVM Ishaya Shekari (SDP).

As if to com­pli­cate mat­ters even more for the dis­or­ga­nized and quar­rel­some politi­cians, Ba­bangida an­nounced in a na­tion­wide broad­cast on Novem­ber 17, that he has been forced by the dis­or­der­li­ness of the politi­cians to ban all con­tes­tants in the botched pri­maries in fu­ture elec­tions and to move the orig­i­nal Jan­uary 3, 1993 date for hand­ing over to an elected pres­i­dent to Au­gust 27, ex­actly eight years af­ter he ousted Ma­jor-Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari in a blood­less palace coup.

That change shifted the bal­ance of power within the NRC from Ciroma as the party’s dis­puted front-run­ner to Shinkafi whose pres­i­den­tial campaign or­gan­i­sa­tion, “Choice ‘92” had been one of the most for­mi­da­ble in the coun­try. For, by the time new con­ven­tions were held for thetwo par­ties, the can­di­date backed by Choice ’92 for NRC’s pres­i­den­tial ticket, Al­haji Bashir Tofa, hand­ily beat the one backed by Ciroma’s or­gan­i­sa­tion, Al­haji Sa­maila Mam­man. Choice ’92 can­di­dates also swept five key po­si­tions in the party hi­er­ar­chy, in­clud­ing the chair­man­ship.

As we all know Ba­bangida’s eight-year tran­si­tion came to grief on Novem­ber 17, 1993 when his Min­is­ter of De­fence, the wily and ret­i­cent Gen­eral Sani Abacha, over­threw the tran­si­tion gov­ern­ment Ba­bangida had in­stalled un­der Chief Ernest Shonekan be­cause it be­came im­pos­si­ble to hold an­other pres­i­den­tial elec­tion be­fore the mil­i­tary pres­i­dent stepped aside on Au­gust 27.

Chief Abi­ola him­self had, iron­i­cally, led the June 12fers in plead­ing with Abacha to throw out Shonekan in the mis­taken be­lief he would hand over power back to Abi­ola. He obliged them all right, but kept the power to him­self for five years and looked set to con­tinue by swap­ping his khaki for mufti when he died mys­te­ri­ously in June 1998, one month ahead of Abi­ola’s equally mys­te­ri­ous death.

Abacha was suc­ceeded by his Chief of De­fence Staff, Gen­eral Abubakar un­der whose 11-month tran­si­tion pro­gramme AD swal­lowed its much larger APP with Shinkafi as the run­ning mate of Falae. AD, as we all know, lost the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party un­der Gen­eral Obasanjo, a for­mer com­man­derin-chief of Ab­dul­salami.

It was in this state of po­lit­i­cal anti-cli­max for Shinkafi that he fi­nally bowed out of ac­tive politics pri­mar­ily due to a de­cline in his health. Even then he re­mained a keen ob­server and com­men­ta­tor of politics.

As an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant, ob­server and com­men­ta­tor of politics he was con­sis­tently crit­i­cal of the par­tic­i­pa­tion of re­tired gen­er­als in politics. Their par­tic­i­pa­tion, he al­ways ar­gued, was mainly re­spon­si­ble for the poverty of Nige­ria’s politics be­cause their mil­i­tary men­tal­ity would not al­low them to ap­pre­ci­ate the need to ques­tion or­ders be­fore obey­ing them.

In this he was in the good com­pany of politi­cians like Al­haji Balarabe Musa, the rad­i­cal one time gover­nor of Kaduna state. There was a dif­fer­ence be­tween the two, how­ever; whereas Shinkafi ar­gued that re­tired gen­er­als should vol­un­tar­ily steer clear of politics, Musa was al­ways for ban­ning them by law.

Clearly, the irony was lost on Shinkafi that as a top se­curo­crat he was closer to the mil­i­tary than to civil­ians. That did not stop him from be­ing a widely re­spected and suc­cess­ful politi­cian whose skills would have made him a great pres­i­dent.

May Al­lah grant the Marafa al­janna fir­daus.

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