Al­haji Umaru Shinkafi [1937-2016]

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

The death on Wed­nes­day last week of Al­haji Umaru Ali Shinkafi, Marafan Sokoto, robbed Nige­ria of one of its most as­tute pub­lic ser­vants, one of our most prom­i­nent politi­cians, our top spy­mas­ter and a ded­i­cated com­mu­nity leader to­tally com­mit­ted to the ser­vice of his peo­ple and coun­try. He died at the Hare­field Hospi­tal, Mid­dle­sex, United King­dom at the age of 79 after bat­tling with ill­ness for some time.

Born on Jan­uary 19, 1937 in Kaura Namoda town, present day Zam­fara State, Shinkafi at­tended Sokoto Mid­dle School and Barewa Col­lege, Zaria in the 1950s. He read Law at the Univer­sity of Lagos, grad­u­ated in 1973 and was called to the Bar the fol­low­ing year. Al­haji Umaru Shinkafi joined the Nige­ria Po­lice Force in 1959 and rose steadily through the ranks from In­spec­tor to be­come Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice and head of the Spe­cial Branch in the East Cen­tral State dur­ing the Nige­ria Civil War. He was ap­pointed Fed­eral Com­mis­sioner [i.e. Min­is­ter] for In­ter­nal Af­fairs by the late Gen­eral Mur­tala Mo­hammed in 1975, in which po­si­tion he made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to in­ter­nal se­cu­rity, prison con­struc­tion, border se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion is­sues.

In 1978, Shinkafi be­came Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice in Oyo State and at the on­set of the Sec­ond Repub­lic in 1979, Pres­i­dent Shehu Sha­gari ap­pointed him Direc­tor Gen­eral of the Nige­ria Se­cu­rity Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NSO) in charge of in­tel­li­gence and counter es­pi­onage. That po­si­tion earned for him a rep­u­ta­tion as Nige­ria’s top spy­mas­ter. As NSO boss Shinkafi was largely un­seen but his firm hands were vis­i­ble in pro­tect­ing na­tional se­cu­rity dur­ing the pe­riod of po­lit­i­cal ran­cour and so­cial un­rest. He quit the po­si­tion in 1983 and re­turned to Sokoto, where he was con­ferred with the pres­ti­gious tra­di­tional ti­tle of Marafan Sokoto in 1985. Shinkafi also headed a Pres­i­den­tial Panel in 1986 that rec­om­mended the split­ting of NSO into three or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the State Se­cu­rity Ser­vice [SSS] now known as De­part­ment of State, DSS.

Al­haji Umaru Shinkafi ven­tured into par­ti­san pol­i­tics in 1989 as a mem­ber of the un­reg­is­tered Nige­ria Na­tional Congress (NNC). He later achieved great po­lit­i­cal promi­nence as a lead­ing pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant in the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion, NRC. His Choice 92 cam­paign out­fit was eas­ily the best or­gan­ised cam­paign out­fit at the time. The first round of the NRC pri­maries ended with a sched­uled runoff elec­tion be­tween Malam Adamu Ciroma and Shinkafi but the runoff never took place be­cause mil­i­tary ruler Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida an­nulled the party pri­maries and banned twenty three top aspi­rants from pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing Shinkafi.

After Gen­eral Sani Abacha’s death in 1998, Shinkafi emerged again as a lead­ing fig­ure in the All Peo­ples Party, APP. His party struck an al­liance with Al­liance for Democ­racy [AD] for the Fe­bru­ary 1999 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and Shinkafi was the run­ning mate to Chief Olu Falae in the joint AD/ APP ticket. They lost the elec­tion to PDP’s ticket of Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo/Al­haji Atiku Abubakar. In sub­se­quent years Shinkafi grad­u­ally re­tired from par­ti­san pol­i­tics due to ill health. As a mark of his high prin­ci­ple, he never switched par­ties but re­mained in ANPP to the end of his po­lit­i­cal so­journ.

Al­haji Umaru Shinkafi also served as Pro-Chan­cel­lor and Chair­man of Coun­cil of the Sokoto State Univer­sity and was a noted phi­lan­thropist es­pe­cially in his home­town, where he em­pow­ered thou­sands of peo­ple with schol­ar­ships and other fa­cil­i­ties. He lived an ex­em­plary life of self­less and pa­tri­otic ser­vice to the na­tion. His family, friends and as­so­ciates should be com­forted with the knowl­edge that Al­haji Umaru Shinkafi left an in­deli­ble mark of pub­lic ser­vice and states­man­ship on the sands of time. May the Almighty God grant Shinkafi eter­nal rest in Al­jan­nat and may He give the be­reaved family the fortitude to bear the pain of this ir­re­place­able loss.

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