Only those who experienced the majesty of Mamman Daura’s disciplinary power as the main man ‘behind the mask’ in the hey days of the defunct New Nigerian might understand the paradox playing out now in the evening of his life. It is nothing less than a transition from one whose words in the critical gossip column – Candido – was the ruling class consensus to one who is now seen as the personification of selfishness and bad influence on the government of the day. That must be a great deal of paradox for a man who, in his younger days, could wonder aloud if Dodan Barracks (the Villa at the time of General Gowon) hadn’t gone mad to one whose evening is the government of his nephew that is generally believed to have run Nigeria aground and deserving of an editorial titled: Isn’t This Government Mad? Such would be a very good payback although one is not sure if the Mafia would not over react.
When once someone attacked General Buhari long before he ever entered partisan politics, Mahmud Tukur, the most intellectually sophisticated of the Mafia, wrote a rejoinder that had words such ‘as the illiteracy of the piece is unforgivable’. The reaction to an editorial with the above title might be a lot more sentimental, wet with the morbid Northernism that Shehu Othman charged a key member of the Kaduna Mafia in his classic, “Classes, Crises and Coup: The Demise of Shagari’s Regime”
Yet, Shehu Othman’s phrase captures the core as well as the undoing of the camp of modernizers (he actually calls them the sophisticated faction of the northern bourgeois establishment) in Northern Nigerian politics. Once perceived to be unforgiving, exclusionary and punitive, their “achievements” as a camp in Nigerian politics have been overshadowed by the disease of ‘morbid northernism’. Whether the camp or the rump of it can still rise above this identity is open to debate. With the level of inter-group hatred and thus the virtual disintegration of the North under their leadership, it would be interesting to see a reunion led by one of them in our life time.
That is where the tragedy lies. Mamman Daura went to Trinity College, Dublin, the equivalent of Oxford in that country just as Julius Nyerere, to cite a lone example, went to the University of Edinburgh, the Oxford in Scotland. Today, Oxford, Cambridge, Trinity College and the University of Edinburgh enjoy the same status in the Western world as leadership grooming centres. Their products lead in every imaginable sphere across the world. Thus, with the benefit of education from the University of Edinburgh, Nyerere came back, constructed a nation out of a Mosaic that is Tanzania today. Mamman Daura came back, might have tried to build a nation but the approach and outcome have been vastly different from that of Nyerere. Yes, Tanzania and Nigeria are vastly different fields of play but!, but!!, but!!!…
In the end, all that Shehu Othman could document for the political camp Mamman Daura found himself are things like creation of 12 states, redressing of indigenisation scheme’s benefits in favour of Northern bourgeoisie; geographical balance as a criterion of federal loans to local capitalists and consolidation of northern grip on military hierarchy. In other words, the mafia contented itself with problem solving rather than probing where the problem came from. They ended up living to the billing of a camp committed to “restoration of Northern hegemonic status in the Nigerian political system” and nothing more than that.
It is debatable if they could have found a different pathway in the environment of politics in Nigeria in the post 1966 coup because Othman also mentioned the Ikenne Mafia, for example, which sprang up about the same time “as the cradle of the Yoruba bourgeois establishment, backed by an array of big banks, firms and businesses since the days of the Action Group”. But as he equally noted, the Ikenne Mafia was/is essentially mono-ethnic, with very few clients outside its fiefdom. He mentioned how its prominent allies such as SG Ikoku, Chief Anthony Enahoro and Chief J. S Tarka had deserted it. The Ikenne Mafia therefore lacked the influence of the Kaduna Mafia especially as its project of constructing solidarity with Northern minorities did not produce the expected outcome.
The point in this background is that the Kaduna Mafia emerged the ascendant force in the inter-elite competition, a victory which ought to have carried with it the responsibility to produce and circulate a document on Nigeria’s way forward, the document around which to have mobilised Nigerians and, by the force of its visioning, bury ethnic and religion based politics. It must be admitted this could have been one of the most difficult things to do by the Kaduna Mafia. If it could not mobilise and defeat the Northern oligarchy in the North, how could it achieve that on a national scale? Although described as a cohesive amalgam of Northern politicians, intelligentsia, top bureaucrats, managers, investors, gentlemen farmers, military and police commanders, with some of the most educated and exposed members of the elite from the North – Adamu Ciroma, Mamman Daura, Mahmud Tukur, Turi Muhammadu, Ibrahim Tahir and their younger elements -, they couldn’t do it and are ever unlikely to raise the bar before they go into extinction or get remade under conditions of globalisation.
Nothing in the foregoing support the evil attributed to the Kaduna Mafia in popular imagination but the point is that Nigeria’s ascendant power caucus simply had nothing to offer by way of a transformative agenda or the question of how to rapidly industrialise Nigeria. To date, it has neither a mobilisation document to that effect nor a slogan in that direction. Without such, its sense of power has been a case of power for power sake. Neither its local base nor Nigeria itself has got anything from its concentration of intellectual resources. Today, a member of the Kaduna Mafia is running a government that is generally considered uninspiring. Although the Buhari persona still command a patch of faithfuls who have no capacity to see anything wrong with how he runs the show, the street sentiments across the North is absolutely against him and the government. Life under him has been hell is a statement heard even in public spaces and media platforms, not to talk of folk songs, poems and proverbs deployed in personal attacks on the president. It was completely unthinkable a few years ago.
Mamman Daura’s stress on competence in this atmosphere is thus what is difficult for his critics to understand. Predictably, ethnic platforms have turned the table against him without let. It would have been surprising if it were otherwise, especially as it relates to the zoning principle.
Zoning was a pragmatic move to assure contending forces in the Nigerian polity who read the annulment of June 12 as a Northern agenda rather than junta politics. The only way these interests could be assured that the North hadn’t an inexhaustible bag of tricks against others accessing presidential power was and is to have a formal provision in the code book specifying turn-by-turn in presidential power. Elements such as Dr. Olu Onagoruwa made this the categorical essence of accepting appointment in Abacha’s government. At the end of the day and in spite of everything, he saw his tour of duty as a successful mission.
Zoning has suffered from the hypocrisy and disinclination to consensus by all but one of the geopolitical units. It was a solid national consensus for which people paid the supreme price but which some sections of the country were surprisingly calling a gentleman agreement peculiar to the PDP during the debate on what happens to Goodluck Jonathan in the aftermath of the demise of Musa Yar’Adua. Still, many would argue and correctly too that zoning has not been exhausted. Even the radicals or progressives who didn’t see much sense in the principle of zoning came to terms with it, hence the isolation of the late Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi, for instance, in 1999 when he insisted on contesting. The argument that until a certain point still way off, the current inter-group perception makes zoning the most pragmatic paradigm is held to be still valid. Why Mamman Daura of all people might be seeing something in merit is bound to intrigue his critics who are, understandably, reading mischief to it.
The point for reflection in all these is how it has happened that one of Africa’s most solid assortment of a modernising elite failed to accomplish any modernization but has, instead, been seen more as a nation wrecking cabal. The hope is that Mamman Daura, about the last of the intellectually intact member of that generation of the Mafia can do, at least, a pamphlet. That pamphlet may contain the seed of the future revolution in Nigeria. The idea pervasive among the Mafia members of that generation that people who rail against them are doing so from the limits of what they know may not serve any purpose. After all, the Mafia did exercise tremendous powers over time. It needs to account for that, at the least, provide the context why nothing more elevated came out of it. In the context of the degree of inter-group hatred especially in the North today, the degree of misery, the degree of violence and degree of corruption, such a caucus statement in self-understanding and the politics of development is important for several reasons.
However it goes, this slip must climax the bad evening for Candido in the past few years, preceded as it is by verbal missiles from Shugaban kasa’s better half, informed as well as ignorant but generally uncomplimentary portraits of him across the land, each of which is a painful reminder of the Mallam Mamman Daura who could have been Nigeria’s own Nyerere but hasn’t.