Audu: Death, History and Memory


I faulted the declaration that the yet-to-be concluded Governorship elections in Kogi State was “between the Devil and the Satan”. It was, I observed in an interaction elsewhere, between sentiments and ignorance. Sentimental because supporters of APC, rallying around the late Prince Abubakar Audu were partisans incurably loyal to the party. Ignorant because, despite the near unanimity of our portrayals of Audu and incumbent Governor Idris Wada as uninspiring, our seeming concurrence to our political system as two-party arrangement was disquieting.

Nigeria has 25 registered political parties, and if I were resident in Kogi, it won’t kill to ally with likeminded cynics to facilitate the emergence of a powerful Third Force. It may only seem impossible because we prefer agencies of indolent and navel-gazing political standpoints. And even if, at the end of the rain, our efforts amount to a loss, history would remember us as change agents who aspired to reform. In the north, Adamawa and Nasarawa States, rejecting the traditional domination of the two leading parties as the only viable, made SDP and APGA, respectively, top contenders.

As results of the November 21 elections filtered in, with Audu coasting to victory, some of us, convinced Audu was on the way to Lugard House again, resigned to a prayer. This we considered nobler than embarking on a lifelong antagonism of his principles and declaring as already wasteful his four-year mandate.

And then the man died. It started like a cruel rumour planted in the online media by anonymous hacks to consolidate on the heaps of controversy upon which the man played his politics. It was one of the most mismanaged media crises of the APC. What’s the purpose of the Information and Publicity unit of the APC if it couldn’t rush in to clarify on high-risk reports about the party and its candidates. It’s absolutely dispiriting for a rumour of a candidate’s death to hover that long without an official statement from his party; it portrayed the party as organizationally inept.

The confirmed news of his death suddenly polarized discourse of his politics and life. It has revealed the superficial spirituality for which Nigerians are known, and over which they venerate the dead.

But we must be careful in letting our emotions edge us to rewrite history and beatify the person who, just a few days ago, we categorized as a member of the agencies that that have forestalled the growth of this country.

If, for the virtues of death, we report as heroic all the people we once blamed for our woes as a nation, what sort of books do we intend to leave behind as documents of the history of our time for the generation coming after ours?

It’s understandable to feel for the passing of Prince Abubakar Audu; it’s human. We’re all going to die, one after the other and en masse, soon or later. What is hypocritical is to suddenly attempt to reverse all the things we’ve already expressed about him and his. We should respect the dead, because they are not here to defend themselves anymore. But we also owe the generation unborn a certain debt, the debt of honesty – an accurate history.

Audu was a public figure given a mandate to manage the resources of his people, and judging that history of his stewardship isn’t the sort of private existence that the most spiritual of us wish to censor. This was a politician who spent a season of his life after office in courtrooms proving that he did not mismanage resources under his watch. Whether he succeeded in proving himself innocent and convincing us that he’s innocent of all charges of corruption against him is a matter for our history, and a burden of our memories.

It’s not those who still discuss the politics of Audu that are spiteful. It’s those small minds that rush to say that his death is a divine intervention, that God saved Kogi from the return of a thieving man. We must de-indoctrinate ourselves of this perception of death as a punishment. Death is the final phase of every human being. It’s not an atonement for any sin. It’s both a biological and spiritual reality of our existence.

Longevity, also, isn’t a proof of any righteous life; it’s just a mystery too complex to grasp. Some of the most virtuous people in the eyes of the world died young, hence the flawed axiom, “The good die young!”

The bad too die young!

Our motivation, as we reflect on the elapsed time of both the known and the unknown should be a prayer that none of us departs this life smeared with unchallenged accusations of complicity in the ruins of the humanity we were created to redeem and preserve. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda On Twitter

When Ignorance Becomes a Popular Perspective on Adamu Adamu


“A professor who had run a university should not be a sidekick to an accountant-turned-columnist… It can only happen in a country like this.”

This statement was attributed to a certain Professor Akin Oyebode in an interview on Channels TV. Like him, regiments of our friends have expressed resentment to what they considered another of President Buhari’s oversights; Malam Adamu Adamu’s appointment as Nigeria’s substantive Minister of Education, with the mistake, according to them, being a seasoned academic and former university administrator, Professor Anthony Anwuka, made his junior.

The argument seems intelligent, and the concerns honest, from the surface. We are told Adamu Adamu is just an “ordinary journalist” with no administrative experience, and that it’s a taboo to have him instructing a Professor on the complex art of restructuring an institution in which he is a novice.

The critics exhibit flawed understanding of Public Administration as a forte of only the technically skilled. They missed that a Minister is a top-ranking executive whose most required assets are conceptual skills. And who possesses these skills more than an uncompromising and first-rate social critic whose revolutionary ideas and audacious ways of observing our world and its strangest aberrations had been persistent and unwavering, instigating fierce debates amongst us?

Adamu’s career, unlike the professor’s, can’t be easily calibrated to present his accomplishments. And, for a man of such proven cerebral verve, if the years actively spent in journalism were in pursuits of academic scholarship, he would’ve equally been at the top of the cadre. Despite its bastardization by unmotivated rookies and avaricious editors, there’s no profession that is as close to humans, to their reality and yearnings, as journalism. Every day in active journalism is a lesson on the waywardness of our politicians and the impacts of their selfish agendas against the general welfare of the society.

If journalism had been as hierarchically organized and defined as the academia and as, say, the military, there’s no way that a longstanding and consistent reporter and analyst of Adamu’s pedigree won’t be a Professor or General, respectively. Was Wole Soyinka, a Professor of Comparative Literature, a public administrator when he was appointed pioneer Chairman of Federal Road Safety Corps by General Ibrahim Babangida? What has Literature got to do with road safety? Soyinka was chosen, despite what some may consider administrative naïveté, for his consistent reflections on the state of the nation and the prescriptions he recommended. Though the circumstances are different, aside from their persistent vending of ideas, the inclusion of conscious minds in government is because, in the words of Soyinka, “the process of change is a collective struggle… what I did (at FRSC) is not appointment… I accepted an assignment, a people’s assignment.”

And I see myself as a constituent of Adamu’s intellectual realm, one who must endorse his selection to practise what he had preached, and then return to the very seat he vacated, to remind him of the debt he owes us, the debt of exemplification of honesty. It seems vulgar to dismiss the appointment of such a refined thinker as head of a ministry once headed by the Shekaraus of this world, simply because a certain Professor is made his junior. In fact, to say that a seasoned journalist isn’t an asset in a cabinet dominated by lawyers is disdainful, ignorant and mischievous. Is lawyering an administrative role? Even our bright stars of the new administration like Kayode Fayemi and Babatunde Raji Fashola were similarly administratively “naive” before securing mandates to prove themselves, beyond lecturing and lawyering, respectively.

We are being told now that Professor Anwuka is the best man to fix the sector, even with our fresh memory of fellow Professors who, fresh out of the administrative matrix of the ivory tower, came and failed to make a difference. Like Anwuka, Professor Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i who was in charge of the ministry between 2010 and 2013 is also a Professor of Education, and she left the ministry with no praiseworthy accomplishments, with the universities, of which she was a communal member, on strike. So, how’s Anwuka’s different?

Anwuka was Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University for five years, and the last time I checked, the university wasn’t among the top 5 best state universities in Nigeria. So, what are we talking about? That he’s a magician whose miracle would only manifest as Minister?

That we are yearning more for the academically certified in a country only recently mismanaged by a PhD is a frightening scenario for study of Stockholm syndrome. What Nigeria needs are not political captors, what Nigeria needs are morally conscious patriots who have proven themselves as resiliently uncompromising; and this, this identification with the suffering, which isn’t a part of an academic’s life, even Anwuka cannot claim to have actualized, let alone be compared to Adamu.

We should all be outraged that the amnesic reduced Adamu’s years of exceptional existence as a journalist and critic of politics and life to a non-event that doesn’t deserve such key administrative responsibility in overhauling our national institutions. It’s sad that we only prefer our journalists, writers and thinkers who, from obsessive criticism have become the most informed of the many wrongs of the nation, to be messed up as inconsequential media aides to thieving politicians and self-styled technocrats. It’s sad that we think a man who has maintained a model reputation and abhorrence to corruption that has consumed a legion of his contemporaries in a career that started before some of us even learned to read ABC, isn’t qualified to instruct a professor.

What difference could Adamu Adamu make? In his preliminary thought on the ministerial inauguration, my big brother, Barrister Deji Toye, highlighted the challenge before our new Minister. “Adamu Adamu,” he wrote “has the opportunity to make the most difference in a fundamental way. In the Education portfolio, he has to open two fronts in his battle – (i) the issue of basic access in Northern Nigeria and (ii) Overall reform for quality and content everywhere. Performance in the first is the easier and quicker to measure, but seeing how almost perennially intractable it has become, would be tasking nonetheless. A number of targets have been missed in closing the education gap between the regions with substantial Federal funding (the UBE of the 1970s and the soon-to-close MDGs). So merely throwing more money at it will almost certainly be to little avail. The problem, at its root, is cultural. Perhaps, working with the emerging political and cultural leadership of the region (from Emir Lamido Sanusi to Governor ElRufai), a new social attitude to education could be fashioned in that region that guarantees new investments and helps to close that gap at secondary school level within the next decade.”

On November 15, at his first public outing after leaving office, addressing a mixed demographic of students and guests of Newgate College of Health Technology in its first annual lecture series in Minna, the former Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, also called on the new Education Minister to take advantage of “a subsisting Supreme Court Judgment for the establishment of Education Bank…” The financial institution, he explained, is proposed to offer student educational loans to the underprivileged, as found in countries that have recognized the essence of a literate nation.

Ideas were never ever scarce, and they had been shared almost per minute by pundits; our frustrations had always been paucity of upright men to walk the talk. President Buhari is an easy example of our eventual recognition of honesty and growing sensitivity to the bamboozlement of “Big English-speaking” technocrats who came from big institutions with their big ideas, apologies to Sam Nda-Isaiah, and, instead of “reforming the unreformable” – again apology to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – only succeeded in outclassing their predecessors in earning medals for reforming their personal bank accounts. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter