Editor's note: Dr. Mika’ilu Barau, the National Secretary of English Scholars Association of Nigeria (ESAN) and a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara, writes on the political logjam in the state in the past few weeks after the defection of Governor Bello Matawalle.
The leading political event in the last week of June and the first week of July 2021 is arguably the decamping story of Zamfara state governor from PDP to APC which came with a lot of controversies known to many in Nigeria. Three people top the headlines in this political instance: Governor Bello Matawalle; Former Governor Abdul'Azeez Yari Abubakar and Distinguished Senator Kabiru Marafa (CON). Of all the three, Senator Marafa is the most heard about.
Thanks to his generous and courageous outspoken nature, the nation and the world got the full background of the story in the tireless session he had with the media - print, broadcast, local, international, Hausa and English alike. Senator Marafa's comprehensive narrative demystified the hide and seek game that inherently characterised the defection story with timely, coherent, and transparent updates.
Following these engagements, it is gratifying to see how Senator Marafa comes out strongly symbolizing the stature of honour that is befitting of a senator. The position of a senator as we know it has a history dating prominently back to the Roman Empire. The pride of every senator in that ancient time was his nobility, honour, and valour which are best earned through strong moral foundation, courage, and reasonable material possession.
In summary, a senator should be that person who soars to the peak of Maslow's hierarchy of needs -the level of self actualisation. One unfortunate thing I see in Nigeria is that people tend to refuse to grow on the five-step ladder of Maslow's hierarchy of needs -physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualisation. Many will acquire the right knowledge, network, resources, and related achievements but will continue to operate at the most basic level where substances of subsistence are used to play around with their moral merits.
This is where Distinguished Senator Marafa stands out to the pride of all of us affiliated to him as political protégé or even the privilege of coming from the same state with him. Permit me here to challenge even before giving my reasons in the following paragraphs that if you take out senators who were governors of their states or rose to the position of Senate Presidents, Senator Marafa can count among the top three most distinguished senators since the return of democracy in the fourth republic from 1999 to date. He is one senator that any politically conscious Nigerian can identify by telling the state he came from and where he once stood in an important debate on national life. A quick mental imagination of other senators on this scale can show how Senator Marafa dwarfs them in this respect.
The privilege of working with Senator Marafa and closely observing his engagement tell me how much his fame was earned through a dogged commitment to honour. In a widely circulated debate in the last Senate, he appealed to his colleagues to accept the apology of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege having swallowed his pride and apologized to the house. Senator Marafa argued that he could not imagine himself in the situation of Omo-Agege because he (Marafa) would always want to think through his words and actions before engaging thereby making regret highly unlikely after such action.
This I know and appreciate so well about Senator Marafa as a witness to the thinking process that goes into confronting political hurricanes like the one at hand on Governor Matawalle's defection. I must say, Senator Marafa's training in chemical engineering coupled with his extensive life experience and commitment to truth must have helped his positive political engagements and interventions. Those are also the motivations for the daring passion with which he speaks and acts.
On the eve of the defection engagements in Kaduna in the last week of June, I was assigned to accompany former Governor Mamuda Shinkafi and the acting APC chair for Zamfara to persuade Senator Marafa to agree to come and talk to Governors Bagudu and Badaru with other high-level stakeholders. This was after taking the principle stand of requesting the APC to agree to extend the defection ceremony for members of APC in the state to be carried along first.
After about two hours of effort that made Senator Marafa agreeing to join us somewhat forcefully (around 10 pm) because the people on the mission refused to allow him to enter his house nor drive his car, Senator Marafa asked us subconsciously to branch at one of the hotels to meet Senator Tijjani Kaura. I later realised the reason was that he and Senator Tijjani mutually agreed to boycott the discussion for their lack of agreement with its principles. Senator Marafa did not allow the pressure mounted on him to forget this agreement. We all waited for like another hour for Senator Marafa to brief his friend and agree to join a meeting with the governors which many politicians unconditionally crave for.
One thing that Senator Marafa speaks in public with modesty in the current tussle was the offer from his colleagues to leave Yari alone and facilitate the defection of Governor Matawalle to APC –‘colleagues’ is the term Senator Marafa deploys euphemistically to describe the representatives of the federal government. Trust me, this was a big offer that carried power and money running into billions. I hardly can imagine an average elite turning down such an offer in exchange for honouring the agreement of a fresh reconciliation.
In fact, most of the senator’s associates privy to the offer encouraged him to take it. In his most distinguished nature, Senator Marafa did tell some of us in turning down the offer with ease that 'it is not my way.' In a related context sometime in February 2021, it was Senator Marafa that helped his group decide that former Governor Yari should be the leader of all reconciling groups which calmed many nerves and brought the formidable consolidation that made APC in the state wax with confidence.
Well, there is a limit to how far I can go with providing instances of Senator Marafa's honourable stands in the interest of readers and their time. But let me say that since Senator Marafa granted that grand interview to Channels Television on July 9, I received overwhelming feedback through calls and messages on how lucky Zamfara was and Nigeria by extension for having such courageous, eloquent, and honourable people that can challenge the ominous arrogance of a typical ruling party like the one that the APC seems to tilt to by reminding that it is a product of people, not the other way round.
Such arrogance was part of the undoing of the PDP in 2015 and we are very lucky to have people like Senator Marafa to protect APC against itself with his novel idea of WIN WIN WIN as the best way forward for the party in Zamfara and beyond. By this it means, proposing a framework that meets the yearning of existing party members, the decamping governor, and the representatives of the party at the national level.
From the few instances of political approach and thought referenced in this piece, I recommend with all sense of responsibility that in Senator Marafa emerges a political school of thought with the difference that provides a lot of resources for both researchers and practitioners. The distinctive mark of the school of thought is political thinking, language, and action driven by honour which should be adequately documented and analysed for learning. One of the calls received in the political discourse at hand was from a respected academic from Federal University Gusau who instinctively felt that we 'should have more Marafas for Nigeria to move forward' after listening to the historic interview with Channels.
I conclude with a sense of gratitude that without pragmatic, fair-minded, and courageous people like Senator Marafa, some of us that need a measure of common sense given our professional antecedents, would hardly have space in the political arena of Nigeria. We, therefore, cannot thank God enough for the life of Senator Marafa and its personification of honour and decency in a space where those ideals are commonly sacrificed.
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