By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
“People are saying that the PDP is dead or about to die a concerned person like me will remain in the party till it dies and give it a befitting burial. If PDP will die, let it die in our hands so we will give it a befitting burial and mourn her.”
– Adamawa State Governor,
Murtala Nyako.

THE late Chief Mobolaji Bank-Anthony must be turning in his grave! It was on Igbosere Road in Lagos, if I recall properly, that he established his undertaking business in old Lagos. It was appropriately named “THE SYMPATHETIC UNDERTAKERS”.

I don’t know if the business is still thriving, because far more aggressive undertakers entered the morbid business, reflective of the arrival of vulgar money and its vulgar display in Nigeria, including the preparation of the dead for the final rites!


We can lament the passing of Sir Bank-Anthony’s more dignified business approach, but recent rumblings in Nigerian politics come with noise, blood and tears. Cloak-and-dagger is at the heart of politics, except that the PDP took vulgarity and cut throat to a height that should shame that most shameless of contraptions, Africa’s largest vote-rigging monstrosity, the PDP!

We have arrived at a critical juncture on the route to 2015; the gloves have fallen and the pugilists are revealing very ugly bare knuckles.

The struggle is for the soulless soul of the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan’s corner, is the red corner of mischief, that brought together the most eye popping and strangest bedfellows: old men Tukur, Anenih and EK Clarke; the eternal AGIP Jerry Gana and sundry political flotsam and jetsam.

They are confident, as someone once mischievously noted, that their PDP faction can seamlessly “merge” with INEC and the security agencies to show muscle. This is where Murtala Nyako comes to fore. He represents the “Undertaker” faction within the huge basket of scorpions that the PDP has always been, as Chief Sunday Awoniyi once observed.

After years of injecting political poison into Nigerian political society and ingesting collateral poisoning themselves, including DELIBERATELY herding the people of Northern Nigeria to Northern Cameroun, with their opportunistic support of Jonathan in 2011, Nyako and his colleagues in the “Undertakers” faction of the PDP are now on an offensive.

They will stop Jonathan by all means, including hastening the death of the behemoth holding Nigeria in bearhug, the PDP. They are importing political caskets, but unlike Sir Bank-Anthony, they are UNSYMPATHETIC undertakers for the PDP. The solution finally discovered the problem on the turf of Nigerian politics!

Let us be clear about it; all the tendencies within the PDP are embattled. Nigerians will give everything to chase away the party that has systematically institued underdevelopment and the pillaging of our national patrimony since 1999. The duel-to-the-death will weaken the party further; yet, I get a sneak feeling that, when all is said and done, they will somehow paper over the crack and pull from the precipice.

The fear of loss of power will nudge them back to political realism, akin to a wedding between a feuding couple: each is fed up but none can or dares walk out! But before that realisation, we are guaranteed a lot of absurdities. For example, PDP just set up a “reconciliation” committee composed of Jonathan sidekicks and headed by his number one Man Friday, Seriake Dickson. He previously added much Niger Delta petrol to the raging political fire, by serially abusing Jonathan “enemies” in the recent past. How then does he function as reconciler-in-chief?

Meanwhile, Nigeria bleeds 400,000 barrels of crude oil everyday, while Jonathan continues to pay billions of naira monthly to Niger Delta thugs “protecting” pipelines to facilitate continued oil theft, almost like a vital component of Jonathan’s “Transformation Agenda”.

Jonathan needs an extra term in 2015, to ensure that his Niger Delta constituency achieves “Resource Control” by subterfuge, through the continuing oil-theft regime. This backdrop plus a threatening political death emboldens the “Undertakers” of Murtala Nyako’s corner of the political boxing ring. Seconds Out! Bring on the political caskets!!

Ilorin: The eternal colour and taste of Ramadan

I RETURNED to Abuja from                          Ilorin via Kaduna, on Monday. I had been away for nine days. It is one of my annual rituals to spend at least a week back home during Ramadan. This is a most special period in Ilorin and I return attempting to catch a whiff of the colour and taste of the community which moulded my life and which has retained a remarkable sense of its piety and traditions, rooted in Islam.

As I have written repeatedly on this page, my forefathers were Jihadist Islamic scholars with roots in the old empires of West Africa (called Bilad as-Sudan, in medieval times). In Ilorin, Ramadan has always brought out the best of the people’s fidelity to their religious traditions. But even within the context of the month, a lot has evolved with many old ways having died out. As the saying goes, if you wait long enough, everything changes!

As a growing child of the 1960s, I recall the special atmosphere about us in the lead to the month and I think it was Ramadan, which first triggered my consciousness about the incredible energy of women in our communities. They fast just like the men, but they cooked all day, as the men either rested or attended Tafsir in the mosques. The cooking continued during Sahur, early in the morning, while in between, they attended sermons in the night, which usually lasted beyond midnight. Women just never seemed to find respite, and Ramadan magnified their roles especially.

Probing weaknesses  of the adversary

For the children, we engaged in a game that has all but become extinct today, called EPA OKUTA (a kind of bean used to make what must be an Ilorin-only delicacy called KANGU! I loved it from childhood and up till my mother’s death in 2009, she would purchase and send to me in Abuja). The game had a sophistication about it, that I still recall today, because it taught practically every element of warfare: defence; attack; preparing fortresses, building alliances and probing the weaknesses of the adversary. Children will gather from near and far, around my family’s mosque.

Often, they had accompanied their grandfathers to attend Tafsir at the mosque;  while the elderly carried on their religious business, children engaged themselves in that game. There was also the tradition of children constructing their own mosques during Ramadan. As a matter of fact, the preparation commences several days before, and it was one of the reminders that the holy month was approaching. There was a competition to construct the most colourful and most intricate mosque, which often stayed months after Ramadan; children then simulated the prayers that took place inside the real mosques.

There was not much in terms of material wealth then, but people readily shared the little they had and even the poorest families seemed to get a lot, in the spirit of Ramadan. What was lost in Ilorin, that I have continued to lament, was the way bands of young musicians (they were called AJIWERE) would roam the entire community each night, singing really beautiful songs to wake people up for Sahur. There was a finale, which brought the best AJIWERE to a night of competition to select the best musician for the year, at the Emir’s palace.

Some of the great musicians of the past included YE-BOBO; ADISA; SAKA DANFO and AREMU (SECOND DIVISION!). A couple of years ago, with the fundamentalist religious revival that caught the Muslim world, Ilorin was also brought into the sweep. Religious scholars convinced the emirate hierarchy to stop the musical extravaganza; they substituted with recitations of the Qur’an and that musical tradition gradually withered away!

I have returned for a nine-day stay to catch a whiff of this truly remarkable month in the Ilorin because it offers a poignant moment of connection with forces which helped to provide some of the building blocks of my consciousness.

The passing of Alhaji Abubakar Lah, Shettiman Ilorin

LAST Sunday, Alhaji Abubakar Lah, Shettiman Ilorin died. He was in his late 90s and was in fact, the oldest surviving alumnus of the famous Barewa College, Zaria. I think it was in 2002 that I conducted and published a lengthy interview with Alhaji Lah, as Editor of DAILY TRUST; it alerted the hierarchy of BOBA, the Barewa old boys association, that he was still alive and was their oldest member. I was in Ilorin up till early Monday morning but somehow missed the story of his passing.

I only discovered on Monday night, back in Abuja, as I checked a local Ilorin website for stories of happenings in the community. I had a very close relationship with the incredibly modest old man, who had played a central role in the education of many generations of people all over Northern Nigeria. He spoke many languages: Yoruba, Hausa, Nupe, Fulfulde and English, amongst several others.

The late Lamidon Adamawa was one of the oldest monarchs in the North, but had in fact been a student of the late Alhaji Abubakar Lah. A few years ago, the Emir of Ilorin told me an interesting story. There had been a meeting of Northern Emirs in Kaduna and the late Lamido  inquired about the late Alhaji Lah.

He was alive, hale and hearty, the Emir of Ilorin told the Lamido. A few months down the line, Alhaji Lah was made head of a delegation to Adamawa, where he met his old student, the Lamido and other former students, after over sixty years. Alhaji Abubakar Lah was a repository of the history of his times and as the famous Malian historian, Professor Hampate Ba once said, an old man or woman in Africa, was the repository of the history of our peoples, and everytime they die, it was the equivalence of the burning of a library.

With Alhaji Abubakar Lah’s death, Ilorin, the North and Nigeria, lost a remarkable son who contributed, especially in those early years that we have continued to valorize as our golden age. May Allah forgive his sins and grant him Aljanna. Allah ya jikan Shettiman Ilorin, Alhaji Abubakar Lah.




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