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The Nurudeen factor in Kwara politics

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I HAVE been in Ilorin over the past two weeks, including even the days I spent in Lagos and Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, to attend a funeral ceremony, as I reported, last week. The most important political issue in Kwara state today, is Bukola Saraki’s ambition to become the next Senate President. Every stop is being pulled to ensure success; powerful emissaries are clocking miles across the length and breadth of Nigeria, in the most intense lobbying effort that this community has ever deployed, for the ambition of a single individual!

The story on people’s lips here is that many of our local Malams have even been flown to Saudi Arabia to pray for Bukola’s success.Malams who stayed at home are allegedly being corralled to organise regular prayers for success in local mosques, just as Bukola Saraki’s sidekicks and hangers-on of all hues, are already salivating; they are all looking forward to their ‘leader’ securing the much-coveted position, with hope that they will also get opportunities in the honeypot of Abuja.

The only fitting tale within Kwara’s political firmament must be whatever enhances Bukola Saraki’s chances for senate presidency. But today’s piece is only tangentially related to the race for senate presidency.

Enter Nurudeen Muhammed

All politics is local. And while the high wire politics of senate presidency consumes the space, there are subterranean movements in the political subsoil, which interest me as a Political Scientist and journalist. One such issue is the place of individual actors in the jigsaw of politics. And in the setting of contemporary Kwara, no individual fascinates me like Nurudeen Muhammed, TafidanKaiama, and a former Commissioner for Finance in the state.

I must make full disclosure here. Nurudeen Muhammed is my very close friend, and I have known him for close to forty years and followed the trajectory of his politics since the Second Republic, 1979-1983. He was one of the younger members of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, who was a very close aide of former politician, now Emir of Borgu, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro. Nurudeen Muhammed is a very intelligent man, with a broad vision of the workings of government and of society.

As far back as 2002, he organised a retreat on the problems of politics and governance in Kwara, which I attended as GM of KWTV. This was before those strutting the terrain of power today, ever entered Kwara state.

For a long time, he was part of the conscientious opposition that rejected the suffocating Saraki political hegemony in Kwara.

At a time when it was not popular to be associated with General MuhammaduBuhari, Nurudeen Muhammed stood firmly and loyally with GMB. In the lead to the 2011 elections, the Fulani people of Banni community in Kaima LGA requested a visit by GMB.

Nature of Kwara politics

Nurudeen Muhammed assured the community and he facilitated General Buhari’s visit. Within the cloak-and-dagger propensities of politics, GMB belonged to the opposition CPC, while Bukola Saraki, then Kwara state governor, was a member of the ruling PDP. Not even a request made for Government Quarters to accommodate GMB, a former Head of State, was agreed to by the government of the day! And in the nature of politics, different political groups merged to form the APC and for the first time since the Second Republic, Nurudeen Muhammed, became a member of the same political party with the Saraki group. He went into the APC, because of his loyalty to General MuhammaduBuhari. That is one of the most interesting aspects of the political situation in Kwara state today. The APC swept the polls here, not because of the record of the people in power here. They were smart and that must be acknowledged. They jumped the PDP ship as it started listing and they handsomely profited from the Nigerian desire for change. They rode General Buhari piggy-backed into power. On the other hand, many of those who reject Bukola Saraki’s hegemony have entered the APC, because it is General Muhammadu Buhari’s party and they remain loyal to their man and leader. So the APC in Kwara resembles an old mammy wagon, carrying contradictory baggage.

Within this contradictory ambience Nurudeen Muhammed’s political position continues to interest me. He is the authentic Buhari man; he was with GMB when many of those hanging unto his coattail today, had nothing to do with him. They despised him!

Hegemonic controllers of Kwara politics

But Nurudeen Muhammed stayed with him. The hegemonic controllers of the Kwara state political terrain have benefitted from GMB and would rather that no other person in Kwara state is a gate to GMB besides them. But Nurudeen Muhammed is an old loyalist of GMB and GMB trusts him. The hegemonic group and the hegemon of Kwara know that Nurudeen Muhammed will not be a slave. He is too independent-minded; he is a leader in his own right; he has an extensive network, especially in Northern Nigeria and is therefore an “aberration”, in the scheme of things in Kwara state. In the Kwara political pond, there can be only one hegemon in control of the hegemony of corruption and enslavement. So what will they do about Nurudeen Muhammed? That must be a serious headache for the hegemon of Kwara state. Nurudeen Muhammed is the ultimate enigma of Kwara state politics. He is a puzzle they have not figured out. Watch out!

Re: ‘Ilorin: Mark One, One’

MY column of March 12, 2015 had carried the title: “ILORIN: ‘MARK ONE, ONE’. It was a historical tour-de-force on football and the great players of the 1960s and 1970s in Ilorin. It was a piece that many people, especially from Ilorin, favourably responded to, because it brought back memories of times past, to paraphrase the French writer, Marcel Proust. While the many players I mentioned in that piece were very delighted, and one of them, Baba Ali, made copies and bought extra copies of VANGUARD to distribute amongst his colleagues, there was also the fact that I did not remember many of the great stars of that period. A week after that piece appeared, I returned home to Ilorin and received a call from Mr. Dayo Ayodele, better known as CAPTAIN DAYO! He wondered how I forgot him in the pantheon of footballing heroes of those years. And frankly, how could I have forgotten CAPTAIN DAYO? He was certainly one of the very best players from Northern Nigeria! He played for the Northern Lions and was in the Northern Lions team which played against Queen Park Rangers to open the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in 1964. And was one of eight Northern players invited to camp of the Nigerian national team, in preparation for the 1968 Olympics Games in Mexico City. He was to remain a major figure in football in Ilorin and Kwara, after the 1968 creation of states.

A generation of stars

In response to his call, and several other contacts of appreciation I received on the back of that column, I decided to host these old superstars to lunch and an evening of reminiscences, during one of my visits to Ilorin. Luckily, we pulled that through this week, on Monday evening. It was a remarkable evening of recollections and reunion, for people I watched play football, from about the age of eight. In all, ten of these players showed up, and they represented about three generations of footballing in our neck of the wood. CAPTAIN DAYO is now 73 and Isiaka Akanbi (TERROR), one of the best defenders of his time told me he was 72 years old and I was delighted that his defensive partner for the Ilorin town team, Sidiq Abdul, who was MY favourite defender was able to show up. There was Moshood OlanrewajuJaji, JAAJII, the captain of that generation of footballers and certainly the most flambuoyant! Adekunle Akande, played for the Tate & Lyle football team, my local favourite and was a well-known dribbler. He was delighted that I hosted the group because, as he confessed, he had not seen his contemporaries in the past forty years! I spoke about Ibrahim Gegele, the famous AMBURE in that piece in March. He was the one that I would not have recognized, but in the period since I wrote about him, we have regularly spoken and he was also present at the gathering.

The younger generation who played in the famous Kwara and Nigerian Academicals was represented by Isa Salami, LANKY, who packed a wonderful short and was an ex-international as well as Rasheed Gbadamasi, BAIYE! He played in the generation of Lamidi Lawal, the goalkeeper, for Kwara and Nigerian Academicals; Busari Ishola, Captain of Kwara and Nigerian Academicals; Ahmed Yahaya, ATINGA, who died a few years ago; Musa Abdullahi Koto, coach of Nigerian cadet teams, who also died recently after a protracted illness; Salihu Ojibara; the late Baba Eleran, one of the most popular Nigerian players of the Academicals generation! AbdulKadir Alanamu, was both a player and goalkeeper and was understudy of the great Inuwa Rigogo, in the old Northern Nigeria.

From this distinguished group, I learnt that Alhaji Salawu Gidado, FLYING CAT, the goalkeeper of Northern Lions, is very much alive and is in fact an indigene of Ilorin as is Alhaji Abdulmalik “BABA MALI”, the Captain of the Northern Lions, who is still very much alive in Ilorin today.

After the tuck into the sumptuous lunch of pounded yam, vegetables, fish and chicken, the old generation of players decided that the group should begin to meet regularly and a resolve was also made to contact the other veteran players, who are all over the city and Kwara state.

Labours of heroes past

They would attempt to affect the direction of football in the community and also assist each other to come to terms with life as they age, in a country that does not seem able to live by the words of its National Anthem, that: “The labours of our heroes past, shall never be in vain”. These distinguished ex-footballers served Nigeria in the prime of their lives, at a time when giving selflessly was seen as the natural way to live. As they have aged, they are living in a country that does not appreciate memory nor reward efforts given selflessly.

I felt happy that I could be the person that facilitated the coming together of people who inspired my generation to strive to give our best to our communities and country. I will certainly trace up BABA MALI and his contemporary, FLYING CAT, whenever I return to Ilorin. I was told that BABA MALI has a rich collection of pictures from the 1950s and 1960s and I am sure he would also have a rich repertoire of tales we can tuck into to inspire the younger generation.



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