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Still on Maitama

By Mohammed Adamu

REGGAE musician Lester Bullock -stage-named Dillinger- in a musical tribute to ‘Bruce Lee’, gave mellifluous effect to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem ‘A Psalm of Life’ and in which the American poet said: “Lives of great men all remind us; to make our lives sublime; and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.” Which is what the British-born Canadian writer Stephen Leacock said in ‘The Life of John Smith’, that typically a great man “walks across his century and leaves the marks of his feet all over it”. A life is sublimely lived if the example it leaves behind inspires the living to live life equally sublime. And such was Longfellow’s devotion to the theme of ‘greatness’ that in another poem, ‘The Ladder of Saint Augustine’, he said “The heights by great men reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling in the night.” Confirming that ‘greatness’, just like ‘genius’, is 10% ‘inspiration’ and 90% ‘perspiration’.

Longfellow’s and Leacock’s poems epitomize the life of the late Maitama Sule. He had not only lived a life admittedly sublime, but when the sage of the Kano Emirate (DanMasanin Kano) departed, he left behind great ‘footprints on the sands of time’. Footprints that we hardly saw when the humble feet that made them walked around with us. Which is typical of humans, not to value what we have until we have it not. Or so Shakespeare would say, that “what we have we prize not to the worth, whiles we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost, then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession would not show us whiles it was ours.”

They said that Maitama Sule came from a long line of servile palace corteges, a caste-like family of inbred royal servants in the Kano Emirate called ‘bayin Sarki’, (King’s servants), who are still distinguished today by a triplet of short birth marks on each edge of the mouth; indicating the servitude into which they are born. Maitama Sule although he wore those servile marks, he did not live that royal servitude. He was one of the earliest to break from the chains of that family tradition by acquiring education. And thus from the ‘grass’ of royal serfdom he rose to a new ‘grace’ more regal even, than royalty itself!

And in that Maitama Sule reminds of Booker T. Washington, America’s black slave, son of a slave, born on a Virginia slave plantation, who braced great odds to break the chains of slavery, got educated and became the preeminent oratorical spokesperson of the black slaves by preaching self-emancipation through self-liberation and self-education, rather than by the promissory of a futuristic emancipation proclamation. He believed that ‘freedom’, even if it did not come ‘gratis’ by the ‘proclamation’ of Abraham Lincoln, it would still have come easily from self-education. Proving the late Bob Nester Marley right when he sang: “emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

But the late Maitama Sule reminds also of an even greater, self-emancipated, self-liberated, self-educated and equally preeminently oratorical black American personality, Fredrick Douglas. Sprung also from the ashes of slavery to become one of the best friends of the emancipator himself, (Abraham Lincoln), Fredrick Douglas was an escapee-slave who rose to become “the most prominent African-American orator, journalist and anti-slavery leader of the 19th century.” They said that “His eloquent words about his (own) treatment as a slave (which he told at public lectures) were (alone) a powerful weapon against slavery.” And although he was a friend of the President, it did not prevent Douglas from telling Americans that Lincoln “was preeminently the white man’s president, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men”.

Though both Booker T. Washington and Fredrick Douglas all their lives spoke about slavery, freedom and civil rights, -being the great issues of their days- Maitama Sule had entirely different kinds of social vices to contend with; he spoke always about ‘leaders’ and about ‘leadership’; about ‘government’ and about ‘good governance’; about ‘statesmen’ and about ‘statesmanship’; about ‘peace’ and ‘unity’, and about harmony and concord. He preached tolerance and he sermonized about accommodation. And he did so with so much passion and truth, that to him alone you would say belonged the slogan of ‘politics without bitterness’. He could have been president, but he chose to defer to the consensus of his political party. He acquitted himself so well in both his public and private lives, that at the twilight of his life he was about the only one available to preach all virtues. Nor was there any, better to use words to propagate these ideals.

Maitama Sule was not a man of idle epigrams. He weighed his every word. He spoke the English language as effortlessly as he spoke his mother tongue, Hausa. And although he was not a man of clichés or catchphrases, he spoke with aesthetic resonance and with reasoned alliteration. His usually long-drown but enchanting oratory, had always proved the masters wrong, that ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. Because brevity in fact was not the soul of Maitama’s own kind of ‘wit. The hallmark of his speeches was length and repetition. But in truth Maitama’s asset was more his ‘wisdom’ than it was his ‘wit’. For ‘wit, they say ‘is quick, sharp and laughable; but ‘wisdom’ is calm, composed and sober; ‘wit’ they say ‘is the gurgling mountain stream plunging over a jagged waterfall, while ‘wisdom’ is the serene sea abiding in quiet solitude; and ‘wit’ they concluded ‘is the language of the jester where ‘wisdom’ is the language of the sage’. Although he was master of all, it cannot be denied that Maitama breathed ‘wisdom’ into every sphere of our national lives. He spoke truth to a nation driven by bigotry, prejudice, intolerance and hate.  And quite unusually he was loved by all across all conceivable divides. And as effortlessly as he spoke the Queens English so was he able, effortlessly, to live above the many petty and trivial tendencies of his time.

If ‘greatness’ came by the loftiness of political appointments, the late Maitama Sule was great because he held virtually all the offices by which appointive-greatness could be had: he was a Federal Commissioner, head of the nation’s ombudsman, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Committee on Apartheid –wherehe had the onerous task of leading the liberation of Africa from the last vestiges of colonialism, especially ending apartheid. He was even greater than that because his performance in those offices was superbly nonpareil: the tact by which he handled politics, the oratory that he brought to diplomacy, and the sincerity with which he approached governance and administration all stood him out as a one-off, kind of Harley’s Comet that happens to a nation only once in every great while.

But eminence of political office and diligence of public duty aside, in the area of probity, Maitama Sule was the first to occupy the most ‘lucrative’ portfolio in the First republic as Minister for Mines and Power (which had the apple of discord ‘oil’ also subsumed into it); yet all through his public and private life until his demise, there was nothing either in his lifestyle or in the mundane things of life which he possessed that indicated he had abused his office or betrayed the trust of the people.

 

Postscript

THE British poet, William Wordsworth, in his ‘Lyrical Ballads’ said “the wiser mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind”. The bell has tolled for the great Maitama Sule. Age has taken away the man. But in consolation it has left behind his footprints on the sands of our troubled time. We have lost the mortal man, but we gained his immortal legacy. A legacy of service, of ‘duty, honour and love of country’.

 

Re: Still on padding’s avenue

+2348062887535:– “Those lawmakers who engage in padding our budget because of their selfish interest, one day God will expose them and disgrace them in the public domain. They went to NASS to enrich themselves with tax payers’ money and leave the masses to suffer. There is God o!” –Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia.

+2348061291114:- “Sir, I put it to you that is the way the cookie crumbles. You said “they did it last year; and they did it the year before last. But hold it! They have always done it –since 1999. Padding the budget, for selfish interest.” I can’t imagine such criminal conspiracy taking place for over 18 years now without redress. The only difference between Evans the kidnap kingpin and the NASS is that he is using guns to kidnap his victims, the latter are using pen and their office to kidnap our future and destiny.” –O.O.O. Pickford.

Online:- “I grieve anytime I remember that leadership in Nigeria before 15th January ’66 used to be! It has gone forever! And it hurts, a lot! Thank God for mercies. The grief has not extended to our children and their own children! Unlike my own generation, they have no other experience to compare and contrast. I don’t know how they see their own! But, I know what caught-up with my generation is even getting worse than ordinary curse! All because of the Overnight Horrors of 15th January 1966! Thank you,  Mohammed for this repost; from the starting point of shameless legislooting through the strain of corruption named budget padding! Thank you for exposing the complicity of –especially- some key figures from the umbrella body of our legal practitioners, the Nigerian Bar Association!” –Muhammad Sulaiman.

Online:– “An unbiased analysis of the challenges of Nigeria’s budget process! But what is the way out?: pre-budget consultation by the executive (the legislature and the executive); harmonisation of positions, priorities before passage of the budget… thereafter such budgets when and if passed, would have taken care of all sides’ interests. And the rulling political party or parties, must be part of the negotiations, consultations or dialogue. All these can be done at the platforms of the existing NASS or party caucuses”. –Muhammad Kudu

Re-‘Much ado about true federalism’

+2348033719966:– “The question is why are you guys from  the North afraid of restructuring? Simple: the lopsided arrangements favour you. Wayo!” –

+2348037145111:- “Believe it or not, your voice does not matter in the affairs of this country. You are a sectionist and a Hausa-Fulani mouthpiece. People like you can be dangerous.”

Online:– “Quite lengthy but a nice one. Sir but present system of government Nigeria is practicing today, to me is too expensive with little output, considering scarce resources” –Anyanwu Boniface.

Online:- “We were almost corruptly coned to early graves by homegrown mercenaries parading corridors of our Ivory Towers and other institutions infested by their toxic products; busy applying varying ethnographic and sectarian thesis as rare, skilful human intellect of unequal status in the history of political science and other disciplines! It is to be hoped Nigerians would now truly appreciate how we arrived at this cul de sac, and take our own destiny to rejoin saner and safer community of nations, before they completely compromise our humanity. Mohammed, I have said it before severally! I will not tire repeating that you are a Rare Gem, and a blessing! So it will continue to be with you, In Sha Allah!” – Muhammad Sulaiman.

Re-‘Revisiting what to do with Saraki’s NASS’

+2348039655339:- “The problem with Nigeria is primarily the press. You don’t even pretend to write in public interest. Nor do you do the minimal thing of balancing your stories. Your piece on ‘What to do with Saraki’s NASS’ was a narrative of a writer that had taken side and sees nothing good in an executive that is ruling in deceit. Your anger at the NASS is so much that you even wished for  military rule than an executive being checked by the legislature. For your information Jonathan is not running for office and Nigerians are yet to decide of the two administrations the one they prefer. So next time you write know it that every story has two sides to it. It is not in your place to be judgmental. That should be left for your readers.” –Emeka Onwude Enugu

Online:- “Keep on telling them the truth. May God increase you more in knowledge”. –Adam Musawa

Online:- “You are a democracy crusader”. –Abdulrahma Abubakar

 

 


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