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Bala Jones Takaya: The bye denied!

By Yinka Odumakin

FORMER Governor of Kwara State and Communications Minister, Chief C.O Adebayo broke the sad news to me in the early hours of Sunday that death has done its worst again snatching our soft-spoken but fiery Dr. Bala Jones Takaya,the President of the Middle Belt Forum.Tears cascaded down my eyes as I spoke with him in less than 48 hours earlier.I could feel he was in pain from his voice and after a few sentences he asked me to conclude the discussion with Air Commodore Dan Suleiman.

Dr. Takaya did not quite enjoy the best of health in his last few years on earth but that did not diminish his contributions to the emancipatory struggles of the people of Middle Belt in particular and Nigeria in general.

In spite of his health challenges,he gave quality leadership as was his coming to the Ijebu Ogbo home of Chief Ayo Adebanjo for his 90th birthday. I had whispered to him,Pa E.K Clark and Chief John Nwodo of a meeting at the Apapa residence of Pa Clark in Lagos later in the night .We got there and he was not there. I then placed a call to him and he told me softly  “Yinka, I had to return to Abuja for health reasons “.

We kept talking on phone afterwards towards the meeting rescheduled   for Abuja about two weeks after. Again he could not make it as he was hospitalised. At the end of the meeting, the President General of Ohanaeze Chief Nwodo said we should visit him in the hospital and a powerful delegation which included him, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, AVM Idongesit Ikhanga,Senator Bassey Henshaw,Gen. CRU Iherike and Mr. Obadiah Mailafa  headed to the hospital where we met him on his bed and his lovely wife seated by him.

We never knew it was the last time we were going to see him alive. His spirit leaped as he saw us.He was very cheerful in spite of his pain. He talked with us for a few minutes after which Chief Nwodo asked Prof. Akintoye to leadin a session of  prayer for him and we departed. A day after, he called me to give him the phone numbers of all who came so he could thank them. I denied him  saying that final bye as I told him there would be enough time to do that when he  has fully recovered.  Now he would have no such opportunity as he slept eternally on Sunday leaving behind only fond memories.

I “met” Dr. Takaya through the 1987 book he authored with the current Deputy Governor of Plateau State,Mr. S.G Tyoden on the “Kaduna Mafia”.I reproduce Chapter 6 of that book  titled “Socio-Political Forces In The Evolution of Kaduna Mafia” as a tribute to the departed prodigious intellect who taught at ABU and UNiJOS

“Obviously, for want of a more accurate appellation, Mr. Mvengada Jibo,then a political correspondent with the New Nigerian newspapers coined the term “Kaduna Mafia” in reference to the Kaduna-centred group of Northern Nigerian power elite.  [Ref. # 1] Since then, the appellation has popularly stuck inspite of denials of any group in Kaduna that bears the characteristics of the Italian (or its American variant) underworld organisation referred to as the Mafia.

The protest is justifiable in one sense.  While the Italian and American mafia proto-types refer to underworld operators protecting mainly contraband business interests through sponsored gangsterism in a political system over which they have no control, the Kaduna-centred referant is seen as an enigmatic but invisible force manipulating the destinies of the political system by virtue of its deliberate and strategic placement of its political system by virtue of its deliberate and strategic placement of its operatives in control of sensitive positions in the nation’s key institutions like the military, parastatals, government limited liability companies and ministerial organisations.  It is a bureaucratic and political force acting as an invisible vanguard to protect and advance the social, political and economic interests of a ruling class which, since the end of the Second World War, has been constantly threatened by the possibility of losing a longstanding claim to political leadership and hegemonic legitimacy in a fast changing and modernizing policy.

The denials notwithstanding, however, the appellation is apt in many ways.

Among other characteristics. Even the Italian and American underworld operators, referred to as the mafia, are not known to operate an openly identifiable organisational structure in the conventional sense.  Like the latter, the existence, aims, membership and operation styles of the Kaduna-centred group can be understood only as a secret cult phenomena, the details of which are known only to its godfathers and the inner core of its membership.

Secondly, there is a ubiquitous quality about the strategy of selection and utilization of talented personnel for its services.  For the Kaduna group does not necessarily recruit all of its operatives or “gate-ways” from within the social class whose interests the vanguard is designed to safeguard.  Instead, given the head-start control it already has over vital governmental institutions, the Kaduna-centred power elite mainly exploits the self-actualisation instincts of talented professionals of all walks of life to achieve their objectives.  Hence those who are knowingly or unknowingly manipulated by the Kaduna Mafia need not necessarily share all the values and interests being advanced by the inner core of the latter.  For, as Rufai Ibrahim once noted, “The Kaduna Mafia operates almost at the same level with the CIA.  The CIA could plant something on the most unusual places, they could get the most unusual people to do certain things for them.” [Ref. # 2].

The Kaduna Mafia may clandenstinely sponsor the use of open violence to achieve its ultimate aims even though unlike the former, the Kaduna Mafia is not yet known for hiring lone-range underworld “hit-men” to physically eliminate marked opponents or enemies.  But employing the strategies of dividing the camp of the enemy”, controversies and upheavals may deliberately be sponsored among social groups like the military, labour unions, student unions, religious camps, ethnic or tribal groups and political party hierarchies which may be in dispute over sensitive social or political issues like census figures, religious issues, inter-personal disputes among military leaders, intra-party crises, election results, chieftaincy disputes, land and sundry disputes, or even over religious issues where such upheavals are capable of polarizing the social groups while giving them, the mafia, centre-point advantages or opportunities to serve as the only uniting and stabilizing force.  This penchant for crisis-management while fishing in troubled waters has in fact been aptly described by one Northern intellectual as the groups strategy of “management of the turbulous.”

Contextual Factors

Given the symbiotic cooperation between the British and the emirate ruling class in the north, it is a historical irony that the same emirate beneficiaries of the N.A. [Native Authority] political arrangement that would find it necessary to evolve Mafia-like strategies to protect and advance their political interests even before the dismantling of British colonialism.  For the same British colonialism, which succeeded in entrenching the emirate rulers’ firmer and wider control over the North, also eventually planted the seeds of their possible overthrow through a proposed democratization process.

At least six discernible contextual forces gave rise to the birth of the Kaduna Mafia, some of which were external to the Nigerian socio-political system.  The first was the emergence and dominance of a new socialist thinking in Britain which, by the end of the second World War, had become a political force.  The force culminated in the coming to power of the first British labour party government in 1945.

Besides their struggle to restructure and humanize the British society, the Socialist movement, known as the “Fabian Society”, also took a strong anti-imperialist stance.  They held the view that Britain had a moral obligation to improve the moral and political conditions of its colonies by allowing the evolution of political structures that would give opportunities to all indigenes of the colonies to participate in their own government and, in particular, to make local government the bedrock of democracy and efficiency.  This greatly influenced thinking in the labour party such that the labour government had to evolve and declare a policy towards British colonies in Africa and Asia in similar veins.  The policy sought, among others, to: “develop the colonies and all their resources so as to enable their peoples speedily and substantially improve their economic and social conditions and as soon as may be possible to attain self-government.To us, the colonies are a great trust and their progress towards self-government is a goal towards which His Majesty’s Government would assist them with all means in its power.

They should go as fast as they show themselves capable of going.” [Ref. # 4] The local government institution was the primary seed-bed for this new “democratization” drive.  Thus, in July 1947, the British Labour government presented a report full of hind-sights and indicative of future policy orientations.  The report, titled “The Colonial Empire (1933 –

1947) stated inter-alia:  “It is now recognised that the political progress of the territories is dependent on the development of responsibility in local government, that without some local government, a democratic political system at the centre is not possible, and that, if social services are to be built up and expanded, there must be efficient organs of local government directly representative of the people to operate and control them.”  [Ref. # 5]

The second contextual factor that precipitated the evolution of the Kaduna Mafia related to global forces towards self-determination following the declaration of the “Atlantic Charter.”  The charter was signed by both the British and the United States Governments in 1941, the spirit of which got more firmly embodied in the United Nations Charter of 1945.  Although the declarations primarily addressed themselves to the need of dismantling colonialism, the acceleration of the process entailed raid relaxation ofcolonial policies towards the training of local manpower for wider governmental responsibilities. Educational and technical skills had to be expanded rapidly for the services of the Federal, regional and local government bureaucracies.  This meant the opening of opportunities for non-emirate personnel in the affairs of government in the North.  In consequence, as N.U. Akpan noted, this process:  “resulted in the influx of ‘expatriate native’ into other tribal areas.

The direct result of this was the expansion of cosmopolitan towns, people by different communities.  In some of these towns (like Kaduna) the ‘stranger’ populations were considerable compared with indigenous natives, and normally comprised traders, people in various forms of employment, professional     And even retired people who decided to settle in the locality permanently.It would be definitely unfair – indeed impossible – to exclude these people permanently from having a say in the day to day conduct of affairs in the communities where they had so much at stake and were bound to be affected by the actions and decisions of the authority in control of the area.  The only way to give them the direct say in local affairs was to given them representation on local councils, and this      meant relaxation in the principles and tenets of  “local government by indigenous traditional authorities.” [ Ref. # 6]”.

 


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