AT the heat of the collation of results in the Kano State gubernatorial elections, when tempers were running high, one man stood out as the man of the moment. He was seen running hither and thither, dousing tension and pacifying restive crowds with soothing words. That night when the votes were being tallied it was obvious that the two protagonists in the unfolding saga, the APC and PDP, were running neck to neck and Kano metropolitan was being put in the position of the decider. It was a dicey situation, but seasoned punters would readily have put their last naira on the opposition party to win.
Even in normal times our big urban areas: Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Kaduna, etc., have always been tinderboxes of unrest and small matters could ignite days of crises there. Kano city was in such a situation that night. Youths said to be armed by political warlords roamed the city ready to fight at the slightest provocation. Then the social media was put aglow with videos of the Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Wakili, doing a walkabout the city talking and cajoling the crowds in troubled areas.
It was an unusual spectacle seeing a Commissioner of Police, dressed in complete regalia, taking the lead to control a potentially riotous crowd. It was even more so to see him standing on the back of a vehicle, exposing himself in the most vulnerable position possible and surrounded by a large crowd. The surprising thing was that nobody took a pot shot at him and he was not stoned. In fact, one could see that he was winning as he spoke the language of the crowd accompanied by the gesticulation of an accomplished actor, using symbolism that was familiar to them. It was an outstanding performance of Shakespearean proportions. The crowds loved it and they hailed him.
I wonder if he slept that night. He must have roamed the city from one end to the other, preaching peace at every stop, harping on the need for those seeking public office to play by the rules and those who lost elections to go to court instead of unleashing mayhem. In a part of the video, he was even confident enough to admonish the crowd that if any crises arose he would proceed to Gombe his home town to retire. Idan an yi tashin hankali a Gwale, Gobe zan kama hanyar Gombe. The crowd would always roar back their approval and ask him to stay.
The Kano elections are yet to be concluded, but whichever way it goes the role of CP Wakili will remain evergreen in the minds of Kano citizens and those of us that noted it. The men under his command operated without fear or favour. In an unprecedented move, his men even arrested and booked the Deputy Governor, along with a commissioner and a chairman of a local government for offences related to the elections. Many people I spoke to, after the bold and daring feats of CP Wakili and his men became public knowledge, were of the view that the circumstances that helped the CP to succeed have once again brought to fore the need for State Police.
The reason that the CP succeeded in Kano because he spoke the same language and shared a similar background with the people and could relate easily with them. That may be so; but anyone who had followed the exploits of CP Wakili, particularly on that election night, would readily admit that he must be an exception among our public officials who in many cases have an acute disdain for the public and are normally surrounded by an aura of haughtiness, liberally suffused with the big man syndrome. The CP is probably one of the statistical few that are endowed with empathy with the public and, therefore, could relate at the same wavelength with them. I have seen some examples of such in the many years of my public service career.
Back in 1979 when it was early years in my public service career I was an Administrative Officer in Chad Basin Development Authority, CBDA, and I recall that we faced a restive situation when we were preparing to launch the first phase of the South Chad Irrigation Project – the largest in the country then. General Olusegun Obasanjo, then Head of State, was ready to come and launch the project as one of his final official duties before handing over to a civilian administration. Water was already flowing in the canals, and the 1000 hectares field was ready for cultivation and subdivided to farmers who were all locals. Planting with rice and wheat had taken place and the Authority was satisfied that everything was under control, allowing them to set a date in early July for the inauguration.
However, security report alerted the Borno State Government then under Col. Tunde Idiagbon that the locals would derail the inauguration unless their demands made to the CBDA on land compensation and related matters were sorted out to their satisfaction. Idiagbon made a quiet visit to the CBDA Headquarters where in his well-known, no-nonsense, manner told the management that disruptions to the Head of State’s visit would not be tolerated and also as national elections had been set for early July there would be no shift of date. There was no alternative for CBDA but to quickly sort out its problems with the locals. Fortunately, the Board Chairman was Dr. Mohamet Lawan, who had risen from the farms to become the first indigenous Permanent Secretary of the Northern Nigerian Ministry of Agriculture. He had an intimate knowledge of most parts of northern Borno. And he set to work immediately. I was the secretary of the Inauguration Committee and I accompanied Dr. Lawan in all the trips he made to the project area. Over a number of days, he visited Marte, Ala, Missene, Logomani and a host of villages in the project areas. At every stop, villagers would be gathered around him. He would sit with them on the ground in the field or under a tree and go on to have long discussions on the merits of the project often interjected with a great deal of banter and laughter. Matters would be thrashed out and the train would move to the next stop. In the end we had a successful inauguration as scheduled.
I recall a similar situation when as the fourth set of the NYSC scheme we reported to Lagos in August 1976. Somehow we were camped in the Baptist Academy in Obanikoro on Lagos-Ikorodu road. The camping arrangement was untidy, meals were drab, but generally we resented being in dormitories. Many of us came from campuses where at worst we shared two or three students to a room. Personally, from Part 1 to the final year, I never shared a room in Kongo campus, ABU Zaria.
Thus tempers ran very high at the Baptist Academy camp with possibilities of a riot breaking out. Four days into the camp, the DG NYSC, Col. Solomon Omojokun suddenly appeared without notice in the camp. He came straight to our room settled himself on a bed and had a lively discussion with us. That same day we were transported to Yaba College of Technology, which had a more conducive environment. The way the DG got his information, and the manner he came without protocol to engage us and the immediate action he took belied the empathy in his make-up. It is no wonder that he rose to become a General in the Nigerian Army and a Minister of Labour and Productivity in later years. There are probably many more CP Wakilis in the public service who are endowed with empathy for the public. We pray that they will be encouraged to flourish.