Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

Musa Ibrahim

A new generation of Nigerians...

Nigeria is a country that is still suffering from many of the fallacies of colonial creation and administration. One of such fallacies is that to be recognized as a somebody, one must be able to penetrate his way into the sometimes impenetrable thicket of irregular verbs and tenses of the Queen of Buckingham Palace's language with ease. Not only that, in order to be widely quoted by the ever garrulous press, one must be able to express himself in those high sounding jargons and verbose that can easily break your listeners' jaws. It does not matter whether these jargons are evidences of falsehood. If you can't do any of these, you are branded an illiterate or a bush man.


During his political days, ex-senator and ex-Governor Sabo Bakin Zuwo of Kano state was the whipping boy for the press as well as the source of amusement. He was a constant target of harassment, embarrassment and ridicule by the all knowing Fourth Estate of the Realm. To them, Bakin Zuwo was a stark illiterate whose English language was incomprehensible and raw but whose political fortunes were so enormous that everybody was baffled. Ludicrous stories were told about his pronouncements in the press daily. For instance, it was reported during the peak of the gubernatorial campaigns that when one reporter asked Bakin Zuwo who his running-mate was, Bakin Zuwo said: "it is Mohammed Abubakar Rimi... He is the one running after me." Rimi incidentally was Zuwo's rival candidate for the governor's elections. Again, after his victory, and as a governor, it was also reported that Zuwo was asked to name the mineral resources in his state and how he was going to utilise them to generate funds for the state. Again, the baffled answer from the governor: "Kano has many minerals . . . we have Fanta, we have Danta cola, we have Miranda, and we shall create many more so that everybody can drink freely..."

I have come face to face with the ex-governor on two occasions. The first was when we flew together from Lagos to Kano in November last year. As soon as our flight was announced, there was the usual mad rush and stampede associated with all Nigerian Airways Flights to where the 'giant elephant' rested. While our boarding passes were being checked, we were told we had a governor on our flight who must enter the aircraft first before we the ordinary mortals. It was not his personality that attracted my attention but the kind of people in Bakin Zuwo's entourage - ordinary kola-chewing peasants seemingly oblivious of everything around them. You could not really distinguish the governor from any of these people without some help. As soon as they reached the aircraft, Bakin Zuwo stood aside and announced "Ladies first". He boarded only after all the female passengers had gone in.


The second encounter was a fortnight ago at the Idiagbon Legal Assembly, Kaduna branch. On this occasion, I had come to witness the passing of judgement on the ex-governor who had been standing trial before the Legal assembly for allegedly 'demanding and receiving N100,000 as kick back from a Bulgarian firm, Messers Electro-Impex.' Unlike most of such legal assemblies (they are also called tribunals) scattered all over the country I have been to, this particular assembly was completely different in its crowd and spectators. Those around wore no three-piece-suits, smoked no Rothmans or Benson and Hedges, and spoke no language of the whiteman.

They were the Talakawas, the floatsam and the jetsam, the dregs of the populace. They had come by buses from the remotest parts of Kano and Kaduna to witness the crucifixion of a man they have long cherished as one of them. There were murmurs of "Fi. R. Fi and chants of "Nasara" here and there. At the centre of the assembly room sat Bakin Zuwo in a simple 'kaftan' with a defiant look and with his head held high. As soon as the tribunal chairman entered the room, I knew the day of reckoning was at hand. Before judgement was pronounced, the accused was asked if he had anything to say.

Sabo Bakin Zuwo's speech was short, concise and precise and was conveyed with the least of jargons. It was not a plea for mercy but a plea for conviction, a defiant attack on the system that was trying him. He was saying; "For the panel to have found me guilty (he already knew it) on the evidence of an NPN witness shows one what military justice is... With this in mind, I will continue not to feel guilty and I want you to continue to convict me so that I die in prison..."


A hush fell on the entire room and as Bakin Zuwo resumed his seat, I could see a triumphant glint in his eyes. On the face of the tribunal chairman, however, there was naked anger and viciousness and on his lips was formed the expression "How dares he?" Even as a 44 year jail term was being pronounced by the chairman, Bakin Zuwo's face was radiating with joy, peace and blessedness. Could this be the face of a stark illiterate? I marvelled. It was then Franklin Roosevelt's words came into my mind: "No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body, to risk his well-being, to risk his life in a great cause."

One by one the crowd was dispersing and on their faces, there were no tears, only defiant looks, faces of the knowledgeable, of the future yet unborn and I knew that the hardest struggle of their lives, of Nigeria, lay ahead. A struggle that no amount of cum laude degrees can accomplish. It is a struggle that relies for its success on an individual's willingness and determination to challenge illegalities, to talk frankly and boldly in the midst of oppression no matter how harsh and severe. It is for this that Sabo Bakin Zuwo was convicted, and this should be a serious lesson worth considering seriously by the up and coming generation of Nigerians. For, according to Wole Soyinka, "the man dies that keeps mute in the face of oppression and victimization."

talking drums 1984-07-09 Kojo Tsikata the myth and the man - African music in London