Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Sky's the limit for the MPN

LONDON: Saturday July 13th, 1985 The star status symbol of the elite members of the Military Party of Nigeria (MPN) is no longer the acquisition of all the latest brands of the Mercedes-Benz cars, or a whole fleet of the six series BMW's. It is not even the executive jet, even though these cannot be frowned upon. It is the importation of tens or even hundreds of ponies from Argentina and the owning of a polo team in a dozen capitals of the world. Unlike normal political parties, the MPN is a closed party with its membership strictly restricted. To qualify as a member, one has to have a god father either within the ruling military hierarchy - the supreme military junta - or within the National Security Organization (NSO). One also has to agree to being an informant, or, in the modern political term, being an agent or a spy.

Like Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984, agents of the MPN must report movements of friends and relatives to the appropriate quarters. Some of the things these agents report border on the insane and the outrageous because of the fact that they are always vile lies.

But it does not always matter, and as far as the leaders of this party are concerned, these agents are good guys because they are on their side, pure and simple. They are thus regarded by their masters as legitimate and indispensable protectors of a regime that is seen in the eyes of the world as authoritarian, illegitimate and morally wrong. It does not again matter that even in fiction, spying is treated with disdain and regarded as a dirty game. There is also no dark brooding in the fact that these agents are political malcontents and agitators who have no real political base in Nigeria whatsoever. Now consider this:

It was Saturday, 13th July in the blessed year of our Lord, 1985. England, "the teeming womb of royal Kings and Queens" had woken up to the weather man's forecast of "bright, clear and sunny weather". Ordinarily, I would have stayed in bed till noon before going out to get some sunshine and some fun. But this was no ordinary Saturday and by ten o'clock I had bathed, dressed and was on my way out. I do not wave the Nigerian flag - I don't even have one. I cannot sing the National Anthem nor recite the National Pledge. I do not know the words. But that does not mean that I am unpatriotic or that I am a saboteur or unWAI. Far from it, which is why on this Saturday morning, I was denying myself some sleep in order to demonstrate my patriotism to my country.

There was going to be a spectacular event that Saturday - the Horspice Charity Polo Match at Windsor, was scheduled for the afternoon. The competing teams were the Allied Ranch (Nigeria Ltd) and Windsor Park. I had an invitation, and it is unlike me not to honour invitations. By 12 noon, "distinguished" Nigerians on whom the N100 (one hundred naira) maximum foreign exchange allowance does not apply, started arriving in their limousines, and Rolls-Royces, exquisitely dressed and resplendent in silk-encrusted hats and rich, em- broidered robes. Most were accompanied by teenage girls as well as menfriends. Looking at them reminded me of those memorable political old days.

For, it could have been any of Nigeria's banned political parties out on a campaign rally. The crowd was there and suddenly, there were familiar faces people I had encountered in Nigeria and known to have been prominent members in the overthrown Shagari government. There were former Ministers, Special Advisers, and Directors of Security. Is every minister and every official in the Shagari government not supposed to be in jail or living the life of a "fugitive"? What is happening? Why were these men here while their colleagues and friends are either languishing in jail or are being persecuted by the Buhari Military Junta in Lagos?

An insider, seeing my muddled and confused mind, confided in me that these former politicians were now the new members of the Military Party of Nigeria (MPN), having crossed carpet. They were now the spies and informers of the Buhari junta. There are the Adamu Ciroma's, the Hassan Mohammed's, the Aminu Walis, etc, etc. But first, those I saw on Saturday. 1. Idris Ibrahim Kuta (formerly known as Okereke) - ex-senator, ex-deputy speaker, House of Representatives (Niger State), ex-Minister of Mines and Power (October-December). Idris was one of the very prominent and influential members of the ruling National Party of Nigeria. But no more. While his governor, Awwal Ibrahim and his political mentor, Bako Kontagora are languishing in jail, Idris has nothing to fear. Who says political carpet-crossing does not pay?

2. Ismaila Isa Funtua - ex-minister for Water Resources (October- December), now Managing Director designate of a private textile industry to be established by Buhari in Funtua. Like his new political Boss, Leko Buhari, Ismaila is also a "Buzu" from Niger. Such people are now the elite of Nigerian Society and hitherto respected and distinguished academicians such as Professor Ishaya Audu, Nigeria's External Affairs Minister should be allowed to have their talents wasted.

3. Alhaji Umaru A. Shinkafi - ex- director-general of security - now a traditional chieftancy title holder (the Marafa of Sokoto), the turbaning ceremony remains the talk of the nation. And to think President Shehu Shagari, has been behind bars for the past two years. Not to talk of Governor Garba Nadama and other prominent sons from Sokoto state.

4. M. A. Mohammed (alias Miami Beach?) chairman, Allied Ranch (Nig. Ltd) an odd job man and an odd businessman, I am told.

5. Air Vice-Marshal Muktar Muhammed (a Daniel come to judgement). He is more intriguing so a little background is necessary. Muktar was Federal Minister of Housing in the Obasanjo regime and oversaw or supervised the creation of the famous "1004" housing estates whose contract was estimated at well over N100 million. That was the period, too, of "ten percents" and "kickbacks". Don't tell me what ten percent of N100 million is. I will faint.

Today, Muktar is the chief litigator or legal executioner in the Buhari military junta. He has so far sentenced over twenty politicians to a total of over 1000 years in jail.

These were the men - of disreputable reputations - that graced the occasion on that Saturday. My mind cried in rebellion because there were people of substance among them - Prince Charles, rtd General Hassan Usman Katsina, rtd General I. B. M. Haruna, and, of course, yours sincerely, etc, etc.

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