Alhaji Zannah Umar Mustapha, 1966-2015

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By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
MALAM Ahmed is one of the drivers in the Government House pool in Maiduguri. Whenever I visit the Borno state capital, he was always the driver that carried me around. Last Saturday afternoon, Ahmed called from Maiduguri to inform me that the Borno state Deputy Governor, Alhaji Zannah Umar Mustapha, had died in Yola, Adamawa state. I was stunned and immediately placed a call to Kashim Shettima, the Borno state governor.

None of his telephone lines was available; so I called the Commissioner for Local Government, who was with the governor; he confirmed the Deputy Governor’s death, then handed over the phone to a most distressed governor, so I could express condolences.

From the tone of his voice and the much that I knew about the evolution of their relationship, governor and deputy, I sensed that Kashim Shettima was a very, very sad man that afternoon!

His Deputy had become a genuine confidant for a governor whose human qualities made him very trusting, able to give and earn trust in equal measure. And in the late Zannah Umar Mustapha, Kashim Shettima found a genuine loyalty and sincere devotion, at one of the most difficult moments in the long history of Borno. For someone like me, who became very close to the Borno leadership in these difficult years of the Boko Haram insurgency, I can attest to the fact that Kashim Shettima found in his late deputy such a pillar of support that it became easier to face the challenges they confronted: the insurgency; a hostile federal government of President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja and the often vicious cut and thrust of Borno politics!

Last year, I visited Maiduguri at a time of serious problems associated with the killing of Alhaji Idris Timta, the Emir of Gwoza. I had the privilege of sitting through a very somber meeting at the Government House, where the governor told his colleagues that he would visit Gwoza to commiserate with the people.

It was a most dangerous decision to take and other members of the Borno state administration present that afternoon, led by the Deputy Governor, did everything to convince the governor not to make the trip. The late Zannah Umar Mustapha told the governor that he was willing to go through the danger of the trip, instead of having his governor’s life endangered!

In the end, the governor stuck to his gun and the following day, they all made the trip and returned safely. But it said a lot about the character of the late deputy governor that he was willing to face danger on his governor’s behalf. I knew exactly how the meeting evolved and I could report that it was not any form of “eye service”, but a sincere commitment to his governor and the leadership that they were providing together for Borno state in a most difficult and very tragic period.

Tragic period

It was also indicative of the evolution of their relationship that Governor Kashim Shettima always trusted his deputy with very sensitive assignments, and from all that I knew and saw at very close quarter, he often delivered in an honest and outstanding manner.

Between the two, there wasn’t the usual suspicion that had often dogged the relationship between Governor and Deputy, and which seemed to be central to the politics of Nigeria since the 1999 return to civil rule. Kashim Shettima was always at ease and confident that he was leaving the administration of Borno state in very good hands, every time that he was obliged to travel out of Borno state.

That the two men were able to cross the hurdles of suspicion in their relationship spoke volumes about their individual human qualities. And honestly, it didn’t look like such a trust and brotherly spirit could have developed between them, given how they came to be candidate and running mate in 2011.

The late Zannah Umar Mustapha had resigned from the Nigerian Navy in 1993 to enter private business and when politics returned in 1999, he contested to become chairman of Biu Local Government on the platform of the PDP, but lost.

He remained in the PDP and was running mate to Kashim Imam in the 2007 elections, which they also lost. He was then made Chairman of the National Library Board, soon after the elections.

Borno politics has always seen often, strange construction and dissolution of alliances, and it is the real hotbed of cloak and dagger politics, at its most vicious. When Kashim Imam lost the hotly contested nomination as PDP candidate in 2011, to former Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Goni, he went into an alliance with the ANPP and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. The outcome of that alliance was the nomination of Alhaji Zannah Umar Mustapha as running mate to Governor Kashim Shettima.

Humane direction

The fact that they were able to build and consolidate their relationship has largely been responsible for the way things have evolved in Borno politics, especially with the 2015 elections and the victory of the APC, making Kashim Shettima and his Deputy, to become without doubt, the leading individuals in contemporary Borno politics.

Together with their associates, they demystified the politics of ‘godfatherism’ and took Borno politics in a more humane direction than what used to reign. Alhaji Zannah Umar Mustapha’s death last weekend is a major loss for Borno and Nigeria. He died at the relatively young age of 49 years.

He seemed to have made enough mark on his state in the past few years, to be assured of a bright future in the politics of Borno and Nigeria. He was an example of genuine enthusiasm, loyalty and committed service to his community, state and our country.

He was in fact on an official assignment, to represent the Borno state government at a university convocation ceremony, when he suffered a heart failure which claimed his life. I know that these are very difficult moments for Alhaji Zannah Umar’s family; Kashim Shettima, the Borno state governor and all his associates and friends as well as the people of Borno. Allah ya jikan Zannah Umar Mustapha. Amin.

Nigeria’s 8th NASS: Controversy, insignificant work, huge emoluments

THE 8th National Assembly came to life in controversy. A stealthy move that resembled a coup d’etat, ushered in the Upper house, the Senate. That “Original Sin” has continued to dog senate till today. The House of Representatives had its own share of problems, but resolution was found to keep a lid on controversy, at least for now. The senate, like a punch-drunk boxer, has continued to literally sleep walk as different sides to its self-inflicted problems entrench themselves in their conflicting positions. But our dear legislators have a point that unites them, and that is their determination to continue to earn humungous sums of money, without sensitivity to the state of the nation’s economy. When they met in camera last week, they were unable to agree about cutting down the huge sums they take from Nigeria. The people’s representatives will not reduce their creature comfort. They will not give any ground in the demand to make sacrifice for the country. Our legislators must continue to get their over-sized cut of the Nigerian cake, even when Nigeria is in crisis.

The amazing thing about this is that the party of “CHANGE”, the APC carries the same DNA of greed as its opposite, the PDP, in the quest to take as much as possible from Nigeria.

Party supremacy

In the collective parliamentary resolve to fleece Nigeria, there are no appeals to “party supremacy”. Here all legislators have become “Like Minds”! There is no Chinese Wall dividing Bukola Saraki from Ahmed Lawan; Yakubu Dogara has no problem with Femi Gbajabiamila. They stand united in defence of their deep pockets and are collectively determined to take as much as possible from Nigeria. The slogan of CHANGE, cannot find traction with 360 representatives and 109 senators. And since they resumed on that controversial note on June 9th, according to @BudglTng, they only sat for a grand total of 15days! They have taken 12 weeks of recess; the 109 senators have collected N36. 4million each while the 360 representatives creamed off N25million each, amounting to N13billion. The principal officers collect more than their colleagues, meaning that Nigeria would have expended more than N13billlion on 469 legislators. In that period, they did NOT pass a single Bill!

The developments of the past 16 years have made it clear that the remuneration process amongst the nation’s political elite is clearly not sustainable. Nigeria is in the midst of a serious economic crisis but our so-called representatives are still determined to corner obscene cuts of the nation’s cake! There are poignant questions to ask about the legislature that sat for only fifteen days since June 9th, but enjoys a twelve-week recess while pocketing over N13billion. Should we not have a part time legislature as some have argued?

Or do we just pay them per sitting? And what is the relevance of a two tier National Assembly in a period of dwindling financial resources and the frankly wasteful nature of our parliament? More than at any point in Nigeria’s recent history, these questions have become very important and they need to be taken very seriously.

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