“If the problems you have this year are the same problems you had last year, then you are not a leader. You are rather a problem on your own that must be solved” – Israelmore Ayivor
The modern mafia as is known today was actually a creation of an American Salvatore Maranzano in 1931. Inducted members of this group were called ‘made’ men to underscore their untouchable status in the society even though they were a criminal gang. You dare not threaten or harm them, as such has far reaching consequences.
This word was made popular in Nigeria not by criminal gang in social point of view, but by political wheelersdealers who like mafia were also made men who were untouchable. In the 80s and 90s in this country there was a fabled political group in existence called the Kaduna mafia? They were the cabal’s equivalent of the time.
They were so invincible that everything coming from the government then was regarded as either coming from them or sanctioned by them. In the status sizing they were seen as even bigger than the Federal Government notwithstanding that what was in existence then was a military regime. It was an all Northern affairs seen and regarded as having the interest of the geopolitical zone at heart.
Their influence then was such that Federal Government could not have taken any decision without first clearing from them or getting their blessing. The perception was strong that they were defacto Federal Government because it could not be denied. To them the North was first and second and the rest of the country a distance third.
Their arrogance was such that anybody they slated for appointment cannot be said to be unqualified or incompetent. To be endorsed by the Kaduna mafia means you are a true son or daughter of the region who would protect their interest in all circumstance without turning back in every way you find yourself.
They could drag an English graduate to head strategic technical position in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and a History graduate to head the country’s apex bank; the Central Bank of Nigeria, the most needed qualification was to be a northerner. You dare not complain of such lopsidedness if the appointments enjoy the backing of the mafia. That was the kind of power they wield, an alpha and omega possessing influence. If by providence you are connected to the North and you are from the South they will fish you out and push you up.
That was how General Ike Nwachukwu from the South-East with a maternal connection to the North was fished out. Their power was such that their scope of influence extended to the South but only to those who will not undermine the North.
They determined who and who from the other region got which position in the government. Ambitious Southerners mostly sycophants who wanted to get any position knew where to go for fruitful lobby. When Innocent Oparadike broke record to emerge the first Southern Editor of the New Nigeria Newspaper, he was seen as a friend of the North for the mafia to have endorsed him given the strategic role of the newspaper then. To get anything within the federal establishment and you are a Southerner, you must know a strong northerner whose testimonial opens the way for you.
Even as you get the job pray that your actions or inactions do not disfavour you before any northerner. When Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd) thought that his number two position as Chief of General Staff qualified him to raise eyebrows at certain unclear happenings in the government and he queried the sneaking in of Nigeria into the membership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) without discussing it at the Supreme Council, he was booted out for a more amenable and acquiescent Augustus Aikhomu to come in even though Ukiwe’s action was widely welcomed by the Christian community in Nigeria who could not save his job. Then political watchers particularly Southerners were envious of this mafia group because of their overwhelming influence on the system.
Later the mafia began to develop wings and gave birth to others, Katsina boys, Daura boys, and now the reigning cabals. At one point during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo the influence of the mafia was being whittled down even to the point of extinction and a new malaise, the issue of sharia was brought in through Zamfara State ostensibly to defend the interest of the Muslims in absence of the mafia. Many other Northern states quickly embraced it because they felt it was unifying forces to arm twist the administration of the time. But rather than react predictably to the provocative sharia issue, the then President Obasanjo cunningly against book maker’s expectations decided to ignore and allow it be and to die naturally. Why did I go into this retrospect? Possibly to remind readers of the kind of power and influence the northern leaders brandished in this country at some point and still enjoying but could not translate to any development prospects. Against the backdrop of the evolving revolt raging in Northern Nigeria today which is traceable to poverty and long period of neglect and abandonment, the question is: what then did these indomitable political manipulators do for the North all through the period they held sway? Were they just using the North as a camouflage to service their personal interests? Answers to these questions will help us looking forward. It’s ironic that as we speak today the surviving mafia members and their individual direct beneficiaries including their children have all ran away from their beloved Kaduna and relocated to Abuja, Lagos and other cities in Europe and America to be able to enjoy their wealth. The almighty Kaduna, the city of power and military prowess has been deserted as bloodletting becomes unbearable.
The route to the city has become a permanent death trap as even serving Generals with all their guards struggle for train services as they cannot withstand the might of the ‘Generals’ of the highway who have taken over the path. What Northern leaders are reaping today and which the whole country would soon be engulfed in if urgent steps are not taken to address youth unemployment, is what you get when an opportunity is turned upside down, when leaders fake about on very serious issues and thought they are smart.
If Kaduna mafia with all their might at the time had been sincere with their people and tried addressing their challenges with future in mind, the region certainly would have been a better place to dwell. The foundation the mafias laid is now house of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and drug addicts. What obtains today in the North is what you get when people leave on today and advice tomorrow to wait and sooner than later that tomorrow will arrive to be today, here we are as chicken returns home to roost.
Any lesson for the mafias of today in whatever name it goes? In looking back at our political journey as a region and as a nation, let us acknowledge our numerous missteps which brought us to the dyke where we are at the moment. In conclusion, I like to draw from Chinua Achebe’s famous book, The trouble with Nigeria, to say that the trouble with the Northern Nigeria and indeed the whole country is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. “The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which is hallmarks of true leadership.”
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