Loyal Friend For 35 Years: A Tribute To Late Inua Abdulkadir, By Mahmud Jega

“I cannot remember exactly when and where I first saw Barrister Inuwa Abdulkadir, Magatakarda Babba of Sokoto, Chairman of NAFDAC, Pro-Chancellor of Sokoto State University, former Minister of Youths Development during the Jonathan era, former Attorney General of Sokoto State and until last month, National Vice Chairman, Northwest of the ruling APC who died in Sokoto last Monday after a very brief illness.

It must be somewhere on the University of Sokoto [now called UDUS] campus in the mid-1980s. I was an Assistant Lecturer and Inuwa was a highly visible Law student. He was active in many associations including Students Union, Sokoto State Students, Law Students and Hausa Students. When he came close to me and began to regularly visit my office, I thought he belonged to our circle of radicals. I was shocked one day to run into Inuwa in the corridors of Faculty of Arts building, wearing a huge turban. He was on his way to be turbaned as Sarkin Hausawa, President of Hausa Students Association.

Inuwa and I became even closer in late 1988. When Sultan Abubakar III died, I wrote an article in New Nigerian which was critical of Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki’s choice. It caused quite a stir in Sokoto and the late Alhaji Mamman Danbature responded to it. Inuwa, still a student, waded into the matter by circulating some papers in Sokoto critical of the Alhaji, which in turn elicited a harsh response from his children. There was no social media in those days but Inuwa brought all the papers to my house.

I relocated to Kaduna in 1990 and within two years Inuwa and I became close again, this time in Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi’s Choice ’92 campaign office. Inuwa had just finished Law School and NYSC somehow posted him to Choice ‘92’s Kaduna office. He promptly became the State Secretary. Though I was at Citizen magazine, I frequently visited Choice 92 so Inuwa, Mohammed Lawal and I were together practically every night. The campaign ended when General Babangida banned Shinkafi and 22 other presidential aspirants. Marafan Sokoto winded up Choice ’92 rather untidily in mid-1993. I travelled with Inuwa as he returned to Sokoto and he was very unhappy about it.

He quickly found a job as State Counsel in the Sokoto State Ministry of Justice. One day he run into Marafan Sokoto in the High Court. There was a long list of cases but as representative of the Attorney General, Inuwa was called first. He stood up and graciously conceded his chance to his senior at the bar, Marafa.

Inuwa’s first big break came in April 1996. The day after Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki was deposed, Inuwa was driving past a guest house on Sultan Abubakar Road when he saw Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido’s parked car. He went inside and found Sarkin Kudu sitting alone, watching tv. Inuwa, a confident young man, told him that he should better go back home because the government was likely to look for him and make him the Sultan. Sure enough, when Maccido drove back home, the Military Governor was looking for him.

At Sultan Maccido’s request, Inuwa was redeployed from Ministry of Justice to become Secretary to Sultanate Council. Shortly afterwards he phoned me in Kaduna and said the Sultan wanted to see me. I interviewed the Sultan for one hour but in the most embarrassing episode of my journalism career, the tape recorder failed to record a word. Inuwa strolled back to the Sultan and told him the mishap. I went back in with great trepidation but Sultan Maccido laughed and said, “Kasan karhen bature yadda shike.” [You know how the white man’s machine is].

In 1997, the Indian government invited Sultan Maccido to visit India and Inuwa got me included in the Sultan’s delegation. We spent twelve days in New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Sultan Maccido was a quiet man so I became his official mouthpiece during the trip. When we visited museums, research centres, universities and the Indian Central Election Commission, they asked numerous questions about Nigeria and I was the one who answered on his behalf. Every night Inuwa dragged me out to paint Indian cities red. We also went shopping but I had no money, so he gave me $500.

Back home in Nigeria, I once called Inuwa and asked why Sultan Maccido read a speech, during a visit by the Council of Traditional Rulers and Leaders of Thought, publicly endorsing General Sani Abacha to run for President. Inuwa was very unhappy too; he said it was the council’s secretariat, directed by its chairman, FCT Minister Lt Gen. Jerry Useni, that drafted the speech and handed it to the Sultan to read.

Inuwa ran into trouble twice in 1998. First, SSS agents entered the Sultan’s palace and arrested him at the behest of UNCP chieftain Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, for spreading a rumour against him. When I went to Inuwa’s house to condole with him, he told me bluntly, “It was Marafa and I that plotted the rumour.” I soon realised that Inuwa’s opposition to Bafarawa reflected Sultan Maccido’s mood. A week later when he took me to see the Sultan at his Kaduna house, Sultan Maccido told us that he had not slept well the previous night because Bafarawa said at a UNCP meeting that he would create more emirates in Sokoto if he became governor.

Probably as a result, when Abacha died in June 1998 and General Abdulsalami Abubakar sent a team to Sokoto headed by Army Chief Lt Gen Ishaya Bamaiyi to seek opinions on the transition program, Inuwa stood up and accused the Sokoto State military government of backing UNCP, under General Useni’s orders. Military Administrator Rashid Raji had Inuwa posted back to Ministry of Justice.

Inuwa resigned from state service and became a full-time politician. He joined APP together with Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi. At home in Sokoto, Bafarawa defeated their candidate Senator Garba Ila Gada to become APP’s governorship candidate. Because of that, Inuwa defected to PDP in Sokoto but remained in APP at the national level. According to what Inuwa told me, Bafarawa defeated them in 1999 because PDP’s candidate Alhaji Modi Yabo fell sick and the party was in total disarray. Inuwa was sent on Friday evening to remote Gudu LGA. It was too late to deploy agents to half of the polling units, he said, and in all those units Bafarawa “won” all 500 registered votes.

He soon returned to Kaduna and dragged me back to Shinkafi, who was vice presidential candidate of the AD/APP ticket. Inuwa was one of AD/APP’s lawyers at the election tribunal. One of their strategies was to prove that president-elect Obasanjo was a secret cult member. They invited AD chieftain Chief Ayo Adebanjo to substantiate the claim; he said he too belonged to the same fraternity but that it was not a secret cult.

In 2000AD Inuwa became Acting Secretary General of the newly established Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF. During my annual leave from New Nigerian that year, Mohammed Lawal and I spent the days in Inuwa’s office, and he dragged us into ACF committees chaired by Malam Liman Ciroma. He paid me N10,000 each to write speeches for ACF leaders. One day he took me to see former Chief Justice Mohammed Bello, his father-in-law, and to write a speech for him on the unfolding Shari’a crisis. I listened to the eminent jurist for 30 minutes and when we came out I said, “Inuwa, this man does not need a speech. He knows the issue better than anyone.” I had already pocketed the N10,000.

The hyperactive Inuwa got mixed up with many top politicians in those years. I was Editor of New Nigerian and he brought all of them to see me. One was Dr. Olusola Saraki, who led an ACF delegation to tour the Northwest. Inuwa arranged warm receptions for him at the Sultan’s and Emir of Gwandu’s palaces, and he soon brought me close to Oloye. Another was Dr. Charles Dorgu, Executive Secretary of FCDA who was angling for a higher position in 2003.

During the 2003 elections, Inuwa was NDP’s governorship candidate in Sokoto State but he made little impact against Bafarawa. He played an even more complicated role in 2007 when he became presidential running mate to Kalu Uzor Kalu in PPA. Kalu did not accord to him enough respect so as soon as Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua won the election, Inuwa led a PPA delegation to congratulate him, without Kalu’s consent. At the same time, Obasanjo had invited Sokoto ANPP’s governorship candidate Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko to take over PDP’s ticket. The “agreement” was signed at Aso Rock with Chief Tony Anenih presiding. Wamakko hastily dragged Inuwa to sign as Sokoto ANPP’s Legal Adviser.

In 2007 Inuwa became Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Wamakko’s government. Within days Inuwa called me from a landline and asked why I had not come to Sokoto to greet the new governor. It turned out to be the governor’s own phone. Before I could answer, Inuwa said, “Speak to His Excellency. I am in his office.” It was the beginning of my close relationship with Wamakko.

In 2012, when Alhaji Yusuf Sulaiman was dropped from President Jonathan’s cabinet, Inuwa phoned and asked me to urgently come to Kaduna. He took me in his car and raced down Independence Way. He said we were going to see Governor Wamakko at a private residence and that I should lobby for him to be nominated as minister. I said, “Haba, Magatakarda. How can I tell the governor, not even of my state, that he should nominate you as minister?” He said, “Alu respects you a lot. He will listen to you!” When we got there, Inuwa kept winking at me to mention it but I refused. Wamakko nominated him anyway and he became Minister of Youths.

When he was sworn-in, President Jonathan forgot to assign to him a portfolio until the Chief of Staff whispered to him. He then said, “He should go to Ministry of Sports” to replace his kinsman. However, Youths Minister Bolaji Abdullahi whispered something to the CoS, who whispered to Jonathan, who then said, “Ok, let them exchange.”

I thought Inuwa was angry with me but on the day he was sworn in as minister, he invited me to come to the Hilton. Right away he asked me to be his Special Assistant. He said he had told Wamakko, who said I was the best choice. I however declined, saying I had written several columns critical of the Jonathan administration and I didn’t think they will tolerate me. Two years later Inuwa was dropped as minister because Wamakko joined nPDP rebels. Inuwa was called to State House and told to take over Sokoto PDP and fight Wamakko, which he refused and was sacked.

In 2015 when Aminu Waziri Tambuwal was governor-elect of Sokoto, Inuwa invited me to a secret meeting in Kaduna which he chaired. It was some kind of transition team. I asked why we were meeting secretly, and he said it was because Wamakko opposed the setting up of a formal transition committee. When the same committee met a year later, I sensed that trouble was already brewing between Wamakko and Tambuwal camps. I passionately pleaded with them not to fight as Kwankwaso and Ganduje were already doing in Kano. I said, “In Kano, they have money. In Sokoto we have nothing.”

Inuwa, who took me close to Wamakko, now became Wamakko’s deadly political foe. When Tambuwal defected to PDP, Wamakko’s men took over the Sokoto APC from ward to state level and soon expelled him, which Oshiomhole ratified, but it was reversed as part of the reconciliation early this year. Inuwa had another foe in Kaduna State governor Nasiru el-Rufa’i, who even demolished his house on a pretext. In 2015, el-Rufa’i had told Inuwa as a joke that “they call me Mai Rusau and I can demolish your Kaduna house.” Joke soon became reality.

I saw Inuwa for the last time in Sokoto in March, just before the lockdown. He came to my hotel room at midnight and stayed until nearly 3am. I was anxious because I was driving myself back to Kaduna in the morning. It was to be the last time I saw Inuwa Abdulkadir, Magatakarda Babba, a very loyal friend for 35 years. May Allah grant him Aljannat Firdaus.

Monday Column

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