By Emma Agu
It is only a thin line between heroism and martyrdom. Time and again, social entities look for leaders with sufficient gumption to bite the bullet on their behalf. When such leaders lose, in the process, they could become martyrs. When they succeed, they are crowned as heroes or heroines.
But between martyrdom and heroism, there is only a thin line. What perhaps distinguishes the two is that, in most cases, martyrs do not live to tell the story. But some heroes do.
The world is replete with people who suffered martyrdom in pursuit of the freedom of their people. Latin American freedom fighter Che Guevara, and the United States Human Rights activist, Rev. Martin Luther King Junior and many more, paid the supreme price in the quest for freedom. Nearer home, Nelson Mandela’s place in history was assured when he chose life in prison for the liberty of his people.
Nigeria is not devoid of great men and women who, at grave personal risk, stood up to be counted against colonialism, official highhandedness and fascism. The late Gani Fawehinmi and Bala Usman, both of blessed memory, are emblematic of a genre of patriotic Nigerians who, through relentless advocacy and public demonstrations, stood on the way of Nigeria descending into fascism as brutal military regimes foisted a reign of terror, on the people. What stands them out from the pack is the boundless altruism that underscored their actions. They were patriots who came at the nick of time.
Today, Nigeria is caught in a new crisis of confidence that calls for patriots to rise to be counted. The country sits atop a time bomb. Forces of disintegration prowl the landscape, ignoring invidious premonitions of danger, even catastrophic implosions. Atop the murky waters of pride, self-delusion and brinksmanship, the ship of state sails perilously towards the precipice. Between 1981 and 1983, as he screamed himself hoarse, a blind elite arrogantly ignored the relentless entreaties of the late Obafemi Awolowo, until the Shehu Shagari Administration was stopped in its tracks by the ‘Men on Horse Back’.
Nigeria was on the same path again in 2010 when the country sailed precariously on murky waters due to the ill-health of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua. The country stood on edge, almost rudderless because a section of the political class, against reason, stood on the path of constitutionalism by blocking the incumbent Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, from taking over from an ailing President Yar’Ardua. The complex logjam had all the trappings of a religious cum ethnic and regional crisis. Yar’Ardua, a Moslem and Fulani from the North had barely been in power for two years after succeeding President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian and Yoruba by tribe from the South (who was in power for eight years) when ill-heath effectively ended his Presidency.
As Yar’Ardua was moved from one hospital to the other, some powerbrokers, predominantly from the North, spewed various theories to stop Jonathan, a Christian from the South, from succeeding the ailing president. Thus, the stage was set for high stake political drama, one which outcome was clearly unpredictable. What was clear was the unwillingness of most Northerners to stake their heads against opposition to Jonathan.
Surprisingly, as hope receded, from unusual quarters rose a patriot, a man of straw, a constitutionalist and statesman who, defying every odd, led a group of compatriots in defence of the Constitution. Contextually, this harbinger of piece, stood out from others, for four significant reasons:
First, he was a Moslem. Second, he was of the Hausa-Fulani political stock. Third, he was from the North. Fourth, he was of the minority All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that was led at the time by Muhammadu Buhari, who maintained a principled distance from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that controlled a majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
To those who want to know the implication of the above four considerations, here is a simple response. The promoter of that bulwark of defence of the Constitution, the patriot who led his compatriots to roll back the Armada of conceit against the Constitution, had simply offered his head at the guillotine of Nigeria’s chequered politics. He was on his way to political martyrdom. His head could have been chopped off from Nigeria’s body politics forever. Luckily, he survived and for a country that does not have a great reputation for recognising heroes, his celebration may yet be deferred. Just for a short period.
That man, the mover of the Doctrine of Necessity Motion, that paved the way for Goodluck Jonathan, the unassuming scholar from the Niger Delta, to break the glass ceiling of Nigeria’s tripodal political monopoly, was Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, who is today the Executive Governor of Bauchi State where, the mantra of his Administration is inclusive Government. Through astute diversity management, Bala Mohammed, a doyen of the civil service, a seasoned technocrat, an unrepentant constitutionalist, a compassionate manager of men and an astute politician, has welded disparate emotional strata of Bauchi State into a united front that is preoccupied with the breath-taking infrastructural projects that have received the commendation of eminent Nigerians such as former President Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former President of the Senate David Mark, APC Leader Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and a host of others too numerous to mention.
The fact that there is a groundswell of support for Bala Mohammed’s second term among both Muslim and Christian religious groups in Bauchi State, all in a bid to thwart speculations that he is nursing a presidential ambition, is ample evidence of his diversity management credentials, in a state that was previously characterised by inter-group suspicion, fuelled by elite insensitivity.
It is also to Bala Mohammed’s credit that, before Bauchi, he had set a record in diversity management, as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between 2010 and 2015. Groups fell over each other with awards for him, all in recognition of the inclusive nature of his administration. He was able to achieve unprecedented stakeholder buy-in because he ensured that the FCT represented Nigeria in word and in deed. Uppermost in his management credo, at the time, was an unwavering commitment to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
By his antecedents, so far, Bala Mohammed has demonstrated that he is, at, once a true Moslem, a proud Northerner a patriotic Nigerian, a humanist, a bridge builder and an avowed Constitutionalist. He has also maintained the position that a conference of Nigeria’s constituent nationalities had become imperative to resolve the sore points that threaten the country’s fragile unity and stability. It is this pragmatism that throws Bala Mohammed up as, perhaps, the prospective elixir to the deep-seated political and socio-economic malaise presently ravaging Nigeria.
He possesses the genuine disposition, sacrificial spirit and political will, to repress the DNA of parochialism that is the root cause of Nigeria’s political woes. More than ever before, if anybody is in a position to damn sectional Czars and re-enact the 2010 constitutional feat, that saved Nigeria from self-destructing, Bala Mohammed can be trusted to provide that leadership.
Will he get the chance? That is the Zillion Naira question which answer depends on many factors. From what I know about him, Bala Mohmmed’s eventual response to the several endorsements he has received will depend on the way, the raging debate over what part of should produce the President is resolved.
Besides, his party parades a crowd of highly qualified candidates such as former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, renowned pharmacist and quintessential industrialist Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa and Governor Aminu Tambuwal, not to mention Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a statesman for whom Bala Mohammed has the highest respect. It is a mark of that respect that informed Bala Mohammed’s decision to invite the former Vice President to commission a major road project in Bauchi State, to mark his (Atiku’s) 73rd birthday, a day that was almost treated as a public holiday in Bauchi State.
It is within the above context that Bala Mohammed’s much touted call on the former vice president to step than for younger elements should be seen and understood. What needs to be added is that Bala Mohammed, by birth and training, revers age, tradition and achievement. He is passionate about seniors, particularly ex-servicemen and women whose patriotic services form the anvil on which the unity and progress of the country revolve. If, in the end Bala Mohammed runs for President, it will be because of his belief that the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain and that, just as our forefathers preserved this great nation for us, his (Bala) generation has a moral duty to prioritize the legitimate demand of the millennials, for a just, fair, inclusive and prosperous society.