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The Prince and I, By Emmanuel Bello

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Emmanuel Bello
Emmanuel Bello

I wept through last night, reminiscing and reflecting on the true meaning of life.  In a strange paradox, life actually is death in mufti . Even in the midst of living, we are indeed dead. Prince Mustapha Hamman Gabdo, so full of life, so exuberant and vivacious, is no more and one can not help but examine what this ephemeral existence is really all about. He would be the third member of our Executive Council member who has passed on.  There was the late Jonah Agyo (Jojo) and our ultimate boss –  late Pharmacist Danbaba Danfulani Suntai. We all used to huddle up in the chilly Exco chamber in Jalingo.  By some Providence,  the commissioner of health (Gabdo)  was my neighbor in the seating arrangement at Exco. So while deliberations were on,  we got to “gossip” and chit chat during breaks. He always worry at my naivete. And I always badger him with questions. He smilingly obliged me like a big brother watching me all the time, amazed at my somewhat bravado. Impeccably dressed to the hilt, he was very versed in the recent history of the state and the nation as a whole. A brilliant man,  he was also humorous to a fault. I was always fascinated by the Prince: his costumes, his mannerisms, the gait, the carriage, the prestige, the general swag. He spoke the finest strand of the English language and expressed himself with candour and grace like the choice horses he rode during his beautiful durbars.

The glitter of royalty was about him not just in the palatial adornment he’s known for but even in his thoughts process. At EXCOs, he turned the atmosphere into some form of Royal setting and observes all of us with that kingly mien of his father, the indefatigable late Lamdo Gashaka. He was the Ciroma and he emblazoned that on his cars and his character. Was he a proud fellow?  Yes. But his was the product of the “Prideland” – the full weight of the son of a monarch who knew his history, his heritage and his place in the chronicles of his forebears. His pride wasn’t the haughty type, the hubris you find in people without a pedigree,  whose claim to fame is money made in public office. Prince’s came from a higher place where Lions and Eagles dwell.

He loved life. But again this wasn’t some kind of epicurean adventures. The prince only lived life because he was full of positive energy and ideas that should advance mankind. And he was a lover of people, of good things with quality.  They loved him too. I remember how he took to the rostrum at a campaign trail in Serti and began to sing a church song with the dexterity of a choir master. The zumanta mata (women fellowship) joined him and sang on. Although he was the scion of the Gashaka kingdom, he was a permanent revered face at other places around the continent from Cameroon to the heart of the Caliphate. He told me that he has a food always kept for him at the Aku Uka palace. He was literally the son of the late Kurmi Monarch. When the Kurmi Royal father died, Prince asked me to come with him to the funeral. On getting to Biassa, and to my astonishment,  Prince went straight to the inner rooms and came out dressed in the “anko” (uniform) of the family.  They had sewn and kept his own regalia for him. When it was time for photographs, Prince joined the one of the monarch’s children. And he blended well.

He was a consummate public officer whose work spanned banking, agriculture,  business and, of course, politics. He was a natural politician: affable,  honest,  respectful,  street wise, dogged and principled. And as he maneuvered  the murky terrain of politics, The Prince did his best to stay unblemished. It was mission impossible for any mortal. Politics is like a casino : you either lose or gain but you never remain  the same when you step into its shrines. So as I bid farewell to my colleague, brother and friend,  I’m sure history would be kind to him and forgive him his human frailties. And also secure him a place in Taraba’s politics hall of fame.

 

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