Alhaji Umaru Dikko, nostalgia and PDP’s politics

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A WEEK can be a very long time in politics. This is even truer within the pressure cooker ambiance of Nigerian politics. Two events this week, underline the central place of power and the incredible struggle to retain it, by the denizens of the PDP.

Firstly, the party’s leadership reached for the past to exhume one of the dinosaurs of our political history, to solve problems very much in the mould of the present. They made Alhaji Umaru Dikko chairman of a new National Disciplinary Committee. Alhaji Umaru Dikko’s re-emergence speaks volumes about the mindset of old man, Bamanga Tukur. He was a governor, for a few months, of the old Gongola State, during the Second Republic, 1979-83, when Alhaji Umaru Dikko, was one of the most powerful individuals in the country.

He served as Transport minister; was a close confidant of President Shehu Shagari and in the high-wire politics of the period, was set up as straw man by the UPN opposition media, upon whom was poured so much opprobrium.

So successful was the demonization of Dikko, that the Buhari military dictatorship which toppled the Shagari administration, hired Israeli thugs to kidnap the man. He was drugged and crated and it took the Ghanaian journalist, Elizabeth Ohene, to blow the whistle that allowed British security to stop the man’s return to Nigeria. A diplomatic row ensued!‘

Most Nigerians today are too young to have heard about that colourful politician of the NPN era. But to Bamanga Tukur, there is a strong element of symbolism and nostalgia involved in the constitution of a Disciplinary Committee with Alhaji Umaru Dikko as chairman. The parties of the Second Republic had an admirable cohesion and fidelity to basic principles, which elude the vote-rigging contraptions parading as parties today.

For instance, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai used to tell the story of how the NPN’s caucus met weekly, with party chairman, Chief Adisa Akinloye presiding, while President Shehu Shagari attended as a loyal party member. The president was not party “leader” as is the practice today. In the Nigerian states today, governors are the ultimate emperors and eternal puppeteers. They hold the purse strings, make and unmake the party apparatchiks and manipulate the political process to often, disreputable and personal ends.

This led to the exasperation felt by old party men from the NPN era like PDP chairman, Bamanga Tukur. He hacks back to the past to find solution to the problems the present has thrown up. But old man Tukur must give himself the pause; how can he demand the discipline of the NPN era when President Jonathan benefits from the anachronism reigning inside today’s PDP? Maybe old man Umaru Dikko will re-bottle the genie! But the portents are not hopeful.

Nostalgia can be potent but reality is a painful teacher. The era of the disciplined political party died with the Twentieth Century. The PDP (and its opposition clones like ACN, CPC APGA or ANPP!) reflects very much the new era of power without much principle and little responsibility. The platform of buccaneering and personal aggrandizement by groups of elite devoted not to the good of society but the protection of the racket that politics has evolved into.

The most likely scenario remains the re-rallying of the troops because no one, not even the most apparently aggrieved, wants to be out of the loop of power. And that brings us to the second issue of the day. After the huffing and puffing of the past few weeks, Governors Sule Lamido, Aliyu Wamakko, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, finally met with President Goodluck Jonathan, early this week. Lamido confirmed that the meeting held: “Yes, we met with Mr. President to discuss the current political situation in the country.

He invited us, five of us…The discussions were very frank and honest. We told ourselves the truth. And we were very, very frank with each other. So let’s leave it at that”. As the posturing for 2015 gathers pace, even old man EK Clarke, who heads the hawkish, gung-ho brigade of the Jonathan project, was said to have discovered statesmanship. Lamido said Clarke publicly apologized for “whatever might have been their perceived concerns and anger over his utterances”.

Sule Lamido added a clincher: “That is how leaders and elders should behave”; but knowing EK Clarke for what he is, the question should be for how long can he wear the ill-fitting, borrowed robe of the statesman?

These are interesting times indeed! For the sake of continued retention of power, the sharpened knives will be hidden under starched Babarigas for a while. Just for a while! The next round of heated passion will arise when they have to share the spoils of victory. 2015 isn’t too far away! But for now, it will be interesting to see how much discipline Alhaji Umaru Dikko can knock into the undisciplined political mob that constitutes the PDP.

Music, radio and life

TWO weeks ago, I wrote a longish essay on aspects of Nigerian music, which surprised quite a few readers, including Uncle Sam Amuka, VANGUARD’s publisher. He asked me a few questions about where my knowledge of Nigerian music came from. In the days since that piece was published, I have reflected upon the place of music in my life and I look back with nostalgia to my early years, and my father’s old GRUNDIG “changer”.

We had a very impressive collection of gramophone records: Indian songs; Jazz (and Nat King Cole was a perennial favourite!); all the contemporary highlife artists of the day, from Bobby Benson through to Rex Lawson and Adeolu Akinsanya; IK Dairo; Haruna Isola and the great Hausa crooners, from Mamman Shata; Dan Kwairo to Ahmadu Ganga Ganga.

I wonder why my head was not bursting from listening to the most eclectic choice of songs as a young, growing boy of the 1960s! And that “changer” will churn out so much music each day, inviting me, and my extended family of cousins, to sing and dance. They were really jolly years of coming into consciousness.

A combination of events that I have narrated in the past, made it almost inevitable that I was going to end up working in broadcasting. And by the late 1970s, the art of the Deejay had become so well recognized in Nigeria.

I became very popular as a Deejay on Radio Nigeria, Ilorin. When I attended the Basic Announcers’ Course at the Broadcasting House in Ikoyi, in March 1978, Radio Nigeria Two, AM-FM Stereo, was the rave, with Tony Ibegbuna; Benson Idonije; Kevin Amaechi; Ron Mgbatogu and others, being trendsetters. Radio Nigeria made its announcers real professionals; we learnt to present music and as part of the training, had to compere a real band and in my time, it was Eddy Okonta’s band that was brought into Studio Nine. Lawrence Emeka taught us about Nigerian music in a manner that today’s university professors can only envy.

And the entire ambience at the Broadcasting House, Ikoyi, was so infectious in its excellence that one was not likely to pass through and not be affected for life! I remember walking through the corridors each morning, to reach our Language Laboratory, passing by the office of the classical composer, Adams Fiberesima, with classical music wafting through loudspeakers; he seemed perpetually busy and was composer of the classical piece, HIGHLIFE NIGERIANA. The two Felas (Fela Sowande and Fela Kuti) had passed through those haloed precincts and the trumpeter, Zeal Onyia became my very good friend!

By the time the Obasanjo military regime re-organised broadcasting in 1978, leading to the emergence of states-owned broadcasting organisations, I chose to become a pioneer member of staff at Radio Kwara. The philosophy of broadcasting evolved and the mantra became Grassroots Broadcasting (GRB). We became part of a process which consciously began to collect and broadcast the different musical genres available in Kwara state: Nupe (people like Hajiya Hauwa Kulu Lafiagi); the Batonbu speaking artists who recoded mainly in Republic of Benin; the Ebirra artists (Alhaji Ahmadu Senior; Alhaji Sule Adeku; Mataga and his Umanave group and the various musical arts related to Egugu festival in Ebirra land); the Okun artists like Aina Tetebiare; and the Dadakuada; Toobeni; Baalu traditions of Ilorin and Hajiya Hassana Abake, of the Igbomina; Jolomiro from Babanloma and the travelling minstrel from the same town, Jangalade!

I used to encounter him as a child on
the train journey between Ilorin and Jebba. This remarkable repertoire did not stop us from connecting with other Nigerian forms from North and South. And as a Deejay, I researched and played the latest disco songs; reggae and other forms (the magazine BLACK MUSIC was a treasure trove of information and I never missed a copy in those days) on radio and was always invited as Deejay by students’ organisations at the University of Ilorin and the Kwara Polytechnic (called Kwara TECH then!).

I have retained an enormous appetite for music till today, and I listen to everything from classical music (what can I do without Beethoven, Mozart and Shostakovich?) through to Jazz, with Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday and Nat King Cole ever accompanying me.

I love the musical traditions of Mali and Guinea, especially Salif Keita; Nahawa Doumbia; Ali Farka Toure; Kasse Mady; Kante Mamfila, Mory Kante and of course, those great artists from Congo: Franco; Tabu Ley; Zaiko Langa-Langa and Mbilia Bell not to forget the Camerounian Manu Dibango and Hugh Masekela from South Africa, who I spent a long time with during a reporting trip to Ghana in 2007. He told me truly remarkable tales of a time he spent as a guest of Fela at the AFRIKA SHRINE during the 1970s. I have been very lucky to be born at a remarkable juncture in Nigerian history.

Things worked pretty well in those times, and we were lucky to have been trained within a broadcasting tradition that had and demanded exacting standards. I am the professional I am, thanks to the opportunities that Nigeria gave me.It is one of those reasons that I love our country with a passionate intensity and always feel a sense of commitment to its betterment! In music, I found one of the many reasons to love and connect with the humanity of others in Nigeria and around the world.

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