By Inuwa Bwala
Like many others. I was preparing on how to confront the lockdown which has just been imposed on Borno. I managed to escape to my village, Marama, where I knew the consequences of the lockdown may be less, compared to what I may be exposed to in Maiduguri. I could not join my family in Abuja either, as they are also battling with their own version of the lockdown. On checking my messages, my heart sank when I saw the post” Alhaji Modu Sheriff, the Galadima of Dikwa in Borno State and father of some prominent people in Borno is dead.”
I could imagine what the family may be going through. Many people, including my humble self would have loved to be part of the burial and funeral. With the lock down in place: no thanks to the dreaded COVID 19, that possibility has been ruled out. Even those who may make it, they may not be spared by the social distancing theory, introduced to curb the spread of the disease.
Expecting it to be a sort of social gathering and rendezvous for old political foes, the funeral of Baba Galadima is coming at the wrong time. I would have loved to be there, so I can pay my respect and condole members of the family: most of whom are still my very good friends. Seeing that I will not be amongst those who will lay the wreath at his tomb or sing a dirge for my friends, I chose to pay my tribute in this way.
I met Alhaji Modu Sheriff, the Galadima of Dikwa and patriarch of the Sheriff family only a few times, in the company of, Mala Kachallah, Mala Alamai and Galadima Mai Dunoma; all of blessed memory. They were all businessmen, doing very well in their individual businesses. When Mala Kachallah became the Governor of Borno State and invited me for talks at the Government lodge in Abuja, I met him again in the company of the same fellows. After I became Mala Kachalla’s spokesman, by which time his son Ali Modu Shjeriff was just drawing the political battle line with Mala Kachallah, I rarely saw him with Mala Kachallah.
In the heat of the political quarrels between him and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, his eventual successor in office, my late boss, Mala Kachallah, told me never to drag his friend and confident Alhaji Modu Sheriff, the Galadima of Dikwa Emirate in Borno State, into the fray. He told me Baba Galadima as he was fondly called and the late Mala Alamai were his bosom friends and nothing could ever make them denounce each other, no matter their perceived opinions about issues.
Even if my boss, Mala Kachallah had not cautioned me, I would not have found any cause nor justification to fault Baba Galadima, even when I knew the roles he played in shaping and reshaping the political direction of his son, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. As Mala Kachallah’s chief image maker, I was determined to use all available arsenals at my disposal to defend him in the face of the spurious allegations Ali Sheriff leveled against him in the wee days of his administration and in the early days of Sheriff’s government.
By then, I was ready to attack anybody who alleged anything bad against my boss. Very often, Mala Kachallah would ask me to mellow down, but my passion to prove his virtues was so overwhelming. Despite that, I avoided dragging the family of Baba Galadima into the battle line. The late Kachallah encouraged me to visit Baba Galadima regularly, which I did. And every time I met him, he told me the story of their several escapades with Mala Kachallah. He equally told me, that nothing could separate him from Kachallah; not even the political disagreement with his son Ali Sheriff.
Before Mala Kachallah died, he told me, in the presence of his deputy then, Ali Abubakar Jatau that he had nothing against Ali Modu Sheriff, and if for any reason there arose the need for us to work together, I should know that he would not be against it. By a twist of fate, I found myself working with Ali Modu Sheriff as his Commissioner for Information. Paradoxically, I never met Baba Galadima even for once during the period I served under his son, yet I knew he was the power behind the throne.
Anybody who needed anything from Ali Modu Sheriff as governor of Borno State could have gotten it easier going through his father Baba Galadima or his wife, Fatimah Ali Sheriff. He was the virtual oracle for all political outings and commanded tremendous respect amongst party stalwarts and top government officials. I never went to him not because I did not respect or admire him as the clearing house, but because I felt it was dangerous for me entangling myself in the political web around him at that time.
Baba Galadima was so powerful and influential on Ali Sheriff’s Government, to the effect that, when the idea of breaking the once powerful Dikwa Emirate into two was first muted, so many people thought he was going to be crowned the Shehu of Dikwa. It was not until long after another was named as the Shehu, that the public got to know that he actually declined the offer and chose to remain a loyal title holder of Galadima of the second most powerful emirate in Borno.
I did not meet Baba Galadima again until Ali Modu Sheriff left Government and attempted to muscle his successor, resulting into his quarrel with his successor, Senator Kashim Shettima. Yusuf Adamu, who used to be very close to the family took me to the Galadima of Dikwa in Abuja. After the necessary homages, he gave me one hundred thousand naira to fuel my car. It meant a lot to me then, because nothing was forthcoming from Ali Sheriff. I did not find it necessary to seek for Baba Galadima again, because by then, the Sheriff family itself was torn between the two key players and I knew he loved the children equally. I did not want my relationship with Ali Sheriff to rub off on his relationship with Ali’s siblings. By then, I had already pitched tent with Sheriff and absconded my office, making me the first victim of the political battle of that time.
Baba Galadima was always on hand to offer useful suggestions on how those of us around Ali Modu Sheriff could handle issues. He suggested many ways Sheriff could avoid the political pitfalls he fell into before and after leaving office as Governor. On several occasions we had consulted him in our battles for the soul of the PDP. He struggled always to keep his family in one shape, even when there were threats of political brinkmanship. He was the unseen hand behind many of the success Ali Sheriff made and was the oracle he always consulted.
The business community will miss him, the political space will shake without him, but more importantly, now that he is no more, coupled with Ali Sheriff’s declining political fortunes, Baba Galadima’s absence may leave a vacuum in Ali Sheriff political permutations against 2023 and indeed the future.
Inuwa Bwala was two times Commissioner for Home Affairs and Information and Culture, Borno State.