28 April 2009

Nigeria: Remembering Late Mala Kachallah


At a time like this when he will be spending his second year in eternity, it behoves me to briefly reflect on the pains of forgetfulness of people on the immeasurable contributions of one man to scholarship, religion, politics, and the general upliftment of men. At a time when we were still lamenting the disaster that was the electionsof April 18th, 2007, tragedy was added to me when he died. His death was as sad and shocking to me as it was to many Nigerians. And I was a witness when Maiduguri stood still for him while the nation wept at his death. But this same nation was to quick forget about him only two years on.

I have long wiped away my tears, knowing that it is a lamentation in futility. I have decided to dedicate my time to working towards the immortalization of my idol, Mala Kachallah. How I will do it is my greatest dilemma. Every sign of his name has been systematically destroyed. The only existing sign of his contributions to the nation is an obscure street in a housing estate in Kano. It is an irony that in Borno, where he held sway as governor for four years, nothing talks about him. May be these systematic denials will one day serve as the impetus for his martyrdom.

Shortly after his death, I started the idea of capturing the life and times of the late Mala Kachallah, former Governor of Borno state in a book form. Since then, I have learnt a lot about how men regard their friends in death. Although I remain hopeful that the book will be a reality some day, I was shocked at how people who portrayed Mala Kachallah as a friend suddenly ignored issues affecting him immediately he died. Those who were supposed to make inputs into the work now shun my visits, and those who promised to bail the project out financially have since declined. In fairness to a few though, they have been quite encouraging.

When he insisted that a book on him should not be published while he was alive, little did it occur to me that some people regarded as his friends might have been wrongly perceived after all. That not even one person, despite the huge empowerment received from Kachallah, takes out even half a page in a newspaper to commemorate his death goes a long way in confirming that, no matter how good a man may be, he is good enough only when he is physically around. With this at the back of my mind, I take consolation that Mala Kachallah need not be mentioned daily to remain ever green in the minds of those who valued him, yet mention must be made of how he has been unfairly forgotten.

It is only two years that Mala Kachallah died, and nobody seems to remember him again. Even those he thought would uphold his legacies after his death have abandoned him. His house, which used to be a Mecca of some sort, is now desolate. His widow and children have been left to their fates and only a few friends and family members visit them. Mala Kachallah may have turned a million times over in his grave seeing what has become of his hitherto robust socio-political network. Perhaps, given the opportunity to live again, he may be forced to review his relationships with people.

Looking back at what used to be his life, I very often ask whether it is the cruelty of death, the mischief of men, or the vanity of honest public service, that could make the memory of such a good man like Mala Kachallah to fade so soon from our memories. When he was alive, he was not only the cynosure of attention; he was a personality around whom the fortunes of many others wove. It is a sad thing that a man who was almost revered by both friends and foes could today be hardly remembered after only two years of his death.

Like Julius Caesar of the famous Shakespearean fame, Mala Kachallah's goodwill towards Nigeria and Nigerians was never appreciated until he died. Unlike Caesar though, Kachallah did not leave behind for Nigerians material things, but his philosophy of tolerance and accommodation were enough legacies that could turn the fortunes of a society around for the better. He died a sad but fulfilled man; saddened by the rapid degeneration of moral and social values; fulfilled that he was never found wanting in both his public and private outings. Testimonies of people about him have always painted the picture of one who sacrificed a lot for others to live. The mammoth crowd that converged on Maiduguri at his death was the greatest testimony of his popularity. The number of clerics who prayed for the repose of his soul for the forty days his funeral lasted was the story of his deep religious commitment.

As believers, we leave the cause of his death to God, but certain events around him hastened his demise. For example, he was disappointed with the flawed democratic process as manifested in the 2007 elections. Perhaps, most disappointing to him was the failure of people to realise the danger the country faced as a result of flawed elections. Given the false confidence created in his mind by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in that election, one will not be wrong to conclude that it was one of the factors that affected him. In the wee days of his life, he demonstrated a rare commitment to certain democratic changes in Borno State, which could have restored people's confidence in governance.

Kachallah's penchant for free and fair democratic processes had never been in doubt. It remains a truism that he lost the elections of 2003 because he did not want to take an unholy path to retain power. Throughout his campaigns at that time, he had always insisted on making the people's votes count. As governor, he never allowed power to becloud his humane and humble posture. And long after he left, his lifestyle had always been a reference point in debates on leadership attributes. Many of those people who had been identified with him have today found favours in the eyes of others because of Kachallah's good outings in life.

Time and space will not permit a full display of the enduring value of Mala Kachallah's contributions to humanity and the nation. At a time like this, when he will be spending his second year in eternity, it behoves me to reflect on the pains of people's forgetfulness of the goodness of this man.

*Inuwa Bwala was Senior Special Assistant (Media & Publicity) to the late Mala K achallah.

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