Some may ask, if Masari was a beneficiary of the old order, then why did he speak against it?But then history is replete with cases where leaders reach a breaking point that they could no longer keep swimming against their conscience. Such brute honesty could only be provoked by exceptional patriotism and a commitment to do what is right no matter the cost. So then, what did he do about it? The singular recognition that there is a problem and then having the courage to voice out his misgivings, even at great personal risk, is the first step. It constitutes fifty per cent of the solution. Masari was able to rise above primordial instincts and operate against his class without actually stepping out. Some may call it an internal revolution. The traditional method of doing things continuously the wrong way, and consistently getting wrong results yet, resolutely remaining steadfast in the expectation of a different outcome, surely best describes the term ‘lunacy’. Masari certainly knew this.
Also, one may ask, was Masari merely sounding off when he blamed his political colleagues for abusing the basic codes of decency in leadership? Records indicate that at the time he sounded the warning alarm, by virtue of his political position, Masari stood to gain more by flowing along with the tide. That fact that he chose to swim against it points more to his sincerity of purpose and a desire to upload the obligations bestowed on him by fate and divine providence. Many before him have played, and are still playing, the meek “system slave”. They continue to reap the attendant bountiful material benefits. Alas! society and history will not be so kind to those who slaughtered the common good at the altar of personal achievement.
It is particularly instructive to note that his description was that of the addictive behavior of leaders and their propensity for manipulating issues to achieve selfish ends. This was done at the expense of a trusting public. Such behavior could better be understood when viewed from the prism of power struggle in direct relation to power source or, at least its generally assumed source, particularly in the context of Nigerian politics – the context that put power entirely in the hands of one person and a small select group of cronies. Breaking the “omerta” code, Masari proposed a solution. His was a classical example of courting political suicide. However, viewed from the perspective of humanity, which comes complete with religious and traditional obligations, one could easily see that his was one suicide that is honorable. It comes across more as one man’s self sacrifice to save his country from itself.
It was Sir Winston Churchill, then UK’s Secretary of Defense at the on-set of World War I, who said, “I have nothing to offer but toil, blood, sweat and tears” That was one of the finest statesmen of the 20th century telling his people the truth. He captured the reality of what it takes to resist external aggression, check internal subversion and ensure the sustainability of nation building. If only our leaders could be half as blunt. This is the sure way to earn the collective trust, motivate the political class to close ranks for the common-good and put every citizen in a “Yes We Can” mode.
At least, in Nigeria, Masari has proven to be a pioneer in this regard. His soft unassuming demeanor is all the more advantageous in such that it masks the strong-willed personality within. This is a mystique that works well for highly effective leaders as nothing of their inner resolve gets betrayed, especially when such resolve is channeled towards preserving the trust of the majority where it is threatened by the ambitions of those who should have known better. Incidentally, President Obasanjo was one of the first to taste Masari’s dose of public accountability pill. At the time, Obasanjo was consumed by the belief that everybody was there to massage his ego and tow the line of the ill-conceived third term project. Therefore, the president got the shock of his life when Masari reminded him of the terminal date of his mandate which the president then seemed to have forgotten. It was then more of a taboo subject within the ruling party. Yet Masari broached it, making his position clear from the on-set.
Undoubtedly, most politicians in Masari’s position would have gladly accompanied President Obasanjo on this trip of democracy-wrecking. Indeed, a sizeable did just that. Surely, Masari was well placed to strike a deal with the then president and his third term side-kicks. Many posit that it would have been a deal born in heaven (or should we say hell), which could easily had gotten him the PDP governorship ticket of Katsina state and its predictable attendant rigged victory as experience has shown in other places (needless to mention here the recent Ribadu defection and ticket waiver scenario). Had he struck the gavel in the compromised way he was then urged to, perhaps this article would most likely be a review of his 7 year stewardship as the chief executive of Katsina State. However, his passion for doing things the right way wouldn’t allow him short circuit the system to achieve personal ambitions.
At a time when all sorts of material inducement, political blackmail and exploitation of ethnic and religious divisions constituted the mainstay of the executive’s political armory, Masari inherited a rowdy and divided House of Representatives. The singular unifying factor was his strength of character, humility, openness and the ability to accept constructive criticism. Even his opponents agree that one could accuse him of anything but betraying the public trust is not one of them. This is what helped save our democracy and probable descent into irreconcilable political conundrum at that time.
In these times of great upheaval and uncertainty, clear-headed stewarship is all the more desirable. Whatever Masari chooses to do into the future, retirement is obviously not an option. It may be tempting; yet such temptation could only be enjoyed at the expense of compromising his own estimation in the public mind. History won’t be so forgiving either. Indeed, Nigeria doesn’t need messiahs. It only needs principled leaders to steer its ship. Masari is one of such few.Concluded
Maiwada Dammallam resides in Abuja