By Tawey Zakka
Dr. Ando A. Shiaki died 20 years ago, exactly Nov. 11 1999. Writing about this iconic personification of an emergent Kuteb national identity has proved particularly difficult because, firstly, his highly visible political involvement did not resonate with a people yet to understand their proper place in a volatile and often hostile socio-political milieu. This explains why there is little or no documentation of the great man’s exploits and personal sacrifice for his people. That it is only a memorial is being planned for him is both an indictment and a commendation. Secondly, the lack of documentation of Shiaki’s life and time is as much a consequence of the circumstances of his emergence on the stage. He appeared like a bolt out the blue and disappeared just as quickly. He appeared as one on a Messianic mission but one acutely aware of the short time he had on his hand to accomplish it. In a sense, his typified the ministry of our Great LORD Jesus Christ. This address will disappoint you if you had expected a biography of Shiaki. No, rather it will dwell on the methods he used to accomplish that mission and their effectiveness or lack of it.
A trained medical doctor, eloquent but reticent, Shiaki’s whirlwind appearance was both a shock and a surprise: a shock to the Chamba hegemonic establishment and surprise to his Kuteb kith and kith who had all but given up hope of freedom from their oppressors. In 1990-91, he became the chairman of Takum local government area, the first Kuteb to hold that position. In that position and within that short time, Shiaki revolutionized local government administration. In the ‘war’ against his detractors he took no prisoners. You either walked and worked with him or be shoved aside. He made no pretensions about his mission: to set his Kuteb people free. He peopled the administration with his kinsmen and women; but in doing so he was not unmindful of merit. Those he brought into the administration were people eminently qualified. He did not have to search far and wide to find them. They were in abundance. How did it happen? The Kuteb used the period of their persecution to acquire education, while the ‘enemy’ indulged in the debauchery of drunken power. By the time they realized the mirage of their vanity, the Kuteb had left them far behind in the knowledge race. Till date, the opposition still resents this intellectual advantage and accounts for its unwillingness to dialogue with the Kuteb.
I still cannot say, for sure, whether or not Shiaki realized at the time that a war is not won until the hearts and minds of people are won over. Even if he did not, he did something fortuitous that helped to push the cause he was fighting. His decision to open a garden in the heart (centre) of Takum was a political master stroke. As a business, it was a flop because it was losing money: many ended up not paying for the drinks they ordered. However, it provided a good venue where the Kuteb intelligentsia often gathered to discuss the future of the inchoate Kuteb nation, away from the prying eyes and out of the listening ears of the enemy. Until that time, our men and women frequented bars owned by Ibos, places also visited by the enemy. The Igbo bar owner would take money from his Kuteb customers as well collect information which he passed over to the enemy. In other words, he played the dual role of a businessman and a dangerous informant. I recalled a sad incident one night in 1990 at Cameroun quarters by Yola Road, just opposite the late Hassan Maiyaki’s residence. [I understand the sprawling compound has been repossessed by the enemy because Hassan allegedly defaulted on the mortgage he took] There was a drinking parlour owned by an Ibo in the quarters. I happened to be in Takum, having obtained a leave of absence from my employers at Citizen Communications Ltd in Kaduna. That year was the year Rubur Nyim was attacked and sacked by Chamba allies at Kapyea and Fete. The discussion among Kuteb revelers that night soon turned to the invasion. The unfortunate comment I picked up was that Rubur people were too cowardly to have allowed their place to be sacked. I just couldn’t understand how they had forgotten that Rubur Nyim, surrounded as it is by the enemy, serves as a protective door mat for the Kuteb nation. If it is destroyed the whole race is imperiled and vulnerable. By the way, instead of casting blame why not saved the money being wasted on alcohol that “leads to debauchery” for food and munition for the courageous young men fighting the enemy on the Rubur front. In anger, I fled the place and the following day made my way back to Kaduna. A year or so later, I was told that Kuteb quarters of Takum had been sacked. Those who fled from the city centre would regroup opposite the army barracks where a wholly new city has sprung up.
I do not know if Shiaki read Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. In my many conversations with him, including a long drive in his car from Takum to Gboko and a night spent in his house, Shiaki never mentioned the author or the book. However, his understanding of power and how to use it to one’s maximal advantage was faultless. Let us see how:
a) Law #28 Enter action with boldness
Greene posits that “If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid”. He illustrates this point with the story of the young Pietro Aretino. In 1514, at age 22, he was running errands for a rich Roman family. Nobody took notice of him. To draw attention to himself, Aretino published an anonymous pamphlet lampooning the Roman nobility, including the Pope at the time, Pope Leo X. The pamphlet caused quite a stir throughout Rome. Greene writes, “With one short pamphlet, Aretino, son of a poor shoemaker and servant himself, he hurled himself to fame. Everyone in Rome rushed to find out who this daring young man was. Even the pope amused by his audacity, sought him out and ended up giving him a job in the papal service. Over the years, Aretino came to be known as the “Scourge of Princes”, and his biting tongue earned him the respect and fear of the great, from the king of France to the Hapsburg emperor”. Greene’s conclusion: When you are as small as David was, you must find a Goliath to attack. The larger the target, the more attention you gain. The bolder the attack, the more you stand out from the crowd, and the more admiration you earn. Society is full of those who think daring thoughts but lack the guts to print and publicize them. Voice what you feel the public feels = the expression of shared feelings is always powerful. Search out the most prominent target possible and nd sling your boldest shot. The world will enjoy the spectacle, and will honour the underdog = you, that is = with glory and power.
How did Shiaki use the Aretino strategy? His target was not a Polycarp or an Ashu but the man at the very top in the enemy’s camp: a former chief of army staff and minister of defence. After he left the military, the civil war veteran chose to lead a revived Jukun expedition force by accepting a frightful war garb from the Aku Uka. In a piece that I did which was run in New Nigerian newspaper on January 20 1982, I said: For someone who risked his life in defence of our fatherland to have accepted to lead a tribal cause was …damnable. The role I had expected to this respected son of the soil to play was that of a pacifist, but he side-stepped that role, choosing to return home a wolf to prey on the Kuteb. It was this Civil War hero that Shiaki, then an unsung medical doctor practising, not at home but Gboko in Benue state, took on. That David versus Goliath fight earned Shiaki the respect of his kinsmen and fear of the Chamba.
Did Shiaki, like David, win in the end?
b)Law #4 Always say less than necessary
This is what Greene thinks: “When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely ou are to say something foolish”. His inference: “Power is in many ways a game of appearances, and when you say less than necessary, you inevitably appear greater and more powerful than you are. Your silence will make other people uncomfortable. Humans are machines of interpretation and explanation; they have to know what you are thinking. When you carefully control what you reveal, they cannot pierce your intentions or your meaning”.
Unlike his opponents, Shiaki wielded no pistol or gun. His weapon was his taciturnity. A man of very few words, he concealed his intentions and plans from the enemy, making him sheepish. His silence blunted the blade of the enemy’s sword. Yes, Shiaki was not much of a loud speaker, but he wrote compulsively. He compiled a volume of poetry that gave vent to his deep thoughts. In his Gboko residence, he turned it over to me. However, to my shame I must admit, I lost it during my travels between Kaduna and Lagos. I want to believe, he kept copies in a file. I urge the children to find and have it published as an anthology. This said, the psychological advantage of Shiaki over the enemy was not to last. The General managed to deliver one fatal political thrust. It happened in 1992 when Shiaki wanted to run for the governorship of old Gongola State. He had just been removed as chairman of Takum Council, and turned his attention to the governorship race, which he entered flying the flag of National Republican Convention (NRC), one of two parties President Ibrahim Babangida had created under his convoluted transition to civil rule programme. The General, though retired, used his enormous influence in the government, the military and the secret service to stop Shiaki, citing “security reasons”. He completed his coup de grace in April 1997 when he got the government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar to excise 3 Kuteb communities [Bika, Kwambai and Rubur Nyim or Jenuwa Kogi] from Takum LGA in an absurd boundary adjustment that brought far-flung Chamba communities into Takum. Now back to the question: Did Shiaki, a little David, win the battle with a Goliath? Here you have an answer.
The end. Was Shiaki betrayed by ‘friends’?
Greene’s Law #2 Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies
He advocates wariness of friends because “they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them”. Shiaki’s end was too sudden. Did he forget this law of power? Theories of the cause of death have been bandied around. I am in no position to confirm or deny them. Suffice to say that his death dimmed to torch of a rising nation.
Let me use yet another Jesus parallelism. A new Kuteb nation shall rise from the ashes of Shiaki’s demise. And “the gates of Hell (the enemy) shall not prevail against it”. The Church of Christ was not founded till after His departure from the earth. For that to happen required that there be faithful, loyal and courageous disciples, ready to face persecution, even martyrdom. Am I a truthful Shiaki apostle? Are you one? Ca, c’est la grande question. [That is the big question]
Tawey Zakka is the Chairman of Editorial Board, Peoples Daily, Abuja.