Being full text of a paper presented by Gloria Mabeiam Ballason Esq, at the inaugural memorial lecture of late Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, on September 17, 2022, at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre, Abuja.
Thank you Mrs. Margaret Mailafia, the beautiful and dedicated widow of Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, Messrs Emmanuel and Samora, the arrows of his quiver, siblings, family members, friends and organizers of this event for the privilege to share such a profound and reflective moment in honour of a man whose species is now going extinct. Sadly, they don’t make too many of his type anymore. Hopefully, a conversation like this, as tribute to the footprints he lived and the fire of his devotion now left to light our way; would help us to believe and agree to follow in his steps.
My brief is to discuss the protection of life and property as fulcrum of nationhood.
The keywords are the protection of life, the protection of property and nationhood. The guarantee of the right to life is codified in international, continental, regional and national laws as a parent right; without which no other rights exist.
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is unequivocal when it states: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the inherent right of every person to life and for the right to be protected by law. No one, the article maintains, shall be arbitrarily deprived of life.
In Nigeria, Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence for which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
While Section 43 of Nigeria’s constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to acquire and own immoveable property in Nigeria.
The question is, if we have such glowing constitutional promise codified in gleaming parchments and from where these laws percolate the globe, continent and our nation, why is the mandate an unfulfilled promise?
Putting recent figures to the question: The Cable Index reports that 1,743 Nigerians were killed in 269 violent attacks in the first quarter of 2022 alone. That figure surpasses the number of civilians killed in the first month of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The present death rate in Nigeria as tracked by Macro Trends stands at 11.19 % with an abysmal -1.07% growth rate. SBM Intelligence reported that 10,366 Nigerians were killed in 2021 and that about $19.96 million dollars was demanded as ransom for kidnapped victims by criminal gangs in the first six months of 2021 alone! If we consider how criminality has become a state art and how agitators are punished and criminals are pampered, we would have cause to worry – and yes, Nigerians are worried.
We are worried because we are now trapped in a political space where government has lost its legitimacy and the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function. There is a loss of control of territory to insurgents and criminals.
There is the inability of government to provide basic public services. There is the erosion of legitimate authority through the criminal actions of non-state actors and some state actors.
There is civil violence. Corruption is high. We have high rates of crime, poverty and illiteracy. Boko Haram has kept many schools and institutions closed while the State has shut down public universities against over 2.1 million students for almost seven months now. On either counts, boko has now become haram.
We must therefore ask the question, are we a country at war, a failed state or both? Political pundits often argue, that part of the crisis of the Nigerian state is that there are many ungoverned spaces. In other words, they argue that there is a vacuum in areas where state authority is absent or negligible.
I think it should already be clear that the argument is spent. Nigeria as a country is a geographical entity that is an ungoverned space.
The issue of insecurity which before the present administration was a north-east and north-central challenge, is now being experienced in the north, south, east and west of Nigeria.
And although the government has complained about having challenges with manning the 84 regular border entry points and over 1,499 illegal border entry points, the government has found more effective ways to check the illegal importation of rice than it has done for illegal small and light firearms and heavy weapons.
There is the right to own immovable property in Nigeria as provided by Section 43 of the Constitution. Immovable property includes land and water rights. Unfortunately, the government has continued to come to the people through different covers with a demand for the people to give up those rights. First they came under the guise of grazing reserve, the people resisted. They rebranded and brought it back as Ruga, the people saw through it and refused.
They went back, repackaged it and brought it up as Cattle Colonies, the people said No.Today the same ploy to forcefully seize ancestral and water rights has been rejigged again and they want the consolidation of all streams and waters along with 6km lands therefrom to settle persons the government, by its own admission, has identified as foreigners.
And so we must ask,does the government understand that providing security and welfare for the people is their primary purpose? We must examine the mandate closely.
The requisite demand on government in section 14 of the 1999 Constitution and nationhood:
Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution says that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice. It goes on to declare that (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority. (b) The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
The provisions in Chapter two of the Constitution from which Section 14 is derived and indeed the entire Constitution, were put in place so we can actualize our dream of building a nation where peace and justice reigns because we would have ensured that personal and group identity, history, culture, political preferences are effectively shared and managed.
Unfortunately,many Nigerians do not feel a sense of nationhood or loyalty to a government that not only excludes them but endangers them as some political actors and actions have done.
During his 70th birthday,former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, traced the origin of the importation of foreign mercenaries of what the government now infamously brands as banditry. Baraje said: “We brought in Fulani from Mali, Sierra Leone, Senegal and environs to win the 2015 election and after the election, they refused to leave.” He also said: “we are not asking the right question on how the same Fulani we have been living with suddenly turned out a menace and how they have access to their guns.” (See the following: Is Buhari’s Government Behind Banditry? March 7, 2021 on THISDAY LIVE, We Brought in Fulani from Mali, Sierra Leone, Senegal,others to Win 2015 Elections… reubenabati.com.ng. March 3, 2021; Fulani Herdsmen Wreaking Havoc in Nigeria are Foreigners,Vanguard News, March 8,2021, APC brought in militias from Mali, Sierra Leone,Others to Win 2015 Polls Independent Newspaper 4 February 2021 etc).
The submissions of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje as cited are yet to be controverted or refuted by the Federal government.
On or about 26 August ,2021, a retired navy Commodore Kunle Olawunmi granted an interview on Channels Television and criticized President Buhari’s handling of security. He unequivocally said : The Government Knows Sponsors of Boko Haram. Subsequently,the retired Commodore was ‘invited’ by the Defence Intelligence Agency where he showed up with his lawyers.
On August 29, 2021, the DIA curiously went to press to say that they had not declared Mr. Olawunmi wanted but only invited him to ‘shed more light on information he provided on Channel Television on tackling terrorism’ ( See The Guardian 29 August, 2021).
Let us now turn to the experience of the Man in whose honour we are gathered today. On August 10, 2020, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia was a guest on Nigeria Info FM on the programme ‘Morning Crossfire’.
On that program, he evaluated the Southern Kaduna crisis and stated that repentant bandits had named a serving northern governor as one of their commanders. He gave facts and figures that were available to him and reminded us of his pedigree and how that he could not be speaking nonsense about a country he not only deeply loved, but was willing to die for.
To be clear, most of those facts and figures that Mailafia gave were well known to Nigerians and discussed in hush tones. Dr. Mailafia, an international public servant, former Central Bank Deputy Governor, ivy league scholar , lecturer, researcher, philosopher, former presidential aspirant, father, brother and more, decided to amplify our whispers into a roar.
From that time on, everything changed. The National Broadcasting Commission imposed a N5million fine on Nigeria Info Fm as a result of the interview Dr. Mailafia granted. According to NBC whose mandate, by the way does not include intelligence gathering, Nigeria Info Fm had provided its platform ‘to promote unverifiable and inciting views that could encourage or incite to crime and lead to public disorder’ and that Mailafia’s comments on the Southern Kaduna crisis, the area where Mailafia hails from and is his ancestral home, were ‘devoid of facts.’
Mailafia received series of ‘invitations’ by the State Security Service. He was forced to leave his job as an international expert who for the second time had offered to pass down his wealth of experience to top national leaders at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). He had to be moved under cover from place to place and he cried out several times about how his life was endangered.
On September 19, 2021, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, the first son of the Missionary Baba Mailafia Gambo Galadima and Mama Loya Anzayi, husband to Margaret, father to Emmanuel and Samora, sibling to eight others … died.
We must know that while many knew him as the high and lofty human of international repute and a philosopher of peerless depth and matchless brilliance, he was after all first a son, brother, husband and father. He was not a figure but a human being. He was high up and aerial in his view to have earned the role of Chef de Cabinet of the African Carribean Pacific Group of States and a consideration for the top role of a plum United Nations job but granular enough to care about Randa and Southern Kaduna, his wife, children and siblings.
But oh! our country treated him badly. Nigeria owes a debt to Dr. Obadiah Mailafia and his family that it is yet to recognize and that it cannot fully repay but our country can start from somewhere.
Where do we go from here?
Dr. Obadiah Mailafia would not have us rehash our woes without finding solutions to them. I know that much because he was my mentor, he helped hone my writing skills, was a big brother and the 2016 keynote speaker at the House of Justice Summit. We presented papers together on various platforms – the last of which was in June 2021 at the Governor Seyi Makinde National Democracy Summit in Ibadan. And so from these tangents I make the following recommendations in his honor:
First,we must be a country that honors patriots and punish criminals. Those who have brought Nigeria to this sorry state must be interrogated and prosecuted and should never be allowed anywhere close to the corridors of powers. If they have stolen from our common wealth, they must be made to pay back.
Second, there is a need to activate constitutional provisions that ensure people in leadership positions are removed from office for non- performance and prosecuted for crimes. No one should be above the law and no one should be treated beneath it.
Third, our education sector must be made to work; and our education must be in learning and character as a priority of the Nigerian state.
Four, our country must embrace truth even when it is inconvenient and must abhor evil and falsehood. Much of what Dr. Mailafia said in the interview are coming to pass. And so he was right.
You see,truth, by its very nature is not always smooth, nice or convenient but we will ignore it only to our peril.
We must have patriots who understand the responsibility that comes with building a nation and are willing to pay the price for it. So whether you are a politician, soldier, security agent, media, professional or citizen, our first sworn allegiance should be to God and the Constitution and not to any boss no matter how highly placed they deem themselves to be.
Five, there is nothing in the worst of us that cannot be overcome by the best in us. We may not always get it right but we can choose to acknowledge what has gone wrong and invest in making it right. We teach children the five magic words: please, excuse me, sorry, thank you and pardon me but as adults in this country, we have not learnt those basic courtesies.
President Joe Biden knelt before the young child of George Floyd on behalf of the United States of America as an example of humility of spirit and a clear intention to make things right. The leaders of this nation owes so many citizens an apology: the soldiers and security agents who fought for this country and did not have to die. The agitators arrested and persecuted for expressing dissent. Citizens displaced and rendered destitute in their country because the government would rather pay 180 million to clear grass than feed their displaced citizens. Our leaders must learn to say sorry.
I wish the circumstances of this meeting were different. We were always in constant conversation with Dr. Mailafia especially about the woes of our country and how we can steer it aright. Today, he is not here. I will never forget the shock that last year brought and how I happened upon the news of his death. My beloved dad had passed on 14 September, 2021. We buried him on 18 September. I did not have the luxury of sleeping in the village after the burial because I had to be sneaked out due to insecurity. When I opened my eyes at my hideout on September 19, 2021, I reached for my phone and happened on a beautiful picture of Dr. Mailafia and I that we had taken at the House of Justice Banquet. He wore a resplendent blue “baban riga” and a red cap, I had on a flowing yellow dress.
I was going to dial his number and report the woes of the burial night when news popped in a whatsapp group that he was being conveyed to the mortuary. Imagine the devastation of finding that the person you were reaching out to for comfort was lying stiff and cold and then imagine even more the agony of his family.
But the Mailafias and Nigeria are not hopeless. Those who care about Nigeria will always remember that our flag flies not because the winds blow but because a heroic patriot named Dr. Obadiah Mailafia and those like him, have through knowledge, resilience, sacrifice and hope invested in our freedom.
And, yes, freedom is coming. May the good Lord continue to comfort his family, heal Samora and guide us by His Spirit and our positive actions into the New Nigeria. God Bless the valiant and conscientious soul of Dr. Mailafia and keep him safe until we meet in the Celestial City.
Ballason is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), House of Justice, Kaduna.
She can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org