BY: Inuwa Bwala
Ten years ago; precisely on April 18th, 2007; just a few days to the Governorship elections, fate dealt a terrible blow on me, when death snatched my mentor, my father and my friend, former Governor of Borno state, Mala Abdulsalam Kachallah. Each year since his demise, I tried to cope with having to live without the man who was the virtual oracle in my life. The birthday of my son, whom I named after him has been a constant reminder to me that time is passing and his memory is fast fading from the minds of so many people.
I try to seek solace in mentioning him in the best way I could by writing tributes, but even that one is losing its bite. I am supposed to sign out of this annual ritual, but I am being propelled to continue by those who know the value of the little things I do to remember my mentor. Besides, I am still full of nostalgia and people are still yearning for a reminder about Mala Kachallah and his passage.
Every time the month of April approaches and I begin to contemplate how to remember Mala Kachallah, I recast the day of his departure looking in my mind’s eyes the mammoth crowd that turned out to bid Mala Kachallah farewell, in the choking heat of the April sun in 2007. Many of them no longer remember the political differences of that era. All we remember today were his good works for the people of Borno state.
To me, and to others who cherish him, it is as if it happened only yesterday. The memories are still fresh with many, and very often, his days recur as a subject of discussions amongst us. For me in particular, whenever I look back at my days under his tutelage I recall how Kachallah displayed rare statesmanship by conceding defeat at the polls even as the incumbent, with many clues of how to manipulate the events. I recall when he was prodded to accept a deal offer that would have turned the results in his favour, but refused.
In their own small ways, some people do things each year for the past ten years to celebrate Mala Kachallah, yet I personally feel that he deserves more than is being done. His family members go to the Gwange cemetery each year to clear the shrubs and re-arrange the stones around his tomb as a mark of reverence to his soul. Borno state Government was magnanimous in naming a model school after him in the heart of Maiduguri; as a mark of its own appreciation for what he did while alive. Clerics mark the day with prayers for the continued repose of his gentle soul. The general attitude has however been that Mala Kachallah may have been forgotten even by those who benefitted most from his magnanimity.
I am often pleased with the calls I receive from members of the family and especially Borno state Governor, Kashim Shettima, who despite our frosty relationship encourages me to continue paying homage to Mala Kachallah’s memory. I am even more determined to keep the name of Mala Kachallah alive, by the avalanche of people who appreciate the annual tribute. Next year is another year, if we are well and alive.
Mala’s knack for peaceful co existence has earned him the soubriquet,“Captain of Peace”. He may have been pained to see how the state he so loved has degenerated into a killing field. Watching unfolding events from yonder, Mala Kachallah may have turned a million times over in his tomb, seeing that the generation he left have grown into adults faced with a bleak future, occasioned by the near collapse of values. To me the best anniversary gift for Mala Kachallah would have been the return to peace to Borno.
It is true that Mala Kachallah died at a time there was still a semblance of dignity in leadership. He died when Borno, the state he loved with so much passion had not been convulsed in this senseless war of attrition, with brothers taking up arms against each other. Mala Kachallah died without a single enemy known to me and those around him. He epitomized humility, peace and honesty. That the people of Borno still look back to his tenure with nostalgia, is a clear testimony of how he distinguished himself as a leader per excellence.
During his time citizens of Borno went to sleep with both eyes closed, In fact, people sleep with doors ajar, while youths sleeping outside their gates were common scenes. No one was judged by his faith or his ethnic or sectional background. That Borno actually earned her own sobriquet as the ‘Home Of Peace” during Kachallah’s era has never been in doubt. It is lamentable that those cherished values which gave the state a unique place in Nigeria’s history have now disappeared in the face of current events.
Every time I perform the annual rite of writing a tribute to Mala kachallah, I am always convinced that he remains one candidate for aljana’ah fridaus, who even the devil, will not oppose. I am often overwhelmed by the nostalgia of his life and times to the effect that, he was so kind and tender hearted, so humane and religious, so forthright and pragmatic, indeed Mala Kachallah was too true to God and humanity, than one finds in other leaders. I always imagine what he could have done differently from others, about the situation Borno state found herself in today.
Any time I close my eyes, I recollect that frozen smile on his face even in death, which left no clues for of what he may have passed through in the last minutes. Those who knew what he stood for may not be pleased with how the fortunes of Borno have been squandered by citizens who the world hitherto regards as most peaceful. The lives of citizens have lost essence, the legacy of peace he built and left has caved in to war, the population has been growing in reverse order, and morality have taken flight from the average citizen. The land he so adore has been converted to killing fields and the children he planned to nurture as future leaders have taken up arms against their parents and other citizens.
The joy Kachallah left on the faces of people have given way to despair, and tears now wet our cheeks. We have cried to high heavens and to the spirits of our fore fathers for an end to this curse. I will always lament the plunder of his cherished values, ten years after he left the scene. If he were to be around, he may be tempted to ask, is it the failure of leadership or the signs of the end time, that, hitherto peaceful people have become violent, and life seems to have lost its value?
At the risk of repeating this phrase each year, I wish to again state that, every time I pass by the Gwange cemetery, where Mala Kachallah was laid to rest, I tremble, knowing that we may not remember him again very soon. This makes it even more pertinent to extend the period of my tributes beyond the ten years I initially planned. I look in all directions, hopping that I will catch a glimpse of Kachallah’s tomb, even to lay a wreath, but have always been confused as it remains unmarked amongst the multitude of tombs at that mighty cemetery in Gwange. I have learnt to take solace in continual prayers for Allah to grant him Aljannah firdaus. I know that many peop[le are praying today for the continued repose of his soul. May the mercies of God locate him even for being merciful to others?
Even those who did not quite admire him, it remains a fact that Mala Kachallah was a benefactor, a mentor and more importantly a role model to so many people. Even the worst ingrates, who enjoyed him most, but deserted him immediately he left office, still discuss him with reverence. The world too knows that Mala was loved for his simplicity, adored for his honesty, cherished for his humility and revered for his Godliness. Everybody who encountered him while he was around have something good to say about him.
Bwala was the S A Media to the late Mala Kachallah.
BY: Inuwa Bwala