BY COL. GORA ALBEHU DAUDA (RETD)
The German Historian Leopold von Ranke 21Dec 1795-23 May 1886 had this to say, “Neither blindness nor ignorance corrupts people and governments. They soon realize where the path they have taken is leading them, but there is an impulse in them favoured by their nature and reinforced by their habits which they do not resist; it continues to propel them forward as long as they have a remnant of strength. He who overcomes himself is divine. Most see their ruin before their eyes but they go on into it”.
Let us move on to see how this is true of Arc Barnabas Bala Bantex, former deputy governor of Kaduna State and Francis Ulal Damina, the mole of Governor Nasir el-Rufai in Southern Kaduna. Many folks will remember Ngugi wa Thiongo’s epic novel, ‘The River Between’. I read that novel as an examination text once upon a time and must confess that I may not have understood it the way I think I do now. To refresh the novel written in 1965 as part of the African Writers Series tell the story of the separation of two neighbouring villages of Kenya caused by differences in faith set in the decades of roughly the 20th Century. The bitterness between the two villages caused hatred between the youths on each side. The story talks about the struggles of a young leader Waiyaki to unite the villages of Kamenu and Makuyu. In this essay, I intend to apply the central theme in the River Between in two ways.
First, looking roughly at the personalities of the interviewer in Francis Ulal Damina and the interviewee in Arc Barnabas Bala Bantex, now operating in a strange world of undefined borders. Secondly, I will attempt to place these two characters concomitant with the rest of the Southern Kaduna peoples and their interests. The audio interview under focus was done not quite a month ago and it has generated so much debates amongst our people. Those who have listened to the interview have been left to wondering what the motivation could have been for the former deputy governor and failed Senatorial candidate under the APC platform to have granted such an interview, given the possibility of it going viral. Some understood it to suggest that the former deputy governor, now stranded somewhere, disemboweled his entrails as a strategy to warm himself back to his former boss, hoping with some luck he might be considered for a Federal appointment. I have never been surprised since listening to the audio because I have heard Bantex say more despicable things about the people of Southern Kaduna. Let us take a more cursory look at who Arc Barnabas Bala Bantex is.
Arc Barnabas Bala Bantex is my contemporary and from Southern Kaduna and Kaura LGA to be specific. He attended the prestigious Federal Government College Warri and came out in flying colours. He went on to read Architecture and made a First Class degree and started lecturing in University of Jos. He was later to abandon lecturing for politics. As an elected Local Council Chairman Bantex is identified with two major projects in Kaura, namely the design and construction of the Kaura Local Council Secretariat and a Health Center on the right hand side of the Samaru- Kagoro highway. The story is told of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, then as president of the Republic, having been at the Center in person for the commissioning in the course of which he allegedly made a comment typical of him which was a huge embarrassment to the host Governor Makarfi at that time. The governor immediately counter attacked by ensuring that no equipment or staff were sent from the State Ministry of Health to work there and so the project stood idle for a number of years. Bantex was rewarded when he won the seat to the Federal House of Representatives and it is there that the flame began to extinguish itself. His nomination as running mate to el-Rufai was not any surprising, given that he possessed whatever was required intellectually to match and work in harmony with the governor. The rest is now recorded in the history books.
The interviewer Francis Ulal Damina is an ex-graduate of one of the foremost Catholic Major Seminaries who because of the deficit in his character was found unworthy of being ordained a priest. Since then, he has been an itinerant name dropper, until lately when he appears to have found some accommodation in the enclave of the governor. Some people are saying that Francis Ulal Damina has turned traitor and is now deployed as Governor el-Rufai’s spy amongst the Southern Kaduna folks. When anyone from Southern Kaduna opts to perform such an ignoble role against his own people you can bet that such will find favour before the dictatorship. Before now, if you were meeting Francis Ulal Damina for the first time you would have met someone possibly hooked on hard drugs or string alcoholic drinks of the class of spirits. Little wonder then that the Church threw him out. There is general agreement that he did the interview with the former deputy governor probably at the prompting of his present employer or on his own as a way of impressing the governor. There is little or no difference between the pair of Bantex and Ulal for they are traitors against Southern Kaduna interest.
There is this wide gulf between these two characters and the Southern Kaduna people. It is difficult if not impossible for any Christian to forget the sad story of Judas Iscariot and how he betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of silver. It is recorded in the Holy Book that after the epic event Judas was remorseful and went back to return the 30 pieces of silver except that it was rejected. He left the money there and went on to hang himself, instead of truly repenting. Bantex in an earlier effort did attempt a similar confession that was not followed through. As for Francis Ulal Damina from Kamuru Station in Zangon Kataf LGA area, there is still some water left in the pool to swim in, but the water is not increasing in volume but decreasing because time and evaporation are gradually draining the pool. Yes, there is a river between us and them but this river though separating us can also serve as a unifying factor. Is it not possible that in this climate of treason and betrayals that a Waiyaki as in ‘The River Between’ could come up to create unity and better understanding between el-Rufai and our people?
Col. Dauda wrote this piece from Kaduna