By Inuwa Bwala
Every year, since 2007, the 18th day of the month of April has remained a constant reminder to me and several others, of the sad loss of a father, a leader, a friend and statesman per excellence, Alhaji Mala Kachallah, former Governor of Borno State, 1999 to 2003. Not everybody may recall that date now, but certainly nobody will forget Mala Kachallah, the man who made name for his style of politics, which earned him the name, “Captain of Peace”.
Majority of our people may tend to agree with me that, the death of this sage, twelve years ago remains one of the biggest loss ever to Borno state.
It is not because I have anything new to add to what I may have said before about Alhaji Abdullsalam Mala Kachallah, but the urge to mention him to a world that seems to have forgotten such a great man remains irresistible.
I feel that, like Pompey of the Shakespearean fame, Nigerians like the Romans have forgotten Mala Kachallah, and are rejoicing with others, who neither brought conquests nor tributaries to Borno. And as the anniversary draws, what goes on in my mind is the lesson to learn and reality of life after death.
Before I go far, I feel the need to pay a special tribute to Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, who has made it a duty to seek out Mala Kachallah’s family and assist them since he came on board as governor.
He also took it upon himself to immortalize him by naming a school in the state capital after Mala Kachallah. And Shettima, though a disciple of Kachalla’s political philosophy, he never directly benefitted from the Government Kachallah led.
Save for what the governor did, the Kachallah’s family was almost being forgotten, and his name fast disappearing, just like his grave is being swallowed by the cluster of other tombs around him, at the Gwange cemetry.
Mala Kachallah both in government and even outside government was the cynosure of attention. I recall with nostalgia how people fall over themselves to get the attention of the great Mala Kachallah. It was the vogue amongst his loyalists to strive to imitate Kachallah’s unique style of dressing, particular his customized caps, which caught attention even at night, with their shinny textures.
Some people skipped meals in their own houses to go and dine with him. Mala Kachallah, being a “welfarist” never lacked the company of people who hung around him every day for financial handouts. I stand to be corrected, but Mala Kachallah to, my mind started the issue of “welfarism” in governance, where sets of dresses were made with accompanying huge sums of money to people either marrying, naming their children or even mourning the dead.
I will not forget how everybody around him prayed fervently for male children, so they can name them after Mala Kachallah. Where the boys fail to come, the girls were named after his wife Falmata Mala Kachallah I learnt that some of the names changed or some of the children given second names after Kachallah’s demise.
I remember one man who despite knowing that Mala Kachallah was never impressed with polygamous life, offered to give him his daughter in marriage, as a mark of his loyalty, an offer which was politely turned down.
Should Mala Kachallah have the opportunity to be around for the second time, or even for him to peep from yonder and see what some of his disciples have become, or even what has become of Borno since he departed, he may die a second death.
I have always said it, that, it was not out of mere political fashion that Mala Kachallah was nick named “CAPTAIN OF PEACE”, neither was it an accident of history that Borno was christened “HOME OF PEACE”. It was not a mere coincidence either that both coinages came at almost the same time, but it is rather sad, that the “PEACE”: the value Mala Kachallah advocated, and the attribute the people of Borno have been identified with for long, seem to have taken leave.
It may not be charitable to accuse subsequent leaders of jettisoning the peace enjoyed during the time of Mala Kacahallah, as no one single man can be said to be capable of enthroning peace in a society, neither engenderd it, but it remains a fact that Mala seemed to have, in many ways, galvanized the people towards peaceful resolution to all disagreements.
He died with the tranquility we enjoyed, and today we enjoy the peace of the grave yard.
Others may have forgotten him, but that we remember Mala Kachallah with nostalgia today is a testimony of how well he utilized the privilege God gave him to lead.
He often told me that leadership is a privilege, what one does with such a privilege may be one’s opportunity to write one’s name in gold or on water. Mala Kachallah has written his name in gold, even if others fail to place him appropriately in our leadership hall of fame, those who had the privilege to know him have a lesson or two to learn from his life and from his death.
Bwala served as Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity to the Late Mala Kachallah.