In the 2007 former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration’s constitutional conference, which was generally perceived as a thinly veiled attempt at a third term, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi (late) was one of the delegates that vehemently stood against that agenda, and prevented a monarchical style of governance, where a dictator, under whatever pseudo-nomenclature, would hold onto power endlessly, till thy kingdom come. That type of phenomenon has continued to haunt our democracy where those exiting power indulge in a primitive attempt at governance from the sidelines, which has almost always derailed government’s policy and implementation. Dr. Tahir represented the Islamic Caliphate, as a delegate from the Sultanate, as his name was conspicuously missing from the delegates from Bauchi state. Dr. Tahir’s albatross was his intellect, oratory and aura that were enviable and intimidating. Abdullahi Yelwa, a journalist from Abuja, in his tribute to the late Talba, said, “Tahir was unappreciated by his less endowed peers, who never allowed him to rise to his full political potential. It was only when his strategic political expertise was needed that he was allowed to shine. He was an intellectual colossus whose superiority of intellect was only matched by his philanthropy and humanism. He was largely unappreciated by his less endowed contemporaries”.
Vintage Dr. Tahir, who was the author of the ‘Resolution of absolution’, in his last submission at the conference, debated thus: “Notwithstanding the superlative quality of leadership we have received and the industry of the Secretariat, and even the quality of the submissions, one cannot help but feel a certain sense of gloom, if one takes a summary of the general atmosphere. Those who decide to ignore the lessons of their history, or to forget them, or to run deliberately against their current, will be condemned to relive them, and experience perdition. This conference is reminiscent of the debates, arguments and the mudslinging and name-calling of the first republic which ended in blood, disorder, and civil-war. We have experienced so much killings, mass murders and mass dislocation; that people have decided to resign to the emotions of yesteryears. Examining these events will lead you to the root causes, as precisely the refusal to accept what we commit to in words. We propose things that are an unsigned letter to dissolve the country. But since you can’t dissolve nations in peace, the end is war. Ask the Sudanese, did they want it? We are so engrossed in revenue allocation formulae, whereas our oil has been here way before Methusela, and even before homosapiens began to walk the earth, and the phenomenon that has brought oil to our shores is the same that has created the universe itself. The logic of ownership of the free market economy which we have embraced will give the ownership of oil to the person who owns the farm, on which oil is found.”
Tahir continued, “So the thing that bothers me the most is that we lie to each other, committing ourselves to a one Nigeria, and we go back and sink into the primordial emotions that destroyed Balewa, Zik, Bello and the thousands that lost their lives to the Biafra war. We committed ourselves at the end of the civil war to create a nation where each Nigerian shall become the equal and substitute of his brethren, regardless of his tribe or religion, or his area of location. That was what informed the current structure, posture, formulae and formulation that attend the present form of governance in Nigeria. The world has changed and people are dropping national boundaries, while you sit here as elites, the creme, talking about ownerships of resources? My friends, get back the spirit with which this conference started, get back the spirit of 1970 or further back to 1967. A multi state Nigeria is all we ask for, because the idea of ascribing resources to zones is Biafranism, and we have defeated it.” Tahir enthused, “Obasanjo has many sins, but you cannot accuse him of abandoning the platform that he and his colleagues were ready to die for”.
General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida IBB in one of my visits to him, once said to me, “your father’s contributions to nation building are so immense that only Allah could repay him. Not even Nigeria could repay your dad for what he did, by investing his intellect, unrelentingly, to the progress and peaceful co-existence of our country. He also said that it would have put Dr. Tahir in danger, were his documented contributions to policy formulation made public. I remember how Major Hamza Al-Mustapha would come to my late father, and collect tonnes of documents, and recorded tapes, which ferried the contributions of Tahir to the then Abacha administration. President Yakubu Gowon would ring his university cottage, seeking counsel over one state matter or the other. Tahir was one of Nigeria’s greatest assets, General Ali Gusau exclaimed about the late Tahir. He has been so extolled by so many Northern elites in their tributes to Tahir. Mallam Mamman Daura described Tahir as a versatile man of affairs, a scholar, a teacher, a politician and a traditional leader. He suggested that nothing was beyond Tahir, reminiscent of the days Tahir was a BBC broadcaster in London, who delighted millions of Hausa listeners all over the world. Mallam Abba Kyari (late) wrote, “With his loss, the intellectual world lost a formidable mind – he was genius personified. Tahir’s mind is distinguished by the amplitude of his grasp!” Soyinka in his book, The Man Died, made reference to Tahir, as the young intellectual from the North back then, who was identified by Pa Awolowo with a view to getting him and others to work with him from across the Niger, in creating a powerful political team to take over the reigns of power from the military. Late Talba was elected into the botched 3rd Republic Senate along with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR.
Nigeria mourns Tahir, like he died just yesterday, yet his demise was 14 years ago, December 8, 2009, precisely. His altruism, oratory, intellect, and energy are unmatched, and the dearth of leadership qualities and character in public spaces today, bear more memories of late Talba, and what he stood for, in our hearts.Tahir was very vocal, in the interest of the common man, and that of the country in general. His philanthropy would see him sacrifice his last kobo, sympathetically, for the needs of the next person. He was kind and generous to a fault. His fountain of knowledge and wisdom never ceased to effortlessly flow, till death took him away. In his last days, he granted lectures and interviews from his sick bed, and from his sick bed purse, he would dole out gifts to friends and family, as well as alms to the poor and needy. Tahir’s humanity and legacies live on in our minds and ways of life, as he is endlessly referenced as an exemplary leader who is sorely missed. Your ‘yar aljannah’ Yelwa! as you’d fondly scream out her name in the corridors of our home, misses you too, and remains doing ‘Yelwa things’. In every flinch she’d remind me, ‘Talba bazai yi haka ba! You have written your name in gold, proudly, we carry your name and legacies. May Allah continue to shower you with mercy Babatalba, and may jannatul-firdausi be your permanent abode.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.