Politics is different things to many people. To some, it’s an opportunity to serve; to others it’s pathway to prominence and; to many it’s a means of getting rich.
However one may want to define politics, if it is not service to humanity then it is something else. And that is where we, in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, always miss the point.
Owing to our consideration of politics as a means of getting rich, influential, prominent, powerful, relevant and holding a tool of exploitation and oppression, we always fall into trouble either as electorate or elected.
Our politicians, celebrities and opportunists fall victims of their very success because of their failure to seize opportunity, serve humanity and quit while the ovation was loud. Even those who have worked to deserve commendation became victims of overstaying. There are moments in history when people seem to rise up to say something is wrong, to ask for change, and no matter the consequences (ask Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyans).
A Sheriff (as the word implies) is defined as a government official, usually responsible for law enforcement in his county and for the administration of the county jail, sometimes an officer of the court, usually elected, have an office; a station.
Senator Ali Modu Sheriff (alias SAS), twice senator representing Borno central and two terms Governor of Borno state and arguably Borno’s political emperor since 1999 until his exit as a governor and failed senatorial bid in 2011. Sheriff rose from the valley of nothingness to prominence by defeating the powers that be in his political debut in 1991. Young and fearless, Sheriff defeated Mrs Kolo Kingibe to clinch the Borno Central Senatorial ticket. That was even as Mrs Kingibe’s husband was the powerful national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Borno was presumably an SDP state. But Sheriff won under the platform of the less popular National Republican Convention (NRC) in what could be termed as his historic victory and foray into the political turf of Borno and Nigeria.
In his second coming in 1999 at the beginning of the present democratic dispensation, he contested and won the same Senatorial ticket against Arc. Ibrahim Bunu, a Second Republic politician who had the support of the powers that be. Sheriff’s experience with Bunu was an interesting one because in the Genaral Abacha’s abortive transition to civil rule in 1998, the two clashed in the party primaries under the UNCP and Sheriff even got the age limit of a Senator reduced to 35 from 40 to enable him contest. And so he contested, and won. That was how the era was so generous to SAS. In 1999, he did not only win the Senate seat but also had his gubernatorial candidate in person of late Mala Kachalla and a couple of national and state assembly candidates win elections.
Between 1999 and 2003 as typical of Nigerian politicians, Sheriff and Kachalla fell out. Sheriff then dared the incumbent, forced him out of APP to AD, contested and won the governorship seat in 2003. That was no mean feat and perhaps that was what emboldened Sheriff to think and assume he could do and undo politically. Several statements of pride and ego were attributed to him in the course of his eight-year tenure that made both his admirers and adversaries accept he was actually the demigod he claimed to be.
Time has an essence that must be grabbed and utilized before it erodes and most of us fall victims of either underutilizing or non-utilizing it at all, thinking and assuming that things in our possession stay with us for as long as we desire. Time is no respecter of anybody, and as my uncle (Alhaji Mala Karamma) would put it, the world does not have a permanent child: it picks and throws at will and it behoves on the person of the moment to make the most of his prime time before the sun sets on him. This is a lesson seldom learnt.
When it was time up for Sheriff, not even the power of incumbency, his vast political experience and empire and penchant for fight to finish could save him. Sheriff lost the Senatorial seat that was almost synonymous with his name to a less formidable Ahmad Zanna of blessed memory. Zanna won not because he was more popular but because Sheriff has become so infamous and was at his lowest political ebb. And despite his waning charisma, he however strategized and won the state governorship seat for his party and his anointed candidate Kashim Shettima in a keenly contested election.
But the relationship between Governor Kashim and his benefactor was not to last long due mainly to the latter’s hubris and overbearing attitude.
In what could be termed as a twist of fate, Sheriff found himself at a crossroads; out of Government House, not in the Senate, no longer a political emperor, lost favor with the APC national leadership as a result of the merger involving his ‘own’ ANPP. And then the Sheriff was left stranded, without a station, without a county.
But being a dogged politician that he is, Sheriff presumably moved to the then ruling PDP and allegedly promised the Goodluck-led government that he would deliver Borno State to the then ruling party.
As it turned out, the state and circumstances relieved him of political prominence but Sheriff continued to push on until he landed and recently lost the highest position in the PDP hierarchy, the national chairman.
In all of the above, Sheriff, like many or all politicians refused to learn the lessons of time and providence. When it was his time, he won, ruled, appointed, anointed, soared and fooled the people, but as Bob Marley would say “you cannot fool all the people all the time” especially when your scorecard is not matched by performance.
Here was a man brought to limelight by God and his people but ended up trying to play both God and the very people through whom he became what he became. Sheriff had a rare opportunity to write his name in gold in the state and even the nation’s political hall of fame.
Feared by politicians and inspired by the little voices that tell him he was the Emperor or the Caesar of our time, Sheriff thought the mystique surrounding his political dynasty was evergreen.
Sheriff is now down, shot by the Supreme Court after suffocating the PDP. With the recent Supreme Court ruling in favour of the Ahmed Makarfi led executive, Sheriff has the following options. He either remain in PDP as a member as he promised or move back to APC, which is not impossible going by Nigerian politicians’ attitudes, form or join a new party and/or quite politics altogether, which is very unlikely.
These and other political developments should serve as a lesson and deterrence to politicians, as Supreme Power lies with God and the tools for decision are the people. We must learn that every beginning has an end and it shouldn’t necessarily end the way we want, even though we have a measure of control on how we would wind up our affairs and life itself.
Above is a good lesson for the Sheriff, would be Sheriffs and deputies, all actors in the nation’s political scene. Our politicians should at least learn to play politics with principle, failure of which throws one into what Mahatma Gandhi described as a deadly sin.
Mr Kumalia wrote in from Abuja