The writer is gone. With that genuflection Wednesday afternoon before the Senate, the breed of popular intellectualism in Nigeria lost one member to the extreme right. That simple act of legislative ritual is symbolic in many respects. As in rising from ruku’u curtsy in the Islamic prayer, the doer thanks the “lord” before whom one stands. It is symbolic of acceptance, submission, and obedience. The legislative bow signifies a completion of indoctrination into the upper right wing cult.
Mallam Adamu Adamu, the Bauchi state nominee in the President Muhammadu Buhari cabinet is more than the adjectives used by the media in describing him; newspaper columnist and humourist. He was – yes, was from now on – an acerbic satirist. And the acidity of his satire flowed directly from his inherent radical disposition.
His radical posture is inherent because it is something that defines his person – his austere lifestyle, his shying away from the public front burner, to the point of self-evading reclusiveness and his readiness to take on any issue and anybody. In Adamu, there is that “complicated mix” between what he pontificates and his private life which Edward Said described in his Reith Lecture as the requisite for the intellectual.
I rushed to the Daily Trust early this Friday, expecting to read Adamu’s sign off piece. My expectation was that after the bow on Wednesday, our columnist would find some time away from the retinue of hangers-on who by now must be swamping around even against his wishes, to pen that good bye piece. I expected some philosophising and personal reflections of a radical public commentator now plunged into the swamp of highwire federal bureaucracy and intricacy of party politics. Despite his long term involvement with the Buhari political activities, I doubt if he had operated at the political level akin to what his position as a minister would demand.
The second republic PRP administration in the old Kano and Kaduna states set the unbeatable records of dragging the most number of radical idealists to the corridors of power. In Kaduna the hitherto hardliner anti-establishment scholar, Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman was the secretary to the state government. His Kano counterpart was the brilliant Sule Yahaya Hamma with ideologues like the late Dr. Bala Mohammed calling the shots from the rear. The two administrations ended up in severe crisis that cost the two governors their seats and, in Kano, a large scale mayhem in the wake of which Dr. Mohammed was assassinated. That was the “triumph” of anti-intellectualism.
The tragedy of intellectuals plunging into the murky waters of public administration is the futility of them paddling the canoe to the shores using their idealist paddle, and the strong tendency of them ending up muddied.
At the height of his political dribbling, President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida had enlisted some of the country’s loudest public critics. Notable of these were the late Prof. Tai Solarin and Prof. Wole Soyinka. In the case of the former, he did not only unsuccessfully aimed at practicalising his own advocacies, he returned with a dent. His iconic shorts were taken away and Solarin was literary caricatured in an expansive agbada genuflecting before the emir of Kano while leading the management of the Peoples Bank. He was later to be controversially accused of corruption, what’s popularly known as the Rolex scandal.
Beyond the tendency of personal tragedy is the public’s loss of a voice; of the mesmerizing discourse and the incisiveness of their intellect. The cliché, power corrupts, is true on many respects. Aside the repulsive moral corruption, which is to an extent avoidable, the intellectual power house may get corrupted. We have seen it in many an intellectual who went in and got consumed.
The pen keeps its sharpness when it is frequently chiselled. When Sanusi Lamido Sanusi climbed the ladder to the management level in the banking industry, and his pen went numb, it was a loss to public intellectualism lamented by many. It was also a blow to his pen that when he recently penned a short defence of his fourth marriage many sworn that was not from the man.
Back to Adamu Adamu. The first shock to many, even among those with a distant knowledge of the man, was his agreeing to take the position. His puritanism had made him to reject many juicy offers in the past, including that of the secretary to the Bauchi state government. It was also for similar ideological standpoint that he left his work as the accountant of the state Water Board and take up low paying job as journalist with the New Nigerian newspaper, in the first place.
When I moved to Blueprint newspapers at the beginning of 2012, one section of the paper I liked and later produced swas the weekly “Media” pull-out. I interviewed many senior journalists for the two-page weekly personality interview. Two Adamus I approached however were totally not forthcoming. The first is Mallam Adamu Ciroma who said he was not going to grant any interview at the time, even when I explained that it was a personality interview, not a political one. The other was Adamu Adamu who, I suspected, ignored my repeated calls after I introduced myself as a journalist looking for an interview. I wouldn’t blame myself or curse my stars, I have never seen the man anywhere else aside his weekly column which, of course, he religiously wrote.