To former Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Architect Barnabas Yusuf Bala, popularly known and called Bantex, who breathed his last on Sunday July 11, 2021, in Abuja, life was a voyage fraught with vicissitudes. He was stouthearted with his loyalty remaining constant as that of the Northern Star.
I got a bit worried yesterday when the internet proved unhelpful in providing information relating to the late politician who formally drew the curtains over his political career in July 2020. However, that is not to say his life was devoid of inspiring milestones and legacies. Like previous political titans that once bestrode the political landscape, his loyalty to a cause was never to be doubted. Riding on the wings of resilience and determination, the architect was soon unleashed on the political turf when President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 applauded him for constructing a magnificent secretariat for the Kaura LGA when he served as chairman in 1999.
Against the backdrop of his sterling performance as the chairman of his local government area, he defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) denied him a ticket to contest for the House of Reps. The cabal that controlled politics remained undeterred as they frustrated his comeback bid in 2011, forcing his temporary retirement from active politics.
It must have been this politics of deceitfulness and backstabbing that had informed Bantex’s early retirement. Ahead of the 2015 polls, the tumultuous wind of change would later sweep the country, with the former FCT Minister and Chief Tormentor of President Goodluck Jonathan, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, convincing this son of a pastor to come out of political retirement and be elected as the Kaduna State chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). All other things, as they say, are now history.
The former federal lawmaker’s nomination as a running mate to el-Rufai prompted remonstration from prominent APC Southern Kaduna politicians as they had thought that after the death of Patrick Yakowa in December 2012, the newly packaged political coalition, comprising strange bedfellows, would pitifully hand over power to them. The falling-out of the Southern Kaduna zone in el-Rufai’s administration, according to insiders’ accounts, was more hinged on the attitude of Southern Kaduna political office holders than the alleged perceived enmity from people of the southern part.
Ahead of 2019 polls, it became obvious that the virus of strife had taken over the affairs of Southern Kaduna politicians. Worried by the possibility of electoral defeat that was then staring the party in the face at the polls, el-Rufai went for the masterstroke: Muslim-Muslim ticket. By adopting such a strategy, religious sentiments became active in politics as many Muslims saw the ticket as amounting to ah Jihad.
The life and times of Bantex offers an opportunity to reflect on the course of a political juggernaut whose footprints were not bereft of actions that most times were described as controversial and unpopular with the political leanings of his people. As someone not given to noise-making, he was imbued with profound knowledge of his political environment. Disconcerted by the refusal of his own zone to support the administration of el-Rufai, his former political allies quietly returned into the trenches and could not come to terms with someone that once epitomized the moving spirit of his people. Of course, his views also came under scathing attacks.
While in private conversations, with difficulty, Bantex would accept irrational kdecisions by the government, but would quickly tell confidants that all decisions were taken collectively and absolve Governor el-Rufai of all faults j. In the history of Southern Kaduna, there was no politician that defended the position of a government he was part of even at the risk of attracting anger from his people than this son of a cleric.
Bantex’s life and times reflect the need for a new political orientation that must be strategic and not borne out of anger. More importantly, he stressed the need for professionals in love with community development to participate in politics as politics is too important to be left only for politicians who are mostly interested in the pursuit of their pecuniary interests.
There’s no doubt that Bantex’s attempt to market APC encountered hurdles more from the party’s unfair treatment of the southern zone than the alleged hatred shown by the Southern Kaduna people for the APC. It is still strange that a zone that had given 40 percent to the APC in 2015 would later be treated in a demeaning manner. More than six years of the el-Rufai administration, there has been more of horror and sorrow than rule of law.
On the night Bantex died, unrelenting attacks were carried out for almost seven days, and yet the Kaduna State Government kept mum as if nothing had happened, apart from the usual security updates issued by the Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs.
Within a span of seven days, no fewer than 100 were massacred, 12 villages decimated and 90 percent of Atyap land deserted as villagers fled to Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Zangon Kataf LGA for safety.
As many prominent people from different walks of life engage in turn-taking today to extol Bantex who was a reputed bridge builder across religious and ethnic divide, politicians from Southern Kaduna must wake up from their slumber, smell the coffee and chart new ways in appreciating and tackling challenges confronting them. Southern Kaduna politicians must not only harp less on party platforms, but also reach out to others outside the areas of influence for re-alignment. The present cul-de-sac is made worse by the faulty perception that sees political parties as an end in themselves and not as means to an end. Political elites from the southern part must wean themselves of self-aggrandizement and learn the art of deploying politics as means to bring development to their communities.
Like all mortals, the late Bantex may have had his fault, but his courage in treading a path less travelled in envisioning a new world stood him out. He was never afraid of dreaming of a distant future wherein the collective survival of the people was assured. A greater challenge facing the southern zone is never to allow those who don’t mean well for the area to sell the false impression that we are bigots, when in reality they carry their own bigotry as proud badges. Southern Kaduna must never allow membership of political parties to negatively affect their brotherhood that cuts across ethnic and religious divides.
It is to be expected, that politicians of Southern Kaduna extraction must have offended one another in the past, but the religion practiced by the majority populace is based on forgiveness and humanity. The southern zone has suffered in the past six years and if it must survive the pains of the remaining less than two years of el-Rufai’s pains and agony, the need to come together must is paramount.
Southern Kaduna must walk on the pathway trodden by Bantex to make sense of the many footprints he left behind. Much as people should be less concerned about his little mistakes than his silent strides, we must be reminded that “there is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.”
It gladdens me that the architect was prepared for the inevitable as stories from his confidants and acquaintances have so revealed. As he is buried today in his hometown, may the company of angels escorts him to his final abode prepared by his Maker whom he served while in this mortal ken.
I pray to God to grant our leader and father eternal rest until the Resurrection Day. May the creator of all inspire and assist the living to catch Bantex’s vision of broadening our sense of inclusiveness for not only Southern Kaduna and, Kaduna State, but also Nigeria.