Baa Mala Kachalla: In memory of 4th Civilian Governor of Borno State
By Alhaji Mohammed Habib
Life levels all men. Death reveals the eminent – George Bernard Shaw
As in the song entitled Water Under the Bridge written by Paul Francis Webster, Lew Pollack and performed by Fred Waring, Borno State since the demise in 2007 of Late Mala Kachalla has gone through so many ironies, tribulations and surprises but ultimately they have perseveringly withstood and surmounted all the challenges they perceived as their common enemy and emerged victorious. The first victory was the defeat of the insurgents within the vicinity of the metropolis with the advent of Civilian JTF (Kato Da Gora) while the second was the emergence of Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, mni as the 7th civilian Governor of Borno State whom the people see as Mala Kachalla’s worthy student who harbors no ill against anyone other than his selflessness and humanitarian gesture to the electorates despite the hilly security challenges. Indeed, such a stride would not have been possible without the machination and influence of the immediate past Governor of Borno State, Hon. Kashim Shettima whom most people commend and remained appreciative to him for that.
This year’s tribute in honour of Late Mala Kachalla is auspicious and timely, especially taking into consideration the gargantuan socio-political revolution witnessed by Nigerians and Borno State in particular. If Baa Mala were to be alive, I have no modicum of doubt that he would have been part of the historic bandwagon of change as encapsulated in the All Progressives Change (APC) party led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (RTD.) in 2015.
With the benefit of hindsight, the imprint of Late Mala Kachalla came to the fore this 4th Republic with the sudden demise of Late General Sani Abacha in June 1998 culminating in the formation of different blocs such as the G-18, G-34, Northern Union, PDM in the build-up to the new democratic vista in the political development of Nigeria, especially that of Borno State.
Note that before then, Late Mala Kachalla’s contributions in 2nd and the aborted 3rd republics during NPN and UNCP respectively remained indelible in the history of Nigeria.
As late Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Chuba Okadigbo (Oyi of Oyi) would say: ‘it is a sign of political sagacity to understand political arithmetic; it is time to (sic) political strategizing to join together with brothers/sisters horizontally and vertically to victory..’ the late Dr. Mala Kachalla also guided by political philosophy, joined forces with other allies to form the then All Peoples’ Party (APP) in 1998. Convinced by his pragmatism and good-mannerism, the stakeholders in Borno politics selected him to be the party’s gubernatorial flag bearer and got elected as the 4th Civilian Governor of Borno State in 1999. The APP later metamorphosed to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
As the common adage says “birds of the same feather flog together”, on the eve of the 2003 Governorship Election, the duo of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa made the continued stay of Late Mala Kachalla in the ANPP unhealthy in the political equation of Borno State. Consequently, due to his undying love for peace and in order not to create political dynamite in the peaceful politics of the State, Late Mala Kachalla, in consultation with his constituency and his strategic political ally (the Jagaban Borgu, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; who was then the leader of Alliance for Democracy in Nigeria as well as the incumbent Governor of Lagos State), decided to defect to the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD).
His decision was received with unprecedented accolades which attracted the flamboyant visit of all the AD Governors such as Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos, Olusegun Osoba of Ogun, Richard Adebayo Adeniyi of Ekiti, Pa Bisi Akande of Osun and Adebayo Adefarati of Ondo State to Borno State.
After the 2003 keenly contested election, the late Mala Kachalla gallantly lost and magnanimously conceded defeat to his bosom friend’s son, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, thereby quashing the prospects of AD in name only but the slogan of “Yanci” (freedom) continued to radiate the political horizon of Borno and Yobe states till his death. When the idea of merger of the legacy parties (ANPP, ACN, CPC and a faction of APGA) was mooted in 2013, a willing tool was found in the electorates of Borno and Yobe States.
As Abraham Lincoln would say: ‘..with malice towards none, with charity for all and firmness in the right..’, Alhaji (Dr.) Abdulsalam Mala Kachalla achieved a great deal of feat in almost all sectors of human endeavour during his brief 4-Year reign. He was one politician with sterling leadership traits of philanthropy, whose passion for selflessness and humanitarian services made him a pillar to rest-on by both the young and the old. I still vividly recall a post by one Kabir Alirambe Mohammed who shared thus: ‘Ever since the demise of Alhaji Mai Ahmadu Deribe, Alhaji (Dr.) Mala Kachalla (emphasis mine) and HRH Shehu Mustapha Umar El-Kanemi, Borno State has never had Peace. These honourable men advocated for peace and unity of the state and the country at large. They spent their resources on prayers for the state to have peace and wealth. Let us not allow their sweat and labour vanish easily….’.
As Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832 – 1912) says ‘a man without common sense, without tact, as a mechanic or agriculturist or trader, can do far less harm to the public than the man without common sense who has had the opportunity of becoming, and has had the reputation of being, a scholar’, had it been that the giant strides the late Mala Kachalla initiated in Borno State in the area of Educational Advancement/Scholarships, Agricultural Revolution and Entrepreneurship of the Youths within Nigeria and in the Diaspora were sustained from 2003 to 2011, I believe Borno State would have harvested a bumper of youth education whose concomitant byproduct would have saved us from experiencing the calamity that has befallen us from 2009 to-date.
You may interestingly recall his concern for the entrenchment of Sangaya Education System (Institutionalized Islamic Education) in the state which was later adopted by the Federal Government. Even in death, the commissioning of the Almajiri Model Boarding School System in Gagi village of Sokoto State in 2012 by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was in tandem with the concept, belief and philosophy of Late Alhaji Mala Kachalla.
Unfortunately, at some point in the course of their studies, those that benefitted from the largesse of his scholarship scheme either dropped out midway or fended on relations, while some resorted to being sales men in supermarkets or car wash attendants in the United Kingdom and America due to hardships they faced following the discontinuity of the scheme by the succeeding government. To God be the glory, albeit the hardship, some of the students persevered and graduated with flying colors, thereby becoming enviable ambassadors in the Nigerian Defence Academy as scholars while others work with International Organizations such as ECOWAS, African Union and others are currently Chief Executive Officers in some MDAs in Nigeria etc., making positive contributions to nation building, courtesy of Late Mala Kachalla’s Scholarship Scheme.
In the history of Borno State, which he described as the ‘Engine Block’ of the Government, since the creation of the State in 1976, there had never been a time when an Accounting System with basic financial, economic and administrative reforms in line with international best practice were witnessed as during the late Mala Kachalla’s administration. Through his quintessential and thoroughbred Accountant-General (Dr. Mohammed Kyari Dikwa, mni- who is now the President/Founder of Al-Ansar Foundation as well as the owner of the only private University in the entire Kanem-Bornu Empire i.e. Al-Ansar University Maiduguri), most Accounting Personnel in the Borno State Civil Service were encouraged to be enrolled as ICAN and ANAN members, thereby preparing them with fertile wherewithal for future challenges in public service. It is therefore not surprising that today Borno State can boast of experienced and versatile civil servants akin to what is obtained in the famous universities of the world such as Oxford and Cambridge.
Saddened by the then baseless allegations of financial impropriety leveled against his government by the Professor Emeritus Umaru Shehu led-Transition Committee set up by his successor, held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja in June 2003, Late Mala Kachalla during International Press Briefing had this to say:
“..I am proud to say that we have fully paid staff salaries to the last month I was in charge. We operated an honest and transparent fiscal policy that made Borno one of the few all time credit worthy States in the Federation…”
According to the 2002 Cable News Network (CNN) Report, Borno State as the Home of Peace, during the administration of Late Alhaji (Dr.) Mala Kachalla was rated as one of the fastest growing cities in the Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in terms of Commerce, Investment, Trade and Sanitation. In fact, if not for his short-lived tenure (1999-2003), only God knows the level at which Borno State under Late Mala Kachalla would have reached in 2007.
To his credit, it was the late Mala Kachalla that prevailed on his colleagues in the Northern Governors Forum (even before the recapitalization of the 25 Banks in the country) to see to the promotion, consolidation and sustenance of the defunct Bank of the North (now Unity Bank), being the only Commercial Bank owned by the 19 State Governments of the North then as bequeathed by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. His positive contribution to the progress of the bank before, during and after his tenure remained unwavering.
Succinctly speaking, various aggressive developmental giant strides recorded by the administration of Late Mala Kachalla could be discerned in the area of rural/urban transformation, unfettered Healthcare Delivery and Hygiene, provision of potable drinking water, Housing Scheme for all, Liberalization and creation of some Local Government Systems (Development Area), respect for the Judiciary, respect for the dignity of the Civil Servant, regard for all legislative matters and above all, entrenchment of societal peace and religious harmony amongst the people of the State irrespective of any parochial consideration. No wonder that he was metaphorically called ‘Baa Mala Maraa N3lefaye’ in Kanuri phraseology, meaning ‘Baa Mala the Captain of Peace’.
Contrary to what obtained in other parts of the country, Borno State under Late Mala Kachalla had never witnessed any acrimonious bickering amongst or between different religious followers. In fact most of his personal aides were Christians, confirming his complete gentility and tolerance of other faiths.
In consideration of the type of person the late political juggernaut was, as an exemplary figure, a paragon of virtue and humility and a father to all, it is morally suicidal to consign him into the dust bin of history now that he is dead. The Late Mala Kachalla’s modest contributions to the socio-political development of Nigeria and particularly, Borno State as the Executive Governor of the State need not be overemphasized. In fact, Borno State and Nigeria needed him more, especially before, during and after the emergence of the insurgency in 2009.
As Professor Toni Morrison stated that “Wisdom is a gift, you cannot train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class or earn it in the workplace…”, I wish to once again and untiringly crave the kind indulgence of President Muhammadu Buhari to not only post-humously immortalize the name of Late Alhaji (Dr.) Mala Abdulsalam Kachalla (the 4th Civilian Governor of Borno State: 1999-2003) but also award him with a Post-Humous National Honour.
Indeed, Nigeria’s democracy misses him in no small measure. It is a great pity that Nigerians are yet to imbibe the culture of honouring their heroes. Let us pray that one day, this will happen in Nigeria to the joy and glory of all.
I believe honouring this icon of peace and harmony by the Federal Government of Nigeria (especially at a time the country is going through some humongous security challenges), would go a long way in pacifying the hearts of all socio-political and cultural ambassadors of peace in Nigeria. On a lighter note, even in the street naming policy of Federal Capital Territory Administration particularly, I have for a number of years keenly observed that Dr. Mala Kachalla’s name is missing as a former Governor of a State in Nigeria as his fellow former colleagues.
If one would go by some of the names seen on the streets of FCT who are simpleton and not near the caliber and contributions of the personality of Baa Mala Kachalla to the development of democracy and democratization in Nigeria, one would conclude that his footprints were eminently qualified to be skipped on the sands of time by the drivers of 4th Republic.
Meanwhile, I wish to use this medium to congratulate His Excellency, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, FNSE, mni for his election as the Governor of Borno State. By scoring 1,175,440 votes from the people of Borno State in the 2019 Gubernatorial Election was unprecedented since the advent of democracy in Borno State, as it was a clear indication that like late Dr. Mala Kachalla in those days, Prof. BG Zulum has been in peace with his Creator, peace with the esteemed electorates of Borno State, peace with the elders of Borno, peace with the traditional institution, peace with the youths, peace with the women folk, peace with the electorates and peace with the political class in Borno State.
Late Alhaji Mala Kachalla was born to Baba Kachalla and Ya Falmata in Fezzan Ward of Maiduguri in the year 1941. He attended Hausari Primary School Maiduguri and Senior Secondary School Bama from 1948 to 1957 respectively. He later proceeded to the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he obtained a Diploma in Veterinary Science between 1965 and 1966.
Late Mala Kachalla died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Wednesday 18th April, 2007 and left behind brothers, sisters, a wife and two children.
As we mark the 14th Year Anniversary of Dr. Mala Kachalla’s death which for the first time coincides with the Holy Month of Ramadan, it is my fervent prayers that Almighty Allah forgives his sins and admits his gentle soul in Aljannah-Firda’us.
May Allah grant Borno State and Nigeria an enduring peace.
Habib writes from the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org