So, Mallam Wada Nas is dead. The Funtua man is dead? The first is a statement and the other – an inquiry, which for me presented itself as a rude shock. The jolt of which is inexplicable. It is not that I was privileged to meet the great communicator from whose fingers flowed revelatory words to warn of the perils of the administration of our nation. It is not that I agreed with most of his treatises. Nonetheless, to display an admiration for what he had said publicly is right and the only piece of Silver that I posses to express gratitude. My admiration for him is also for the time and prowess at which he wrote prolifically about Nigerian nationhood.
His focus amongst others was the protection of the Northern States of Nigeria and their peoples within the Nigerian Union. He wrote fearlessly. He revealed misdemeanours, malfeasance and corruption of power in a style that percolated a care for the survival of the nation in general and his people, particularly. And, beyond the care for the nation – from his writings, he was loyal to friends, unashamedly – A rare quality in the present day Nigeria.
It is partially untrue that I have never met him. After all, I have published satires at which his loyalty to Mr. Sani Abacha’s family has been my focus. From his writings after my article titled – “Yours Sincerely – Wada Nas” – I became a focus at which other writers complimentary of what I had written piled on him. Yet, as a man who meant well for the nation – he accepted constructive criticisms and at no time stooped low and disgracefully like one other Nigerian too big for his shoes – to respond carelessly or intemperately to what was written about him in the public space. Where he took issues with writers – his responses were not conjectural or as abusive as the original writers. At no time did he match public infamy with inferior submissions. He took the higher ground or at worst – a position which allowed others to draw their own conclusions. He stated his views and moved ahead to the next issue. It is the type of maturity and sense of duty that is now desperately required in our public space.
If I found in him a blind loyalty for his support of the Abacha family – it is in that support that he taught me the true meaning of friendship as I have always suspected. It is no gainsaying that in the life of the then patriarch of the Abacha family – he was appointed a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Through such patronage he proved himself without doubt – a true friend. If lessons of true friendship are to be learnt – for me, he was an embodiment of such lessons. He wrote with guts and even to the point of being ridiculed – he defended the Abachas. Where he saw their wrongdoings – he pleaded for understanding and mercy from the nation. Never did he ridicule them, publicly. In fair-weather, he enjoyed grace as provided by elevation of ministerial appointment. At such an easy time – he sang the praises of the then head of state like all the other friends of easy virtues. But, it can never ever be said of Mallam Wada Nas that he was a fair weather friend of the Abachas or a man of easy virtues. He stood firmly where other had vacated support and abandoned Hajia Abacha and her children to the harsh realities of life. With his pen, he stood to fight the sword of the State, justice or injustice as he saw it. Whatever colourations are given to his stance in life – I would rather have a friend like him, any day.
You see, loyalty in friendship means a lot to me as it should to all decent human beings. Let me burden with a life experience that I had to endure. As on two other occasions – I was best man at a wedding of a school friend. I had paid my way from England to Nigeria for the purpose of the wedding and out of loyalty to the Bridegroom. As customary at such gatherings – the best man paid tributes to the groom and his bride. I did no less. Somewhat, the programme was loose enough for the groom to allow one or two others to pay tributes. So, I counselled that another chap from school days be allowed to speak. At least, that particular chap considered himself a friend of the Bridegroom, who had a likeness and distant respect for me – so convincing him to allow his school friend to speak was dead easy.
When that chap came to the microphone – he started his speech in words that I shall never forget and struggle to forgive. He said together with the Bridegroom – the three of us were a trio and buddies at school. His words: “the Bridegroom is a doctor, I (meaning, him) am a doctor but Banjo is …em, … successful. He is a dentist. The hall burst into a humiliating laughter. Mind you, I was not a lawyer at that time. I knew the import of what he was saying because I had spent the first four of five years in the same class with him at secondary school. As I had to repeat a class he was for a time one of the boys that made bold to tell me that I was not going to amount to much. I bore the public humiliation gracefully and allowed it to ride. The import of the “success” he meant was his belief from what he perceived from school and from very little of me that he knew. Whilst he may have thought that we were friends, I was not even aware that he was my friend, when at school. So, what sense of loyalty is there in humiliating a friend publicly? I imagine with friends like him – I need no enemies.
Wada Nas could like many others have said ill of the former head of state – Mr. Abacha and his family. He never did. And that is why through his writings, he imparted to me a simple but deep lesson in life. Even, if I am unlikely to defend the legacies of a friend. I am wiser to stand firmly at whatever the difficulties and price with a person from whom I have experienced kindness and one to whom without qualms – I call a friend. It is a great virtue that many people do not have. It is one that I pray count for righteousness for the great communicator as God accepts him into Paradise. Today, to the man that I met through his words – like the tributes I sent to him when his wife died recently; I salute his courage. I record my gratitude for the lessons his life taught through the flow of his pen.
Mallam Wada Nas rest in perfect peace and thank you for the many comments, ways and means by which the unity of our nation as a people with a common destiny was your purpose. May God grant perfect rest to the great communicator.
The writer is a solicitor of the Supreme Court, England and Wales and a Lawyer at a Firm of Solicitors in London, England.