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The cabal: A myth or a reality?

UNLIKE what obtains now, the term, ‘Kaduna Mafia’, was very popular in the nation’s socio-political circles, some 40 years back. It was said to have been coined by Mvendaga Jibo, the Benue State-born journalist, academic and politician who was a regular columnist with the Daily Times in the 1970s. Then, the term was derisive as the impression (either rightly or wrongly) was that a small group of people, based in Kaduna, the former capital of Northern Nigeria, were manipulating the levers of political power for their personal economic benefits and also in pursuit of the northern political and administrative hegemony within the Nigerian federation.

Many historians and social commentators alike also traced the origin of the Kaduna Mafia to the mid-1960s, following the first military coup that effectively put an end to the nation’s first attempt at democratic government during the First Republic. The loss of many northern leaders in the failed Major Kaduna Nzeogwu-led military putsch was said to have prodded a group of civil servants as well as technocrats of the northern origin to rally people of like mind and oppose the new government of General Aguiyi Ironsi.

The group, later known as the Kaduna Mafia, was a diverse mixture of aristocrats and civil servants who were predominantly Muslims and was based in Kaduna. Two common denominators in their coming together was having their base in Kaduna and having their education at the famous Barewa College in Zaria and the Government College, Keffi. To the pro-northern cause, members of the group demonstrated a level of intelligence and managerial competence higher than that of some of their older contemporaries.

Membership of the Kaduna Mafia consisted of people who were coordinated and highly efficient, working behind the scenes to dictate the political and economic climate of the nation. They were both feared and respected both within and outside the nation. Their members are made up of some of the most powerful and richest men in the nation and they all make Kaduna their stronghold.

Members of the Kaduna Mafia were known and more fearfully respected for their commitment to the traditional values and socio-political interests of Northern Nigeria. They could be found in the various sectors of the national life, with many of them being bank directors, ministers, top military officers (the rank of the colonel being the highest during the formative years of the group), established business entrepreneurs and a growing class of intellectuals, all of northern origin.

Though of varied economic interests, their various professions and common educational background served as a major driving factor in their pursuit of a common goal, vis-a-vis the Northern agenda. The group was able to achieve much through an elaborate and effective network of power alliances among northern aristocrats and government sympathisers who were favourably disposed to the pro-northern and Islamic bent.

Using Kaduna mostly as their meeting point, members of the group were said to have been able to effectively network, spreading the gospel of the Northern agenda to the entire parts of the region. The cause was further helped by the fact that the Nigerian Army, after the Civil War, became populated predominantly by northern officers. The organic unity engendered by the fact that most of them were mates at the North’s few secondary schools of the 1950s and 1960s, greatly helped in making the former capital of the old Northern Region a fertile and veritable “centre for generating, refining, propounding, coordinating and disseminating the Northern agenda”.

The Aguiyi-Ironsi-led military regime, undoubtedly altered the existing geopolitical arrangement as the three former regions, Northern, Eastern and Western, were broken into states in 1967, while the six northern states were further broken into 10 states in 1976. This however did not diminish the aura of Kaduna as the political capital of the Northern Region. The Kaduna Mafia, through their established network and continued governmental patronages, all through the years, were able to maintain their meetings, pursuing the northern interest and agenda till the advent of the current democratic dispensation, and even beyond, with the unity of Northern Nigeria being the ultimate goal.

To lend credence to the myth and secrecy built around the group, names of members of the Kaduna Mafia are not often meant for public consumption. Nevertheless, some names do usually come up as the sponsors and proponents of the ideals and principles of the group.

Such names purportedly included Liman Ciroma; Adamu Ciroma; Musa Bello; Mamman Daura, Dr Mahmud Tukur; the late Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki, Alhaji Tijjani Hashim; Hamza Zayyad; Alhaji Umaru Mutallab and Alhaji Aliko Mohammed.

Others allegedly included Dr Ibrahim Tahir; Ahmed Joda, Alhaji Ibrahim Damcida, Alhaji Tatari Ali; Alhaji Audu Abubakar; Professor Ango Abdullahi; Alhaji Sani Zangon Daura; Alhaji Aminu Tijjani; a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Ahmadu Ali and Professor Jibril Aminu, while the like of the late General Shehu Yar’ Adua and the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari were seen as the arrowheads of the military wing of the Kaduna Mafia.

However, it will be out of place to claim that the Kaduna Mafia and its members represented the entire face of the North. A clear line of distinction was made between ‘Kaduna Mafia’ and the North’s political elite in 1983 when it was alleged that the late General Shehu Yar’Adua led the military wing of the Kaduna Mafia to oppose the successful bid of former President Shagari for a second term of office.  And, for all intents and purposes, the term, ‘Kaduna Mafia’ became less heard from the early 1990s, only to be replaced by a new, phrase, “the Northern Caliphate”.

It will however be entirely wrong to assume that the Kaduna Mafia has died. The fact remains that most of its members are still around and they remain active in shaping and determining the fate of the country. Their seeming silence may be due to some extraneous factors: One, Kaduna, though still regarded as the political capital of the Old North, has been overshadowed by the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja which, without any air of pretense, is the centre of focus in the scheme of things.  But with unfolding events across the country, it may not be out of place to say that the members of the group are just lying in the shadows and monitoring the course of events and waiting to step, once again, into limelight and the corridors of power.

Another group which enjoyed almost same prominence as the Kaduna Mafia in the national political history is the Langtang Generals. Its members, included a rumoured clique of military men from Langtang in Plateau State who had variously held top and high positions of power in successive administrations in the country. The group particularly gained prominence during the administration of the self-styled President Ibrahim Babangida, between 1985 and 1993. Prominent members of the group were said to include General Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, General Jeremiah Useni, General Domkat Bali and Brigadier-General John Shagaya.

Langtang is a town in Plateau State. It was more commonly known as the home of the Generals, having produced the like of Generals Bali, Joseph Garba (deceased), Useni, Dogonyaro, John Shagaya, Jonathan Temlong, Musa Gambo, Ishaku Pennap, Air Marshal Jonah Wuyep and Air Commander Bernard Banfa. It also boasts of elder statesmen, including Chief Solomon Lar (the first civilian governor of the state and a former PDP national chairman), the late Chief Ezekiel Yusuf (the first chairman of Langtang Local Government) and Reverend Canon Selchang Miner. But unlike the Kaduna Mafia which was predominantly a Muslim grouping, the Langtang Mafia drew its membership from among Christians as Langtang is a Christian community, with some elements of adherents of the African Traditional Religion (ATR) and Tarok being the major tribe.

Following the footsteps of the perceived precursors of the terms, ‘mafia’ and ‘cabal’, are those who may be regarded as the young Turks who have taken over all aspects of the national life since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999 to date. This set of men and women have come to be seen as the “faces behind the new mafia that runs Nigeria”.

However, unlike the old order where the two afore-mentioned groups were regional in nature, the new mafia holding sway in the country cuts across all the geopolitical zones, breaking all ethnic barriers and occupying the top echelon of all the most lucrative sectors. They are also described as hawks who can hold any government by the jugular to achieve their aims.

In the business sector there are individuals like Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the Kano businessman once voted by Forbes Magazine as Africa’s richest man; Chief Mike Adenuga, the introvert multibillionaire owner of Glo; Femi Otedola, who is an established voice in the nation’s oil sector; Abdulsamad Rabiu, the sugar merchant; Wale Tinubu, the CEO of Oando, and the current Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who, as a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), wielded an enormous power in the banking sector, just to mention a few.

These men have their women counterparts who played very prominent roles in the life of the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration. They included former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah and former Minister of Finance/Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was a prominent member of the Federal Executive Council during the Jonathan administration.