UMARU SHINKAFI: A VOID THAT CANNOT BE FILLED
(Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi)
A distinguished legal luminary, an internationally recognized intelligence chief (fondly called Chief Spy Master), anaccomplished police officer, a politician and the Marafan Sokoto. Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, without a doubt lived a fulfilled life.
Born on the 19th of January, 1937 at Kaura Namoda town in present day Zamfara to Hajiya Aishatu Ummarun Mamuda (the daughter of a former Emir of Kauran Namoda) and Alhaji Ali Bisije, a popular merchant. He joined the Nigerian Police Force in 1959 after a successful completion of his elementary and secondary education at the famous Barewa College, Zaria. An astute individual with a curious mind, Umaru Shinkafi furthered his studies and graduated with a law degree from the prestigious University of Lagos in 1973 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1974.
In 1975, he was appointed as a Federal Commissioner (Minister) of Internal Affairs. In 1979, he became the Director General of the National Security Organization. This was an intelligence organization which was the precursor of the present day Department of State Services created to coordinate internal security, foreign intelligence and counter-intelligence activities.He held this position until November, 1983 when he resigned on grounds of principle. As the head of the NSO he foresaw Buhari’s coup of 1983 and promptly informed the then President Shehu Shagari’s government of the impending coup. In fact, he went public with this information in trying to defend himself against accusations by Umaru Dikko, the powerful Minister of Transport under Shagari’s government that the NSO withheld information about the coup. However, the Shagari government didn’t do anything to avert the coup despite being made aware of it. Shagari himself admitted this much in his book “Beckoned to Serve”, where he stated that he was informed that some military men were planning to overthrow his government.
Marafan Sokoto was a perfect and composed gentleman even in times of serious pressure. Serving as the head of the secret police in a democratic government earned him respect, praises as well as accusations of partisanship by opposition parties, especially Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Waziri Ibrahim’s Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP). Despite the challenges, he remained focused and dedicated to his work as his main objective was to serve his Fatherland. He once said:
“Before the military intervention (in 1983), we had the UPN headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We had the GNPP and opposition parties. The ruling party at the center was of course the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari. It was feared that the apparatus of the NSO were slanted against the opposition parties, particularly the UPN. For this reason, people in the opposition parties tended to be afraid of the NSO viewed it as a terror organization…”
Umaru Shinkafi was a grass root politician who always maintained his conduct and popularity with his people because there was never a time when his political party lost an election in his hometown, local government and state. His active political history dates back to 1989 as one of the promoters of Nigerian National Congress (NNC), a political association he formed. After the disbandment of political groups by the Babangida administration, the NNC later joined the National Republican Convention (NRC) where he created the popular “Choice 92”, a campaign group for his presidential ambition believed to be the best campaign structure in the country then.
He was running neck and neck with Adamu Ciroma in the presidential race under the platform of the NCR before the cancellation of the primaries and the presidential election, but his party, the NCR, won the governorship election in his state (then Sokoto State). Malam Yahaya Abdulkarim was returned as the Governor of Sokoto State.
When Zamfara State and Shinkafi Local Government were created in October, 1996 by the Abacha regime, Umaru Shinkafi’s party the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) won the Local Government elections in some local governments including his own Shinkafi Local Government.
Umaru Shinkafi subsequently ran as the Vice-Presidential candidate of Olu Falae under the APP/AD’s alliance (today’s APC). Though they lost to Obasanjo and Atiku, he however maintained his political relevance and popularity by producing many governors in Northern Nigeria including his own Zamfara State. Despite the proclivity of Nigerian politicians to switch parties when things don’t go their way, Umaru Shinkafi never switched parties no matter the hurdles encountered in his political party. His party (ANPP which later became APC) remains unbeaten and retains power in Zamfara State to date.
As a security expert, he was one of the leading advocates of State Police when in January 2012, he issued a policy paperdemanding for the creation of state police to tackle Boko Haram and other modern crimes which was titled “State Police: A Policy Option for Current Insecurity.”
Baba Marafa, as he was fondly called by most people in the state, particularly, individuals from his local government in Shinkafi, was a very generous individual. His hands and doors were always open ready to help anyone in need. There is hardly a household in Shinkafi that has never benefitted from his generosity. I know many people were always assured of new clothes for the annual Eid el Fitr celebration as well as a ram for the Eid el Kabir celebration.
As a young lawyer, I have never met an individual as highly placed and influential, yet as humble and down to earth as Umaru Shinkafi. I can vividly recall the last time I had the privilege of meeting with him sometime in December, 2015 when he returned from medical treatment in London. I was in the company of the present Shinkafi Local Government Chairman, Honorable Sani Mohammed Galadi. As soon as he was informed we were in the waiting area to see him, he had us ushered into his living room where we met him standing waiting to receive us. We engaged in a wide discussion as well as arguments on many issues of national importance. It didn’t matter if we opposed his opinions and views, he listened calmly with a smile on his face. He was neither offended nor perturbed by our opposition to his views.
He is survived by three wives, Hajiya Fatima Dammu (daughter of the late Magaji Lamido, the 9th Emir of Shinkafi), Hajiya Yawade and Hajiya Lubabatu (the daughter of the late Sardauna of Sokoto) and five children, Hajiya Zainab Bagudu Shinkafi (wife of the Kebbi State Governor), Hajiya Hadiza Abdulaziz Yari (wife of the Zamfara State Governor), Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi (Honorable Commissioner for Commerce & Industries, Zamfara State), Hafsat Umaru Shinkafi and Ahmed Umaru Shinkafi (fondly called Sardauna).
Alhaji Umaru Aliyu Shinkafi’s departure has left a big void that is difficult, almost impossible to fill. May Allah grant him eternal rest and admit him to Jannatul Firdaus.