For Ali Monguno, nationalist and statesman, a tribute


As a Chief Correspondent of the Daily Times in charge of northeastern states in 1978, Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno, in an exclusive interview in Maiduguri, told me about the advice given Chief Obafemi Awolowo with regards to the formation of a political party.
According to Monguno, Chief Awolowo was advised on the need for the formation of an all-embracing political party that has national spread, involving significant stakeholders. When evolved, the party was to be prepared to concede its presidential candidacy to Awolowo in preference to a situation where Awolowo had formed a party and invited others to join.
Alhaji Monguno, a renowned educationist, politician, gentleman, philanthropist and farmer, who passed away on July 8 in Maiduguri aged 90, explained that in giving the advice to Awolowo, the concerned were aware of his intellect and leadership qualities.
Monguno was a nationalist and statesman, known and respected for his humility, honesty and brutal frankness. He was equally a dependable ally of the masses and strong advocate of formal education, especially girl child education.
Monguno once told a story of how he was forcefully enrolled into Monguno Elementary School in 1935 against the wish of his parents, who did everything possible, including looking for Islamic and Qu’aranic mallams to pray for his release or even expulsion from school.Untitled He pointed out that his parents regarded the formal education system (Western Education) an aberration. They tagged it ‘karakidibe,’ which translates into one learning about his or her way of life, including religion, in the White man’s language.
According to Monguno, his parents detested this completely. He, however, pointed out that decades after he went back to Monguno, the people came out in numbers, celebrating, beating drums, dancing and merry making. They were in joyous mood about the fact that their child, who was forcefully enrolled in the Kafir (infidel) way of schooling, had become a great personality in the country.
In his life time, Monguno not only propagated western education in Borno and beyond, he personally assisted many in various ways, including ploughing his resources to make their dreams reality.
Soft spoken, but firm and outspoken, he expressed his views, especially on national issues, fearlessly. At the onset of the insurgency in Borno, he called on the federal government of President Goodluck Jonathan to dialogue with the Boko Haram sect to get to the root of the problem and avoid further bloodshed.
He was persistent on the need for dialogue. And when President Jonathan visited Maiduguri, he was unequivocal about the unhappiness of Borno with the manner the insurgency issue was being managed.
He told President Jonathan that there was a communication gap between the President and the state governor, Kashim Shettima, and warned that the continuity of this would not augur well for the state and the nation, more so with the onslaught of Boko Haram.
Ironically, Monguno was kidnapped on Friday, May 3, 2013 at a Jumma’at Mosque in Maiduguri by gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram. Though the sect denied involvement, it is instructive that following that episode and his subsequent release, his public appearance and comments on public issues went down considerably.
In one of his press interviews in 2012, he said, “Our founding fathers were not only dogged, serving and worshiping God, they also tried very hard to regard corruption as evil. Those leaders sacrificed their lives for us to live. Today, it is unfortunate that we have not been able to succeed at replacing our founding fathers. They sacrificed money for merit; they worshiped their creator to the best of their abilities as opposed to some other leaders who will rather exploit the poor and die rich.
“Who can tell us that the government of Nigeria today is just, is incorruptible and is peace-loving?”
Monguno was also a strong advocate of national unity. In another speech, he said, “Here we are (Nigerians), our marriage so far has survived and certainly, we are not going to allow any individual or group of individuals to put this marriage asunder. We will fight against it now. There are disappointments sometimes, but I describe them as blessings in disguise.”
Personalities far and near had since been paying condolences to Monguno. To the Governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, the fallen Iroko tree was an icon and a colossus; and to President Muhammadu Buhari, Monguno was one of the finest politicians the nation ever produced.
Born in 1926 in Monguno, Borno state, the statesman, who was conferred with the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) in 1982, was the Deputy National Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria from 1980 to1984.