By Bashir Kabir
When you know someone for more than ten years you surely can tell something about him or her. People can hide who the really are but they can only do that for so long. Eventually, person’s true colors always shine through and the whole world get to know them for who they are. Ten years in a popular is long enough to see the real character of anybody, assess and apply logic to it and successfully pass a fair enough verdict on them.
I met Muhuyi Magaji in 2009 when he was still the vice chairman of Rimingado Local Government Area of Kano state (then, I had no idea he was an executive and remained like that until just recently). What I can recall clearly now when I look back in retrospect is that he didn’t look like he was in the government based on how he conducted himself and interacted with everyone. The air surrounding was more of that of a seasoned activist than an ordinary civil servant. I don’t have to go into graphic elaboration on how local government authority people normally conduct themselves, but this will vindicate my being ignorant of he was based on his outward attitude.
He was starting a magazine for his activism in the field of anti-corruption, good governance, youth and rule of law in that same year and our path crossed because graphics design as well as part time article writing was my job (I was still in the university). He was this young man and full of energy. When he talked every single cell of his body was animated and his entire aura is that of excitement. He was the kind of person that will win your heart at a single conversation. Up to this date, anybody who knows him can testify that He easily transfers whatever enthusiasm he has down to his listeners and get them aptly engaged with it.
In 2009 and before, I was never part of any social or public movement and was not planning to be in it soon, but after just few deep discussion with Muhuyi, his passion that was contagious caught up with me and I was ready to take part in his crusade of the fight against corruption, good governance and rule of law, must of which I didn’t know what it was or how it can be done. That was the best decision I’ve ever made because in so many ways it changes my life, it makes me a better person in terms of courage and standing for what I believe and also gives me a better understanding of life of integrity, ethics and morality.
Let’s talk about his crusade. For someone who was still a vice chairman of a rural local government area it was astounding how he came up with the idea of setting up a movement to checkmate government excesses. In a country like Nigeria it is almost a cliché that people seek public offices in order to make themselves drink a cupful. This might sound generalized but while it is not hundred percent the case with everyone, you’ll agree with me it is the majority which they say carry the bout. Thus, it was not normal for a rural local government vice chairman to question this status quo because while most of his counterparts and bosses were dining and partying with the available government resources at hand as it was made the norm, he chose to query the morality in for example sharing brand new personal vehicles to the executives. This will be discussed later, but for now we can assume that there was something different and weird about this man. What followed later proved this assertion one event at a time.
Under the umbrella of the civil society named Grassroots Anti-corruption Awareness Network Initiative (GACANI), Muhuyi rolled out the stone of what is to be become a grueling fight with transgressors in and outside of the court. Another weirdness displayed at that point was how he could write several legal documents with dexterity. He got me confused I had to ask if he was a lawyer back in 2009. He wasn’t, but he was planning to be. So I have to admit that he was self-taught in the profession even before he got called as a lawyer in the year 2019 (ten odd years later!).
He was not a lawyer but he knew his ways around legal process. This empowered him to certain extent and gave him the gusto to unabashedly drag elements court. It was a stressful time with constant struggles. Struggles that sometimes came with temptations and other times with threats.
If you asked me how he could do it in spite of challenges such as lack of funding, a pharaoh-style state government that was set to stampede on any one who speaks against it and tons of other huddles, I’d simply tell you I don’t know. What I know, though, was Muhuyi more than one time had to sell his personal belongings to pay for several court processes even though we could cut that cost by preparing some documents for the advocates. These court cases were purely public concerns that had to direct personal benefit for him in the event of success. He kept pushing even when he cannot afford to take care of his personal needs or settle the small staff working in the small office located at Kabuga. Often times he could not even settle his family with what they need to eat at home yet the work continues.
One would think for someone who’s having a hard time like, this temptations would be easy on him. Wrong! We knew that we were fighting for a good course but of course like any other civil society organization, particularly of now a days when for some the monetary benefit is as important as the work they do if not more, we were hoping for some sort of funding coming our way to alleviate our hardship and enable us carry out several projects that kept pulling up. We were so broke sometimes we cannot even afford to lunch in the office. A temptation of a 100 million, you will agree, is too good to be true. But he turned it down like it was nothing as soon as it was offered! We were so angry with him for a long a time to come. I’ll leave this here because I consider this as a personal happenstance that I have no right to digress deeper in this personal memoire of whom I come to term as ‘Bulaliyar kan hanyar doka fyade yaro fyade babban mara gaskiya’.
Threats were not uncommon too. When you choose to oppose a draconian government with blatant disregard for rule of law, one shouldn’t expect less. That is what happened when in 2012 Muhuyi’s voice kept on annoying the incumbent government on why elections must be held across the 44 local governments of Kano state and that interim governments also must be dissolved and abolished completely. This situation transpired into a court action that came out in his favor with the court upholding his prayer. Before then, of course the police invited him (I was with there) and he was told to immediately call off the protest he was planning to hold on the 14th of May 2012 if election was not scheduled despite the insecurity pandemic bedeviling Kano state at that time. He stood firm on the ground of constitutional provisions that legalized his actions and few hours later we left the police premises free and highly spirited.
He was the Vice chairman between 2003 and 2009
I’m already being a bit ahead of myself. Let me take you back to where it all began, or at least from when I was a living witness of what the man you know today as the executive chairman Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission started displaying resilience. We can all recall the brand new prestigious Kia cars distributed to the executives by the Shekarau administration. He was assigned one too by virtue of his position. I can remember it; a sleek silver car of dreams. Because I didn’t know he was an executive as I mentioned earlier, I presumed he was just some rich activist who can afford a luxury like that. I thought it was his own personal possession even though it should be obvious to me at that time the car was only characterized with the government executives (that was how clueless I was about pubic life).
One morning he came to the office and I was standing on the balcony to our the mini one-apartment premises when he was dropped off an ancient bus that was so old, reluctant and tired of life that it takes expertise and sheer will power by the veteran driver to get it moving and keep alive on the road. I asked him what happened to his car and why was he riding in that unflattering bus. He simply told me he returned the Kia car of dreams back where it came from. If that was not shocking enough I soon would learn, in addition to where the car came from, that he is dragging the government at state level to the court over issues I will talk about in a while. Later I would understand that he returned the car to the authorities because he believes it is flagrant mismanagement of resources and for someone who is crusading against it, t it should be directly reflected in his action.
That was the beginning of Muhuyi’s carries as a dogged and unflinching fighter against misappropriation which would over the time made him had dangerous and daring dances with fully-clouted red necks and those considering themselves above the law for a whole decade.