It’s five years today that former intelligence czar, security expert, lawyer and leading politician, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, passed away. While he trod our plain, the late Marafan Sokoto, endeavored to leave his mark in the lives, institutions and societies he encountered along the way. And he left his mark in many profound ways. The catalogue of cherished and unforgotten memories by his family, friends, associates and admirers from all walks of life, bear witness to his enduring influence. That most of the recollections about encounters with late Shinkafi are couched in tenderness, make them special indeed. And more importantly, that motherland Nigeria, whom Shinkafi devoted much of his life and work to securing, is currently facing immense security challenges on many fronts, make many minds fling with nostalgia to what the situation might be, if his deep mind could be picked for advice on how to efficiently manage these challenges.
Late Shinkafi traversed many strategic spheres of life in Nigeria. From Intelligence to Security. From Law to Foreign Relations. From Politics to Philanthropy. And much more.
This 5th Anniversary of his passing offers us an opportunity to reflect more deeply on some of the big issues, which his life represented.
His biggest contributions to Nigeria’s development took place behind the scenes! He got into politics in the latter stages of his life but long before then, he had served Nigeria meritoriously, behind the scenes, in Intelligence, Security, Foreign Relations and related functions.
His service behind the scenes is central to this intervention. And actually, its driving objective. The general assumption that an individual’s contribution to national development is proportional to how much the rest of society knows about his activities requires further
interrogation. That the value or worth of an individual’s contribution to the wellbeing of society is measured in terms of how many persons know about those contributions is somewhat misleading. The emphasis should be that the rest of society feel and have positive experiences from these contributions instead of simply knowing about these contributions. It is important to know but it is more important to actually make a difference in the material conditions of people.
To assume that only those who trend or who make the headlines regularly or who have the most likes, etc. are those making the most contributions to the wellbeing of society, is misleading. The human body and its many parts provide us an interesting picture by which we may more closely examine this matter. There are body parts that are more likely to trend, hug the headlines, etc because of their visibility and presence than others. But they are not necessarily the most important because of their visibility and presence. Other parts more hidden are far more important to the overall function and wellbeing of the body. How might we compare the heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, legs, skin, etc?
How many people can survive without the heart compared to how many people can survive without their eyes, ears, mouth, etc?
If Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi were an organ in the body called Nigeria, what would he have been? Would he have been an ‘invisible’ organ like the heart, kidney, lung, brain, etc. Or would he have been a ‘visible’ organ like the eye, ear, nose, mouth, etc? It is safe to say that he moved between the ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ organs but from available evidence, he left his biggest marks in the ‘invisible’/behind the scenes dimensions.
As family, friends and admirers remember him and reflect on his legacy, it is important to begin a new conversation anchored on the reality that every Nigerian represents ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ parts of the Nigerian body, going by our duties and functions, not necessarily by the titles we may or may not bear. While also remembering to affirm those who hardly make the headlines; hardly trend in the visible spaces but whose contributions behind the scenes, away from the headlines, keep Nigeria together, and give her any semblance of a living organism.