Mohammed Idris Malagi: The face of decent, issue-based politics
For centuries, media moguls and entrepreneurs have staked their claim in the political affairs of their countries, beyond being drivers of conscience of their society as members of the fourth estate of the realm. The world abounds with the history of successful media owners emerging as outstanding leaders and politicians.
From pre-independence Nigeria, the media did not just play important roles in the independence struggle;practitioners and owners have been active participants and played pivotal roles seeking political offices and making a success of it. In the pre-independence era, two prominent Nigerians stood out as media practitioners who were very active politicians – Sir Herbert Macaulay and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who became Nigeria’s first President at independence on October 1, 1960.
This intervention by the media and media practitioners have continued till date with Chief Lateef Jakande, Lagos State Governor in the Second Republic and Chief Segun Osoba, Ogun State Governor following the tradition established by the pre and early independence media practitioners. Others have vied for other elective positions as legislators, chairmen of councils or heads of professional bodies.
Following this trajectory in October 2019, Alhaji Mohammed Idris (Malagi), media owner and renowned public relations practitioner, decided to tread the path taken by other media entrepreneurs – by not just taking keen interest in politics and politicians, but seeking political office.
And here began a journey of over 31 months of consultations, engagements, lobbying, bridge building, consensus building and negotiations. When he started, some considered him a joker. Others took him for a money-miss-road adventurer. Still there were those who felt he was an outsider venturing into a space that was not his own.
All those who held various views about his foray into politics were unanimous that he was going to fade away – he couldn’t go the whole hog. They thought – out of ignorance or limited knowledge of the persona – that like some before him, he just wanted to “show face” and disappear.
But the same thing happened when he ventured into newspaper publishing with the establishment of Blueprint Newspapers. He took the media industry by storm and was taken for granted by some practitioners. Likewise, when he started his political journey, he was taken for granted by those who considered themselves the veterans and, whose right it was to determine those to contest for the governorship of Niger State.
Over 30 months down the line, he remains steady and has proved all the naysayers wrong by not just going the whole-hog, but beating their imaginations with political dexterity.
From when he started and gradually warmed his way into the hearts of his people, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi positively influenced the political landscape of Niger State by preaching politics of non-violence while sustaining an issue-based campaign.
While other political actors and their social media insurgents blackmailed, insulted as well as used divisive tendencies in their messages and actions, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi continuously, consistently and deliberately amplified messages of hope, of unity, and of a greater and more prosperous Niger State.
Within this period, he met various stakeholders across all the geopolitical zones and different political tendencies in the state. He became the rallying point of even known political foes, who before Malagi emerged on the political scene hardly saw eye to eye. He visited elder statesmen, traditional rulers, religious leaders, and community leaders. He engaged the young, old, men and women. While building a broad-based network of followers, he was mindful of the value of key stakeholders in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Deploying his resources, time, network and unique style, the media mogul breathed life into the Niger State chapter of the All Progressives Congress. He invested resources in the infrastructure and logistics requirements of the state wing, funding it and donating operational vehicles. His one-off donation of 31 buses and N43million were unprecedented.
While picking his nomination, the Kakaaki Nupe re-echoed his central message about why he was in the race thus: “Our path to the development of Niger State is clear and unambiguous. I will work from my first hour in office as the Governor of Niger State to unleash the potentials of our people; men, women, youth, educated and uneducated, farmers and artisans, traders and everyone else living in all parts of the state to be the best they can be under a stable and in a secure environment.
“My vision is to work with the solid foundation and God-given human and material resources we already possess as a state to unlock our capacity in education, agriculture, science, technology and innovation to make Niger a truly frontline state in all its ramifications.”
Throughout his consultation, engagements, lobbying and meeting with stakeholders, he never lost his cool as a quiet, calm and calculated personality. While some political actors in the state have institutionalized thuggery, politics of bitterness, vendetta, character assassination and violence, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malaga popularized politics of non-violence, unity, peace and peaceful co-existence, and productive engagements. It is on record that Malagi reached out to almost all the gubernatorial aspirants on the platforms of APC before the primaries.
Even during his engagements with various local governments and federal constituencies, Malagi only preached his hope and desire to see a greater Niger State, of development, of prosperity, of unity. In his travels from Lapai to Agaie to Bida to Kutigi to Borgu to Kontagora and Minna meeting with traditional rulers, community leaders, politicians, he was never carried away by the heat of the moment to say anything that could overheat the polity or stir animosity.
The Kakaaki Nupe ran a good race and when the outcome of the process didn’t turn out as projected despite the obvious shortcomings in the process, he was the first to congratulate the winner and immediately directed an official statement be issued to that effect. Even when his mature and civil disposition after the APC gubernatorial elections was taken for granted and even misconstrued as a sign of weakness by some stakeholders and their political jobbers, he kept his cool and maintained a studied calm.
When the executive council of Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, Niger State Chapter paid him a thank-you visit for redeeming his pledge to provide a bus for the secretariat despite the outcome of the primaries, the media owner said: “After the primaries, the support I got from the people of Niger State has motivated and encouraged me to remain in politics. Wecannot go back. I will have to remain in politics.
“I have no enemies in or outside politics. I have continued to impress on my supporters to always maintain peace and harmony. I don’t want any of my supporters to take laws into their hands. We should be law-abiding citizens so that together we can make Niger State great again.
Whatever the outcome of the APC gubernatorial primaries, which Malagi was projected to win, it is clear that Malagi may have lost the battle, but certainly won the war – in the political chess game. He has won the hearts and minds of millions of Nigerlites and indeed, well-meaning Nigerians who knew that his only mission was an opportunity to build a greater Niger State.
Little wonder, he has since the announcement of results of the APC gubernatorial primaries, become the political bride that is now the rallying point of Niger State politics. More than three months after the primaries, Malagi has remained the most sought after and most talked about political figure in Niger State with all the political parties, not just reaching out to him, but wanting, in some instances, begging him to be their flagbearer.
Whatever may be the outcome of Malagi’s race to Niger Government House, what is most important is that the amiable media guru ran a good race and left an indelible mark on the political landscape.
The 56-year-old media mogul and PR guru-turned-politician, has become the new face of hope in Niger State politics, and champion of politics of non-violence as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi; and the strategy of Sun Tzu, who wants to win every battle without firing a gun.
There may be mistakes, missteps and learnt lessons from the outcome of the gubernatorial primaries. There may be criticism of how he ran the race. There may be misgivings of how he engaged and his political rules of engagement. There may be regrets of what needed to be done or what should have been done. There may be criticism of his soft style, decent, issue-based politics.But history favours those who venture, those who take risks.
As Theodore Roosevelt famously noted: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Jibrin Baba Ndace is an Abuja-based journalist