MANTU: Goodbye to mantle of sociable politics
“Why are you looking at me like that? Were you not here, when I put the question?”
It was that singular question that sounded the death knell on an obnoxious piece of legislation in the country’s upper legislative chamber. It was posed by the Senate President to his deputy during Nigeria’s attempt to revise the 1999 Constitution to extend limitless tenure to occupants of the executive of arm of government as it applies to their counterparts in the Legislature.
The constitutional amendment effort was laconically referred to as Third term. And the man being addressed in that fateful plenary of June 2016 was no other than Alhaji Ibrahim Nasiru Mantu, the Deputy President of Senate.
He was a very colourful politician. Together with his flowing white babanriga, Senator Ibrahim Mantu’s toothy smiles usually electrified the Nigeria fifth Senate. He was ubiquitous on the floor of the hallowed chambers and was as engaging as he was involved in the politics of the Red Chamber.
As the representative of Plateau Central Senatorial District, Mantu was in his second term when the legendary third term debate happened in the Senate. Perhaps, owing to his position as a ranking Senator, deputising a fresher that was elected as President of Senate, Mantu was not only the go-to guy, but also the foot-soldier and go-between for the mercurial leader of the federal executive, who was also a former military head of state.
Mantu’s first term in the Senate in 1999, saw him first as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, before he was subsequently elected as Deputy President of the Senate. It was therefore based on his position as the second in command to the Senate President that he was appointed as the Chairman, Joint National Assembly Constitution Review Committee, which lasted from 2003 to 2007 respectively.
These positions helped in no small way to put the Senator at the centre of everything in and about the Senate, while his tenure lasted.
From the way he plied his trade, it was evident that Mantu was not a rookie politician, especially given his participation in Second Republic era, during which he featured in the transition programme as deputy chairman of Plateau State chapter of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN), shortly after the Presidential election of 1979.
During the convoluted Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida transition programme, Mantu aspired to be the national chairman of one of the two-government enrolled parties, the National Republic Convention (NRC). Although he lost in the election, he carried on with the experience garnered from that effort.
That could explain why, as the transition programme lasted, Mantu was made the Director General of NRC Presidential Campaign Organisation in 1993, when there appeared a flicker of hope that the military was finally on their way out of civil governance.
During the Sani Abacha transition programme, when five political parties were on the verge of adopting a single Presidential candidate, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu found himself in the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP). His exposure in politics put him in a good stead as he was effortlessly elected as the party’s National Publicity Secretary and subsequently elected as Senator.
Upon the tragic and sudden dismantling of that civilian/military experiment, Mantu participated in the General Abdulsalami Abubakar short transition programmed that birthed the fourth republic and returned to the Senate in 1999, this time on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
And the man died!
The admirable political career of the man from Plateau came to a final close: The effable Ibrahim Mantu was confirmed dead at a private hospital in Abuja after battling health challenges related to COVID-19 virus.
Prior to his demise, Mantu, who was a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) featured in the attempt to establish a Middle Belt Political Forum, upon which the proponents wanted to make case for the zone and a statement about the 2023 President poll.
His winsome personality must have been acquired in his days as a Specialist salesman for Business Equipment and Automated Machines (BEAM), a division of the United African Company (UAC), where he was employed in 1971.
Born on February 16, 1947, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu qualified as a self-made man, having guided himself through personal home schooling to obtain the General Certificate in Education (GCE) and Diploma in Professional Salesmanship.
Before his death at 74, he was a proud native of Chanso Village, in the Gindiri Quarters of Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State. Expectedly, on his passing, the nature and tone of condolences to his family reflected the style of Mantu’s politics.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, commiserated “with leaders and members of the National Assembly, friends and political associates of the former Deputy Senate President, who dedicated most of his life to the service of his people.”
On his part, Plateau State Governor and Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum, Simon Bako Lalong expressed shock over the death of Wazirin Pyem, describing it as a great loss to Plateau State and Nigeria at large.
“Late Senator Nasiru Mantu was a grassroots politician, whose life was all about the interest of the people as he did everything within his power to serve them through empowerment and quality representation.
“He earned his place in Nigerian politics by active involvement and also had a great connection with the youth whom he mentored not only in politics, but in other fields, especially service to humanity,” Governor Lalong mourned.
President of Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, noted that: “Mantu had a brilliant political career which he capped with the quality representation he provided the people of Plateau Central District as their two-term Senator between 1999 and 2007.
“As Deputy Senate President, Mantu played the role with great energy and finesse, which earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues, Distinguished Senators.
“The former Deputy Senate President lived a life of service to his people and to the entire nation. He left his imprints at the Senate, having served creditably well in his days at the Upper Chamber.”
The suddenness of his passing and the outpouring of grief and kind reminiscences from friends and associates capture the effervescence of Mantu’s politics and the era in which he stumped about, spreading gaiety and hope for a better Nigeria to come.