Shinkafi: Life And Times Of National Security Icon | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Shinkafi: Life And Times Of National Security Icon

Posted: Jul 8, 2016 at 3:09 am   /   by   /   comments (0)



When the death of Umaru Shinkafi, a top Nigerian politician and former security chief, on Wednesday July 6, 2016 hit the news waves, it created shock and disbelief as many did not see it coming. He died at the Harefield Hospital, Middlesex, UK, due to multiple organ failures. Shinkafi, who died at 79 held the title of Marafan Sokoto.

Shinkafi, a prince, was born in January 1937 as a result of a union between a princess from Kaura Namoda in Shinkafi, Zamfara State, and Ali Bisije, was from Gashua, Yobe State, but preferred Shinkafi as his hometown. He attended Sokoto Middle School, and Barewa College, Zaria. He studied Law at the University of Lagos and was called to the Bar in 1974. He was Minister of Internal Affairs in an acting capacity.

He was married to Yewande from Abeokuta, Ogun State, and two other wives, who had five children altogether. Sources in the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto revealed that Shinkafi died in the company of his wives, children and extended family members.

One of his wives, Hajiya Lubabatu, is the daughter of late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the defunct Northern Region, while his first daughter, Aisha Umaru Shinkafi, is currently the Zamfara State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry.

Shinkafi, a former intelligence chief and Federal Commissioner of Internal Affairs, was a presidential aspirant during the Third Nigerian Republic. Shinkafi’s remains would be flown back to Nigeria for burial on Friday July 8 in accordance with Islamic rites.

He was at some point the Chairman of the International Bank for West Africa (later the defunct Afribank Plc and Mainstreet Bank Limited which was acquired by Skye Bank Plc in 2014). The late Marafan Sokoto was the elder brother to the former governor of Zamfara State, Mamuda Shinkafi. He was also the Pro-Chancellor of the Sokoto State University and the in-law to Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari and Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.

Born in Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State in January 1937, Shinkafi attended Sokoto Middle School and Barewa College, Zaria. He attended the University of Lagos, where he studied Law and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1974, having attended the Nigerian Law School.

A security strategist and intelligence expert, Shinkafi, as head of the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO), the nation’s secret police, played active role in the emergence of the Second Republic of former President Shehu Shagari, who on coming to power in 1979, appointed him the Director General (DG) of the outfit. Before then, he was the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State.

Being the NSO boss in a democratic setting exposed him to accusations of partisanship by the opposition parties, especially Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Waziri Ibrahim’s Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP).

As one who was on top of his game, Shinkafi had foreknowledge of the coup that ousted the Shagari government. As a patriot, he could not hide it, but tried to stop it by informing the then president. The coup brought to power General Muhammadu Buhari as a Military Head of State in December 31, 1983.

Few weeks to the execution of the coup, Shinkafi quit his position as head of NSO on health ground. It was rumoured that he quit due to his frustration over the inaction of the Shagari over the intelligence he provided on the planned coup.

Apart from his inability to stop the coup that ousted Shagari, Shinkafi as head of NSO also was also unhappy that the government could not use the information provided by his men to nip the Maitasine fundamentalists in the bud in their Kano base in 1980. His efforts were also unable to check the Camerounian onslaught against the Bakassi Peninsula. Today the area has been annexed to that country to the detriment of the people of the area and the loss of Nigeria.

When he quit the service, Shinkafi turned to politics and wanted to be a president. The Marafan Sokoto was the vice presidential candidate of Olu Falae in the All Peoples Party (APP)/Alliance for Democracy (AD) alliance (today’s All Progressives Congress, APC) in 1999. He lost to the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar ticket fielded by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He was running neck-and-neck with Adamu Ciroma in the race for the presidential ticket of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in 1992 before the military government cancelled the primary.

An advocate of the state police, Shinkafi in January 2012, issued a strong statement asking for the creation of state police to tackle Boko Haram and other modern crimes. The statement was titled: “State Police: A policy option for current insecurity” and in it, he opined that the opposition to state police was “exaggerated, misleading and unfounded”.

Shinkafi’s death has attracted a lot of reactions. President Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and Chief Olayiwola Alani Bankoke, all expressed shock and sadness over his death.

In his reaction, Buhari commiserated with the government and people of Zamfara State “on the passing of one of their illustrious sons”. Speaking through Mr. Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Buhari described Shinkafi as an expert whose contributions to the development of the security architecture of Nigeria remained indelible.

Buhari recalled that as a former Commissioner of Police and NSO boss, Shinkafi played a frontline role in the activities leading to the return and enthronement of democracy in Nigeria. Buhari maintained that Shinkafi played the parts assigned to him diligently, conscientiously and patriotically. He enjoined his family, friends and associates to emulate the virtues he left behind.

Atiku, on his own, described Shinkafi as “a remarkably decent and disciplined politician who would be greatly missed by Nigerians.” Speaking through his media office, Atiku recalled that Shinkafi was one of the “most intelligent, visceral and deeply informed and principled politicians” he had ever known.

Atiku recalled that Shinkafi was so independent-minded that he and his associates were denied registration by the General Sani Abacha military junta, adding that the deceased was never timid to forcefully express his opinion on national issues. The Turakin Adamawa maintained that Shinkafi would be greatly remembered as “one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of Nigerian politics for his total commitment to democracy and the rule of law”.

Chief Bankole, father of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, expressed sorrow over Shinkafi’s death, describing him as a “close, dear brother”. Chief Bankole, the Seriki Jagunmolu of Egbaland, and former National Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), prayed that God grants Shinkafi “Aljana Fridau” (eternal rest), even as he condoled with the Sultan, the Sokoto Caliphate, members of the Shinkafi family and the security services family in Nigeria.

Dogara also commiserated with the government and people of Zamfara and all Nigerians over the death of the late Shinkafi. The speaker, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Turaki Hassan, described Shinkafi’s death as a huge loss to the nation, describing him as a true democrat who contributed immensely towards the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.

Former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, on his own, described Shinkafi’s death as a monumental loss not only to people of Zamfara, but to Nigeria as a whole. Speaking through his media aide, Yusuf Dingyadi, Bafarawa described Shinkafi as a diligent intelligence officer who worked to uplift the standards of security services in the country and strived for the survival of democracy during the military era.