Mai Mala Buni: The Man Who Never Asked

Gov. Mai Mala Buni

Governor Mai Mala Buni did not tell anyone that he wants to be president, vice president or to continue as party chairman

BY MAHMUD JEGA February 17, 2022

Ask and you shall be given, so said the holy books, but here is a man who got so many things in Nigerian politics even though he never asked for them. Today, many rumours are swirling around Mai Mala Buni in political circles and the media, alleging hidden motives and ambitions without the slightest regard to context, history, situation and personal demeanour.

It is true that a man who is sitting on two juicy political apple pies at the same time cannot entirely escape rumours, blames and accusations from ambitious politicians seeking to grab one or both of those posts.

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Some rumours have it that Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, who has been Chairman of APC’s Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, wants to succeed himself as party chairman. Other politicos say no, more than that, that he is nursing Vice Presidential or perhaps even Presidential ambition. According to the rumour mongers, that is what is causing delay in the APC national convention, now scheduled for February 26.

Widespread nature of a rumour does not make it true, especially in this age of e-rumour mongering. Top aides and associates of the Chairman say the rumours are false, baseless, malicious and empty fabrications of mischief makers.

Governor Mai Mala Buni did not tell anyone that he wants to be president, vice president or to continue as party chairman. He couldn’t have, since this is a man who never sought for any of the political goodies that ever came his way. During the Third Republic in 1992-93, Mai Mala was in Lagos when a team of local politicians from his ward arrived and invited him home to contest for councilor. You don’t reject the call of your people; he went home, contested and won by a landslide on NRC’s platform even though SDP won the whole state.

When the elected Gujba Local Government Council was inaugurated, Mai Mala did not ask to be anything but NRC’s eight councilors unanimously elected him to be the Leader [Speaker] of the legislature. Gujba’s Chairman, who was an SDP member, had two councilors in his kitty.

Years into the Third Republic, without asking for it, Mai Mala Buni was unanimously elected as Yobe State chairman of Action Congress, AC. When it became ACN, he was again elected its chairman without asking for it. In 2013 when the state’s ruling ANPP merged with ACN, CPC and others to become APC, he was unanimously elected, without asking for it, to become the pioneer Yobe State APC Chairman.

Two years later when APC’s national leadership was up for grabs, Mai Mala did not ask for it when his state chapter and North Easter zonal caucus nominated him to become APC’s National Secretary. He landed in the post without asking for it and in 2018, was re-elected to a second term, again without asking for it.

Mai Mala Buni was just settling into his second term as party National Secretary when another call came, again from the blues. Unsolicited, he was nominated to fly APC’s flag into the 2019 governorship election in Yobe State. Three other persons wanted the ticket so he contested alongside them and emerged victorious with a landslide. He also won the main election with a landslide. For the first time since the onset of the Fourth Republic in 1999, Yobe State’s PDP governorship candidate Ambassador Ilyas Damagum refused to go to court after the election. It was, all Yobeans said, the ultimate statement of faith in Mai Mala, the man who got many things without asking for them.

In 2020 when APC’s National Executive Committee sacked its National Working Committee and sought to replace it with a Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, it sought for an extraordinary person to lead the team. Party leaders, APC governors and President Buhari huddled and discussed, before they came up with a Mai Mala Buni solution even though he never asked for this assignment. He couldn’t have, because he has his hands full with the governorship of Yobe State, which he has pursued with a great sense of purpose, driving its security efforts, educational revamping and infrastructural expansion, among others. Most probably, party leaders chose him because he had been the party’s National Secretary, in addition to his humility, very gentle manners and Never Ask attitude.

It is true that the national assignment came with complications, not the least of them being the season of pandemic and raging insecurity in many parts of the country. Mai Mala’s leadership managed to produce an authentic party register, attracted many big political fish into APC, solidified the party’s reach and conducted its nationwide local government and state congresses. Yet problems festered, with several state chapters holding parallel congresses. It is the price of success; many ambitious politicians are desperate to gain control of APC state chapters because of the party’s strength and solidity across the country.

They are serious problems but they are not insurmountable. APC will ultimately hold its convention and other people will lead it into the next stormy waters of primaries and general election. At that point many people will look back and say we made unfounded allegations against Mai Mala Buni, this man who was too gentle to ask for anything and too reserved to say we were lying.