Race to Nikki: Thank you Mr President

By Frank Meke

I have indeed been privileged to eat and dine with kings and Princes. The good book says God will so direct the feet of those whom He loves to so experience such encounter(s).

In doing so, I have learnt to listen more to Kings and Princes

share their thoughts and ideas about many issues of the state and those they govern than the lust of mouth watering dishes on the dinner table. Indeed, I could be a bore and uninspiring dinner mate on a King’s table as I would prefer to listen and provoke more insights to issues that touches the hearts of Kings and Princes concerning those they govern.

The late Emir of Borgu, the Mai Borgu, Senator ( Dr) Haliru Dantoro, was a deep teacher in Humanities, Politics and Education. I will address him here and any where as my father, for he treated me as a Prince, even though I wore no crown while he lived.

We had met at the table of Conservation education, an area of knowledge, to which most Kings and Princes of his time and now, finds hard, very difficult to navigate but to the late reverred emir of Borgu, nature conservation education could be likened to cutting a cake.

At New Bussa and leading a media team on conservation education retreat to the kainji Lake National Park domiciled in his kingdom and to which he was a patron king, late Mai Borgu ( May God keep his soul in peace) spoke to us about the power of nature and its relationship with humanity, warning of the dare consequences of neglect and abuse of forest ecosystems.

We, about thirty of us drawn from various media houses listened with rapt attention and went after him, at tea break to seek clarification to most of his predictions which today stirred in the face, particularly the impact of climate change. The late sage, was prophetic!!

As the facilitator of the program, supported by the visionary leadership of Late Conservator General of National Park service then, late Tanko ” Technical ” Abubakar, I had shared my concerns about sustainable conservation in Nigeria, the role of the communities, poor funding and weak legislative instruments, and prayed for deepening of relationship between the media and conservation managers. I also sought the buy -in of traditional institutions in our national conservation trajectory, noting it must be a process deliberately driven for the sake of future well-being of our people.

With eyes for the best in people, the late Emir sent a note to me, insisting to host the team on our way out from the conference. Late Tanko, the NPS boss who spent four days with us at the conference and dutifully informed by the Palace of the Emir’s request, led us to the King’s lunch table.

This was about eleven years ago, and rest is history. From here, the late Emir took me off the lunch table, and made me his tourism media adviser(on pro bono) an ambassador of Borgu nation, Of its rich culture and tradition and to which I dedicated a greater part of life, putting together one the most enduring Gani Dubar festival in 2013, a think tank member on the public launch of his Biography in 2014, attended by Nigeria’ s A list political power brokers, coordinated his investiture as national patron of the National Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria ( ATBOWATON) and media front line member of the reenactment group on Race to Nikki, a historic trajectory of how the British and French fought to partition the great and powerful Borgu kingdom in1859.

In all these events, the political reach and acceptation of the late Emir was evidently unquestionable and enduring. Certainly, he was respected across the country and beyond our shores and so loved by the people of his kingdom. His words were authoritative and impactful.

And I took notes, not knowing why he so loved me. Through him and at his feet, I woke up to the realities of the power our culture and traditional institutions. He was brave, forthright, unblemished and feared no foe. He was a nemesis to vain and inglorious sociopolitical panderings.

Emir Haliru Dantoro was everything I wished to see about our leaders, Caring, lover and enabler of peace and unity, a pan Nigerian, highly detribalised, and lover of education.

His dreams were to transform Borgu kingdom into Dubai of Nigeria, culturally Unite the Borgu nation partitioned and scattered across the west coast of Africa, creating new trade and cultural trade post among these once powerful people, feared by then rampaging utman Danfodio army.

Long story, ehn!. So when God took him back home in 2015, during the high tempo preparation of a special Gani Durbar festival to celebrate the election victory of his friend and brother, President Muhammadu Buhari, the curtain certainly fell, drapped in agony for me and I wept.

Interrogating the reason and lessons of his passage in Germany in 2015, about seven years today, I kept away from Borgu land, stayed focused on his exemplary life, distressed at the neglect of his dreams, vision and family by his friends and political associates.

Then came to mind a book, on the reenactment, his cultural tourism dreams and i reached out to President Muhammadu Buhari pen the foreword, through femi Adeshina, and to which I remain grateful.

In this mission to immortalise the late sage , the Emir of Borgu, I asked nor requested for funding from no one. On the presentation of the book, “Race to Nikki” which i dedicated to his memory, at the presidency on Monday, I had prayed for a national museum dedicated his visions and ideas, taking into cognizance his exemplary life as an anti corruption crusader, a lover of national political cohesion and education for young persons.

Today, the late Emir ‘ s clan needs our support and prayers. Seven out his numerous children, well educated and in their prime, seems lost to the neglect of his political friends and associates.

Even though it’s not my business to rouse his friends from their perceived silence over the affairs of the clan he left behind, I believe we owe this enigma, prophet King, a duty to do our bits to advance succour to the family of the departed royal father, accommodating his wives, children, thus enthroning legacies worthy of good friends, benefactors and associates.

I have dropped the Race to Nikki , dedicated to him, and like I said, requested for nothing personal in return, and grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari, his media Adviser, Mr femi Adeshina and the entire presidency. Are you there, and you have one way or another benefited from benevolence of this great late Nigerian King who could not be ignored while he lived among us , please rise now and do something for his family, Borgu nation, all
to his unforgettable memory. Thank you again, Mr President.

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