Musa Shekwoyande Katai is the Nasarawa State Coordinator of the Federal Character Commission, (FCC) and husband of the slain form Commissioner for Women Affairs & Social Development in Nasarawa State, Mrs Joyce Maimuna Katai who was brutally killed on active duty on Election Day in 2003. In this interview with CHEKE EMMANUEL, Musa revealed why his wife was killed by her assailants and debunked insinuations that she was killed because she was seen conveying ballot boxes. He praised the state government for sustaining the scholarship of his children as well as the challenges of bringing up the children.
Can you tell us about yourself?
My names are Musa Shekwoyandu Katai, I am from Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.
Gbagyi by tribe, born on 2nd May, 1960. I went to Total Central School from 1967 to 1972, and Federal Government College Sokoto, from 1973 to 1977 where I obtained my Secondary School Certificate (WAEC). I attended University of Jos from 1977 to 1981 and graduated with B.Sc in Economics with Second Class Upper. I went for service year between 1981 1982 serving in Imo State, where I taught Economics and Mathematics in a Local Government called Etiti. which is the home town of the late first civilian governor of Imo State, Sam O. Mbakwe.
After the service, I came back home, Benue Plateau State as that time and at first, I worked in ministry of trade and co-operatives as a co-operative officer II where I spent three months before I joined an investment company (DESCO Investment Co.) spending another three months after which I got appointment with United Bank of Africa (UBA) from 25th April 1983.
I worked with UBA till July 2001 before I left the service of the bank. I didn’t just leave, there was a problem; two of my staff caused me problem even though the problem was resolved, the bank management did not look on me with favour because they didn’t believe me but I explained every detail, but they believed that there was some inducement because there was money that was over paid in foreign exchange.
That time, 45 thousand dollars was paid, I didn’t know till after a week and immediately I knew, I had to swing into action to get the money recovered. Eventually, I recovered the money but it was all done secretly because I was embarrassed to report such a thing.
That it was embarrassment that made me not to report this matter is one of the problems that caused the Bank Management to see me in bad light, but the money was recovered and the Bank did not lose anything yet, they didn’t want to pardon me for it despite the length of my impeccable service of eighteen years and three months.
But God gave me alternative employment somewhere else and I am working today at the Federal Character Commission where I am the State Coordinator of Nasarawa State. I report to the Commissioner (Political appointee) who is representing the state at the Headquarters and my job here is a civil service job through which God has been providing for me and my family ever since then.
Though it was an ugly development when you lost your wife some years back, how have you been coping with the challenges of bringing up children and your office?
In life, the sojourn on earth is not always a straight line or a smooth going, so you are bound to face challenges; it is part of these challenges I have faced, it was not an easy challenge, immediately after my wife’s death, her death really came as a result of the appointment that was given to her in Nasarawa State, where she served as a Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development from 1999 to 3rd May 2003, when she was unfortunately killed on active duty at Toto on election day.
It was His Excellency, now Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Sarkin Yakin Keffi that appointment her. Immediately after her death, he promised to put me in position where I would be able to take care of the family. Indeed when he got to know I lost my job with the Bank, he made spirited effort and wrote to the Management of UBA two times pleading with them to reinstate me, but they said they were not willing to set a precedent that would be referred to in future. And their reason was that the problem I had with the Bank centered on foreign exchange and they were not ready to compromise on their stance on such problems.
Indeed that difficulty was supposed to be a dismissal, they were to hand down to me but eventually they had to review it to make it a termination whereby I had my own benefits paid in full as was due to me as at that time. So, Governor Adamu promised to appoint me and then he also took some other actions to ameliorate the difficulties I would face in catering for the children like giving them scholarship, it was not my wife’s death that brought this scholarship issue for the first time but it was already there, that those who were political appointees who died during service, the Governor was very gracious or magnanimous to give scholarship to their children so that they would not suffer too much and so through that scholarship he approved payment of N100,000 for a University students per year until they graduated.
A person in secondary school he approved N50,000 and primary school N20,000, and I will say throughout his period of second tenure after my wife had died, he fulfilled the promise.
The only thing that he did not fulfill was the promise to appoint me to serve as a commissioner a laudable step which would have better empowered me but I am not crying because of that, because by appointing my wife in the first place, it was an honour His Excellency did to me and the family so I am thanking him because he has done his best.
Moreover, even after my wife’s death and other Gbagyi people who were killed (35 of them in all), Governor Abdullahi really showed his anger, and the pain in his heart at what was done because it was wickedness at the highest; this woman did not commit any crime rather than that she came from Gbagyi stock and our brothers (neighbours) who did this wickedness on her thought they were doing something good, trying to drive away the Gbagyi people from Toto Local Government believing that they had succeeded in driving away the Bassas.
In Toto Local Government, we have these three major tribes; the Bassas, the Gbagyis and Igbirra, the Bassa had been driven away from there through some concerted war and killing of the people without any quarrel. So they thought they had done away with the Bassas and what they expected to get they could not get them, they saw the Gbagyis now as standing as the barrier and they believed that same thing they did to the Bassas they have to do to the Gbagyi people.
But I know that by now, these our brothers (neighbours) have realised that they have gone wrong, so my wife’s death is one of the factors that brought about peace in Toto Local Government today.
Are you saying that your wife was brutally killed against the allegation that she tampered with the electoral process during the election that time?
It was an insinuation they had to hold onto for what they had planned to do. I have got every information on how they planned; they met several times within the Toto Local Government and sometimes in Kogi, the neighbouring Local Government. Majority of the people live in Kogi State which is a neighbour to Toto LGA Nasarawa State. They alternated their meetings between Kogi State (Konton Karfe) Local Government and Toto whereby they planned this thing. At the time they were planning, how did they know that, the women would tamper with the electoral boxes, when the election had not taken place?
What happened was that on election day, she was at home as commissioners were expected to go to their own Local Government Areas to supervise the election to ensure that, the ruling party retained victory; so she was there at Toto after casting her vote at the Rafinkunama Polling Unit. Miscreants came there trying to execute the already planned agenda.
They were trying to destroy the ballot box so the INEC Officer at the Polling Unit at Rafinkunama called his supporting staff and security, a policeman; they thought the people wanted to destroy the ballot box he now called on the commissioner (my wife) and told her, 'you are a government officer, please help us since votes have been cast, help us to take this ballot box to the police station for security'. She went along with the INEC Officer and the police security just to drop the box at the DPOS office to ensure that nobody tampered with it That was the reason why they were looking for her. They alleged that she carried the ballot box. Although she was trying to protect the ballot box and the ballot papers which had already been used by the electorate.
Don’t you see it as a kind of setup?
Yes, surely, I said, they were looking for an excuse or reason to make sure that they killed her because they had their reason why they considered her as their enemy. I heared that they had some reasons against her, they claimed she was too strict and law abiding she would not allow them to do as they wanted because of that the people who empowered them did not allow them to kill a woman but because of those factors that, they held in their minds against her even although she was a woman, they thought she was their opponent and they must do away with her.
Was there any support from the INEC to the family after her death?
No, to the best of my knowledge, none. But she died on active duty for the service of the state and even when she was a member of the State Executive Council in Nasarawa State.
Is her death being appreciated by the government?
During the administration of former Governor Abdullahi Adamu, to be honest and to call a spade, a spade, His Excellency Governor Abdullahi Adamu did his very best. Like I said, he gave my children scholarship. And the scholarship has already been enjoyed by all of them up to the youngest of the five who is now in final year at ABU.
The payment of the scholarship did not come easy any way, as the processing has to follow through office bureaucracy and procedure but was eventually paid even after long delays. Though former Governor Adamu did his very best, I blame him for the failure of the most important thing he promised me which was to appoint me as a commissioner.
But he appointed me a part-time member of the Board of Directors of Nasarawa Investment Company for about two years from 2006 to 2007 when he finished his second tenure. By the time Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma took over, he dissolved the Board and since then, it is this job of Federal Character Commission that has kept me going.
Are you in any way deterred in carrying out your official and private functions in the midst of these challenges of your being alone to train your children, going about your life endeavours?
I am not deterred because I believe that with God I have the victory as God has been with me. I am happy, I know that every human being who is alive will one day die, only God knows why he allows some people to die the way my wife died.
Though even nowadays, through all this criminality called religious fundamentalism- Boko Haram, many have died in that way; yet some are dying naturally but whichever way it happens, I believe that God allows it before it happens and God is the one who has sustained us with or without my wife and I see that even the way she died, God has already taken her to heaven and I know her work, honesty and devotion really encouraged us and for this we are grateful.
Your wife was brutally killed in the guise of election as a victim. As someone who has fallen victim of that magnitude what is your take on elections in Nigeria in general?
It is the nature of our elections even before her appointment that made me very apprehensive. Elections in Nigeria of today have become a do or die affairs that make me truly apprehensive because hardly is anyone elected on merit that the electorate believe him/her to be their best candidate who will serve them.
After that incident, what has been your relationship with your neighbours back home since then and now?
The day of my wife’s burial, I made a public statement that I had forgiven them and today I am just living with them as we were living before. Yes, I know that the murderers of our people did it for fear of being ostracized or even killed by their fellow tribal jingoists whose belief was that anyone who opposed the inglorious attempt was denying their tribe.
I still believe today and I am convinced that the reasonable ones among them must have realised that the attempt was ill-advised and morally and spiritually wrong. The game of life is: “live and let live” and “do for others as you want other to do to you”.
I pray for them as I do for my people that God may give us true insight to see that we need each other and that we can co-habit on mutual basis peacefully. So I have forgiven them and look forward to new relationships. I had a lot of friends among them and still have and whenever we meet we try as much as possible to enlighten each other by discussing things that will give us understanding of purpose of God for mankind and for us to live and die for that purpose of God.
Your take on elections in Nigeria.
I am still apprehensive especially seeing what happened that day was predicated on the elections and my wife herself since when we were married on August 31st 1980, in 2003 when she died we were married almost 23 years and she never showed interest in anything politics or otherwise which I did not show interest in. She never showed interest in anything that she didn’t see me show interest in, she was an academician teaching at the University of Jos Demonstration Secondary School before she was called to come serve the government of Nasarawa State and return to her former job after the tenure.
With the way Nigeria politicians go about when seeking for mandate to represent their people, I do not want to be involved too much though I know it is a way for somebody to be elected on the basis of popularity, but the do-or-die manner interested people are pursuing political ambitions in Nigeria shows that politics is hardly for service to one’s people as it is for self enrichment and aggrandisement. If it was purely for service and people go about it in civil decorum, then there is nothing as good as serving one’s people and for one to get to office on the popular mandate of his people. For now, I choose to serve my people in my present humble low capacity with a cry to God to give me that grace and strength to do my very best.