Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa: Exit of a decent gentleman

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THERE has been a solemnity about the city of Kaduna since the story broke of the tragic death of Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa at the weekend. In death, Nigerians have been united in appreciation of the human decency of the late governor. I never had the privilege to meet the man, but when I broke the story to Kabir Mato, he paused for a while and then said: “we have lost a gentleman; a decent gentleman”!

Malam Abba Kyari informed me on Sunday evening that he was in mourning just as were the leading members of the Northern elite, resident in Kaduna. Furthermore, I was also informed that members of the IZALA sect, one of the most important Islamic groups in Northern Nigeria, had chosen to suspend the annual gathering of over one million members in Kaduna, as a show of respect for the late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa.

Yakowa and Kaduna Texile industry

Issa Aremu, the labour leader, who also resides in Kaduna, told me tales of the depth of Yakowa’s humanity, emphasising his genuine commitment to fairness, a deep sense of justice and an ability to carry people along. He was also said to have a deep empathy for the working people, and had been a central figure in the effort to regenerate the textile industry in Kaduna, with the positive effect that effort was beginning to have on textile jobs in our city.

Hakeem Baba-Ahmed has penned a very moving tribute to a governor whose sense of duty; a genuine humility and professionalism did not allow him to fall into the simplistic ethnic mind frame that seem to have taken over the public space in our country today and a major source of crisis in Kaduna state. Similarly, the activist ShehuSani also described Yakowa as one of the best governors in Nigeria!

Professor Williams Barnabas Quirix, VC of the Kaduna State University was also in that very sad mode when we spoke about the passing of that remarkable gentleman. Certainly, in Yakowa’s tragic death, Northern Nigeria lost one of the finest examples of all that was very decent about the old North; that North that members of my generation were born into, but which has almost completely disappeared under the rubble of today’s intolerance; greed; inter-religious/inter-communal hatreds and the monumental corruption that has sapped vitality out of the ethos of communal existence.

In death, Yakowa seemed to have found the magic to unite people in Kaduna and the North, across the fault lines of religion and ethnicity. It was as if everyone saw in the passing of the man, the reason to rediscover our intrinsic human qualities which we all can unite around. The best tribute we can pay to the memory of Ibrahim Yakowa, famously described as ‘NA KOWA’ in Hausa, is to retain a united attitude to build our society.

We have to uphold our essential human qualities, while respecting our different backgrounds of faith and origin, as we strive to build new foundations of an inclusive, tolerant and democratic society, in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria and Nigeria, in general. In my view, this will be the best way to honour the memory of the much-lamented Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa. May the Almighty Allah give the family the fortitude to bear his loss.

Muhammadu Buhari: 70 years of honest and patriotic labour

THIS week, General Muhammadu Buhari turns 70. Buhari belongs to that generation of young officers that were sucked into the socio-political milieu of Nigeria of the 1960s and beyond. That generation of young officers saw or took part in the coups which defined most of the post-colonial phase of Nigerian history. It was their duty to also fight a very bitter Civil War which ended in the preservation of the unity of our country.

Buhari is very much a man of his time, and he was to serve Nigeria in several positions: Military postings; governor; head of the national oil company; commissioner (the equivalent of today’s minister); head of state; chairman of PTF and a presidential candidate in three badly rigged elections.

The Buhari persona with its mix of stern visage; unbending hatred of corruption and the best expression of PULAAKU (the ethos of FulBe existence) has remained perpetually controversial. His political enemies have done a lot to damage him with accusations of religious bigotry; and despite the lie of such an accusation, there are those who continue to peddle it for sinister political purposes; while the corrupt members of the political elite will do everything to ensure that he does not get the opportunity to be elected as Nigeria’s president.

In all that he has been faced with, especially since the advent of our contemporary civilian order, Buhari has displayed the stoicism expected of his upbringing. But in all that stand out as his greatest attributes are also embedded the elements of his weaknesses as an individual and political leader.

Buhari comes from a background which emphasises loyalty. He is an example of loyalty himself: to his profession; his country and its people and to his lieutenants. But he tends to over-trust those who are around him and in a lot of instances this has often been the basis for opportunism and careerism on the part of those around him.

Because his politics has emphasised discipline and anti-corruption, I think it hasn’t the ideological depth or focus which makes it any more rigorously different from other ruling class factions. In fact, I think that Buhari is far too right wing, to be able to meet the expectations of the millions of the poor people who see in him the leader that will take Nigeria out of the morass it has been driven into by its thieving ruling elite.

This ideological deficiency has also conditioned the type of alliance he has been endeavouring to build over the past few years. How his effort to build an alliance with ethnic bigots will pan out, remains to be seen!

In his 70th year, Buhari has ot lost the trust of the mass of the people, especially in Northern Nigeria, just as much as the dread of the thieving elite has also heightened as their margins of manouever have narrowed, with the way they have continued to misrule Nigeria.

More than at any point, this is a historical conjuncture for Buhari to galvanise a national movement to sweep away the kleptocracy which PDP administrations instituted in this country since 1999. But the question is whether Buhari can seize the historical moment to answer the call of an angry people.

To do this historical duty is to begin now, to build bridges across the country; just as much as understanding that he is an old man, trying to provide leadership in a country where 70 percent of the population is now under the age of thirty. Buhari must learn to speak the language that young people can understand and relate to.

As a patriot; an incorruptible and honourable man, there are very few Nigerians that can match Buhari’s remarkable life
history. Love or loathe the man, these are the facts of his incredible life. Happy Birthday General Muhammadu Buhari.

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