SOME moments stick out in the public space, not just for the drama of the occasion, but for the fundamental impact they make on our appreciation of the depth of the rot which envelopes us as a country. One of such moments happened the other day, within the haloed precincts of Nigeria’s presidency.
The NuhuRibadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force had been set up, in response to the earth-shaking events of a national strike in the wake of a hike in the prices of petroleum products.
The Jonathan administration had lived on the propaganda of its electoral victory in the previous couple of months, but was badly shaken by the determined resistance of the Nigerian people. The regime was thoroughly isolated and exposed; elements of the resistance even began talking about regime change! It was clear that the administration badly gauged the people’s feeling.
But if an individual carried the greatest opprobrium of the moment, it was the administration’s most powerful minister, Diezani Allison-Maduekwe. Her controversial leadership of the petroleum industry fed into rumour and perception about her closeness to President Goodluck Jonathan. She seemed the person people really wanted out of the way. But her staying power was underrated! And as part of acounter-offensive, she set up many committees, to stave off the long knives and steal the thunder of her enemies.
The motion of committees was to showcase a pro-active Diezani working for the nation. If regimes set up committees precisely to ensure that problems remain unsolved; under the Jonathan administration, committees serve many ends: they chloroform everyone into stupor for months; get a few people busy and save the administration’s sacred cows.
Unfortunately, in many members of the NuhuRibadu-led Task Force, the administration committed the faux pas of choosing people who will not play ball while taking their assignment seriously; and they did! Therein lied the problem. NuhuRibadu’s team took a look at the industry Diezani rules and saw great levels of fraud.
Those who collected the report did not intend to seriously ensure recoveries of Nigerian money from the oil oligarchy who incidentally, are not only close friends of the administration, but had contributed enormously to the electoral expenses of the ruling party and the president in 2011.
It was at this point, that Steve Oronsaye entered the fray. I have written about this man of many privileges in the past. Steve Oronsaye first entered our public space during the Abacha dictatorship, as an assistant to Anthony Ani, the dictator’s finance minister. There is not much expertise needed to be an assistant of a minister, especially under a military dictatorship.
But Obasanjo needed an insider in the financial affairs of his nemesis and to Steve Oronsanye he naturally turned. In the course of a stealthy climb through Nigeria’s system, a man who was never a civil servant became a permanent secretary and against the normal order of things, was appointed Head of Service by UmaruYar’adua. He presided over a controversial “reform” of the service that decimated the careers of hundreds of people and gulped billions of Naira.
Oronsaye who got many people out of the system, on the basis of length of stay in office, found his position so irresistibly sweet, that he wrote a memo seeking an elongation of his stay, ostensibly to “finish the reforms”. Thankfully, UmaruYar’adua did not acquiesce. Yet, so powerful has the man remained, one would be pardoned to feel that Nigeria was unlikely to survive if Steve Oronsaye was out of the system!
Today, Steve Oronsaye is a member of the Board of the CBN; he is a member of the NNPC Board; he chaired the committee on rationalisation of government parastatals and agencies and as Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said recently “he is generally regarded as the one-man think tank of the (Jonathan) administration. Steve Orosanye was made the deputy chairman of the NuhuRibadu-led task Force.
At the point of submission of the Task Force’s report, the drama I alluded to was played out. Oronsaye public questioned ‘process’ in the work done; he had flown into the country that morning for that purpose. In a brazen show of disrespect for Nigeria’s presidency, Steve Oronsaye openly blurted that the president had called for the submission of the report “So What”? An obviously embarrassedNuhuRibadu eventually told the nation that Steve Oronsaye never attended a single session of the Task Force’s sittings but “jumped in” only when the issue of “recoveries” came on the Task Force’s agenda!
A few days later, Dr. Doyin Okupe spoke his principal’s mind, that the report was “jumbled and fumbled”, and that it was severely defective and unenforceable. Months of hard work were rendered to naught and the oil oligarchy gets back its mojo, if it was ever lost. But in truth, it was not NuhuRibadu and members of his team that was rubbished; no. It is Nigeria that has been taken for a ride; for the umpteenth time!
Alhaji AGF Abdulrazaq: Northern Nigeria’s first lawyer @ 85
ON Tuesday, November 13, 2012, people from different walks of life converged at the Abuja residence of Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq, to celebrate his 85th birthday.Alhaji AGFAbdulRazaq is the first lawyer from Northern Nigeria and that in itself, is very remarkable.
But his life story is incredibly rich, reflecting the tapestry of modern Nigerian history. He was born in Onitsha, in the old Eastern Region, studied there as well as in Lagos and in his hometown, Ilorin. The early decades of colonial rule saw the intensified opening up of Nigeria for exploitation; that led to the movement of Nigerians in all directions within the country.
It was therefore no accident, that Dr. NnamdiAzikiwe, OdumegwuOjukwu were born in Zungeru, in Northern Nigeria while Cyprian Ekwensi came to live in Minna, also in the North. AGF AbdulRazaq belonged to that sensibility of dispersal within colonial society.
Coming from Ilorin with its ethos of Islam, he nevertheless was a son of the frontier emirate of the Sokoto Caliphate and the place of the ‘dispersal’ that I had spoken about, meant that he could take advantage of the bourgeoning opportunities for Western education, especially in Southern Nigeria, to add to his Qur’anic education. He attended schools in Onitsha, Ilorin, Lagos and Buguma.
Even by the more improved standards of travel today, these were far-flung destinations to seek knowledge; but the imprimatur that these experiences burnt on his consciousness, adequately prepared him for the multi-faceted roles he would eventually play in our national history.
Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq was a foundation student of the University College, Ibadan in 1948, before proceeding to the Trinity College, Dublin, while simultaneously registering at the Inner Temple in London, between 1951 and 1954.
He would eventually become the first lawyer from Northern Nigeria, enrolling in Nigeria in 1956. AbdulRazaq, the young lawyer, was naturally drawn into the thick of the politics of his time; these were the days of the struggle for independence. He was Legal Adviser to the Northern People’s Congress delegation to the Nigerian Constitutional Conferences.
When Independence came, he served as member of the House of Representatives representing Ilorin; a minister of state for the railways; Nigerian Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire and in a life of over fifty years of public service, he actively served the Nigerian state and people. Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq single-handedly established a secondary school, the Ilorin College Ilorin (ICI), which was subsequently taken over by government and re-named the Government High School. He was very much a man of his times because members of his generation had the responsibility of achieving an independent nation and laying the building blocks of national development.
They were vilified, especially in the lead to the first military coup of 1966, but it is very significant that Nigerians now look back with nostalgia, to those pioneering endeavours of development, to which AGF AbdulRazaq was a central figure. Against the backdrop of decades of military dictatorship and the rapacity of the civilian administration since 1999, it is clear that pioneers like Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq, were true giants of decent hardwork and commitment.
These are attributes sadly absent in the process of national ‘development’ today. Those who rule us now are an assortment of individuals who carry out grand larceny and heist and in their indecency they corrupt everything they touch, while endangering the national project.
In celebratingAlhaji AGF AbdulRazaq’s 85th birthday, we were, in a sense, hugging nostalgia and looking back to a romanticised version of the past; and simultaneously, there is also a feeling of hope, that things can be better, if only we did things with the commitment, honesty and a sense of patriotic decency, which AbdulRazaq’sgeneration deployed to duties which their times called them to carry out on behalf of their people, their country, Africa and of humanity. It was Fanon who said every generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover its mission; fulfill or betray it. I think we can say with some measure of confidence, that Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq’s generation found their métier in life and did their very best.
He has been very lucky to be blessed with a long life. He sired children who have also found their places under the sun to play notable roles in their country’s development.
I wrote a tribute to his wife on her birthday, a few years ago; and there is no gainsaying the fact, that between Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq and Hajiya Ralia, is an incredible magnetism which only genuine love could have created. It is part of the strength of their union, that the wife was mother to many young people of my generation in Ilorin; her humane disposition strengthened the bonds of affection between the AbdulRazaq’s family and people in Ilorin Emirate.
My only worry was that the family chose to celebrate the birthday in Abuja; they have however promised that the next one will be in Ilorin. Our hometown has for too long been in the pocket of impostors and frauds who do not share the values of the community.
More than ever before, our people long for a return to source, which only its bonafide children can appreciate and provide. It was in fact one of the currents which took so many people out to celebrate the 85th Birthday of Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq: the First lawyer from Northern Nigeria; TafidanZazzau and Mutawalin Ilorin!