The T.Y. Danjuma effect in Northern Nigeria

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“This is the time for elders to be circumspect and temperate in their utterances; it is not in our character as northerners to talk too much. We need to think more, pray more, plan more, work harder, relate better, and talk less. Battles are better fought and won through wisdom and strategy than through inflammable pronouncements and political tantrums”. – General TY Danjuma, while being conferred with traditional title of JarmaiZazzau.

LAST weekend, the cream of the Northern Nigerian elite gathered in Zaria, for the turbaning of General TY Danjuma, as JarmaiZazzau. In the fractured and mutually-suspicious mode that rents the North today, it is perhaps only General TY Danjuma, that can bring all our people together, and in the process, not only sharply express opinion about the various ailments in Northern Nigeria today, but also offer a soothing balm of hope about the possibilities of re-constructing bridges that were dynamited by the ethno-religious and mutually-assured destructive activities of the past couple of decades in our region.

It is indicative of TY Danjuma’s stature today, that practically every Northern state placed advertisement in Nigerian newspapers to felicitate with the general, just as GeneralBabangida, declared that TY Danjuma, is today the embodiment of the virtues of the Sardauna, for our people: “50 years after the demise of Sir Ahmadu Bello; TY Danjuma has virtually picked up the (gauntlet?) from where the Sardauna had left it”.

One of the unstated facts of Northern Nigerian life, was that for a long time, General TY Danjuma, was very angry with the Northern Nigerian elite. This was related to the perceived snub thrown at him, despite personal sacrifices he made for the North, in the tragic circumstances of 1966. He was also an outstanding war commander and was backbone of the much-regarded Murtala/Obasanjo administration.

Ethno-religious identities

The North began to alienate itself and inter-elite rivalries for positions of power and privilege, were gradually fought out with strong currents of ethno-religious identities. The Sardauna’s North of “One People, One Destiny” began to unravel. An assertive “Middle Belt” configuration emerged, which was far more religious than geographical, even when there were absurd efforts to politically elasticise the Middle Belt concept.

Political opportunists without varnish, like Jerry Gana, milked this new configuration, while TY Danjuma’s anger, was adroitly exploited by many champions of Middle belt identity, to feather personal nests and secure funds to pursue personal political ambitions.

But the idea of “Northern-ness” is far too resilient; and an interesting element of its expression, was how younger elements in Northern Nigeria, Muslim and Christian, genuinely admire TY Danjuma and gravitate towards him. It became clearer to the younger people, that here was a man of unusual candour and an incredible sense of honour. As the older generation of leaders witnessed a gradual erosion of influence, TY Danjuma began to emerge more and more as a symbol of what was lost in the bitter rivalries tearing the region apart. All sides of the Northern divide found something they could valorise in

TY Danjuma; and hope became stronger, that he could become the bridge re-linking our people. The recognition; adulation and sincere respect from “younger” Northern intellectuals like Malam Abba Kyari and AdamuAdamu, began to thaw TY Danjuma’s anger;   just as the Northern establishment also gradually warmed to the general.

This in my opinion explains the surfeit of awards and chieftancy titles from nearly every corner of Northern Nigeria. There is of course the huge philanthropic generosity of the General in tow too. And in the context, TY Danjuma is also very much a man of his times; he is a dye-in-the-wool Northerner, despite the anger which led him to champion the Middle Belt agenda which political opportunists of all hues, led by the ubiquitous AGIP (Any Government in Power), Jerry Gana, have exploited for years!

And true to his forthrightness, TY Danjuma looked at the Northern condition in the face at the weekend in Zaria, and spoke words of truth, to the discomfort of the gathered members of the Northern establishment (that he is incidentally very much part of!): “when elders become decadent, the youth are bound to be delinquent”, he noted.

TY Danjuma added that: “what has been in short supply are patriotic elder statesmen who would use their experience to give the country a clear sense of purpose and direction”. Nigeria’s tragedy, and indeed the North’s, according to TY Danjuma, is a surfeit of politicians scheming and screaming for due and undue advantages. Dissecting the Northern condition further, TY Danjuma said: “our society and economy are in tatters.

In a highly competitive world, our children are missing out in getting qualitative and functional education. The masses of our people are chained down in dehumanising and grinding poverty, while we continue to maintain a few islands of false prosperity in a turbulent ocean of penury and squalor. There cannot be peace and harmony where there is a wide disparity between the few rich and a multitude of the poor”.

It is interesting to note that TY Danjuma is the best example of “the few rich” that he talked about. We underline that it is the capitalism-without-a-human-face the Nigerian ruling elite conspired to impose on our country that facilitated the process that TY Danjuma so eloquently described.

The positive for TY Danjuma is that he took from this society; became a multi-billionaire but has the decency and utmost class self-interest to give out a huge part of his fortune, in probably the greatest philanthropic project ever seen in Africa!

It seems clear that TY Danjuma won’t
stop giving back to society. At 75 years, he thought he had paid his dues; wanted to spend the rest of his life “in quiet retirement, leaving the public arena for the new generation of leaders to improve on the modest achievements of my generation”. But as the German poet Heine once noted, the field of life is greener than all concantenations of minds.

Given the crises phenomena around, especially in the North and the need to keep giving; keep searching for harmony and to keep repairing bridges between and within communities, TY Danjuma found an epiphany: “It seems clear to me now that real retirement is only possible in the grave. Our lives and living apparently are inevitably tied eternally to responsibilities”.

Given the foregoing, TY Danjuma will likely continue to give from his huge wealth but above all, he will remain a fascinating rallying point for a Northern Nigeria that for too long has been in search of an authentic hero, since the day the bullets of mutinous soldiers cut down the much-lamented Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna, in the early hours of January 15, 1966. That tragic momentvery much defined TY Danjuma’s place in our nation’s history!

 The inspiring story of Dr. Rabia SalihuSa’id

LAST Saturday I was back in Kano, to attend the Convocation Ceremony of the Bayero University; with the special interest of felicitating with Rabia SalihuSa’id, who was awarded the Ph.D in Physics. Rabia is my friend and a mother of six children and also a grandmother. Apart from her job as lecturer in the Physics Department at BUK, Rabia is also Deputy Dean of Student Affairs (Female), at the university.

This extraordinary woman of rare courage is an individual of many parts and a poster child for the progress available to women in Northern Nigeria, when they muster the courage to break the yoke of oppressive traditions and chauvinism that are very strong in our society.

That Rabia has graduated as a scientist, is a feat that should be held up for emulation by women in Northern Nigeria; by our society at large; by husbands who marry their wives very early and by parents who give out these children and so deprive half of our society the opportunity to discover and actualise potential that can be contributed to the struggle against underdevelopment.

I write these lines as a parent of four daughters, who are very precocious; have a variety of interests from ballet; swimming; fashion design through to discovering the beauty of our world, while not neglecting their Western and Islamic education!

Rabia got married soon after secondary education and therefore faced the challenge of attempting to balance her life as wife and mother with a burning desire for higher education. When she returned to university in 1990, she had been married for seven years and had three children, aged 6, 4 and 2 respectively.

The first child, a boy, was born with a physical congenital defect; he had a club foot which needed orthopedic procedures to correct and this was as Rabia was completing her university foundation programme. She had another child while studying for her undergraduate in 1992 and that baby was born with the sickle cell disease. The frequent crises and hospitalisation took a toll on her life but she was determined to succeed.

In all, she went to earn a bachelor’s degree; two masters of science degrees and last Saturday, a doctorate in Physics. In the lead to that, she has studied and researched in some of the leading scientific institutions in the world.

A pamphlet published to commemorate her degree, said of her story, that it was told: “to young girls in northern Nigeria who were married off early and now wish to return to school, that they can do it. The capacity to succeed lies in their determination to pursue their dreams. If I can do it, then they can”.

Speaking further on her intentions for the future, Dr. Rabia said she has “a desire to attain a decision-making position in my community. I would like to be in a position to influence policies that have direct bearing on the attitudes of youth, particularly females to acquisition of knowledge, education and higher studies”. She is also interested in environmental issues; empowerment as regards women’s reproductive health; energy issues and green technology.

That cocktail of ambitions clearly underscores the confidence which education gives. We will certainly hear a lot more about this courageous woman into the future. She is an inspiring example of what is possible for women in our society, but especially in Northern Nigeria. Congratulations Dr. Rabia SalihuSa’id!

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