On 6th November, 2019, the DSS, the nation’s secret Service in the mould of FBI or CIA, danced naked in the streets, when it invaded a court of Law in an attempt to arrest Omoyele Sowore, accused of trreasonable felony over his “Revolution Now” mantra.
Recall that the DSS had finally bowed to a 24 hour ultimatum issued by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, to release Sowore and pay him N100,000 damages. It was a show of extreme shame, disgust and degeneracy to see a whole secrete security apparachick descend to the abysmal gutters of physically invading the hallowed chambers of a court of Law to forcefully arrest a suspect, viet armis, by resort to crude and unorthodox Hitlerite Gestapo tactics in a supposed constitutional democracy. The video that went viral about this ugly and ill-advised outing that has further reduced our worth in the perception of the international community is condemnable in every sense of the word. It downgrades us, belittles us, and our humanity and make us laughable before civilised nations. We beheld an unarmed, helpless and hapless Sowore being dragged on the floor, helplessly, like a vanquished prisoner of war (PoW) just taken as ransom. Justice Ojukwu had to be spirited off to her chambers by her security. When a government that is supposed to respect and protect institutions, citizens’ rights and rule of law, invades and desecrates the SACRED precincts of a Court of law, then we are in trouble. When the same DSS invaded Judges’ homes in October, 2016, terrorizing the hapless Judges and their families, many uninformed Nigerians hailed the misadventure as a sign of fighting corruption. I had vehemently disagreed then, citing section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and section 7 of the ACJA that inure in us our humanity and human dignity and respect. I had warned then of a possible descent into anarchy and chaos if the masked DSS goons were not immediately restrained and halted on their tracks. Friday’s disgraceful and atrocious outing by the DSS is the clearest exemplification of a rudderless state in search of a redemptive deus ex machina. A government that is short on tolerance to criticism, plurality of voices and opposition and which serially violates citizens’ rights and disobeys court orders is a ready recipe for organised disenchantment. Our constitutional democracy should be one modelled on the rule of law and not on the rule of the thumb of a benevolent ruler, even if dictatorial, tyrannical, absolutist and fascist.
ATIKU AND DOKPESI: TWO HEROIC TROJANS OF A KIND
Let me devote this week to two uncommon Nigerians; two heroes of democracy; two business Czars; two philanthropic moguls; and two indomitable and unconquerable Pan Nigerians, who have valiantly soldiered on in life, inspite of man-made obstacles and ill-intentioned booby traps erected on their destiny routes.
They are Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, and Dr Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi, Ezomo Weppa-Wanno Kingdom.
These two national icons share a common birthday, 25th of every year. While Atiku’s was born on 25th November, 1946, that of Dekpesi is 25th October, 1951. Let me x-ray these rare homo sapiens seriatim.
ATIKU ABUBAKAR, GCON: THE POLITICAL ENIGMA
Atiku Abubakar’s story, up to being Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and later bidding for the presidency of the biggest black nation in the world, was not one of “grace-to-grace”. His was one of “grass-to-grace”, having been born to a petty Fulani trader and farmer, Garba Abubakar, in Jada village, Adamawa State. We share this grass-to-grace, “nothing-to-something” story together. Praise God.
After completing his Primary School education in 1960, Atiku was admitted into Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, same year. He graduated from secondary school in 1965 after he made grade three in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination. Abubakar then proceeded to attend Nigeria Police College, Kaduna. He left the college for a position as a Tax Officer in the Regional Ministry of Finance. Later, he received admission to study at the School of Hygiene, Kano, in 1966. In 1967, he graduated with a Diploma. That same year, Atiku Abubakar was admitted for a Law Diploma at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, on a scholarship from the then Regional government. He graduated in 1969 and was employed by Nigeria Customs Service that same year.
With four wives and 28 children, Atiku easily maintains one of the most disciplined polygamous homes in Nigeria, nay, globally.
PROFESSIONAL CAREER AND FORAY INTO THE MURKY BUSINESS WORLD
Abubakar started out in the real estate business during his early days as a Customs Officer. In 1974, he applied for and received a 31,000 naira loan to build his first house in Yola, which he immediately put up for rent. From proceeds of the rent, he purchased another plot and built a second house. He continued this way, building a sizeable portfolio of property in Yola.
In 1981, he moved into agriculture, acquiring 2,500 hectares of land near Yola, to start a maize and cotton farm. The business fell on hard times and closed in 1986. He then ventured into trading, buying and selling truckloads of rice, flour and sugar. He did not make easy money.
Abubakar worked in the Nigeria Customs Service for twenty years, rising to become the Deputy Director, (as the second highest position in the Service was then known. He retired in April, 1989 and took up full-time business and politics. He ran for the office of Governor in the then Gongola State now Adamawa and Taraba States) in 1991, and for the Presidency in 1993, placing third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primaries. Atiku was later to set up, with the help of Gabrielle Volpi, an Italian businessman in Nigeria, the Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), a logistics company operating within the Ports.
Abubakar’s business empire also includes Adama Beverages Limited, a beverage manufacturing plant in Yola, as well as an animal feed factory.
EARLY POLITICAL CAREER
Abubakar’s first foray into politics was in the early 1980s, when he worked behind-the-scenes on the governorship campaign of Bamanga Tukur, who, at that time, was Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority. Towards the end of his Customs career, he met Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who had been second-in-command of the military government (headed by Obasajo) that ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979. Abubakar was drawn by Yar’Adua into the political meetings that were then regularly taking place in Yar’Adua’s Lagos home. In 1989, Abubakar was elected a National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria (PF), the political association led by Yar’Adua, to participate in the never-ending transition programme initiated by then Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida.
Abubakar won a seat to represent his constituency at the 1989 Constituent Assembly, which was set up to design a new Constitution for Nigeria. The People’s Front was eventually denied registration by the government (none of the groups that applied was registered. Atiku then found a place within the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) one of the two parties decreed into existence by the Babangida military junta.
FIRST PRESIDENTIAL RUN
In 1992 Abubakar launched a bid for the presidency of Nigeria on the platform of the Social Democratic Party. He was unsuccessful, coming third in the convention primaries, losing to MKO Abiola and runner up, Babagana Kingibe.
PHILANTHROPY AND PROMOTION OF EDUCATION
In 2005, Atiku founded in Yola, his Adamawa State, American University of Nigeria (AUN), the first American-style University to be established in Sub-Saharan Africa. The American styled university emphasises critical thinking, small classes, student participation, problem-solving. AUN has since received special recognition from Google and many local and international organisations.
In 2012, Abubakar donated $750,000 to the National Peace Corps Association in the United States, “to fund a new initiative featuring global leaders who will discuss Peace Corps’s impact.” It was the largest ever individual donation in the Association’s history.
In his speeches and commentary, Abubakar is a vocal advocate of the importance of Nigeria’s educational system. In August, 2013, Atiku sponsored a students’ essay competition to generate solutions to Nigeria’s most pressing institutional educational challenges. Entrants were asked to write between 2,000 and 5,000 words on the topic ‘More Learning to More People: How can Nigeria be more innovative in bridging its literacy and skills gap?’
A long list was announced on 21st October 2013, and the winners a week later. The joint first prize went to Kenechukwu Nneka Lily Nwagbo and Emeka Chigozie Ezekwesiri.
In a bid to alleviate the educational decadence in North Eastern Nigeria, Abubakar issued scholarships to 15 escapees of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping. He has since been in the business of philanthropy, using his wealth as manure to fertilize parched homes, businesses and economic landscapes of the less privileged. Atiku easily reminds one of late democracy martyr, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, in sheer philanthropy, generosity and large-heartedness. (To be continued).
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“Power acquired by violence is only an usurpation, and lasts only as long as the force of him who commands prevails over that of those who obey.” (Denis Diderot).