A graduate of Mass-Communication from Bayero University Kano, Yushau Abdulhameed Shuaib holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Banking and Finance of University of Abuja and Diploma in PR from International School of Public Relations, London. A syndicate writer, his articles have appeared in virtually all the major newspapers in Nigeria and popular African websites.
This is not about the Nigeria's ruling party, People Democratic Party (PDP) neither is it about the government. This is a tribute to Nigeria’s Vice President, Arc. Muhammad Namadi Sambo who at the age 58 on August 2, 2012, has come a long way as an architect, businessman, commissioner, governor and presently the second most powerful person in the most populous country in Africa.
This writer has never seen, not to talk of meeting Sambo face-to-face, except on the media. Nevertheless, the writer has a clear perspective on the person of the Vice President since his period as the Governor of Kaduna State between May 2007 and May 2010.
Working on a project that promote developmental journalism and economic development, with a special focus on the North, the writer was introduced to the then commissioner of Finance in Namadi’s administration, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero by Former Managing Director Bank of the North, Alhaji Yakubu Shehu. Within a short period, Yero made a case on the project to Gov. Namadi who in turn instructed his Principal Private Secretary Mallam Zakari Aliyu to provide all the necessary supports for its success. During the three years of his administration in Kaduna, the project received tremendous supports from the government. In fact Sambo’s spokesperson Mallam Sani Umar, was always on the phone reminding our team of the annually gesture.
The point from the above was to demonstrate the personality of Sambo who is generous to worthy projects from any quarters.
The politics of his nomination as Vice President in 2010 by President Goodluck Jonathan was a shocker to most political groups and factions that were engaged in supremacy battles to control the new administration after the death of President Yar’Adua. There were indeed pressures from various groups including the so-called Obasanjo’s faction, IBB Boys, Governors’ forum, Legislators camp, Danjuma team and other regional groupings. Pressures were so tensed that almost created divisions in the ruling party PDP, before Jonathan decided to pick a neutral and non-controversial candidate that was not in the contention.
Since his appointment as the Vice President, looking at Sambo from a distance, especially in the print and electronic media, one could see a person who has demonstrated ‘excessive’ loyalty to his boss in utterances, acts and deeds. His humility is unparalleled even among cabinet members whom he relates with seamlessly, unperturbed with his ever-smiling trademarks on his face.
He had encountered and surmounted some challenges, especially during the 2011 elections, where, not only was he defeated in his constituency in Kaduna, some groups and individuals were alleged to have booed and jeered at him. Surprisingly with well-armed security guards, he never allowed anyone to use force to fight back in retaliation. While some saw his defeat at the home front as humiliation to his person as a vice president, afterall almost every top elected public figure, governors inclusive used every trick, cohesion, intimidation and harassment to deliver their constituencies, Namadi believes in the will of God and the voice of the people.
Inspite of all that happened in the past, Sambo does not begrudge those that antagonize him but reestablishes and sustains mutual relationship with their leaders. He accords opposition leaders their due respects and attends social gatherings where loyalists and adversaries do converge in the spirit of exceptional statesmanship.
Going by his personality traits, he display no aura of arrogance and desperation for public office as the Vice President. His public outings and statements are devoid of ulterior motives. His position on various issues, whether as representations of his Boss, the President, or personal remarks, are done maturely, responsibly and sometimes eloquently delivered in tune with the public sensitivity and reality on the ground.
Unlike dichotomies that exist among some past Presidents and their deputies as well as governors and their lieutenants in ambitious cat-and-mouse games, President Goodluck is truly lucky to have Sambo as a humble, loyal and unambitious Vice President. Even while sometimes one could read some handwritings on the wall by fifth columnists and political sycophants, the situations are usually maturely controlled with the help of Sambo’s office before damages could be done.
Born on the 2nd of August 1954 in Zaria, Kaduna State, Sambo had his early education at Baptist Primary School, Kaduna in 1959 before moving to Kobi Primary School in Bauchi. He later attended Government Secondary School now Alhuda-Huda College in Zaria Between 1967 and 1971. He gained admission to study Architecture at the Ahmadu Bello university where he graduated with Bachelor of Science Degree in 1976 and Masters Degree (M.Sc.) Architecture in 1978. He was among the first set of architects in Bauchi State after its creation in 1976 where he was involved in the design of various offices and staff housing schemes to accommodate the influx of new government officials. He was the Architect responsible for the upgrade of the Yankari Games Reserve Holiday Resort during the period. He is also remembered for development of master plans for Bauchi Town and environs.
Between 1986 and 1990, he was appointed Commissioner in various ministries including Agriculture, Works, Transport and Housing in Kaduna State. He later left the government to continue with his career in private architectural practice. His firm was involved in the developments of the National Olympic Sports Complex and and other infrastructural facilities at the Games Village, Abuja.
Arc. Sambo currently chairs the councils of National Boundary Commission (NBC), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Economic Council (NEC). He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Institute of Corporate Administrators of Nigeria among others.
This unassuming and loyal Vice President has shown some qualities that are disparaged by a few and emulated by many who have clear glimpse of his humility and simplicity to life.
Yushau A. Shuaib
At a recent advocacy workshop organized by the Revenue Mobilisation Commission (RMAFC), on the need for economic diversification and revenue generation, in Abeokuta, former President Olusegun Obasanjo dropped another bombshell on the economic performance and problems confronting the nation.
His criticisms of the government could be his usual blunt frankness as this writer had witnessed some of his combative postures in villa while he was President some years ago. I will come to that.
Against the backdrop of grinding poverty and allied economic hardship caused unemployment in Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo warned that popular revolt as recently witnessed in the Arab World might occur in Nigeria if the precarious socio-economic conditions of the citizenry were not urgently addressed. He pointedly stressed that there was discontentment in the land.
Before his warning in Abeokuta, just recently at his investiture as the First Grand Patron of Nigeria- China Business Council (NCBC) in Lagos, Obasanjo had queried the squandering of $35 billion Nigeria foreign reserves that he left in office in 2007, saying the country's leaders and people need to be prudent to get out of its economic woes currently confronting the country. He even advised that Nigeria should borrow a leaf from the Chinese economy that is designed for sustainable growth and development.
While bemoaning the shrink in the nation's foreign reserves, he said China was working assiduously to improve its economy and foreign reserves while Nigeria was busy reducing its own. According to him: "We left what we call excess crude for the raining day, up to 35billion dollars; within three years, the 35 billion dollars disappeared. Whether the money disappeared or-like the governor said-it was shared, the fact remains that $35 billion disappeared from the foreign reserve I left behind in office." Surprisingly up till today no one is asking question after the disclosure before he dropped another bombshell.
The Abeokuta workshop gave the former leader ample opportunity, as usual to speak extemporal with jokes and innuendoes which are loaded with warning messages. He said: "There is the possibility of having the Arab Spring in Nigeria if similar conditions, hardships and un-employment which gave birth to it are not addressed."
Citing Libya and Egypt as countries that witnessed the "Arab Spring", Obasanjo said though there was appreciable economic growth in both countries, their people revolted because there was "a disconnect" between the "economic growth" in those Arab nations and "discontentment" of the people for democratic practice. Obasanjo said: "It doesn't matter which way you look at it today. People are now talking of Arab Spring. And some people will say, is Egypt not developing? On economic scale, after South Africa, it is Egypt in Africa. Has Libya not got resources? At one time Libya was producing as much oil as Nigeria and in terms of Gross Domestic Products (GDP), it was growing well."
The former leader, agreed with the current Chairman of RMAFC, Engr. Elias Mbam in lamenting that the nation has been "mobilising and sharing revenue" from only one source – oil, and stressing that the time had come for the governments to devise ingenious ways of expanding their revenue base by venturing into agriculture, tourism and manufacturing which was the purpose of the workshop.
He therefore advised the three tiers of governments in Nigeria to pay special attention to agriculture and agro-business as tools for employment generation for the "burgeoning army of unemployed Nigerians so that the Arab Spring does not rear its head in the country.
He also urged financial institutions, large-scale farmers, small and medium scale farmers, researchers, retailers and distributors and governments to get involved in using agriculture and agro-business to create jobs and food in order to enhance national security and stability.
After the workshop some of the participants who had never met or seen Obasanjo spoke in public were marveled by his power of oratory with proven statistics in his extemporal remarks. They asked: "Is this the same Obasanjo that many Nigerians love to dislike?"
Though many Nigerians may have reservations on the man that ruled them twice first as a military leader and later a civilian president making him the longest serving Head of State in Nigeria, Obasanjo is eloquent, charismatic and intellectual leader who could discuss any topic with meticulousness and distinctiveness of academic scholar and political orator. In the face of some of his obvious shortcomings, especially unforgiving nature, he is widely respected globally as an African leader of repute. His views are still respected abroad, though the same could be ignored in the country.
Obasanjo is largely misunderstood by some of his actions against those he perceived as his enemies. He seems to be very sincere about Nigeria project and to some extent a patriotic man. While some officers during his tenure found it difficult to tell him the truth, but with my korokoro eyes I witnesses several occasions where the former Chairman of RMAFC, Engr. Hamman Tukur always took on him whenever we were on a visit to submit some damning reports on the oil sector, external debt management, monetization policy and fiscal issues.
I remember an episode where he banged his table in the villa and shouted at Tukur: "Chairman or whatever you call yourself I am the President and the Commander-in-Chief. You cant come here to be talking nonsense and indicting my officials." Though the report was submitted after heated arguments, he nevertheless implemented some aspects of the recommendations through probes and sanctioning of officials involved in billions of Naira hanky-panky. And the mother of all surprise: he reappointed the same Tukur against stiff opposition from most members of his cabinet.
The fact is Obasanjo had a good team with good intentions during his tenure. The alleged Third-Term ambition and his unnecessary infighting with his Vice President Atiku Abubakar distracted the administration and consumed their reputation.
The news is broken that Saif al-Islam, has been arrested in Libya without being brutally killed like other members of his family. The media have published gory and offensive images of the killing of his father and former Libyan leader, Muammar Ghaddafi without warning for discretion. Viewers including children have been treated to disgusting, sickening and barbaric display of how Gaddafi met his untimely death after he was brutalised, slapped, tortured, sodomized with a knife (gay-like) and shot with bullets. His body was later dragged on the road and kicked amid jeering crowd and cheering rebels. Those displays happened in Arab countries, by Arabs against their Arab leaders, they had pretended to adore while in power. Would that fate also befall Saif Al-Islam now in custody?
Similar incident had occurred almost five years ago when graphic video clips of Saddam hanging in Bagdad in December 2006, on the day Muslims were celebrating the Eid- Adha, were beamed in the mainstream media. The video also showed how Iraqi officials at the gallows were mocking and taunting their former leader before and after the execution. His sons and a grandchild had early been killed during a combat with US troops.
What happened in Libya are worst scenarios of an Arab country in the African continent. The unethical practice of the media in publishing the images and the immoral behaviours of the rebel-killers who took delight in those savageries are not only shameful but abominable acts. More worrisome is the fact that the media refuse to adhere to journalistic ethics as they deliberately refuse to advise their viewers and readers’ discretion on the graphic images of bloodied ghaddafi. Such explicitly violent images not only offend and disturb feeling and sensitive of children and adult who believe in human dignity, they are distasteful as they traumatized our human feeling. The press exhibit imperialist barbarism as the images perpetuate the de-valuing of human life and cheapen the essence of humanity. For all the offence Ghaddafi must have allegedly committed, the barbaric display of Arabs won him sympathy from Africans like me.
Writing a piece entitled “Saddam Hanging and the Humiliation of Arab World” immediately after the execution of Saddam in December 2006, I clearly stated that: “The Arab world may unconsciously start to dig their own grave by giving tacit support for the invasion of their region, where foreign troops are fully armed and stationed. It is now easier for their nations to be forced and fall into the so-called western liberalization and democratization, probably like that of Iraqis as we have witnessed so far. Afterall, apart from Egypt, most Arab nations in the region are ruled by kings who own the assets and properties in their kingdoms.”
While America was the major arrowhead in the extermination of Saddam and other victims in Iraq, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces comprising, Britain, Italy, France and Germany led and directed the assaults in connivance with the rebels in the name of National Transitional Council (NTC) for massacre and destructions in Libya.
The allegation used against Saddam by President George Bush of America was that Iraq harboured Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) as the excuse for the invasion which were discovered to be blatant falsehood. In the case of Libya, NATO claimed they were enforcing no-fly-zone mandate of United Nations against Gaddafi forces only for the NATO aircrafts to unleash blistering airstrikes were lives and properties were destroyed in Libya. The last attacks on Gaddafi’s convoy were from NATO’s aircrafts.
It is glaring the hypocrisy and culpability of Arab leaders who had remained silent and nonchalant during the political imbroglios in the Arab countries. The gullibility of the Arab citizens of those countries who at one time they praised the leaders and at another they turn around singing new songs through the influence of western forces and their mainstream media.
The western media and their leaders know how to crucify perceived enemies through orchestrated campaigns of calumnies and threats including the arm-twisting of the United Nations towards unprovoked attacks on powerless countries.
While Gaddafi had his weaknesses, a common attribute of most ambitious leaders in Africa and Arab countries, his people nevertheless were better off, compare with other countries in terms of living standard. Information gathered from reliable sources including fortunate returnees from the war-torn country, Gaddafi was reported to rule Libya without external debts and had in its foreign reserves over $150 billion which was globally frozen. The cost of war by NATO and other countries could be defrayed from the frozen funds considering the over $2 billion of US and NATO’s military contributions to the attacks.
As at 2010, Libya ranked 53rd on the Human Development Index (out of 170 UN member states), making it a “high human development” country and one of the richest in the world in terms of GDP per capita – with a living standard higher than that of Japan. His legacies include the right to free education and post-graduate studies, at home and abroad. A quarter of Libyans have a university degree while literacy rate for adult and youths were very high as well as gross primary school enrolment ratio for boys and girls which in 2009 was above 90%. There is free health care; interest-free housing loans; free land for farmers; highly subsidized electricity tariffs, fuel price and food items like loaves of bread.
The Gaddafi government also subsidized the cost of buying cars as well as tractors for its citizens in a country where The newlyweds in Libya receive special allowance from the government for housing, while a mother who gave birth received similar allowances to take care of the baby. In the government’s oil-profit sharing scheme, every Libyan got $500 in their account every year – from the national income.
He was never perceived as a stooge of any government as he stood charismatically for the defence of his country and the African integrity. His country was a major financier of freedom movements in some African countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa towards their independence. It was not surprising that one of grandsons of Nelson Mandela was named Gaddafi. He also provided financial assistance to other countries like Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso apart from providing refuge and employments for other Africans from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Liberia, Senegal and Togo among others. He stood against Western attempts to re-colonise his country and criticized conservative Arab regimes for their ineptitudes in the Middle East sagas.
Col. Gaddafi also carried out the world’s largest irrigation project – known as the great man-made river – to make water available throughout its desert country costing billions of dollars without any external loans. His country also offered Africa its first revolution in modern times when he contributed US$300 million of US$400 required for Africa’s first communications satellite. The action reduced the cost of connecting the entire continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications. According to Professor Jean-Paul Pougala “This was a time when phone calls to and from Africa were the most expensive in the world because of the annual US$500 million fee pocketed by Europe for the use of its satellites like Intelsat for phone conversations, including those within the same country. An African satellite only cost a onetime payment of US$400 million and the continent no longer had to pay a US$500 million annual lease to the Europe.”
For the love he had for Africans, especially poor blacks from other countries, he put in place a mechanism to absorb African immigrants into the Libyan civil service and the armed forces working legitimately to eke out a living. During the crisis, majority of those became victims of massacre, rape and abuse by NTC rebels as attested to by survivals and returnees.
We knew that before the invasion of Iraq under Saddam and the attacks on Libya under Gaddafi, acts of terrorism were non-existence and those countries had well-behaved security forces and law-abiding citizens. While one can list the ills perpetrated by the so-called liberators, the Arab leaders should be blamed for the indignity, humiliation and shame on Arab nations that were engulfed in political crises.
The Arab leaders who hobnobbed with the so-called infidels would employ religious sentiments to win sympathy of large followers of Islamic faith on their dilemma. At least we have seen the new Libyan leaders now talking of sharia law as it relates to polygamous marriage rather than sharia in relation to human dignity and respect for the rule of law. We should be wary of confusing the Arabs with Muslims as well as Arab’s terrorism from Islamic evangelism of peace advocates. While the Arabs are a tribal group, Islam is a religious way of life that is not associated to a particular tribe or race.
Personally, we may dislike some actions of Ghaddafi, as an African, he had made many positive contributions than negative towards socio-political and economic development of the continent of the black race in Africa. He was not a coward who could run away from home when he had the chances, but confronted his enemies to the end in his hometown keeping to his words of “dying in his country than becoming a refugee in another country.”
We wait to see what becomes of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other Arab nations whether they would be able sustain the control they have on their people against the western conspiracy to oust the regional leaders and leave the nations in continuous turmoil.