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Moments of Crossing of Paths with Jonathan

By K. Kyari Gujbawu

LET me commence this discourse with a citation from the divine scripture I am familiar with:

“O mankind! Lo! We have created you from (a pair) of male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, fully aware” [Quran:49:13].

My first chance acquaintance with President Goodluck Jonathan ( with the popular epithet now-GEJ) was as a Special Assistant to the then Governor of Yobe State in 2002, when he was still at the Bayelsa State Government House. The enabling environment was the investiture of traditional title in his honor by the Emir of Damaturu- capital of Yobe.

While I embarked on a political sabbatical leave between 2007- 2010, GEJ steadily climbed the ladder to assume the peak of political career to assume the office of President of Nigeria. But then, the raging debate as to the suitability of the incumbent President to contest or not in the forthcoming elections, based on the presumption that it was the turn of the North, abruptly disrupted my comfort of remaining apolitical to enjoy the serenity I have found in private clime of my bussines niche.

My modest knowledge of Nigeria’s political history and the experience garnered in more than a decade of sojourn amongst the people of the Niger Delta has bred a conscience in me that was so pricking that I was left with no choice but to delve into the murky waters of politics once again – I rose to the occasion to bring on board an NGO platform (DEMOCRATIC VISION) of friends and associates of like minds across the country so as to sentise our political elites, particularly my brethren from the north of the Niger to remind our fellow countrymen of the golden rule “ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER”.

Kyari Gujbawu
Kyari Gujbawu

My stay amongst the people of the Niger Delta convinced me that Nigeria is truly a nation where ‘though tribes and tongues may differ in brotherhood we stand’. They exhibit great respect and love for others, and northerners in particular, just the way they welcome the south-westerners and their cousins easterners alike. The best friends I made are from that part of Nigeria.

Little wonder that my personal experience in the midst of the breed of people the GEJ stock is made up tallies with my modest knowledge of Nigeria’s past political history of half a century. I’m talking about the political alliance between the NDPC ( Niger Delta Peoples Congress)/NCNC and NPC(Northern Peoples Congress) that created the constitutional advantage in the formation of the Tafawa Balewa-led government – the very first and indeed democratic government of our fledgling nation. Then came the 2nd republic, and we saw Rivers ( now Rivers and Bayelsa States) and Cross River ( now Cross River and Akwa Ibom States) allying with the northern dominated NPN that gave the decisive winning votes for the emergence of the Shehu Shagari Presidency.

The South-south in Southern Nigeria and the Middle-Belt in the northern part, to a large extent, are the glue that actually bind this nation together.

Providence again provided a platform in a government where I will be serving as a national legislator elected under the platform of the same political party (PDP) with a Nigerian of Niger-Delta extraction as President.

Insurgency

The same providence dealt a blow upon this chance crossing of paths- as C-in-C , GEJ will be shouldered with the misfortune of leading the most populous black nation at its most trying times- dealing with a global phenomenal malaise of terrorism that he inherited, and I, representing the very birth place of that insurgency- Maiduguri.

Little did I know that while I’ll be the national legislator representing Maiduguri, the present day capital of the famous Kanem-Bornu empire of more than a millennium history of civilization , it’s people and place will undergo the worst trials and tribulations in its history. So, it naturally fell upon me as part of this unenviable task of in-depth understanding, solution proffering and presentation of this national saga in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly, the public domain via the media, and of course in different fora behind the scenes.

Understandably, my first meeting with Mr. President, in the company of select few of NASS members from Borno immediately we were inaugurated in 2011, was on the issue of the insurgency, then at it’s nascent stage. I was not only touched, but could immediately connect with him, when Mr President narrated his personal experience both as Governor and Vice President how pained he was dealing with militancy in the Niger-Delta region. I felt him that night, so much of the common bond of humanity that flows from and binds us all together. One could almost literally sense his palpable feelings as he not only emphatised with us as a human and a brother, but also, in the spirit of pragmatic leadership, offered to sit and talk with the leadership of the ‘Boko Haram’. His words still ring a bell in my mind as he kept saying- ‘What do they want? They are Nigerians and we are all brothers, why can’t we talk?’

President Jonathan in Maiduguri
President Jonathan in Maiduguri

Ever since then, whenever the call for duty brings us together in the same fora, this palpable sense of empathy and deep desire to find a solution for the nagging insurgency has remained the opening remarks from GEJ . But, then, sadly these insurgents are not like the Niger Delta militants; they are not willing to talk, and the Nigeria that Mr. President is leading hasn’t got the tangibles they are asking to trade for, nor does any part of the modern world have what their ilk are agitating for. Hence, even an effort at defining and understanding this new global malaise became a profound problem, much more of diagnosing and proffering remedies to it. It is still a changing and dynamic phenomenon, very unpredictable to both the proponents and opponents alike.

Malicious accusation

It is no doubt that we are all witnessing one of the most trying periods in the history of humanity since man first started sojourn on this earth. But the saddest part of all this to me, and I believe for many, can only be fathomed in paraphrasing the dictum- ‘Truth is the first casualty of war’. Aren’t you sad when some folks allude wrongly that the insurgency is a creation of the political elite in the part of the country that I come from just to make governance uneasy for Mr President; or what about the still more absurd and malicious accusation for cheap and insipid political gains that Mr President or his government is sponsoring the insurgency just to weaken the North!!

Here, our paths crossed again!-

I only attempt to reason that Mr President will be the greatest individual loser to try and dismember this country via a war. Is he not human? We all have motives for our actions. I understand from my elementary knowledge of investigative criminology that the first thing one looks for in a crime is – if there is a motive. And Mr President will be the no-1 beneficiary only and only if Nigeria becomes better developed and stronger under his watch.

The fate of the Almajiri

Then, our paths crossed again and I find myself on the same page with GEJ- on the fate and future of 10 million northern youths that attend Almajiri education

Borno by providence still is the home of more than half the almajiris that attend Tsangaya schools.   About 6-7 of every 10 school age children attend only the Tsangaya schools, and don’t go to the modern schools you and I attend. Now, that’s not the real story. The only times government, yes! at both state and federal levels think of their existence, are at the periods of census and election.

The spur for the earlier reason is for the state governments to increase their population head count which invariably increases their monthly federal allocation. And the drive for the latter is for politicians to ensure that they are registered for large votes during elections. But when the monthly allocations start coming, and the politicians are now comfortably settled in their offices, where does the almajiris’ fate lie? Does his fate and future feature in the appropriations of the politicians as they appropriate the monthly allocations? No! Not in the last 60 years of either military or civilian rule did the fate and future of the almajiris feature in federal expenditure.

GEJ while trail blazing the launching of the school at Gagi, Sokoto, promised that 400 of such schools will be built in the 19 northern states of the federation.

He said the schools would be monitored on a continuous basis to ensure compliance with minimum academic standards for basic education.

And here, our paths did cross –

The first task understandably that took my attention as a federal legislator from Borno is to conceptualise and sponsor a bill that will seek to provide for a robust legislative framework that will provide for standardisation and funding of the Almajiri education system. This bill once passed into law will legislative the backbone for the sustainability and further development of the Almajiri education as a standard and modern form of education whereby graduates will be issued with certificates that will prepare them for employment and contribute their quota to national development.

What about the unprecedented move by the GEJ government of establishing in one single swoop of 9 out of 12 federal universities established in the North alone to develop the teeming youthful human resources in the north of the Niger.

From food import to exporting

Yes. Our paths crossed again- on agriculture:

Nigeria’s major sectoral labour employer.

I read agric engineering, GEJ read zoology. His pet transformation agenda- agriculture. His government is the only government in the annals of our history that has properly conceptualised and set in motion a policy to make Nigeria attain food security.

The second bill I sponsored- is a bill to provide for the establishment of Food Security Advancement Fund to provide for a legislative framework that will enhance funding mechanism for agricultural development, the like of TETFUND and UBEC in the education sector. Once this bill is passed into law, the agricultural sector will receive an annual funding boost of more than N250 billion and enhance GEJ’s transformation agenda aimed at saving over N1.3 trillion annually in capital flight, and ensure national food security regime.

Yes! Our paths crossed again, and found myself on the same page with GEJ- the chapter?

– Oil & gas, Nigeria’s major foreign exchange earner.

I’m from Borno that encompasses the Chad Basin area, where exploration for oil in a frontier basin is in earnest. GEJ is from the Niger-Delta home to Nigeria’s black gold- crude oil.

He sent in the PIB, the executive bill that seeks to comprehensively transform and uplift the oil and gas sector in a manner never envisaged in the history of oil exploration in the country.

And the current GMD of the NNPC appointed by GEJ is not from Niger-Delta. He is from Borno. The very first time in the history of this nation that a Nigerian of North-east extraction is manning this arguably largest federal agency.

Now you can see why as a northerner by nature and nurture, it is only natural that I am on the same page with GEJ! Cos, our paths kept on crossing!

 

*Gujbawu is a member of the House of Reps

 


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.