“If I can conceive it, and believe it, I can achieve it. It’s not my aptitude but my attitude that will determine my altitude –with a little intestinal fortitude”.  –Jesse Jackson

Ambition as plague

THE English playwright John Webster, in ‘The Duchess of Malfi’, said “Ambition… is a great man’s madness”; suggesting that it is not the common man’s disease. But if ‘ambition’ is still to the ‘great’ and not to seekers of greatness, the question then arises, ‘why should ‘greatness’ already secured, allow itself to be troubled by the ‘ambition’ in order to be ‘greater’. What higher station in life must a ‘great man’ seek to attain after having risen to ‘greatness’ already?’ America’s Donald Trump has an answer that can acquit the Atikus: “I wasn’t satisfied just to earn a good living. I was looking to make a statement”. And what can be wrong with that?

Nonetheless, ‘ambition’, if it should be anyone’s ‘patent’, I think it makes better sense to suggest that it should be the hallucination only of the poor -or the delirium of the disinherited. And although Shakespeare has said that “lowliness is young ambition’s ladder”, the tragedy of the lowly ones, as one British labour leader once said, has always been ‘the poverty of their desires’. And so as the great ones are despised for being troubled by vaulting ambition, (seeking always to multiply their superfluous possessions), the ‘small ones’ cannot be praised for being content with meager provisions.

But I do not believe that any ‘great man’ has enough measure of ‘greatness’ not to be troubled by the ‘ambition’ to be even greater. Nothing despairs more than to have no further station in life to aspire. The Macedonian monarch, Alexander the Great’s must have learnt this the hard way. At the end of all his conquest he was to lament: “No more world to conquer”. But ‘great men’ will still have to do what ‘great men’ will have to do: be ambitious and seek to conquer more. “It is no sin”, Shakespeare said “to labour in thy vocation”. The symptom must match the disease. And as those who are hemorrhaged must bleed, those who are already ‘great’ will have to manifest the symptom of  their preoccupation, -ambition. It is what Shylock, in ‘Merchant of Venice’, said to a Christian Venice while justifying his ‘pound of flesh’:

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

 Deafness of ambition

And just as Shakespeare also describes ‘love’ as ‘blind’ because “lovers cannot see the pretty follies that they themselves commit”, so is ‘ambition’ itself ‘deaf’ because the ambitious cannot hear the call of moderation -the way that the falcon cannot hear the falconer. And maybe it is the reason that oratorical Mark Antony in the play ‘Julius Caesar’ says that “ambition (is) made of sterner stuff”. And as it is no sin to labour in one’s vocation”, it is in order that the ambitious are tenacious; never yielding to odds, but rising always, to redress odds.

Said the English playwright Philip Massinger, “Ambition, in a private man a vice, is in a prince the virtue”. And as with ‘prince’, so with ‘politician’; ambitious always to the hilt; either as partisans as aspirants. Says Ralph Waldo Emerson, ambitious politicians, just like ambitious princes, “hitch their wagon (always) to a star”. And like Angus Grossart, the Scottish banker said of them, they would rather “die of exhaustion” aiming to ‘hitch their wagon to a star’ “than (die of) boredom”, because they can no longer ‘hitch their wagon to a star’. What should Atiku do if you say he should no longer ‘hitch his wagon to a star’? Stay bored and die?

Everyone is entitled either to be implacably ambitious, or to be un-stirring bums! And it is to that extent that I think Atiku is more sinned against by those who accused him of ‘ambition’, than he has sinned himself only because he has ‘serially’ hitched his wagon to our farthest star. Said the British poet Robert Browning “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Because, as the American poet, James Whitcomb Riley said, “The ripest peach is highest on the tree.” And if we have no reason to reproach bums who settle lower for the ‘greens’, we have no justification to reprimand those who climb high up for the ‘ripest’.

Nor is Atiku any more sinning than the rest because he has also been ‘serially’ unsteady in choosing a platform from which to ‘hitch his wagon’ to his chosen star. PDP, AC, APC are merely names of vessels. And as Shakespeare would ask, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose will smell as good if we call it by another name”. Unless the law expressly forbids change of vessel, every politician is entitled to a choice of party platform as often as the need arises for them to do so.

Hitching his wagon to a star

It is sufficient to me that Atiku has never made any pretence about his ‘motive’ for joining politics after a rewarding career in Customs. His goal has always been to climb up on the tree to ‘the ripest peach’ -even in a country where it’s been made virtuous to aim low when you can aim higher. Atiku’s political motive has always been to ‘hitch his wagon’ right to the farthest star, -even in a society that makes a fetish of ennobling ‘high hopes’ always for ‘low heavens’.

They say that no sooner had Atiku ‘schemed’ to become Governor than he ‘connived’ to become Vice President. And that no sooner was he number two than he set out bribing the legislature to dethrone his principal. And that when that failed, Atiku had still angled to throw his hat in the ring to contest his boss’ ‘right of first refusal’ –the chance of a second term. Atiku is a conniving son-of-a-b**ch, they said. But I say no! Atiku is not the ‘son’ of a ‘five letter’. He is only a scheming and counter-scheming true son of his mother –with an ‘ambition’ –you should know- that is made of the sternest stuff.



When a trembling, dagger-wielding Macbeth, in Shakespeare’s tragic play ‘Macbeth’, says to his avidly ruthless wife “If we should fail-”, the villain of implacable ambition, Lady Macbeth, only charges forward: “screw your courage to the sticking place” she says, “and we’ll not fail!”. Screwing his ‘courage to the sticking place’ is what Atiku has, consistently been doing. It is a mettle which even Macbeth has to be nudged by a woman to evoke. But it has always come in handy with an Atiku; -the courage to mount his gilded horse of ambition, and to soldier on; never cowardly asking, like Macbeth, “If we should fail”; because he knows always that as much as a chivalry charge can fail, it can also succeed.

Atiku is ambitious, yes, but he makes our democracy tick. Said the English poet, Edmund Spenser, “he that strives to touch the stars, oft stumbles at a straw”. But in the spirit of good sportsmanship let us pray that even if Atiku does not “touch the stars”, -for the reason that he enlivens our democracy and he enriches our jurisprudence- he does not ever “stumble”.



+2348062887535:- “Kaduna State Governor’s action over teachers’ failure to pass common elementary four questions is a welcome one. Then what are the teachers teaching, since they cannot pass elementary four questions. Who is fooling who? –in this 21st century! The Governor should send these failed teachers to the farm. I believe they will do better in Agriculture since we are diversifying the economy from oil to agriculture” –Gordon Chika Nnorom

Online:- “I have taken time to understand the basis of the Kiambu County Social Studies book that not only contains toxic negative ethnicity content passing off as common knowledge. While the book requires a complete cover to cover analysis and review, it got me thinking perhaps it is time we introduce annual tests for teachers just like they do in Nigeria. Following the dismal performance of teachers in the recent tests, some elite have emerged in their defense ; but even this support doesn’t exonerate teachers who fail because they have an enormous responsibility in shaping future leaders and the quality of national conversation. Mohammed Adamu took one head on”. –Edward Wanyonyi, Kenya

Online: -“Sincerely speaking there is nothing to add to prove the wickedness or the hypocrisy of the dastardly and unpatriotic act of desperate politicians , the union and all those against the patriotic action of El-Rifai. All their children are in private schools. We now know the real enemies of progress, the masses and by extension the country. Thanks to our southern compatriots that join us here in the defense of the positive and patriotic action taken by the governor. May Allah grace you with more wisdom, health and ability to continue to add value to your chosen profession (ameeen)”. –Nasir Rabiu

Online:– “Prof. who writes from text books that are written by non-professors. Leave matter joo.” –Gani Muhammed Ajowa

Online:- “The truth must be said. Mohammed Adamu thank you for exposing the truth. Professor Abubakar Aliyu’s  analysis on the yardstick of assessment of teachers is faulty and politically motivated. How did he become a Prof? Ooh! I am highly disappointed, from this northern man that is supposed to support El-Rufai for exposing the illiterate teachers – he is here saying otherwise using all the grammar that has no meaning to the parents’ dilemma in the north. And maybe these are some of the people who are always crying that northerners are backward in education. What a shame!” –Viictoria Tabak.

Online:– “Mohammed Adamu more ink to your pen… It is quite educative”. –Ibrahim Dalha Gidan Dukawa

Online:- “Mallam, this El-Rufai is so special, you know. With politicians like him there will be no professors like the bloke here. El-Rufai’s sin and crime is his resolve to fight a fraudulently condoned reality of our existence. Indeed the reward for this man’s seemingly solo crusade is more, not in the next election, but in the hereafter”. -Muh’d Rabiu Barde.

Online:– “The Kaduna teachers scenario may just be a random sample of abysmal state of public primary schools in northern Nigeria; and probably the country at large. Truth be told, poor wages accruing to teachers in states-run public schools do not only make teaching uninteresting, but also stigmatised it to an extent that even parents see their prospective in-laws who are teachers as still unemployed. Stigmatisation of the teaching profession has however, shied away troops of potential/qualified teachers from the noble profession; and that in effect makes teaching an easy do for quacks. It is a common sight to see a trained teacher persistently seeking for another job outside the teaching circle. This is as a result of ‘neglect’ the ‘teaching class’ has suffered in the hands of successive governments. I was raised in a teaching family, but what I can’t just understand is that primary school teachers here in my State receive their monthly salaries only after all other workers have forgotten when they received theirs; leaving them sometimes with salary shortfalls. Putting all these together, the negative effect can be seen in continuous brain drain and consequent invasion of the teaching profession by quacks and ghost teachers. Mark it, by the time similar tests are conducted for school teachers in other states, Kaduna teachers may even come above average”. –Tauheed Ibrahim.

Online:– “You have nailed it. May your ink never go dry”. –Sa’id Danna Ali


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