The Abdullahi Smith Historical Research Centre, based in Zaria, was a beneficiary of the generosity and commitment to social credibility and academic rigour that characterised the life of Alhaji M.D. Yusufu, one time Inspector General of Police and Federal Minister of Internal Affairs.
The centre recently hosted a symposium in memory of its late benefactor at the YarÁdua Centre, in Abuja The event was the occasion for the presentation of two books that recall the period in Nigeria’s political history when Alhaji Yusufu mounted a campaign to seek the presidency of the nation. It was also an occasion for the exhibition of the remarkable universality of Alhaji Yusufu’s friendship and the uniqueness of his vision of service to his beloved Nigeria. The high table at the event was populated by cross section of those who had interacted with Alhaji Yusuf in his professional career as well as some persons who had related with him in the unusual circumstances that his highly informal and humble lifestyle generated.
The Chairman of the occasion was “super” Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, who can be counted among former top officials who had enjoyed close personal relationships with him. Other major figures from past administrations who paid their respects at this event were a former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alhaji Aliyu Attah, a former National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau, pioneer Director General of NIA, Chief Albert Horsfall, and the one time, and only female the Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs Farida Waziri.
In a display of the unusual spread of Yusufu’s close associates and friends, those gracing the high table also included Dr. Haroun Adamu, veteran newspaper columnist and radical editor, Chief Ayo Opadokun, a former NADECO chieftain and human rights activist, who has authored a biographical study of Alhaji Yusufu, Senator Ben Obi who revealed that his father and uncle had been colleagues of Alhaji Yusufu in the police force and that he considered himself a part of the family, Alhaji Ishiaku Ibrahim a popular businessman and major political figure in the Second Republic, and Lindsay Barrett, the Jamaican-born journalist and writer, who revealed that his decision to remain in Nigeria and become a Nigerian citizen was largely influenced by his meeting with Yusufu in the very first months after his arrival in the country in 1966.
As each of those seated at the high table was called to speak about their memories of Alhaji M.D.’s life they recalled anecdotes that illustrated his deep commitment to justice and equity in society and his belief in honest service to the nation. Alhaji Jodah described the nature of Alhaji Yusufu’s behaviour both in and out of service as being guided by a profound decision to always remain discreet in the conduct of all his affairs. The ex IGP Alhaji Attah remembered that apart from his personal family links with Alhaji M.D. his career choices were guided by the advice and example of his friend’s conduct of his own career.
He remembered that Alhaji M.D. was particularly focussed in his desire to keep the police disciplined and efficient during the military era and that he was extraordinarily brave and outspoken when defending the interests and objectivity of the force. Chief A.K. Horsfall and Alhaja Waziri both narrated how Alhaji M.D. intervened to help shape their careers at an early stage in their long service. He remained a mentor to both of them to the end of his life and Chief Horsfall recalled that he was always curious about finding ways to improve the security profile and performance of the national police. For Alhaja Waziri he was the most tolerant boss that one could ever wish to have and he was never overbearing in his relations with subordinates.
Two books, entitled. The Right to Choose, The M.D. Yusufu Presidential Campaign Campaign Against General Sani Abacha 1997-1998, and Democracy and Corruption in Nigeria, Selected Papers and Campaign Documents of M.D. Yusufu-1997-2010 were presented to the audience by Prof. Alkasum Abbah the former political secretary to M.D. Yusufu’s campaign organisation and Alhaji Abdul Okwechime the former media director of the organisation. They were joint editors of the first volume and Prof. Abbah is also one of the editors of the second volume.
Abdul Okwechime a Lagos-based journalist recounted how he was virtually recruited into the campaign from his job as a media assistant in Nigerian Airways because of his connection with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the controversial musical star whom Alhaji M.D. befriended even when the administration in which he was a top official was engaged in virtually suppressing his freedom. Okwechime whose elder brother had been a key instrumental soloist in Fela’s band asserted that Alhaji M.D. never condoned and always criticised the oppression of the late musician and remained one of Fela’s most trusted friends throughout the duration of both their lives.