A Time With Turaki Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
By Alaba Yusuf
“Ramadan is not a period for political fireworks and blame game, but a solemn and sombre season for prayers for our dear country, fellow compatriots and mankind in general.” – Former Nigeria’s Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 06 July 2014, at a Press Parley in Abuja.
When I wrote my first published piece some months ago on this subject matter and personality, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Turaki Adamawa and former Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007), I did confess to not knowing him in real term, physically. But in that pen portrait: Articulating Atiku…From Heardsman to Headman, I pictured the philanthropic side of a man who rose practically from zero to a hero status, and has desirously been helping to return sanity to humanity through huge investment in qual
But this time around, I have met the Turaki in person; had a handshake with him and left with a new compelling impression about the enigmatic character with a Midas’ touch. And the encounter is worth sharing here. The story goes thus:
The Coordinator of Atiku Media Office, affable Mallam Garba Shehu, had extended a courtesy invitation to yours truly on Monday advising that the Turaki would be breaking his fast, as usual, with almost a hundred media and public relations practitioners drawn from a wide spectrum of the professions. As planned, the eventful ceremony took place between 7-9pm at the Protea Hotel, Asokoro, Abuja. It later turned out to be the first time the former Vee Pee was attending in person, having missed this year’s Lesser Hajj, Umrah, due to unforeseen circumstances.
So as soon as the chief host sauntered into the jam-packed hall, in company of former Minister of Aviation, Prof Babalola Aborishade, and other top aides like Adinoyi-Ojo Onukaba, a modestly dressed Atiku went round to shake hands with all his guests. It was an amazing display of humility and simplicity by a former shepherd boy who now lives in the world of kings.
Not yet done, the Turaki engaged all in banters and light talks. “This gathering is not for fireworks, but a season for sober reflection and prayer for peace and security in our country. The time for politics and politicking shall soon come.” A loaded statement? Yes, there is time and space for everything. And even in war situations, there are laws of engagement.
Lesson one: Atiku came off perceptively as a man of faith who respects the ethos, ethics and norms of his Muslim belief. You may call him, in Pentecostal parlance, a man of God! No flattery or plastering intended here. The man, Atiku, already has a well nourished and polished brand that begs for no advertisement at all.
In fact, a Thisday Newspaper extract captured the occasion thus:
“Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has said he will unfold his next political plans soon after the conclusion of the ongoing Muslim Ramadan fast.
Atiku, who addressed journalists shortly after breaking the fast yesterday night in Abuja, said it was the time for Nigerians to join hands and work for the restoration of peace and unity, and not a time to shift blame or draw the battle lines along ethnic or religion differences.
“This event is not a fireworks event, if you want and you are looking for fireworks then we can arrange it after the month of Ramadan. Let me also say that the challenges that are facing this country range from security, development, unity and stability and this requires all hands on deck irrespective of where we come from, irrespective of our religion or even our differences.
“We must be united to ensure that this country is brought back to the path of growth, peace and stability and to the path of development.
“This period as far as we are concerned as Muslims is very solemn month and a month dedicated for worship and prayer upon mankind. It is therefore necessary that whatever we can do to support mankind should be done. “Therefore it is a sober month for us. I want to appeal to everybody irrespective of your religion to continue to pray for this country, because more than ever before, in all my life in this country, I have not seen the kind of challenges we are facing today.
“I therefore ask for your understanding and prayers throughout this month so that God in His infinite mercy will accept our prayers and restore our country to the path of peace, unity, growth and development for ourselves and also for our future generations.
“It is not a time to start shifting blames but it is a time for all of us to work hard and ensure that this country again re-emerges from the present predicament to one of the most promising nations in the world.”
As an icing on the former Vice President’s public perception’s cake, the bunch of newshounds in the assembly gave his speech a rapturous applause, a situation very uncommon with media buffs in this clime. In an emotion-laden response, Mr. Uche Ehirim, the Chairman of the Nigerian union of Journalists, NUJ, Federal Capital Territory, revealed to the audience how a largesse $10, 000 from Atiku, helped in saving the life of a dying broadcaster, Godfrey Odu. According to him, a public appeal had been placed by the NUJ to raise fund to treat the ailing Voice of Nigeria correspondent in China. The Turaki heeded the lone voice in the wilderness.
“You are not the only politician or public figure that we approached for help in Nigeria. But through your caring heart and prompt financial action, you have demonstrated your uniqueness as a true friend of the press. And we hereby say thank you. We shall not forget to support you whenever and wherever you require our assistance. You are of a different breed; far from those who label the Nigerian Media as supporters of terrorism or gun-runners. We the Press fought the most for this current democracy and we cannot aide or abet any attempt to scuttle the process.”
Lesson number two: Atiku is a compassionate being and one that loves his fellowman as his himself. This couldn’t have been a stunt or Double-Dutch of any sort. Purity of heart and sincerity of purpose are the hallmark of humanism and exemplary leadership.
The third leg of articulating Atiku, the lowly herdsman that burrowed through the earth of education onto the pedestal of politics and economy as a headman, lies in the tale told by his videographer of 32 years. Jerry, an Atiku look-alike, narrated how the young customs officer Atiku Abubakar, a Northerner from old Gongola State, brilliantly negotiated his way to marry his first wife, Titi Abubakar, a blooming damsel from Ilesa, Osun State, South West Nigeria. Expectedly, the mother of the bride-to-be was said to have protested the overture of inter-tribal marriage, more so as her daughter was still in school.
“Oga calmly stood his ground and promised to take good care of ‘Mummy’ and allow her to continue her education.” The former VP kept his gentleman’s words. And the marriage has since blossomed and thrived abundantly. That singular act earned the Turaki Adamawa the epaulettes of a ‘son of the soil’ in Yorubaland. He has since replicated marital bonds in the North and the Eastern parts of the country as well.
Meanwhile, the most remarkable attributes of a nomadic cattle handler are in his core competence, character and capability at dealing with harsh and precarious situations. A herdsman is a doctor to his sick flock, a compass and pathfinder for them, a midwife during labour, a brave warrior and defender in times of attack, a shrewd businessman when selling his livestock and, above all, an effective communicator and mediator, one unlimited by geography or topography. Atiku, the orphaned shepherd, is detribalised from the outset of life.
Lesson four: Atiku is all of the aforementioned rolled into one. No wonder he has become the most enigmatic personality within the Nigerian socio-political firmament. He is a figure that no one can easily ignore; nay hate or love him. In short, Atiku means different things to different folks.
Hence the choice, poise and voice of the former Number Two Man may soon become the rallying point that the All Progressives Congress, APC, indeed requires; to cement relations and smoothen frayed nerves within its ranks and file. For Atiku is a veritable bridge builder, a political fence-mender and a charitable game-changer. Finally, he is one visionary leader that understands that conventions are meant for human convenience; and not a mere idealism or sheer phantasmagoria based on fallacy and fantasy.
The Writer, Alaba Yusuf, is a Public Affairs Commentator, Publicist and Strategist based in Abuja.