Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, who died tragically in an helicopter crash last Saturday in the jungles of Bayelsa State, was a good man. I first met him in 1971 through Mr. Aboki Galadima, his childhood friend who was to become his chief of staff as governor of Kaduna State. I was Galadima’s “fag” as a third year student in Government College, Bida, where he came to do his Higher School Certificate (HSC) from Government Secondary School, Abuja, both in Niger State.
When I first met Yakowa, himself and Galadima were undergraduates at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I was a “Basico” (student of then two-year-old School of Basic Studies of the university established jointly by the then six Northern states to prepare secondary students from the region for direct admission). When we first met the man struck me as nice and somewhat withdrawn. Thereafter our paths hardly crossed until he graduated the following year to embark upon a successful career as a civil servant which culminated in his brief stint as permanent secretary at the federal level in 1999.
I got to know him a little bit more when General Abubakar Abdulsalami, the military head of state I served as chief press secretary in 1998/’99, appointed him a minister. This, apparently, was to change his career as a technocrat into an even more successful one in politics. Even then few, if any, could’ve predicted he would end up as governor of his state, once considered the bellwether of Nigeria’s politics as capital of the old powerful North.
But then God, as they say, moves in mysterious ways. First, Mr Steven Shekari, Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi’s deputy who looked as fit as fiddle, died suddenly in 2005 during the governor’s second and final term. Makarfi replaced Shekari with Yakowa, then the secretary of his government.
Next, Makarfi’s handpicked successor, Architect Namadi Sambo, retained him as deputy after he and a host of others, including the possibly better connected and certainly more politically ambitious Mr. Isaiah Balat, now being touted as possibly the next deputy governor of the state, lost out in the 2007 primaries of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party.
Next, God’s mysterious hands took away President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in May 2010 after a long-drawn illness during which attempts were made by many within his kitchen cabinet to stop his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, from acting. The sad death resolved the high wire politics that surrounded his illness in favour of Jonathan through the invocation of a little heard of “Doctrine of Necessity” by the Senate. As president his choice of a deputy eventually fell on Governor Sambo. By constitutional progression Yakowa became governor.
Finally after serving out Namadi’s first term, he predictably won his party’s ticket for the 2011 governorship election and went on, again predictably, to win the election itself. The election proved highly divisive, with the opposition, mainly the CPC, alleging that it was massively rigged.
As a person Yakowa was a good man. As a politician I am not so sure he was as good. Many, even within his party, had accused him of being highly partisan in his appointments, award of contracts and distribution of projects.
Last Monday when I was at my vendor’s to collect my complimentary newspapers and buy others for the day, I overheard a group discussing his tragic death. Uninvited, I offered that he was a good and fair man. Someone in the group disagreed. The Yakowa I knew, he said, was not the same as a governor.
The man said he was a senior staff in the state’s ministry of education. Before Yakowa, he said, they had eight directors split equally between the Muslim dominated part of the state and the Christian dominated south. Since then, he said, the directors had increased to 11 and only two were from the north. Worse still, he said, some of these new directors had neither the requisite skills nor experience. This pattern, he said, was replicated in almost everything the man did, regardless of the impression he tried to create that he was a fair man.
This claim was perhaps exaggerated, perhaps even false. What cannot be denied, however, is that as a Nigerian politician, he was hardly different from the rest in his determination to get and retain power. This much was obvious in the recently concluded local government elections where the ruling party won an incredible 22 out of 23 local governments. Even the one local government, Kaduna North, which was conceded to the opposition seemed aimed at portraying the governor’s former boss, Vice-President Sambo, with whom he never really had any cordial relationship, as someone no longer of any consequence in the politics of the state; although Sambo is from Zaria, he has lived all his adult live in Kaduna North.
Whatever may have been his shortcoming as a politician, the one thing I have never heard anyone accuse him of is venality and self-service. Nor have I heard anyone accuse him of lack of humility. In a nation like ours where corruption, selfishness and arrogance have become the main defining characters of its public figures, especially its politicians, Yakowa’s apparent personal integrity and humility made him a rare breed politician.
Not least of the virtues that recommended him as rare was his apparent disavowal of the First Lady Syndrome, a thing which is not bad in itself but which, as with so many things we copy from abroad, has been turned by the wives of our elected public officers into a sophisticated grand scam. The greater credit for this must go to his wife, Dame Amina, who is probably the most self-effacing First Lady in the country, especially for a woman who is well-educated and from a liberal social background. Some credit, however, must go to her husband for allowing her to be her natural self rather than push her to be like the Joneses.
As we mourn his death in very tragic circumstances, may his virtues become the guiding principles of his successor, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero. And may the Good Lord give all those he’s left behind the fortitude to bear his great loss.
FEEDBACK : The Oloye
I would like to bring to your attention that Gbemisola Saraki wasn’t a two-term Senator. She spent a single term both at Green & and Red chambers respectively before aspiring for the post of the Governor.
Ibrahim Muye +2348036616767
I stand corrected.
In the tribute to Oloye in your Daily Trust of 5/12/2012, you referred to Mallam Adamu Ciroma as the managing director of the New Nigerian when he was a member of the CA in 1977. If my recollection is correct, Mallam Adamu was governor of the Central Bank at the time. Of course I’m sure you need no reminding that the incumbent MD of NNN in 1977 was the late Turi Muhammadu who himself was also a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1977.
Daudu Abdul-Aziz +2348025587237
I stand corrected.
Your column titled The Oloye was a masterpiece. However I wish to point out that Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim SAN is the first SAN in the North in that he was conferred with same in 1982 while AGF Rasaq became SAN in 1985.
I stand corrected. Indeed when I enquired from my lawyer friend, Yahaya Mahmud, himself a SAN, he confirmed that as of today there are 374 SANs, from the late Chief Rotimi (Timi the Law) Williams in 1975 to Nnawuci Azuoma this year. Abdullahi Ibrahim is No.35, AGF Abdurrazaq, No. 46, and Aliyu Salman, No 56, making them the first, second and third SANs from the North respectively.
Just for the records, Sir. The Nation recently carried an interview in which Dr Saraki said he had only one wife; that his son and daughter are from the same mother. So she can’t be Senator Bukola’s half sister, as you said.
In my reactions to one of your write up in October I did raise the issue that Nigeria needs to return to parliamentary system but that selfishness on the part of our assembly members will not allow them look in that direction. The late Saraki saw it right then.
With regard to his Societe Generale Bank, it is an example of how the so called rich men and leaders of Nigeria dupe the poor and become richer at their expense. Set up a bank, collect deposits, squander it, allow the bank go bankrupt and go home to enjoy the loot. No questions. No court cases. No investigations. Shikina!
Kingley Aduga. +2348133071697
Societe Generale has resumed operations as a regional bank under the name “Heritage Bank” +2348020880754
I see that you love Olusola Saraki so much that you don’t realize that from interviews he granted while he was alive, and even in your write-up in THE NATION’s back cover, that he turned Kwara State into an extension of his own empire. Tinubu is playing the same crazy and domineering type of politics in the ACN States, except Edo where his influence is only in part.
Lastly, your fifth to the last paragraph, line seven should read ‘This ‘led’ to a sad falling out between father and son,who …. final term’. The word ‘lead’ is your error. On the same fifth to the last paragraph, ‘falling out’ should have been written as ‘fall out’. I’m sure there were more grammatical errors, but I will stop here.
Barister Chigozie Ifeoma Nwagbara, LL.M, Author/Investor, FCT. +2347088932144