Cel­e­brat­ing Sar­dau­nan Sakkwato, Al­haji Al­haji at 80

Sunday Trust - - VIEWPOINT - By Ayuba Ah­mad Ah­mad is a Kaduna-based pub­lic an­a­lyst

At seven scores plus ten, he still can be seen be­hind the steer­ing wheels of old school mod­els and makes of cars, on leisure drive on the streets of Sokoto me­trop­o­lis.

Like his rides, old, in terms of his years, Al­haji Abubakar Al­haji, yet ex­udes awe, el­e­gance, author­ity, vibe and strength al­beit his out­ward simpic­ity.

Not one that is flam­boy­ant in his re­galia, he will come across to a stranger as any other sim­ple, or­di­nary folk. How­ever, fact is, be­yond the seem­ing aus­tere phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance is em­bed­ded a glow­ing blue blood, a man of pro­found ed­u­ca­tion gifted with un­com­mon in­tel­li­gence, awe-in­spir­ing track records of achieve­ments and tow­er­ing in­flu­ence within and be­yond the shores of the coun­try.

He was born into the fam­ily of Al­haji Muhammed Sani, 80 years ago to­day, at Do­gan Daji in present day Sokoto State. His fa­ther who was also known as Al­haji Al­haji was the son of Malam Haliru, the son of Malam Ba­rau, who in turn, was the son of Malam Mo­ham­madu Buhari, the renowned and re­spected scholar who was the fifth son of Us­man Ibn Fo­dio, founder of the his­toric Sokoto Caliphate.

The jour­ney into na­tional and global lime­light for Al­haji Abubakar be­gan when, af­ter the com­ple­tion of the con­ven­tional Is­lamic ed­u­ca­tion at a ten­der age and his pri­mary school ed­u­ca­tion in Sokoto, he pro­ceeded to Kano, for his sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion, which he com­pleted at the fa­mous Govern­ment Col­lege, Katsina. With a bril­liant per­for­mance in the then Cam­bridge Cer­tifi­cate Ex­am­i­na­tion, he was prod­ded and en­cour­aged by his cousin, the phe­nom­e­nal Sul­tan Abubakar III, to take a govern­ment schol­ar­ship for fur­ther stud­ies at the Bournemouth Col­lege of Com­merce and the Univer­sity of Read­ing, Berk­shire, where he earned his first de­gree in Po­lit­i­cal Econ­omy. He was later at the Hague In­sti­tute of So­cial Ser­vices and at the IMF In­sti­tute, Wash­ing­ton for Post Grad­u­ate Stud­ies.

Fondly and most pop­u­larly called “Triple A”, the reign­ing Sar­dauna of Sokoto had his en­tire pub­lic ser­vice ca­reer in the Fed­eral Civil Ser­vice, which be­gan in 1964 at the Fed­eral Min­istry of Fi­nance as an As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary. He sub­se­quently along the line got posted at var­i­ous times to the Min­istries of In­dus­tries, Trade, Bud­get and Plan­ning among oth­ers. At the end of the day, he climbed up the lad­der to the po­si­tion of a Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, which is the pin­na­cle of the civil ser­vice tra­jec­tory.

The Sar­dau­nan Sakkwato etched a num­ber of in­ci­sive and re­mark­able im­prints along his path in the pub­lic ser­vice. For in­stance, he was in the team of Nige­rian of­fi­cials that that par­tic­i­pated and worked on the bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral trade agree­ments, which re­sulted in the es­tab­lish­ments of the plethora of in­dus­tries that lit­tered the coun­try’s land­scape in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. The first Chair­man of the Delta Steel Com­pany, he also signed all the agree­ments with Rus­sia for the construction of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mills, and years later, also sign­ing doc­u­ments for the re­vival of the now co­matose project. As per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Fi­nance, Al­haji Abubakar Al­haji was on the Nige­rian ne­go­ti­at­ing team for the 1975 Lome Con­ven­tion on Trade and Aid Agree­ment be­tween the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity and 72 coun­tries from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Sim­i­larly, it was his sig­na­ture that dot­ted the lines on be­half of Nige­ria in the un­prece­dented and only in­ci­dent of IMF bor­row­ing from the coun­try for the Repub­lic of Ire­land in 1974.

Con­trary to what one would ex­pect from a prod­uct of a Bret­ton­wood In­sti­tu­tion and one who played a key role in the Ibrahim Badamasi Ba­bangida’s Ad­just­ment Pro­gramme, SAP, which was an eco­nomic re­struc­tur­ing pro­gramme that pained and jolted Nige­ri­ans, Al­haji Al­haji has in re­cent years, be­come a cam­paigner against the doc­trine that, govern­ment has no busi­ness in busi­ness. In a re­cent pub­lished opin­ion of his, he de­clared: “I am against pri­va­ti­za­tion. I warned the fed­eral govern­ment against pri­va­ti­za­tion and fight against it … Now, where are we head­ing to af­ter sell­ing them? NEPA has been sold to pri­vate in­vestors, but we are in dark­ness. That some coun­tries recorded suc­cess in pri­va­ti­za­tion doesn’t mean Nige­ria will suc­ceed.” In other words, the Sar­dauna is ad­vo­cat­ing a sort of mixed econ­omy that is rooted and con­di­tioned by the pe­cu­liar cir­cum­stances of our coun­try rather than who­lescale adap­ta­tion of what ob­tain in other coun­tries.

On the clam­our from cer­tain quar­ters for the re­struc­tur­ing of the coun­try, the orac­u­lar Prince, speak­ing straight from his heart with­out the em­bel­lish­ments of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, has this to say: “As for me, I don’t be­lieve in re­struc­tur­ing of Nige­ria… The states we have now are too many and Nige­ria should not have 36 states… We have 36 state gover­nors, 36 state houses of as­sem­bly, na­tional as­sem­bly, com­mis­sion­ers and var­i­ous other pub­lic of­fice hold­ers. So, Nige­ria’s money is be­ing used to set­tle po­lit­i­cal of­fice hold­ers. Peo­ple are just play­ing pol­i­tics with this is­sue of re­struc­tur­ing. I strongly be­lieve that what we need is a com­pe­tent lead­er­ship to run the af­fairs of the coun­try. We should fo­cus on get­ting the right man, whoso­ever and from wher­ever he is to lead, whether he is Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fu­lani, Ijaw, Efik or any other eth­nic group.”

With Ha­jiya Amina who also is of noble prog­eny hav­ing lived hap­pily as hus­band and wife for over half a cen­tury, Al­haji Al­haji seared six chil­dren among who is, Aisha Abubakar, the present Min­is­ter of State, In­dus­try, Trade and In­vest­ment. Life has in­deed smiled on him in mul­ti­ple ways. The story of Triple A is one of the rare ex­pe­ri­ences of a life of ac­com­plish­ments, re­sult­ing from God given cere­bral en­dow­ments and dint of hard­work.

The con­fer­ment of the ti­tle of Sar­dauna on him, com­ing twenty-four years af­ter phe­nom­e­nal Sir Ah­madu Bello fate­fully va­cated it, is by all ac­counts, a well de­serv­ing honour on one who has, in spite of his op­por­tu­ni­ties, pow­ers and other con­di­tions that would have al­lowed him to amass wealth, Al­haji Abubakar Al­haji is by no means a man of wealth and opu­lence. He sought for honour and good name in­stead. Like his pre­de­ces­sor and un­cle, Sir Ah­madu Bello, Triple A has ev­ery rea­son to be grate­ful to the Almighty Al­lah SWT for His bless­ings.

Happy Birth­day, with wishes of many happy re­turns in good health and con­tin­u­ous ser­vice to hu­man­ity, Al­haji Abubakar Al­haji, Sar­dau­nan Sakkwato.

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