Celebrating Sardaunan Sakkwato, Alhaji Alhaji at 80
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.