Former Vice President, colourful politician, astute businessman, consummate administrator and great philanthropist, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, turns 70 years today. In this part of the world where life expectancy is abysmally low, attaining the proverbial age of three scores and ten is indeed no mean achievement.
The chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa State, Atiku attended Jada Primary School from 1954-1957; Jada Boarding Senior Primary School; Adamawa Provincial Secondary School; School of Hygiene, Kano; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1967-1969. He also attended the Advanced Customs and Excise Course for Senior Officers, Finland and Cairo Police Academy.
He worked in the Nigeria Customs Service for twenty five years and rose to the position of a Deputy Comptroller of Customs. Atiku retired in 1989 and began full-time business and politics. He ran for the office of governor in 1991 and for the presidency in 1983. The Turakin Adamawa was elected governor of Adamawa State in 1998 under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but was later selected by the PDP presidential candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo as his running mate.
The duo won the February 1999 presidential poll and Atiku became Nigeria’s second democratically elected Vice President on May 29, 1999. As a Vice President, Atiku was not only assertive, he was vocal and visible. He was said to have literally moderated the excesses of Obasanjo.
He had a stormy relationship with President Obasanjo, especially in the second term of the administration as Obasanjo did not support Atiku’s bid to succeed him. However, he contested the 2007 presidential election on the Action Congress ticket and lost.
In the past 25 years, the Turakin Adamawa bestrode Nigerian politics like a colossus. He has become a reference point in Nigeria’s political discourse. Atiku has made indelible marks in Nigerian politics and has moderated all topical political issues with unassailable logic and candour.
His incisive and penetrating perspectives on national issues cannot be faulted either. When other eminent politicians were prevaricating on former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure elongation bid, Atiku vehemently opposed it. The Turakin Adamawa also spoke strongly in favour of restructuring the country even when notable northern political elites have spoken against it. Without any fear of contradiction, Atiku has stridently postulated that Nigeria will not fare well if not restructured.
His business interests cut across real estate, oil servicing beverages and higher education. Atiku established the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Adamawa. Modeled after the American university system, the AUN is, no doubt, one of the best private universities in the country today.
He is also the co-founder of Intels, an oil servicing business with extensive operations in Nigeria and overseas. He is the founder of Adama Beverages Limited, Yola.
As an orphan, the Turaki Adamawa knows what it means to be less-privileged. As a philanthropist, Atiku has extended his generosity to the poor, the down trodden, the less privileged through many avenues, including scholarship.
For his numerous services to the nation, Atiku was bestowed with the national honour Grand commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). His honorary doctorate degrees include an LL.D from the University of Calabar; D. Litt from the Federal University of Technology, Yola; and Doctor of Public Administration from Imo State University.
His traditional titles include the Turakin Adamawa; Baagbile Oke-Ona Egba; and Aare Adimula of Ife. He was the chairman of National Council on Privitisation; National Economic Intelligence Council, Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999-2007.
As Atiku marks his 70 years on earth, we join his numerous admirers and friends to wish him a Happy Birthday. We also ask God to grant him more fruitful years in the service of the nation.