On December 3, 2017, while driving in my car with my wife and daughter around 8pm, I was flagged-down by what I presumed to be personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the heart of Abuja. It looked like the thousands of checkpoints that police personnel mount in our cities, especially at night, and I had no hesitation stopping. However, by the time I realised that those stopping me were men of the underworld, it was too late for me to do anything to escape. The gang leader opened the door from the driver’s side and first of all removed the key from the ignition. He then closed the door to make the operation look normal for passersby and then proceeded to snatch the cellphone from my hands. Together with his gang members, they made sure they robbed us of every valuable in the car, including the little cash we had on us.
It was while they were still desperately searching the car and seeking for more that I summoned the courage to query why they could not leave us alone. The answer came from a hungry-looking member of the gang who, surprisingly, apologised to me and explained that he had a master’s degree that he toiled to secure, hoping it was going to assure him a solid future, but he roamed the streets of Lagos for over two years without getting a job, that it was after a hopeless search for job that someone advised him to move to Abuja where, in his words, “all the money in Nigeria is being shared.” That moving to Abuja ended up becoming a disaster, as he found it to be “a city where the rich resented the poor,” and that he took to crime only as a last resort. Two other members of the gang explained to me that they had not eaten since the previous day, and all efforts by them to engage in menial jobs came to naught.
In June 2014, also in the same Abuja, I was driving one evening when I noticed that the tyre pressure in my car was low and I stopped by a vulcaniser somewhere in Wuse 2 to get the air beefed up. I then decided to venture out of the car to take some fresh air. It was an area of the city that I thought was very secure, with tens of people mingling about. Suddenly, a young man approached me and asked for help, saying he had not eaten since the previous day.
It was around 7pm, and having convinced myself that he truly looked desperate, I gave him N1,000. The young man thanked me profusely and left. But all of a sudden I saw him coming back to where I was. He explained, to my shock, that it was my good heart that saved me because he had taken a decision to stab to death the next person he was going to ask for help (who happened to be me), if the person refuse to oblige him. He said that, before meeting me, he asked quite a number of people for help but none obliged him. From one of the inner pockets of the suit he was wearing, he showed me a small sharp knife that he said he wanted to deploy in attacking the next person that turned him down. He told me he took the risk of explaining that to me, to encourage me to continue to be good to everyone, irrespective of tribe or religion.
But I also strongly advised him never to kill anyone because the person refuses him help, and he explained further that death was better than the situation he found himself in, and if he is lucky to only end up in prison, he could at least get free meal served by the authorities. This is a story of a young Nigerian who has given up on his country. It is the story of sheer hopelessness, and I am sure there are thousands or even millions of our young men and women facing similar situations. We parted on that note, but I surely won’t be surprised if that young man became a full-pledged criminal shortly after that meeting. I could not but agree with the Sultan of Sokoto when he recently said that we are brewing a monster that is worse than Boko Haram, and he cited hunger as that monster.
There are of course many other reasons why some people take to crime, and this is by no means an excuse for anyone that chooses to tread that dangerous path. But for those of us who are Muslims (and I am sure there are similar traditions in Christianity), there was the story of someone working in a farm, who stole from the produce of the farm to feed his family. The owner caught him red-handed and reported him to the Caliph of the time, who was one of the direct successors of Prophet Muhammad ruling over the Islamic world. The Caliph asked the man how much he was paying as salary to the young man who stole from his farm. When the owner mentioned the amount, the Caliph saw that it was grossly inadequate. He then asked the next question about how regular the employer was paying his employee, and when the owner attempted to lie, the worker mentioned that he had not been paid any salary for months.
Do you have a true friend like Governor El-Rufa’i?
It took the dethronement, 11 days ago, of Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as emir of Kano by the government of that state for many Nigerians to see a living example of what true friendship really means.
Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufa’i, governor of Kaduna State, is one of the closest persons to President Muhammadu Buhari. He has everything going for him, as a key member of the party governing one of Nigeria’s frontline states. But he staked it all by giving life to what true brotherhood and friendship means when he decided to pitch his tent with the deposed emir of Kano, who was like an abandoned orphan that the system wanted to teach bitter, life-changing lessons.
It is not the intention of this column to dwell on the merits or demerits of that action by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State. Between that time and now, a lot of justice has been done to that subject by many informed commentators on national issues. I have also had the privilege of writing on the fracas between the governor and the then emir on these pages, advising Governor Ganduje to learn to live with Sanusi as someone who cannot keep his mouth shut on any issue he believes in. I reminded the governor that, if Sanusi could criticise President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s Seven-Point Agenda during the Senate hearing convened for the confirmation of his appointment by the President in 2009, it was futile to expect him to keep quiet on any issue he disagrees with. Recall that, at the time Sanusi was criticising President Yar’Adua’s Seven-Point Agenda, he was running the risk of infuriating the President and getting him to withdraw the nomination or quietly asking the Senate not to approve it. It was the quintessential Sanusi who has had the tradition of fearing no consequences for saying it as it is.
I was one of those who, having studied the man rather closely, argued from the very beginning that Sanusi was not going to fit in as an emir. In northern Nigeria, emirs are known for keeping a dignified silence on issues, refraining from comments in public. They are said to always advice the powers-that-be privately. These are virtues I knew Sanusi would have nothing or little to associate himself with. And, predictably, he did not only criticise Ganduje on policies of government he disagreed with, but also even the Buhari administration that he significantly helped in bringing to power. It is common knowledge that many prime movers of government are not happy with Sanusi, and some of them were said to have played a key part in urging Ganduje to wield the big stick against the man they all loved to hate.
In the typical Nigerian politics of crass opportunism, the normal thing would have been for El-Rufa’i to look the other way, especially when his friend the emir was consigned to the dustbin of history, or so it seemed. And he had every reason to do that. Sanusi was toxic, and anyone afraid of getting listed in the black book of the federal and Kano State governments would be doing the right thing to keep a serious distance with the deposed emir.
But it was at that material time that most Nigerians got to know that the Kaduna State governor and the deposed emir were friends since their teenage years. Sanusi also risked it all when the Jonathan administration was antagonizing El-Rufa’i, an administration in which he was a top official as governor of the Central Bank. And El-Rufa’i also gave Sanusi every support to become the nation’s Number One banker. They were said to have been standing by and for each other for more than 40 years.
William Shakespeare probably had Nigerian politicians in mind when he came up with the maxim that failure is an orphan. Once you lose a position of authority in Nigeria, those singing your praises to high heavens disappear into thin air and at times even transform to your worst critics. But we all saw how the Kaduna State governor endured the hardship of travelling by road to Awe, a drive of more than six hours from Kaduna, just to visit Sanusi and give him comfort. He did not stop at that; the governor leveraged on the court pronouncement that the banishment of the former emir was illegal to drive his childhood friend to Abuja, from where he personally saw him off to the private jet that transported the former emir to Lagos.
What this means is that the rest of us need to start asking ourselves the hard question: do we, among our friends, have true pals like Nasir El-Rufa’i who could stake it all to stand by us in our hour of need? Are we also ready to do as El-Rufa’i did to Sanusi, for our circle of many friends?
I do not wish to publicly criticise my governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, who I voted for at the last gubernatorial election. I honestly see him as one of the highest performing governors Kano has had the good fortune of producing. But I am compelled to ask him to reflect deeply whether among the coterie of aides that pushed him to deal with Sanusi, any of them can do for him what his Kaduna State counterpart has done for the erstwhile emir.
Let Ganduje remember that the same politicians all around him today were only recently singing the praises of Engr Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, his predecessor, and the same people will eulogise his successor, whether of APC or PDP. They are a shameless breed of human beings, and serving any government in power has been their economic mainstay.
It is for this main reason I always pity our leaders who have repeatedly failed to learn the hard lessons of history by thinking that those licking their boots today will remain loyal to them forever. They simply will not. And as a leader today, you will be left to bear your cross all alone when you leave office.
Surveyor Kabir M.M. as beacon of hope
He came to office as registrar of the Surveyors Registration Council of Nigeria (SURCON) almost three years ago. His name is Surveyor Kabir M.M. For 10 years prior to his appointment, Kabir was the surveyor-general of Katsina State and a member of many national and international bodies regulating the practice of survey in Nigeria and globally.
In keeping with the promise of this column to deploy space and celebrate men and women of deep excellence, we are today bringing to focus the unprecedented performance of this man of destiny who has quietly been making Nigeria very proud in his chosen profession.
In the past three years, Kabir has ensured that SURCON has received global recognition and also gained the much-sought-after Ordinance Surveys of the United Kingdom. For the first time, the organisation was registered as a full-pledged member of the International Federation of Surveyors in 2018. He also brought about the prevailing peace and synergy existing between SURCON and the other sister survey agencies like the Nigerian Institution of Survey and the Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation.
To ensure continued respect for all surveyors in Nigeria, Kabir has continued to ensure that quality and high standards are the watchwords in governing the regulatory agency of the profession. For the first time since the establishment of the body 30 years ago, selection of examiners is open to all members of the council. Exams are organised and conducted in the most transparent manner. Candidates and examiners are also well taken care of by ensuring 24 hours free medical service for all of them, while meals are provided to them during the course of writing the professional examination.
For reason of limited space, we can only mention a few of the unprecedented achievements recorded under Surveyor Kabir M.M. But when this column asked him how he came about achieving so much with so little, the SURCON chief executive attributed it to the support he is enjoying from the supervising minister of works and other leaders in that ministry, but even more significantly the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, who he credits with showing deep commitment to the promotion and appreciation of geo-spatial information for Nigeria’s national development. Surveyor Kabir also has generous words for the President and members of the council, as well as all workers of the organisation.
Here is wishing Surveyor Kabir M.M. the very best as he continues to steer the ship of SURCON to glory.