With its Muslim north and Christian south population, Kaduna stands as a befitting case study of a cultural diversity that works.
Researching for this series has been an eye-opener. Intermittently, one stumbles on information which challenges the legend that Nigeria boasts no leaders. The blame for that though must be borne on one hand by leaders themselves (they hardly publish memoirs) and on the other hand by the cynical, nonchalant masses. The man I serve herewith is clear proof that this country has enough suitable human resources and to spare, for the national throne or leadership mentoring.
As with our first nominee, this isn’t someone I have met. However, from piecing together verbal paintings by those who have experienced him, one sees the very personification of character, consistency and capacity, the three c’s of a complete leader. We check him out presently but first, let’s trace his roots. Welcome to the one state that’s truly Nigeria in miniature.
With its Muslim north and Christian south population, Kaduna stands as a befitting case study of a cultural diversity that works. But, this capital of Northern Nigeria wasn’t always this exemplary: it used to be a hotbed of ethno-religious conflicts and students unrest. For instance, in 1988 the famous Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) sank the lowest when Muslim students attacked Christians over the victory of Christian students in Student Union Government elections. Over a hundred students were injured but after the authorities had shut down the institution, some miscreants in Gwagwaji waylaid and killed some students travelling home.
Enter the man whose magic wand offered the state a permanent coolant. Born on August 8, 1956 in Makarfi village (you now know who), and educated at Federal Government College, Enugu and later at ABU (obtained a first degree in accounting and a master’s in accounting and finance and thereafter lectured part-time), our man had set out as a banker and risen to the position of General Manager in the defunct Nigeria Universal Bank. He also served as Honourable Commissioner, Finance as well as at the Centre for Conflict Resolution or so, something for which he has uncanny passion. His first major political break albeit came in 1999 following his election as governor and re-election in 2003.
Those eight intervening years etched the man’s image on the Kaduna memory. People of the state I spoke with (most of them of alternate political camp) described him as a mass developer, a fair-minded troubleshooter, an accessible, calm, courageous, calculating leader and great listener; possibly the best governor
Kaduna ever had. One Muslim told me that for an age, prior to 1999, the Christian south complained of being marginalised and oppressed by the majority and larger Muslim north. He confirmed the injustice, recounting how the southern part was ruled by the Emir of Zazzau, a northern emirate.
It took our man to put a stop by granting them independence via the creation of chiefdoms headed by southern Christians. Of course, such deft political incorrectness forced him into a head-on collision with his native Muslim north. Furthermore, the executive council of the state that used to be 70:30 he made it 50:50 and ensured that project distribution was even. He was so justice-conscious that his northern brethren nicknamed him Reverend Makarfi!
While that trait made him a cult hero especially in southern Kaduna, it was the Solomonic dexterity with which he handled the Sharia crisis of Year 2000 that shot him into national prominence. His tripartite legal system sanctioned Sharia for Muslims, Customary Court for non-Muslims and Common Law for all, and to this day has kept the peace in the state once tagged a flashpoint. Early 2003, the first time the People’s Democratic Party ever assessed its governors, he came out tops. His colleague told how in the run up to 2007 when then President Olusegun Obasanjo asked PDP governors to nominate their best colleague to succeed him, three times they voted and three times the Kaduna Chief Executive was the man!
Alas, he was not the final man; because as things go in Nigeria, he was thought too intelligent and independent-minded. Yet, that disappointment threw up another take-away about this five-star Nigerian. Some of his colleagues irked by what had happened wanted him to lead a revolt against the establishment but he won’t budge. Instead, he elected to serve as northwest coordinator for a man who had initially lined behind him: Umaru Musa Yara’Adua (may Allah bless his soul)!
That evidence of integrity was not a flash in the pan. While rounding off his senatorial second term in 2015, our man (in spite of having seen the anti-PDP writing on the wall) rejected the tempting opportunity to be a national leader for which most other PDP top shots defected and are still defecting. That must be a huge part of what recommended him so highly and in absentia to the caucus of his beloved PDP when the party ran into fundamental trouble. In an era when so-called Nigerian political juggernauts stand for nothing, we can at least console ourselves that Makarfi village in Kaduna state lent the country a political model!
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He is the Muslim David who not only fought and defeated the known and unknown Goliaths of PDP but also, as it were, brought back the party from the dead – complete with the current vibrant National Working Committee that is poised to return the glory days. This is another Mr. Integrity the northwest region that prides itself as highest voting numbers shouldn’t mind in 2019. Ladies and gentlemen, with a standing ovation, please give it up for an iconic political model and fantastic statesman whose impeccable record of service has never been doubted let alone questioned by EFCC: His Excellency, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, CON. God bless Nigeria!