By Turaki Adamu Hassan
“As I clock 50, what is uppermost to me, really, is not longevity, I want to see how well I have invested the 50 years that God has given me. You know, when you are alive, you can choose to invest in yourself, or in others. I think honour is when you serve others,” so said Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the 14th Speaker of the House of Representatives at a charity football competition organized to raise funds for Internally Displaced Persons and the less privileged last week in Abuja and today is his golden jubilee. He was born on December 26, 1967 at the then Tafawa Balewa province, North East Nigeria.
The story of Dogara’s 50-year sojourn on earth is that of abundance of the grace of God Almighty whose unfailing love and mercy have been all sufficient in his life. It is a true story of how the invisible hands of the Almighty and His guardian angels have been watching and guarding him all the way. His life journey is a manifestation of God’s unfailing love.
In all his adult life, Dogara has never celebrated his birthday. He had always said that he won’t celebrate until he reaches 50 years of age and all efforts and attempts to make him do anything symbolic of celebration proved abortive. Principled as he is, he has faithfully kept to his resolution. I could recall that on December 26, 2015, at around 9am at his family home in Gwarangah, Bogoro Local Government Area, Bauchi State, his wife, Mrs. Gimbiya Dogara, prepared a cake on a table for him to cut and all of us waited so we could join him but to our utter shock, as soon as he sighted the cake, he turned away from it and went on to greet visitors in the living room. She then beckoned on their eldest daughter who joined her to cut the cake on his behalf.
That is the character and person of Dogara. His yes is yes, his no is no and people who know him will tell you that if he gives you his word, you cannot only take it to the bank but you can as well go to bed and sleep with your two eyes closed. His integrity and credibility are his greatest assets and this has been attested to by all and sundry including the General Overseer and Founder of Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo, who two months ago said, “I have zero doubt about his integrity, I will stand with him anywhere.”
To mark his golden jubilee today, instead of the pomp and ceremony that usually charaterise birthdays of people of his status, the Speaker has rather opted to hold a thanksgiving service in the church and visit 19 orphanages and motherless babies homes where he will wine and dine with the children, speak to them and give them words of hope and encouragement in life and also offer his token donation of food, clothing, and other items. This moved Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man to extoll the virtues of the Speaker and commended him for choosing to celebrate his birthday by embarking on philanthropic and humanitarian activities to help the IDPs and less privileged.
The man, Dogara, is a natural born leader whose sterling qualities are exceptional. He is one man who grew steadily through hard work, discipline, prudence, fear of God, honesty and can best be described as a bastion of hope, courage, and an epitome of humility to anybody who comes close to him. In his public and private utterances and conduct, he remains a unique individual and is made so by his uncommon humility, courage, honesty, credibility and integrity.
Whilst he acknowledges God’s divine grace and favour over his life since childhood, Dogara never took it for granted that this divine grace may abound as an upright man. A highly devoted Christian who fears God and does not take that which is not his, he is also a prudent manager of resources and at the same time, a generous man.
Friends, foes, and even his worst critics, admit that he is an embodiment of leadership. No wonder, Nigeria’s eminent jurist and legal luminary, Professor Ben Nwabueze, said that each time he sees and listens to the Speaker presiding in the House, it gives him hope that all is not lost in Nigeria and that we still have people who can be entrusted with the affairs of Nigeria.
To Dogara, public office should never be used for personal elevation or gain but should be seen as a call to duty, to serve God and humanity. It is his philosophy and belief that leaders are like the moon whose light should radiate and reflect in their followers like the stars and that leadership is not a zero-sum game and that the primary purpose of government in a democracy is to serve the common good of the people. Every government decision must be one that is anchored on delivering greater good for the greater number of the people. To achieve this, it is his conviction that education must not only be free and compulsory, but also of the highest possible standard. It must also be given priority over and above all other considerations as the cornerstone of development of every society without which no progress can be made at both societal and individual levels.
It is also his belief that democracy – which is the best system of government to have ever been invented by mankind – should deliver on its promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And honest that he is, he would openly admit that the challenges confronting Nigeria is a direct result of failure of leadership. Thus, leaders, according to him, must collectively admit that they have failed the people and then chart a new course for the socio-economic and political development of the nation.
His dream, vision and aspiration is that sooner rather than later, a better Nigeria will emerge where both the haves and the have-nots will have a place that will accommodate them in the system; where a room will be available for all.
These are his thoughts, this is his vision, and what he wants to see come to reality in our nation. He is not a man of just words but also of action and the House of Representatives under his able leadership is making giant strides and has broken all previous records of performance since independence in 1960. In two years, about 200 bills were passed, work is in progress on 1000 others, over 1000 resolutions addressing different spheres of our national life have been passed, in addition to almost a thousand public petitions from Nigerians which have been addressed. This has surpassed records by all previous assemblies and was made possible by Speaker Dogara’s foresight when he commissioned a team of legal luminaries and experts to reform Nigeria’s outdated and obsolete laws that dates back to 1800s.
He believes and practices politics of give and take, consensus building and compromise-accommodating both friends and foes-putting aside that which is personal for the collective interests of all.
The Speaker strongly believes in dialogue, negotiation and consensus building, which are the cardinal pillars of his leadership. His quality of being peaceful and one who strongly believes in building bridges of friendship and love across the divides have in no small way, helped in bringing the desired stability in the House. He has continued to enjoy enormous support and loyalty from his colleagues, who acknowledge his transparency and open-door policy.
The Speaker pushed for passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill aimed at reducing the minimum age required by law to stand for elections in Nigeria. He is also a strong advocate for the autonomy of local governments in Nigeria. As a legacy and to his eternal credit, his North East Development Commission Bill is now an Act and the Commission that pioneers the work of rebuilding the region has been created. The Speaker’s honesty, patriotism, sterling leadership qualities and political sagacity are being recognised, commended, thus earning him awards and honours and recognitions too numerous to mention.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari was full of praises for the Speaker after working closely with him in these past two years. He has said that the Speaker’s performance had reinforced his confidence in the country’s youths, noting especially that “with Dogara’s performance as Speaker, fears that the country’s younger politicians have been pushed into background are unfounded.”
Indeed, if the President could give this testimony, what more can one say about such an unassuming personality, master tactician, progressive, vibrant politician, erudite scholar of high repute and lawyer par excellence, who has achieved these feats and greatness through hard work, honesty, and fear of God as is required of leaders in these trying times in Nigeria.
One of Nigeria’s shining stars, Hon Dogara prides himself as a beacon of hope, icon of transparency and progressive leadership. He is a determined go-getter, an embodiment of moral rectitude, epitome of humility and repository of knowledge and a man of destiny and as Josiah Holland Gilbert of blessed memory prayed about 200 years ago, we too in this challenging pace in our nation can only borrow his prayers and say God give us more men like Yakubu Dogara and recite the lines: “GOD, give us men! A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands; Men who possess opinions and a will; Men who have honor…”
Hassan is the Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs to the Speaker