By; PHRANK SHAIBU
Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them – a desire, a dream, a vision, says the great Mahatma Gandhi. This typifies clearly the life and times of Waziri Atiku Abubakar, who, despite the odds against him from early childhood, overcame all the hurdles and vicissitudes of life.
Born on November 25, 1946, to the family of Garba Abubakar – a Fulani trader and farmer – Atiku was the only child as his sister died at infancy. Before adolescence, his father died by drowning while crossing a river to Toungo, a neighbouring village in Jada. He was thus raised by his widowed mother, Aisha Kande, and his maternal relatives. As the man of the house, he did menial jobs while also schooling at the same time to provide for the family. He was a herder, a trader, and a farmer.
Of course, his life changed when he joined the Nigeria Customs Service in 1969 and quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the most senior officers within just 17 years of service. And through it all, Atiku never forgot his humble beginnings. This is one of the reasons he has continued to support several causes and foundations and has awarded dozens of scholarships to indigent students so that they can also have a chance of a bright future.
In the late 80s, he joined partisan politics even though he did not need to having fulfilled his immediate dream of lifting his family out of poverty. But out of this burning desire to lift millions more out of poverty so that they could achieve the Nigerian dream just like he had achieved his, he decided to join partisan politics. Despite winning the governorship election of Adamawa State back in 1991, his victory was questionably annulled by the powers that be.
He contested the presidential primary of the Social Democratic Party and lost. But he soldiered on. Even though he was not directly affected by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election since he was not on the ballot, he put everything he had on the line in order to fight for democracy and was almost killed by Abacha’s goons in the mid 90s. Despite getting his fingers burnt in politics, he decided to contest again in 1999 for governor of Adamawa State and won. But he was picked as running mate to General Olusegun Obasanjo and subsequently became Vice President.
As Vice President, he fought against attempts to amend the constitution and extend the tenure of executive office holders even though he could have been a beneficiary of such a move. By this move, he played a role in not just entrenching democracy but preventing Nigeria from becoming a failing state like some African countries that have removed term limits for their heads of state.
During his trying days as Vice President, his official privileges were revoked by the powers that be. But this did not stop the Waziri from paying salaries and allowances of his personal aides. He continued to look after them and tried as much as possible to shield them from persecution.
Many in government today are products of Atiku’s benevolence, including some in the country’s ruling party today who have gone on to become senators and governors. Simply put, he is a leader amongst leaders.
He also believes in the power of education as a liberating force for the individual and the country. He often says that education gave him all the advantages he had and that he will also stop at nothing to make sure that quality education becomes a priority in Nigeria. Atiku, also, is a deliberate educationist
As a family man, he is almost immaculate. His belief about family is that discipline should be the watchword. His children, of course, are well educated, and he enjoins them to be good ambassadors of the family who must not be associated with any immoral conduct that will tarnish the family name.
As a principal, I say without hesitation that Atiku Abubakar is a father figure. He is compassionate and humane. He is affectionate, too. It is almost impossible to be around him and not feel the energy of the goodness of his character.
He is also a deliberate politician. He sees political power as an instrument to create a progressive society. He is very deliberate about everything he does and takes time out to reach out to associates in their great moments and sad ones
Atiku has made several unsuccessful attempts at the presidency, which have cost him money and comforts but he continues to do so in the service of motherland.
He has made mistakes but has also been a victim of the fraudulent nature of Nigeria’s elections and the judicial malpractice associated with election cases. Despite his string of defeats, not a single life has been lost on his account. This is because he continues to have faith in Nigeria and its people and also believes that his ambition to serve the people of Nigeria cannot be done at the expense of human life.
This cannot be said of other politicians who have promoted violence because of electoral defeat. For some, Atiku’s many attempts at the number one seat in Nigeria smacks of desperation. They think he should remain a private businessman and retire from politics. He may not have succeeded at becoming president, but he has tried and has done so for the most altruistic of reasons.
Some had even argued that he should not have challenged the result of the presidential election in such a vociferous manner but congratulated the winner of the fraudulent election so that he could continue to enjoy government patronage. But he stood his ground and pursued the truth and made sure that Nigerians knew it. This is the height of bravery even though our courts decided to dwell on technicalities rather than substantial justice.
There are no regrets whatsoever. Because as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. If he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Without a doubt, the story of Atiku Abubakar is one of victory, success, and beating the odds. It’s about a man who was dealt a bad hand early in life but refused to be limited by his background and rose from the ashes like a phoenix. It is about a man who, despite his many defeats, has refused to lay flat on the canvas like a defeated boxer but continues to rise every time he falls. He is a man who has lifted others and has continued to trust in humanity despite the many betrayals he has faced.
His, indeed, is a life well spent. It is only fitting to conclude that Atiku Abubakar is a gift to the world. Waziri, your birthday deserves to be a national holiday,
because you are a special treasure
for all that you’ve done.
May the love you have shown to others
return to you in manifold measures.
I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Your Excellency
Phrank Shaibu is Special Assistant on Public Communication to Atiku Abubakar