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Farewell to Jigawa

Since 1999, I have been tied to the political apron string of Alhaji Sule Lamido, governor of Jigawa State. As far as I am concerned,…

Since 1999, I have been tied to the political apron string of Alhaji Sule Lamido, governor of Jigawa State. As far as I am concerned, it has been a great relationship. I cannot say what he might have gained from me but, among others, being his Personal Assistant, (Media Affairs) when he was Foreign Affairs Minister validated my theoretical training in International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis as an undergraduate. The experience and exposure from there is unbeatable, especially that of visiting about a hundred countries within four years. Many career diplomats never go that fast. This is beside the opportunity of observing international politics in action, from the UN to the Commonwealth, from Non-Alignment to OAU, particularly its transition into African Union and Africa’s attempt to come to grips with the post-Cold War global order through an apologia called NEPAD. If you came from some intellectual disposition, all these must constitute an entirely another education.

Of course, there were side attractions such as sleeping in some of the best hotels in the world or coming face to face with many of the people whom one merely heard their names before or watched them on television and finding that there is no mystique around most of them. And the dramatic encounters of which the one between Lamido and Kofi Annan on Robert Guei’s coup in Cote d’Ivoire must be the most memorable. Let me not miss out the Obasanjo factor in Nigerian foreign policy to which Nigerian scholars have not paid any serious attention, probably because Obasanjo is generally not popular with them.

For these reasons, foreign affairs was quite an experience for me even though the level at which I operated was not where I could directly determine anything, officially. But there is no other arena which could have more brutally brought home to me the discomforting truism that Africa has too long a way to travel.

Then from foreign affairs, I came to be the media adviser to Sule Lamido again in Jigawa State since June 4th, 2007. And there is a connection between the two: while foreign affairs was the theatre for the rhetoric on one of the key issues which defines international politics, Jigawa was the theatre for the practice. It is the story of two contrasting worlds that could be a fascinating read if imaginatively told.

Now, however, that chapter has come to a close. Like in all things beautiful, there is always a contradiction which, once it reaches the fore, cannot but transform a thesis and an anti-thesis into a synthesis. That is how revolutions come about without anybody being able to abort it. And that was how the Jigawa theatre kept narrowing for me to a point that any attempt to stay on would be to risk killing a beautiful relationship entirely. No sacrifice is too great to make so that such does not happen because Sule Lamido has played a part in my life.

As long as my stay lasted, Jigawa was hospitable and clement, near perfect. The people were friendly and good across the board: from the youths to the political elite to Jigawa emirs who are not only exposed but very, very welcoming. It was an incredible source of joy mixing into people of different cultural identities from mine and being centrally a part of a government in Nigeria that proclaimed from day one that “Our programmes, pronouncements and actions will bear the unmistakable stamp of the moral and ideological character of the political background we come from”. And then went on to say that “Let me, therefore, at this juncture, state the ideological background of the leadership of this new government. It is firmly anchored on the antecedent of Democratic Humanism as defined and epitomized by its chief exponent, Mallam Aminu Kano. That is the only ideological framework by which this government can satisfy the yearnings of the vast majority of our people whom poverty and misery have reduced to conditions unworthy of human beings”.                                                                                                                                         These were enough for me to give my all. There was no naivety in doing so because if the leadership at the centre in 2007 or even now could vocalize these sentiments, half of Nigeria’s problems would not be there. Nigerians are slaughtering themselves today only because ideological mobilisation other than ethno-religious and regional consciousness is missing from leadership and politics. Instead of politics of ideology, we are presented with politics of good men and good intentions.

I thank Sule Lamido for availing me of these two experiences. I will miss his intuitive flare and, well, the emperor size ego. It is not debateable whether Oxford University don, Professor Anthony Kirk-Greene had my boss in mind when he wrote his paper titled “His Eternity, His Eccentricity And His Exemplarity? A Further Contribution to the Study of His Excellency the African Head of State”. But without the ego, Sule Lamido will not be Sule Lamido. It is the ego which propels him to compete with himself and attain the brilliant finishing uniquely his. Those who have not been to Dutse in recent years may never understand this statement.

It is too fulfilling leaving without any blemish, especially financial. I only wish the critics who think that everyone with access to a governor did nothing else than steal government money knew how much I had left the day I turned in my letter of resignation, particularly the judge who once sent a message to me and another colleague in the Media Unit of the Government House saying he knew we had made money. Some of us stole nobody’s money.

I have got too many people to thank for their contributions to whatever I was able to contribute to the government. There is a Benue brother who will lead this pack for taking off a lot of my material burdens while I pushed the frontiers of a regime publicist. Just as there is a Jigawa brother who provided me a take-off grant to start a hut in Abuja. There is yet another Jigawa senior brother who made a material intervention in my brother’s medical trip to South Africa merely on the basis of hearing me on the phone complaining to the doctors over there about the cost. These are humbling interventions that must be mentioned in this farewell.

I must acknowledge the numerous editors who bore the burden of my aggressive pressure for editorial space. I thank all the comrades and civil society actors who extended automatic though critical solidarity at all times. I cannot thank enough the elders in the profession who kept pointing out one thing or the other to me. These were people who had nothing to gain from me materially whatsoever. Lastly, I thank all the junior staff in the Government House, Dutse. Their helpfulness and reliability provides the evidence for my conviction that the problem of ethno-religious intolerance in Nigeria is strictly an elite affair.

The departure from Jigawa did not permit the luxury of another job before turning in the resignation. So, for now, I am Mr. Onoja of No-Fixed Address. But I can see a magnificent new phase of life opening for me. I cannot say what the new phase would be at the moment but the outlines promise to be even more fulfilling.

Onoja is the immediate past Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State

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