by Ibrahim Muye Yahaya
May 7, 2021 may have come and gone, but it’s going to be a red-letter day in the lives of thousands. Major General (Senator) Muhammad Magoro (Rtd) turned 80 on this day.
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He is a soldier turned administrator, business tycoon, politician and an elder statesman who has impacted and continues impacting greatly on the lives of thousands of people. To him, and particularly those who have benefited from his large heart including this author, 80 is not ‘just a number’, but a PIN to the service of his fatherland.
His 80th birthday is therefore a profound anniversary to reflect his humble beginning and how he propelled into prominence by a sequence of unpredictable events, or providence.
General Muhammad Magoro Rtd was born on 7th May 1941 in Mahuta, headquarters of Fakai Local Government in Zuru Emirate of Kebbi State. He was at Mahuta Junior Primary School from 1950 – 1953 and Senior Primary School Kontagora from 1954 – 1956 where he completed his primary education.
He was at the prestigious Provincial Secondary School now Government College Bida (GKB) from 1957 – 1962. This awe inspiring personality started his voyage into military at the famous GKB in the same class alongside Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Sani Sami (Emir of Zuru), Muhammad Gado Nasko, Garba Duba, Late Mamman Vatsa and Col. Sani Bello (Rtd).
Other senior military colleagues of his who passed the same GKB were General M.I.Wushishi (Rtd); Late Cols. Ibrahim Taiwo, Garba Musa Dada Paiko and Late Lt. Haruna Auna.
In December 1962, he enlisted into Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC), Kaduna. From 1963 to 1965, he was trained at India Military Academy, Ponna; Platoon Weapons Course at School of Infantry India; Physical Education Course at School of Physical Education Maho, India and Mortar Platoon Commanders Course at NMTC Kaduna.
Following his commission and return to Nigeria, he held various posts in the Army as he progressed in ranks to further position him as a proud Infantry Officer.
The young Magoro was at Junior Staff College, United Kingdom in 1971; Army Command and Staff College, Jaji in 1977 and the prestigious United State Army War College in the Class of 1982 where his final year thesis titled “Command and Contemporary Strategies – Mao-Tse-Tung” which has remains a reference point up to date at the United States Army War College.
From 1962 when he enlisted into Nigerian Army, he held various commands and positions which include; Platoon and Company Commander at 4th Battalion of Nigeria Army 1964 – 1967 where he fought gallantly in the Nigeria Civil War for the unity of the Country from 1967 – 1968 and Commanding Officer 122 Battalion Nigerian Army 1969-1970.
He served as Brigade Major, 30 Brigade of Nigerian Army 1970-1972; Commands 4th Brigade Nigerian Army 1972-1973; Commander 3rd Brigade Nigerian Army 1974; Commandant; Army Training School 1974 and 1 Division Garrison also in 1974. In recognition of his dedication, competency and loyalty, General Magoro was appointed Assistant Adjutant General, 1 Division of Nigerian Army 1974-1975.
In 1975, he was found worthy and was entrusted with the task of Military Port Commandant, Apapa 1975, an office he occupied until his appointment as the Federal Commissioner (Minister) of Transport 1976-1978. He was appointed as a Colonel General Staff, 3rd Division of Nigerian Army 1978-1979; Commandant, Brigade of Guards 1979 – 1981 and Commandant Nigerian Army School of Infantry 1982-1983.
In 1984, he was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs and promoted to the rank of a Major General until his retirement from active service of Nigerian Army in 1985. Upon his retirement, President Babangida appointed him as the Chairman of Nigeria Maritime Authority from 1985-1991.
General Magoro’s tenure as a Minister of Transport and Minister of Internal Affairs was marked with lots of successes. As the Minister of Transport; Apapa Port was expanded while Tin Can Island Port, Warri Port, Sapele Port and Calabar Port were built under his leadership.
One wonders today what will be of our country without those Sea Ports which are contributing greatly to job creation and economic development of the nation. It was also during his tenure as the Minister of Transport, the survey of the nation’s Nautical College (Maritime Academy of Nigeria) in Oron was carried out.
He also facilitated the coming of the RITES of Indians who restructured Nigerian Railway. As the Minister of Internal Affairs, in May 1985, he oversaw the exodus of close to a million foreigners from Nigeria with about half of them who had come from Ghana and other West African Countries where they were escaping from the economic collapse of their country.
He also introduced a policy with opening of offices to screen issuance of Nigerian passports at the Local Government levels by providing guidelines. This was because of the challenges with the issuance of Nigerian passports then.
Among the guidelines was that no one can be issued a Nigerian passport until your traditional ruler or your local government chairman identifies you. The logic behind the policy then was to curtail issues of insecurity, impersonation and abuse of Nigerian passport.
His journey to boardroom and politics began in 1995 upon retirement from public service when he becomes the Chairman of Ocean and Oil Services Ltd. In the year 2000, he was appointed the Chairman of Oando Groups, a petroleum marketing company which was born through the privatization of Unipetrol Nigeria Plc.
He successfully led Oando Plc to become a household name and a big player in Oil and Gas marketing as its chairman till July 2011 when he resigned. He also served as a Director with Fidelity Bank and a Director of Veritas Kapital Assurance Plc, one of the nation’s leading insurance companies.
A prudent, hardworking, disciplinarian and someone endowed with foresight, wise counselling and wealth of experiences, he used those potentials to turn things around the management of the companies he served in its Boards.
General Magoro belongs to the class of hardworking, honest and patriotic Nigerian that is never found wanting of any mal-administration or involved in any corrupt dealing in his military, public, business and political career.
He received various decorations such as Sarduana’s lifetime Achievers award; Royalty, Courage and Discipline Medal, Force Service Star (FSS), Pass Staff College (PSC), Military Service Star (MSS), National Service Medal (NSM) and United State War College (USWC) fellow. General Magoro left the public service with no qualms, no second-guessing, and no obsessive chase of his place in history.
At 80th birthday of this exemplary and a remarkable son of Nigeria, we joined his family, friends, business associates and well wishers on this unique anniversary occasion to salute his selfless and unwavering commitment to humanity and astonishing accomplishments.
Yahaya wrote from Jagbele Quarters, Muye, Niger State.