Friday, March 1, 2018, has come and gone but the memories of the day will linger for some time. That Friday was Dr. Ahmadu Ali’s 82nd birthday anniversary and his biography, The Many Colours of A Rainbow, written by Gideon S. Tseja was presented to the public. The celebration attracted very powerful Nigerians. BODE GBADEBO writes on the news behind the news at the memorable event.
Obasanjo, Na’abba’s Rare Public Outing:
Two previously known political strange bedfellows, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and an erstwhile Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’abba, sat side by side on the ‘high table’. It was arguably one of the rare occasions when the duo would be seen on the same table in the public. Many politically active Nigerians especially in the current dispensation, will not forget in a hurry the no love lost relationship between the Obasanjo presidency and Na’abba’s ‘renegades’ House of Representatives members. Seeing the two exchange banters last Thursday and in another instance, laughing together over only God-know-what, was a sight to behold.
How Obasanjo Protested His Role:
Trust Baba Obasanjo. There can be no dull moment with him. His sense of humour is legendary any time, any day. He was the chairman of the occasion while former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), was the Special Guest of Honour. But Obasanjo was not comfortable with the arrangement, which he blamed on the celebrant, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, whom he said was known for doing ‘bizarre’ things. The former president argued that Gowon ought to have been the chairman of the occasion while he (Obasanjo) should have been a ‘mere’ guest instead.
Drama as Ali’s Biography Surfaced Before Public Presentation:
When Obasanjo was speaking at the occasion, he threw jibes at his friend and celebrant. At a point, he claimed he did not know the contents of the book slated for public presentation. While he was still speaking a copy of The Many Colours of A Rainbow was handed over to Obasanjo. Then, the main hall of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, venue of the event, erupted in thunderous laughter.
Beware Of Ali The Boxer:
Until his death, the legendary black American boxer, Mohammed Ali, apparently did not know during his lifetime that another boxer was living in Nigeria with the name ‘Ali’. Also, Nigerian-born popular boxer, Bash Ali, may not know that his name-sake and erstwhile national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was a boxer. General Gowon and others who knew Ali during his Barewa College days in Zaria attested to his boxing prowess. “He was a short man devil,” Gowon jocularly said. In fact, Prof. Jibril Aminu recalled how Ali once ‘short-changed’ a boxing opponent when he took him by surprise and knocked him down during the greeting formality.
Of Ali-Must-Go and Ali-Must-Stay:
When Ali was the Federal Commissioner of Education, university students went on violent demonstrations in 1978 over an additional five kobo to their meal fee. The protest led to the death of some students. It was tagged ‘Ali-Must-Go’ and the objective was to embarrass Ali and influence his sack from office as commissioner. But at the book launch on Thursday, one of the students who participated in the 1978 protest recanted. His name is Mahmud Jega, now a senior journalist and newspaper columnist, who turned out to be Ali’s Book Reviewer. Jega, to the admiration of guests, said having gone through the book and, given Ali’s good memory for rich history, he was convinced that this ‘Ali-Must-Stay’ now.
Ali and the Three-time Phenomenon
Unknown to many, Ali was a three-time Federal Commissioner for Education in three successive governments during the military regime. Also, he was a three-time Senator with combined tenures in the Second and the aborted Third Republics. It is worthy of mention that he was the pioneer Director of the National Youth Service Corps, established in 1973 by the Gowon regime.
Father of Kogi State:
A lot of things were revealed about Dr. Ali, although they are open secrets. An interesting one was the fact that he was the sole founder and chairman of the Movement for the Creation of Kogi State, hence he remains the father of the Confluence State, created in 1991 by then President Ibrahim Babangida regime.
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