At seven scores plus ten, he still can be seen behind the steering wheels of old school models and makes of cars, on leisure drive on the streets of Sokoto metropolis.
Like his rides, old, in terms of his years, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, yet exudes awe, elegance, authority, vibe and strength albeit his outward simpicity.
Not one that is flamboyant in his regalia, he will come across to a stranger as any other simple, ordinary folk. However, fact is, beyond the seeming austere physical appearance is embedded a glowing blue blood, a man of profound education gifted with uncommon intelligence, awe-inspiring track records of achievements and towering influence within and beyond the shores of the country.
For now, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji has since 1999, been the Special Adviser on Economics to the governments of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States. The unprecedented status was not because of his regal background but a result of respect and recognition of his antecedents and capacity. He also holds the title of Sardaunan Sakkwato, the revered traditional title popularized and last held by the late Sir Ahmadu Bello. He is a lucky one, one would say, because much as he is deserving of these honours, it is not oftent that a prophet is welcomed in his home.
He was born into the family of Alhaji Muhammed Sani eighty years ago today, at Dogan Daji in present day Sokoto State. His father who was also known as Alhaji Alhaji was the son of Malam Haliru, the son of Malam Barau who in turn, was the son of Malam Mohammadu Buhari, the renowned and respected scholar who was the fifth son of Usman Ibn Fodio, founder of the historic Sokoto Caliphate.
The journey into national and global limelight for Alhaji Abubakar began when, after the completion of the conventional Islamic education at a tender age and, his primary school education in Sokoto, he proceeded to Kano, for his secondary school education, which he completed at the famous Government College, Katsina. With a brilliant performance in the then Cambridge Certificate Examination, he was prodded and encouraged by his cousin, the phenomenal Sultan Abubakar III, to take a government scholarship for further studies at the Bournemouth College of Commerce and the University of Reading, Berkshire, where he earned his first degree in Political Economy. He was later at the Hague Institute of Social Services and at the IMF Institute, Washington for Post Graduate Studies.
Fondly and most popularly called “Triple A”, the reigning Sardauna of Sokoto had his entire public service career in the Federal Civil Service, which began in 1964 at the Federal Ministry of Finance as an Assistant Secretary. He subsequently along the line got posted at various times to the Ministries of Industries, Trade, Budget and Planning among others. At the end of the day, he climbed up the ladder to the position of a Permanent Secretary, which is the pinnacle of the civil service trajectory.
In obvious recognition of his demonstrated capacity, diligence and commitment, it was not surprising when at a point, the political authorities of the day decided to elevate him to the political position of a Minister, first in the Ministry of Planning and Budget, 1988 to 1990 and, the Ministry of Finance, 1990 to 1991. Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji capped his glorious service to the country as the nation’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, in the mid 1990’s.
The Sardaunan Sakkwato etched a number of incisive and remarkable imprints along his path in the public service. For instance, he was in the team of Nigerian officials that that participated and worked on the bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, which resulted in the establishments of the plethora of industries that littered the country’s landscape in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. The first Chairman of the Delta Steel Company, he also signed all the agreements with Russia for the construction of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mills, and years later, also signing documents for the revival of the now comatose project. As permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji was on the Nigerian negotiating team for the 1975 Lome Convention on Trade and Aid Agreement between the European Economic Community and 72 countries from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Similarly, it was his signature that dotted the lines on behalf of Nigeria in the unprecedented and only incident of IMF borrowing from the country for the Republic of Ireland in 1974.
A quintisential technocrat, the one time Super Permanent Secretary has not expectedly, refused to get involved himself in active partisan politics after exiting the civil service. However, since his withdrawal back to his adyllic roots of Sokoto, he has not ceased to speak his mind on critical national issues of politics and economics. He has been strindent albeit noiselessly forthcoming with exultations to those at the helm of political leadership on matters of social and economic importance. He has spoken for example, on the need for the government to place greater practical commitment to the diversification of the economy as a way of averting the future consequences of relying majorly on oil. In his recently published opinion on the subject, he warned: “Until Nigeria takes seriously the challenge of developing its agricultural and industrial sectors, for so long shall the country experience economic recession.”
Contrary to what one would expect from a product of a Brettonwood Institution and one who played a key role in the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s Adjustment Programme, SAP, which was an economic restructuring programme that pained and jolted Nigerians, Alhaji Alhaji has in recent years, become a campaigner against the doctrine that, government has no business in business. In a recent published opinion of his, he declared: “I am against privatization. I warned the federal government against privatization and fight against it … Now, where are we heading to after selling them? NEPA has been sold to private investors, but we are in darkness. That some countries recorded success in privatization doesn’t mean Nigeria will succeed.” In other words, the Sardauna is advocating a sort of mixed economy that is rooted and conditioned by the peculiar circumstances of our country rather than wholescale adaptation of what obtain in other countries.
The wish of all that labour and toil through the demands and exigencies of the jorney of life is to retire at the end of the day, to a sanctuary. Since gone back to roost in his roots in the serene, historic city of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji as been living a life of one that should feel fulfilled. With Hajiya Amina who also is of nobble progeny having lived happily as husband and wife for over half a century and seering six children among who is, Aisha Abubakar, the present Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, life has indeed smiled on him in multiple ways. The story of Triple A, is one of the rare experience of a life of accomplishments, resulting from God given cerebral endownments and dint of hardwork. Not much of his landmarks can be attributed to the circumstances of his regal background because, not so many of people of such privileged circumstances of birth, come as far as he has done in his eventful and variegated life.
The conferement of the title of Sardauna on him, coming twenty-four years after phenomenal Sir Ahmadu Bello fatefully vacated it, is by all accounts, a well deserving honour on one who has, in spite of his opportunities, powers and other conditions that would have allowed him to amass wealth, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji is by no means a man of wealth and opulence. He sought for honour and good name instead. Like his predecessor and uncle, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Triple A has every reason to be grateful to the Almighty Allah SWT for His blessings.
Happy Birthday, with wishes of many happy returns in good health and continous service to humanity, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, Sardaunan Sakkwato.
–Ahmed is a Kaduna Based Public Analyst
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