When men and women of arms embraced democracy; the need for adaptability is always a challenge as democracy and military rules are always strangers. The man who has been favourably disposed to living a regimental lifestyle cannot, without sacrifice, embrace freedom and liberty.
Despite being a retired military officer, Commodore Emmanuel Kabirat Jekada (retd), now the Chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has performed beyond expectations in dancing to the tunes of democracy. He is confronted with the machinations of his own brothers and sisters who see politics as a fierce competition. Jekada has survived as Kaduna APC Chairman for this long, not because of any support from his zone, but largely on the support of Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai and largely APC members from Zone 2 and 1.
A quintessential man of outstanding brilliance whose hard work and consummate academic attainments have set him apart from others, he served the nation’s Air Force for three decades, excluding the three years he trained as a pilot cadet. Having excelled and acquired distinctions in both military and academic endeavours, Jekada’s proclivity in staying afloat present challenges portrays him as someone with an unprecedented versatility to exercise patience with some politicians whose dreams have never wandered from making fast money in politics.
Shortly after his retirement, Jekada plunged into politics as he joined other political groups in forming an effective opposition platform to end the vice-like-grip of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that had sworn to rule the country for 60 years. One indisputable fact about Jekada is that even his political foes know that he stands for and by the truth. His words are often his bond, but he is easily irritated by the monkeyshines unleashed by discredited hunters of fortunes pretending to be politicians.
Jekada has always fixed his eyes on the bigger picture and, more often, falls prey to insiders machinations aimed at drawing the dagger in the dark. As a retired military man, he detests falsehood and is unable to tolerate truth standing on its head. As a Catholic faithful, he has refused to fly the kite in order to cover up his path. Politics is war by other means and the deployment of devotion and honesty has not helped Jekada in concealing the “firstling of his heart”. In his honesty and devotion, the retired Air Force officer, now the APC chairman, is unable to conceal the content of his heart on his face even when Nigerian politics is now generally accepted as a game of sophisticated hypocrisy.
Born on November 28, 1956 in Madakiya, near Kafanchan in Kaduna State, the child whose baptismal name is Emmanuel, got enrolled at the St. Paul’s Catholic School, Madakiya, from 1963-1969. After completing his primary education, he would head to Basawa Teacher’s College, Zaria, where he obtained a Grade II Teacher’s Certificate in 1974. Three years later, young Jekada joined the Nigerian Air Force to become a member of the Cadet’s Military Training Course 2 (CMTC) in 1977.
He was commissioned as a regular combatant officer with the rank of Pilot Officer in 1980. He would later walk to his academic peak when he bagged Ph.D in International Relations and Strategic Studies at St. Clements University TURK & Caicos Islands British West Indies London Graduation Centre. Before then, he had obtained Masters in International Relations and Strategic Studies. From 1991-1993, the Air Force officer was at the University of Jos for the Advanced Diploma in Public Administration. Thereafter, he headed to the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, for a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management from 1998-1999. He also acquired a Masters of Business Administration and Management (MBA) in 2000 from the same university.
It was not only in academic performance that Commodore Jekada excelled; he displayed indisputable competence in military training/courses and assignments. At the end of his Primary Flying Training School at the NAF Base in Kaduna in 1978, Jekada proceeded to the Technical Training School, Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, United States of America, where he acquired Air Traffic Control (ATC) Specialist Certificate and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Rating in 1979.
At the Armed Forces Command & Staff College Jaji, Kaduna State, he obtained Pjsc (passed junior staff college) in 1989 and Psc (Passed Staff College) in 1996. Jekada was at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS) Kuru, near Jos, for his mni (member, National Institute) in 2008. He also attended a seminar on ‘Operational Readiness and Essential Pillars of Credible National Defence Systems,’ among others.
The retired Air Force officer held several positions, among them are: Administrative Officer (AO) Air Traffic Squadron, Flying Training School Kano (1981); Officer Commanding (OC) Air Traffic Services Wing (ATS) Instructor Air Traffic Control/Meteorology (Met) 301 Flying School, Kaduna (1994-1995); Commander, NAF Station Maiduguri (1999-2000); Administrative Officer (AO) to the Chief of Air Staff NAF HQ Abuja (1998-1999); Deputy Director, Relief and Disaster Management, Defence Headquarters (DHQ) Abuja (2005-2006); Director, Research and Rescue, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Abuja, and Directing Staff, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS) Kuru from 2009 till his retirement.
Jekada’s military promotions reveal him as a man whose excellence was recognised through his hard work and dedication to duties. After his enlistment as Potential Pilot Cadet in 1977, he was later to be commissioned as Pilot Officer (Regular Combatant in 1980. He became a Flight Lieutenant in 1986 and steadily rose to the rank of Squadron Leader in 1991. He was promoted to Wing Commander (1996); Group Captain (2001) and Air Commodore in 2006.
Jekada attended military operations that included Operation Sea Dog in Calabar (1980); Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) Peace Keeping Force in Chad (1981); Assigned military operational exercises of Tactical Air Command (TAC) in Makurdi/Maiduguri (1982-1989) and Operation Takute Expe JOPEX in Lagos (2004).
He also attended courses on disaster management, including courses detailing basic life support and aid; disaster management seminar at the Department of State, USA, Search and Rescue Administrators’ course, among others.
The retired air force officer has written and published analytical articles on issues relating to his military career on topics such as the ‘Role of Air Power in the Maintenance of Regional Peace and Security: A case study of Nigerian Air Force operations in Liberia’ (1990 -1996); ‘Effective Search and Rescue Organisation for the Nigerian Aviation Industry’ (MBA project, ATBU Bauchi); ‘Proliferation of Small Arms and Ethnic Conflicts in Nigeria: Implications For National Security’ (PhD. dissertation, St Clements University, London (2006) and ‘National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) In Nigeria: An Examination of Present Strategy and Executive Proceedings’ (mni project, NIPPS 2008).
As a brainy retired Air Force officer, Jekada believes that once one’s mind is made up for a particular cause, there is no way of looking back. When he resolved to support General Muhammadu Buhari for 2015 polls, he was meticulously convinced that the forthrightness of the APC Presidential candidate was capable of swinging victory for the party. It did. Considering the then profile of the PDP at both the centre and Kaduna state, the retired military officer would play leading roles in the defeat of the then ruling party that had become insensitive to the yearnings of the people, following incessant killings by terror gangs.
Jekada as Kaduna APC Chairman holds an important position capable of swinging the pendulum for the electoral victory of his party. What stands against him is his devotion and sincerity that are often alien elements in realising political triumph. Victory at the polls is dependent more on the unseen than what is seen. While Jekada plots to ensure his party leads, the discordant voices threaten this expected victory. Now that Mallan Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai has apologised for the wrong committed against the electorate, a new dawn is likely to break for the APC; a party that has never hidden its contempt for the zone the party chairman comes from. Jekada may have the best of intentions for the APC, but Shakespeare says in ‘King Lear’: ‘We are not the first who with the best intention have incurred the worst”.
Commodore Jekada must deploy an exceptional sagacity, using his devotion and honesty as inspiring tools for unity. For the retired military officer who turned 66 on Monday and is now in the trenches for 2023 polls, next year could turn out to be a tough battle, but it is not impossible to conquer. This is wishing this former fighter pilot a belated birthday wish in advancing the frontiers of democracy for not only his state, but also the country in general.