At the biblically-sanctioned age of 80, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, has every reason to count his blessings. He acknowledges the fact that God has been faithful and benevolent in enriching and directing his life. From a modest rural family in Takum in the present Taraba State, he has, figuratively, pulled himself up by the bootstrap to become one of the most respected Nigerians alive. Soldiering can be said to be his vocation, business and politics his calling while philanthropy is without doubt his passion. The three fields of human activity have conspired to make TY, as he is fondly called, one of the icons of the Nigerian state serving as a beacon of light that has consistently pointed the way forward when the country finds herself on the threshold of darkness.
TY recalls an encounter that marks the beginning of his contact with destiny. As a young officer in the Nigerian army, he was sent on a course to the United States of America where he met an Israeli soldier with whom he bonded. Both of them were recalled home at the onset of hostilities in their respective countries. In Nigeria, the outbreak of the civil war and in Israel, what is known in history as the six day War. TY said, mirthfully, that before his friend arrived home, the war had ended while his lasted for 30 gruesome months. Ironically, it was that same conflict that thrust him on the national stage where he has continued to shine like a thousand stars.
As the Chief of Army Staff in the Murtala Mohammed administration, he was the third on the list of top government officials marked for assassination by the Buka Suka Dimka coupists. The soldiers detailed to carry out the deadly assignment were unnerved by the sheer aura of his imposing personality. He single-handedly and without firing a shot, just by the authority of his command presence, dislodged the rascals who were set on destabilising the nation. He himself had noted, elsewhere, that that was the defining moment in his glorious career.
He could well have declared himself Head of State in the midst of the uncertainty that ensued at the time but the soldier in him, which he cherished or maybe his disinclination to politics restrained him. Whichever was the case, and as fate would have it, he was a major stabilising factor that pulled the country from the brink. He served out his tour of duty as Chief of Army Staff under General Olusegun Obasanjo and retired meritoriously into civilian life.
He went back to where it all started for him as a child – the farm and later into business and has remained there as a high net worth operator.
Danjuma was born in Takum, mainly a farming community in Taraba State (formally Gongola), to Kuru Danjuma and Rufkatu Asibi. Young Theophilus started his education at St Bartholomew’s Primary School in Wusasa and moved on to the Benue Provincial Secondary School in Katsina-Ala. He received his Higher School Certificate in 1958. In 1959 Danjuma enrolled at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria (Ahmadu Bello University) to study History on a Northern Nigeria Scholarship. However, by the end of 1960, he had left university to enlist in the Nigerian Army.
Danjuma was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as second lieutenant and platoon commander in the Congo and in 1963 joined a UN Peace-keeping force in Sante, Katanga Province in Congo when he was promoted to captain three years later. In 1966 Captain Danjuma was involved in the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 with the 4th Battalion in Mokola, Ibadan. A year later, in 1967, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel at the start of the civil war campaign.
By 1975 he had been promoted to the rank of Brigadier and the position of General Officer Commanding (GOC). He retired as Chief of Army Staff in 1979 on the rank of Lieutenant General and a grateful nation bestowed on him the second highest national honour as Grand Commander of the Order on the Niger (GCON) for his services to fatherland.
Retired but not tired, Danjuma extended his talents into business engaging in multisectoral activities recording monumental successes in maritime, banking, oil and gas and telecommunications among many others. He joined politics in 1998 and teamed up with his old comrade- in- arms, Obasanjo, in whose government he served as the Minister of Defence. They parted ways when the former started nursing the idea of perpetuating himself in power under a third term arrangement.
With his TY Danjuma Foundation, he has, rightly, become a reference point in philanthropy in Nigeria. The foundation has continued to partner with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to empower youths as well as alleviate poverty in communities by providing basic amenities. As he clocks 80, his blessings are, indeed, many.