by Sam Nda-Isaiah
I would like to preface the column today with a condolence message to the people of Kano over the death of Alhaji Ado Bayero, the 56th Emir of Kano. HRH Bayero had an eventful tenure; he will be remembered as a very respectable traditional ruler. He maintained his dignity throughout his reign and was never involved in any scandal that could have undermined the traditional institution. He made friends all over the nation and even across the world. May his soul rest in peace.
The king is dead, long live the king. And now the 57th Emir. Is it not poetic that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi would become the 57th emir of Kano? Indeed, “Dia ris God o!”, if you know what I mean. If Jonathan had known God’s plan, he would not have created this embarrassment for himself by giving himself the power to “remove” a CBN governor even when the law was clear about this. And, to make matters worse, the president did it to silence someone who dared to challenge the mindless stealing, the type that this nation had never seen, in his government. But all that is by the way. Jonathan will see more of this type of poetic justice in due course. That is usually the fate of all leaders who see their offices as an opportunity to commit serial injustices.
Having said that, I would like to congratulate the people of Kano on the choice of His Highness Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as their 57th Emir. The story of Sanusi’s ascension to the throne of his forebears is interesting and will be told for several generations. As a child, Sanusi’s nickname was “crown prince”. From his primary school days, he did not hide his desire to become the Emir of Kano, and he occasionally suffered for it.
Sanusi had always been broadminded and intelligent. A personal story will suffice here. In the early days of this newspaper, as with all newspapers, it was tough getting adverts, especially from bluechip companies and banks. Adverts from First Bank were particularly impossible for new newspapers. Within a year after we started, Sanusi was appointed executive director at First Bank. It was a big appointment for him. Before then, he was a general manager at UBA. Almost immediately he became executive director at First Bank, I placed a call to him and gave him the assignment of ensuring that LEADERSHIP start getting his bank’s adverts. When he appeared not to be succeeding fast enough, I went to Lagos to see him. He was very happy to see me and he immediately called the man in charge of advert placements to his office. When the man arrived, he introduced me as the publisher of LEADERSHIP and asked him why he was yet to start giving adverts to the paper in spite of his instructions. The man went through a litany of complaints. At a point, Sanusi got angry and told him, “Look my friend, I told you that LEADERSHIP is a national paper that is very popular with northerners and we need to advertise in it. If as ED and a northerner you will not take my word, get out of my office.” The man left and I jokingly told Sanusi, “It appears LEADERSHIP would have to wait until you become managing director before we can get First Bank’s adverts.” His response to me is the stuff for history books. He looked at me and said in Hausa, “Haba Sam, have you ever heard of a northerner becoming the MD of First Bank? Just pray that I should become CBN governor and then Emir of Kano.” We both laughed. I never discussed the advert issue with him again.
Then, around October 2005, one of LEADERSHIP’s editors walked up to me and said, “Sir, your friend Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has been appointed First Bank’s MD.” I looked at him and said, “Get out my friend. That’s how you spread rumours.” He laughed and stuck to his position. I then said, “Anyway, let me call Sanusi.” I tried him several times but could not get through. I then sent him a text message asking him to call me. He did in less than five minutes. He told me he was in a board meeting in Dubai. I then told him that one of my editors had been spreading the dangerous rumour that he had been appointed the managing director of First Bank. He said it was true but he would fully take over in January 2006. “What!” I said. “What happened to the received wisdom that northerners do not get appointed First Bank’s MD?” He laughed and said we would talk when he returned.
And now wait for this… Even before Sanusi took over, the same man in charge of advert placements who had rebuffed him about a year earlier started passing lots of adverts to LEADERSHIP. When I told Sanusi this, we both had a good laugh.
Then, one day in late May 2009, Aniebo Nwamu walked into my office at about 10pm to declare that Sanusi had been appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to succeed Charles Soludo. Everyone in LEADERSHIP knew Aniebo’s relationship with Soludo’s CBN. I immediately placed a call to Sanusi who confirmed that indeed President Umaru Yar’Adua had called him to inform him about it more than three weeks earlier. I immediately cut off the conversation so that he would not plead that the news should not be reported. I called in the editor and told him to lead the next day’s edition with the story. After the announcement was made, I called him to say “one more”, by which I meant his appointment as the Emir of Kano. That happened yesterday to the applause and jubilation of the entire country, except for a few misguided young men.
I told someone yesterday that if President Jonathan had not treated Sanusi so shabbily, he probably would not have been so favoured to succeed Ado Bayero. Whatever God destines must happen, no matter human machinations.
May God grant the 57th Emir of Kano a long and peaceful reign.
Ran Sarki ya dade!
… And We Eventually Lost Dora
Sadly, we lost Dora at the weekend. It was a very sad news. Here, I repeat my tribute to her last Monday.
For Dora Akunyili
When the rumour that Professor Dora Akunyili, former information minister, was very ill started, I didn’t get the real sense of what people were talking about until I saw her photograph. I am not sure I have fully accepted the photograph I saw as Dora’s. If I had met the person in that photograph in the street, I would have walked away without knowing she was the one because that image was hardly that of the ebullient and lively Dora I had known for a long time. The photograph would leave you in no doubt that Dora Akunyili is indeed terribly ill. She is currently in India receiving treatment for an ailment that, I am told, has defied diagnosis.
Dora, a true Nigerian, has always been in the service of the country for as long as I have known her. Before she got to NAFDAC, few knew the havoc that fake drugs wreaked on our society. I once jokingly told her that before she happened on NAFDAC, many people thought their ailments were the handiwork of the witches in their villages. It took a Dora for many to realise the damage that fake and substandard drugs and medicines caused our society. She simply laughed and, being Dora, she went into a very long discussion of her job and the threats she faced daily from mainly her kinsmen who were predominantly the merchants of the illegal items. She told me how she once narrowly escaped the bullets of people she suspected to be fake drug merchants.
She faced criticism though from a few pharmacists who were a little suspicious of her. It did not help that they were her professional colleagues. But we must give it to her that she did more than any Nigerian, dead or alive, to draw attention to the evil of fake drugs and medicines. It is the standard she left behind at NAFDAC that is still being improved upon by her successor.
As a politician, Dora is no less a dogged fighter and a pragmatist. I have never been in the same tendency with her and actually disagreed with her politics most of the time, but we kept close nonetheless. We always found a common ground because Dora usually means well and always works hard for what she believes is right.
I took a stand against Umaru Yar’Adua’s government in which she was minister of information. One day, she casually walked into my office to appeal to me to take it easy with their government especially because, according to her, Yar’Adua was my brother. I agreed with her that Yar’Adua was my brother but that was precisely why I demanded a higher standard from him and his government. She spent a very long time with me and insisted that, because both of us were pharmacists – she is a professor of pharmacy – I must do it for her. She explained that I couldn’t take such a stand against a government in which she was information minister and chief image maker. I told her that the issues at stake were not personal and that they were national issues bigger than both of us and that even I enjoyed some relationship with the president then. President Yar’Adua was a decent man, I told her, but many in the government she served took advantage of his illness to loot the nation dry. She left my office that day without achieving her objective but she was not bitter and did not lose her sense of humour. And, most important, we remained close friends.
But when it became clear that Yar’Adua had become permanently incapacitated and some people in their government were lying to themselves and to the Nigerian public about his whereabouts, she became the first person to go public, saying that the cabinet in which she and others served had a greater responsibility to the country and insisted that the constitution must take precedence over any other narrow consideration. It was because Dora had the courage to bell the cat that progress was made towards the appointment of an acting president of Nigeria in those trying times. Some people childishly and sentimentally accused her of betraying the man who appointed her minister, but the majority of Nigerians were thankful – and Nigeria was better for it.
Dora has always been a courageous person and that must have been the driving force that also motivated her to attend the opening session of the ongoing conference, even though she was in a very bad state.
Those of us who believe in miracles and have seen lots of them look forward to the day we will see Dora fully recovered and vivacious again to continue in her service to her country. I wish her well.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Sam Nda-Isaiah/Leadership