THE BRIDGE-BUILDER @76 – Tribute To Abdullahi Adamu (Turakin Keffi)

The Turaki of Keffi, His Excellency, Sen. Dr. Abdullahi Adamu, CON marks 76 solid years of increasing grace in the path of destiny and consistent uplifting by God Almighty, to a towering figure in national and continental leadership and development.

I testify, as a young man and emerging leader, that one of the most prominent personalities that influenced me, shaped my philosophy to life and perspectives on politics, leadership and world view is Sen. Dr. Adamu, the Aare Obateru of the Source,Ile Ife.

My first encounter with His Excellency was at Lafia in 2003, when I was Secretary General of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), and contesting for the Office of President of the Council in a rescheduled National Youth Congress. This, of course, was after the Congress convened in Gombe was canceled, and the Federal Ministry of Youth Development along with the Leadership of the NYCN, sought a neutral ground that would be acceptable to all aspirants and stakeholders as level playing, in order to reconvene another National Youth Congress. Nasarawa State, under the Administration of Sen. Dr. Adamu, was unanimously agreed upon considering the neutrality and unbiased disposition of the then Governor.

Many of us were initially scared of going to Lafia, as State Governments had hitherto shown strong interests in the Congresses of the Youth Council, thereby influencing outcomes. However, our fears were soon allayed as upon the arrival of delegates, His Excellency assembled all the Contestants in that year’s National Youth Congress and declared that his only interest in the entire process was the peace, unity and progress of the Youth Council. The Turakin Keffi matched his words with action by providing free accommodation and feeding to all participants at that year’s National Congress, irrespective of interest groups or camps. This freed the delegates from inducements and the undue influence of some candidates that usually took advantage of providing those necessities, to manipulate voting patterns.

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Hence, my emergence as President of the NYCN was, perhaps for the first time, without Government influence or financial inducement of delegates, despite the numerous political gladiators and business moguls that stormed the venue of the Congress with diverse interests.

As President of NYCN, I discovered the numerous virtues of the Aare Obateru, which included but not limited to his pragmatism, Open-Door policy, humility, forthrightness, and commitment to excellence. These, coupled with his strong background in Youth Activism and Student Unionism, positioned him for greater roles in leadership.

As Governor of Nasarawa State, the Bridge-Builder, as he is generally known across the Federation, supported youth and students’ movements generously; sponsoring various activities of youths and students to the extent that Lafia became like de facto Headquarters of Youth Development in Nigeria at that time.

Some outstanding gestures of the Turakin Keffi are the full sponsorship of the first-ever National Youth Unity Cup Football Tournament, played across the thirty six states of the Federation and the FCT, with Grand Finale held in Abuja; and the First National Youth Camp and Festival hosted in Keffi, Nasarawa State.

For me in particular, and to millions of Nigerian youths, His Excellency became a colossal icon of leadership and national integration, serving as a moral compass that points young people towards the right attitudinal orientation and value system. Instance of this was an occasion in his private residence, where one of his aides was overworking himself to gain Oga’s attention, to the point of praising-singing in lip-service. The Turaki shouted out immediately, stopping the aide in mid flight. After about ten minutes later, when I had private audience with His Excellency, he pulled me aside confidentially, and said, “Ben, don’t ever allow anyone to deceive you, Public Office is a position held in trust, in trust to serve and not for self aggrandizement. Do not let power ever get into your head for any reason”. That scenario; and those words, have stuck with me and guided my conducts and handling of both public and private assignments.

Another memorable personal experience I had of the Turakin Keffi was preparatory to my wedding in 2005, when I went to notify our Patron of my proposed wedding arrangements. To my astonishment, he got visibly upset with me, and demanded to know why I excluded him in the decision-making of the wedding date, knowing that I was his son and he has obligations to me and the Nigerian youths. I almost wept at such rare display of humility and responsiveness by a sitting Nigerian Governor. He had never met nor known my parents. He didn’t care where I came from! He went on to provide three already sewn babariga, with same design of caps, and said he knew I must have had a plan for the cloth I would be wearing for the church wedding, but the babariga was for himself, my bestman and I for the Wedding Reception!

Without fear of contradictions, I can boldly assert that whatever Nasarawa State is today in terms of infrastructural and social development, is as a result of the solid foundation the Turaki had laid by opening-up rural communities and upgrading towns such as Mararaba, New Yanya, Keffi, Akwanga and others too numerous to emerging urban centres. His administration pioneered massive infrastructural re-engineering of Lafia, the state capital, thus repositioning Nasarawa State in the developmental map of the nation and placing the state in an enviable place of international reckoning.

It was against the foregoing background of the Turaki’s monumental achievements that I led a high-powered delegation of youth and student leaders from across the nation sometime in 2006, to demand that Sen. Dr. Abdullahi Adamu should run for Presidency of Nigeria in the 2007 Presidential Election. In his jovial and humorous nature, he stood-up before all of us present there and started running around his sitting room, responding to the amusement and admiration of all that he had just obeyed us by “running!”

It therefore did not come to me as a surprise that prior to the Turakin Keffi’s 76th Birthday Anniversary, fate had called upon him again to serve as the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to steer the largest Political Party in Africa at a most critical time that requires an astute administrator and party man, possessing remarkable skills in Human Management and Conflict Resolution.

I rest assured that the Midas touch of this great nationalist and Bridge-Builder between the North, South, East and West; Women and Youth, will not only lead APC to resounding victory in the 2023 General Elections, but further bring unity and stability to the body polity of our great country.

On behalf of the young people and emerging leaders of our nation, Nigeria, I wish a colossus, a mentor extraordinary and my personal Role Model, a happy birthday and more fulfilling years ahead.


~Ben Duntoye writes from Gwarinpa, Abuja

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