General Abdulsalami Abubakar at 73, By Dele Agekameh

At a time in this country when numerous prophecies from several doomsday prophets predicted gloom and disintegration in the political horizon, General Abdulsalami Abubakar buried himself in a rather quiet, domestic diplomacy in the search for enduring peace.

 

The approach of the 2015 elections in Nigeria brought with it fear and trepidation. There was the fear that the country was likely to go up in flames, as had been predicted by those who said Nigeria was capable of disintegrating in 2015. So, the more the elections drew nearer, the more heightened was the fear that gripped the populace. But one man was quite optimistic that the country will remain intact after the elections. That man is General Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar, otherwise known as General AAA or Triple ‘A’ for short.

 

I remember one of my routine visits to him in his Minna, Niger State home some time last year. As had become customary with him, the issue of the state of the nation and the impending elections came under discussion. That was a day after the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who were going round holding consultations with notable senior citizens and political figures across the country, visited him. They had visited the old but energetic former leader to put before him their resolve to effect a change in the leadership of the country which, according to them, they believed deserved something better, a more purposeful leadership with vision and vigour.

 

The APC entourage that visited him was so large that the General quickly looked for a way out by simply asking the delegation to nominate five people among them to deliberate with him in an inner room. There and then, General Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Alhaji Aminu Masari and two others were unanimously chosen to meet with him. After the five-man team had briefed him about their mission and their concern for the progress of the nation, General AAA wished them the best of luck in their chosen endeavour and urged them to go about the whole thing in a peaceful manner.

 

The above scenario emblemises the quiet and unassuming nature of General AAA. On the day of my visit, and as always, one thing that dominated our discussions was the state of the nation. Like I mentioned earlier, at a time in this country when numerous prophecies from several doomsday prophets predicted gloom and disintegration in the political horizon, General AAA buried himself in a rather quiet domestic diplomacy in the search for enduring peace. With unrelenting vigour, he made pragmatic efforts that helped to banish despair and replaced it with renewed hope in the citizenry.

 

At many fora, he strongly expressed his conviction that despite the negative predictions that the country was capable of disintegrating in 2015, the umbilical cord of the federating units cannot be separated. He once said: “God has joined us together. Whether you break Nigeria into pieces, we will remain joined by our umbilical cord. No matter what happens, our umbilical cord is still there. We will live together either as neighbours or as communities.”

 

What this signifies is the fact that the General is always concerned about the peace, progress and development of Nigeria. Long before the 2015 elections, he was seriously involved in efforts to calm frayed nerves across the country. His passionate commitment towards ensuring peace helped the country to successfully navigate landmines that political interests had erected at various points. His headship of a national peace committee that brokered the non-violence agreement between then President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, the main presidential challenger at the time, was not by accident. It was through this agreement that the two most prominent gladiators in the 2015 presidential election, agreed to rein in their supporters in the event of anyone of them losing the election. That was just one aspect of General AAA that everybody got to witness.

 

Ever since he handed over power to a democratically elected government in 1999, the general has been toiling to ensure peace in the country, peace in Africa and peace globally. His numerous travels (I believe he spends more time inside the aircraft than he spends with his lovely family), are to enthrone peace wherever there is turmoil in the world, particularly in the trouble-prone areas of Africa. He has been to Zimbabwe several times as leader of the observer group in the country; he was involved in the negotiations in Liberia during the country’s decade-long fratricidal war and succeeded in getting former President Charles Taylor to agree to step aside; he was also involved in Sierra Leone and many other hot spots in Africa. On Saturday, June 13, 2015, the date of his 73rd birthday anniversary, he was out of the country on one of his regular diplomatic shuttles.

 

In 2007, when we – myself, Prof. Steve Azaiki, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Shagari – conceived the National Think-Tank, General AAA was unanimously selected as the most qualified Nigerian to be its chairman at the formal inauguration of the organisation at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, on May 23, 2007. He gladly accepted the offer, came early for the function and waited till the end of the programme. By this, he demonstrated friendship and recognised labour and patriotism. It was Ambrose Bierce, the American writer who once said: “While your friend holds you affectionately by both your hands, you are safe, for you can watch both his.” Those who truly know General AAA will agree with me that he does not and cannot betray friendship.

 

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: “If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas from more wise men working for our country than most of those sitting in Abuja dreaming about a time long gone and a future that reads failure”. Friendship, like a novel, to me and the much I know of General AAA, remains for me one of the few forms where I can express my innermost thoughts, express man’s complexity and the strength and decency of his longings; where I can describe, step by step, minute by minute, the unpleasant struggle to put ourselves into a viable and devout relationship with our beloved and mistaken world. In friendship, you can be yourself and not worry about mistakes and caution and language and compromise and pain and love; that is true friendship.

 

Over the years, General AAA has distinguished himself as a detribalised, courageous, patriotic, trusted and committed Nigerian of unequal statesmanship. That is why he is readily at home wherever he finds himself around the globe, with people welcoming him with open hands, open minds and open hearts. His noble deeds and friendly disposition to everyone clearly marks him out as one of the responsible and revered leaders and fathers of this great country. Like Martin Luther King, he believes that every man should be judged by the content of his character.

 

I agree with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu when he wrote in The Nation newspaper many years ago, long before the 2015 elections, that: “When the history of this country is written, (Abdulsalami) Abubakar will be remembered as the one that saved our unifying institution, the Nigerian military, from itself and restored democracy in our country. For this singular act of courage, generations unborn would be grateful to him.” These living words are still valid, if not very relevant today, in view of the role being played by the General in the contemporary history of this great country.

 

So, our dear beloved General, as you clock 73, we celebrate you and give you 73 ‘gbosas’. May we celebrate you for many more years to come and may our country, for which you toil day and night, rediscover itself and achieve the type of greatness we all envisage. Happy Birthday!

 

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Culled from www.premiumtimesng.com