Razaque's Side

To describe Saminu as a man ahead of his time is inappropriate, even insincere. Saminu sought power more for personal reasons than for altruistic ones. He loved wealth for its advantages and loved power for its sake.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo


he N33bn tears that flowed down the cheeks of Alhaji Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, former governor of Jigawa State, were destined to come anyway. The tears did not only demystify the governor, proving that the rich also cry, but also brought Saminu’s larger than life arrogance crumbling like a pack of cards.

Anyone that ever encounters the former governor, now senator and is able to penetrate his mind will discover an intelligent, very introspective and very religious man. Turaki emerged on the corridors of Nigerian power during the dark days that are now known as the Abacha era. When he started crossing the bridges of Lagos from Victoria Island to Ikeja to visit me, at my desk as the Head of Politics at Thisday, my first reaction was Ibrahim Saminu who?

I went ahead and googled him up (the human way, of course), in Kano and its environs and “I felt lucky.” Saminu belongs to a cartel of Kano merchants who assumed that they could rape the country with impunity. They found cover in the bowels of the Abacha dictatorship. He worked in cahoots with the scions of this regime but his main ally was Atiku Bagudu, who became infamous for laundering about USD700million of the Abacha loot, and with whom Saminu formed several companies including EPCEL, Morgan Procurement Corporation, BVI and Mecosta Securities, Ltd, all in Lagos. While all his peers fell to public acrimony and opprobrium, Saminu, the last man standing, trudged on, until he landed the position of governor of Jigawa State in 1999. How this happened is not far-fetched. In this group, Saminu was a foot-soldier desperately seeking his break. His speech defect, (he stammers, and stammerers are usually quick to tears when trapped) confined him to the backseat among his partners, even though he was the think-tank on whom the group relied for profound ideas. He fought for visibility, but it was late in coming. To actualize this desire, Saminu even declared interest in the UNCP chair in Owerri in 1997. When he did, the question on everyone’s lips was again, Ibrahim Saminu who? But obscurity did not deter the ambitious young man. When trouble came for his acolytes, the backseat, which he always occupied, saved him.

But in 1999, at the age of 36, he became governor of Jigawa State. As the dust of that year’s political campaigns began to settle, each of the nation’s 36 governors set out to make a mark. Not to be outdone, Saminu shot for the Cyberbabble, or the big picture, promising to bring the world to Jigawa State. He wanted to transform Jigawa from an agrarian to an Information Technology based economy.

Looking at State, his idea was nothing more than laughable. When Saminu took office, Jigawa was probably the poorest state in the federation. Its basic problems simply required basic solutions. It lacked utilities and infrastructure. School enrolment was a crisis and girl-child education was catastrophic. Forced marriages among the under-aged and resultant VVF was a pandemic and HIV/AIDS, knocked on every door. Healthcare delivery was in shambles. Begging by child-urchins stood out like a sore thumb. The best Saminu could have done was to keep his people alive. To sustain agriculture and provide an environment for its unimpeded transition from traditional to mechanized, get children off the streets and back in the classrooms and ensure that gender was no disadvantage. But Saminu preferred to keep the begging bowls empty and build warehouses for computers and the Internet, rather than provide food and shelter. His was not foresight. It was not shortsight or myopia, it was blindsight.

To describe Saminu as a man ahead of his time is inappropriate, even insincere. Saminu sought power more for personal reasons than for altruistic ones. He loved wealth for its advantages and loved power for its sake. His actions in office remain the most indicative of his background and his inclination to treat people just as the people he admired did. Like the Abachas he chose coercion over persuasion. His treatment of his deputy Kwatallo is reminiscient of Abacha’s treatment of Diya.

Saminu also suffers from a delusion of grandeur. It could be that he harbors some inferiority complex or suffers from the psychology of compensation. Remember he has a halting speech syndrome. He more often than not, bites more than he can chew. His love of air travel got him the “nomadic governor” title. While he cared less what people think of his travels, wherever he went, trouble beckoned. On occasion entangled him in the case of Rosa Whitaker a US Trade Representative for Africa, who according to a report in the LA Times published on 2 March 2004 violated her agreement with the US government by entering into a personal transaction with Saminu Turaki on the strength of her office, thereby abusing it.

Whitaker and Turaki formed a Trade and Investment Foundation for Africa, whose goal was to attract Foreign Direct Investment to Jigawa. They were to deal in gum-arabic (karo, as it is known in Hausa). Whitaker and Turaki who were both registered as board members of the foundation signed everything, which was to initially cost Jigawa over USD300,000 on Whitakers last day in office in November 2002. For this venture Whitaker found herself under interrogation in the US for charges of conflict of interest while Turaki turned his attention to other things in Singapore.

Although the matter is in court, the N33bn charge against Saminu is the final culmination of what seems like a pattern of insensitivity to other people’s pains and aches on the part of Saminu. Assuming he was talking to a nine-year old from Jigawa, would Saminu tell the child that he subsidized the former president’s third term expenditure with N10.4bn and still expect the child not to ask if he was crazy, stupid or both? Does Obasanjo need Jigawa’s money to replenish his “security” cash flow? What happened to the PDP governors? Is Turaki telling Nigerians that he was the black-leg in the ANPP? Turaki should expect many more questions and should not expect public sympathy as he has already burnt all his bridges and squandered his goodwill in the eye of the public.

To his credit, his successor Sule Lamido is compelled to dole out the golden handshake to indigenes of Jigawa and when you google Jigawa on the world wide web, the only hit that reverberates is corruption. Thanks to Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, the world has come to Jigawa State.