A tribute to Senator Ali Wakili
To fear death is nothing other than to think oneself wise when one is not. For, it is to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not even turn out to be the greatest blessing for humans. And yet people fear it as if they knew for certain that it is the greatest evil – Socrates
The sudden passing away of Ali Wakili, a Nigerian senator representing Bauchi South Senatorial District did hit the country on the wrong side – it elicited a gloomy feeling of sadness as one of Nigeria’s finest serving lawmaker exited earlier than expected. Wakili was an ardent believer in a fair society, like the Late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa whose philosophy the late senator subscribed to, leaders must not for any reason, including the luxury of offices they occupy, sever themselves from the people they represent.
Before he veered into partisan politics and representation of his people in the upper chamber, Wakili did secure the approval of the then Comptroller General of Customs, Jacob Gyang Buba, to lead reporters covering the 2004 Comptroller General’s Conference in Jos to the mausoleum of the First Prime Minister of the country.
At the mausoleum, the curator explained Balewa’s simplicity and his closeness to his people even as a holder of the nation’s most exalted office.Wakili evolved into a modern version of Balewa as he kept in touch with his constituents. His phone lines before becoming a senator were kept active and accessible to the people just the same way they were during his campaigns.
I recall that Wakili as an Area Comptroller of Customs went to the palace of a traditional ruler at a border community to read the riot act during the wee hours after his men were attacked. He boldly reminded the monarch that customs powers to arrest whoever obstructs them from performing their functions were enshrined in its enabling laws. Riot act sank in. The monarch and his subjects got whipped into line soon afterwards.
No one ever got confused about where Wakili stood on any matter. He was far from being sly and neutral and was quick to embrace reconciliation at all times.For him, public office and service must have the people as its fulcrum. Without the people’s interest, Wakili sees representation as void.“I am aware many of my constituents who sent me to the National Assembly are not on social media and cannot use electronic mails. I keep my lines open for them to reach me because I am morally obliged to report my stewardship to them while I am serving. I am just a phone call or text message away and where I can’t talk, I read text messages.
“If I gave out my phone numbers during campaigns, I see no reason to change the lines and avoid what some others see as disturbances, while serving the people.“Having discovered that the elite and good number of our youth are on social media, I joined them there to engage them. I take time to daily answer their questions and accommodate criticisms as tonics to adjust for the better.
“I operate my social media account directly from my mobile devices. It gives me a clearer understanding of what is happening in my constituency. Accessing messages through aids may slow response time and limit my views.“I see comments and pictures and react appropriately. If you go to people to take part of their personal time when they allowed you campaign to them, never get tired when they come to discuss their personal issues with you. You are their person and you hold the office of a representative in trust. This is how I see representation,” he had said.
He held an unshaken belief in the unity of the Nigerian state and as an alumnus of the country’s prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Wakili preached ‘One Nigeria.’
Many of his followers on Facebook call him the Nigerian senator, some say he is the Northern senator while some others referred to him as the people’s senator.
Unfinished legislative pursuit.Wakili commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s move to address the dichotomy between university degrees and higher national diploma (HND) in the country.
Over dinner, three weeks before his death, he explained his efforts to achieve an amendment of the Federal Polytechnics Act.Among many others, Wakili’s thoughts that the country’s drive for required skills to support job opportunities, entrepreneurship and technological development could be driven by its teeming youth population of polytechnic graduates.
He commenced efforts at amending the existing Act to feature, among others, that each Federal Polytechnic should have more than one Deputy Rector to oversee academics and administrations separately.As one of Nigeria’s finest senator in the eighth National Assembly, he extended his hand of assistance to the handicapped, old, weak, vulnerable and many less privileged persons within and outside his constituency.
Wakili’s sojourn as a lawmaker was short, eventful, productive and impact filled intervention in Nigeria’s legislative world. Like the late Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, whom he so much venerated as a good example for emulation, he quit the stage earlier than he should have done. Posterity will be fair to this fine gentleman. He will be sorely missed.
Aniemu, a journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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