Bukar Usman’s Hatching Hopes, an autobiography with patriotic resume
Hatching Hopes is the autobiography of Bukar Usman, a career civil servant, who retired as a permanent secretary in the Presidency in 1999. The book depicts Nigeria’s cultural diversity and chequered political history as seen through the eyes of a boy born into colonialism, who later emerged as one of Nigeria’s finest and best informed public servants.
The unique quality of Hatching Hopes is that it also succeeds as a story of Nigeria’s growth and development.
In telling his story, Usman at every stage refreshes our memories with the theme and major events of his time. Thus, through the book, he casts a reflection of some key aspects of army officers in Nigerian politics and society in the 20th century.
Aside from being a history of governmental authority in Nigeria, the book is a story of personal success, achieved through exemplary discipline, dedication, focus and fortitude.
Hatching Hopes was first published in 2006. This 2018 publication by Bookcraft, Ibadan is its second edition. It has 20 chapters, 290 pages, a note to the second edition; two postscripts, 10 appendices from page 213 till page 268. Index also stemmed from page 269 to 287.
From his early leadership roles as Borno College head boy, Lagos King’s college football star and Ahmadu Bello University athlete, Usman moved on to a distinguished career in the public service of the federation. He rose to the position of permanent secretary in the Presidency, where he served for a period of 27 years.
The author can thus be relied upon to apprise his readers of the intricate strategies of governance at every stage of national development, shedding light on various policy thrusts as he participated in the formulation and implementation of public policy.
Remarkably, the hopes Usman hatched can be seen at the end of the day as being of a national scale than some personal achievement. It is probably for his patriotism rather than mundane public service that he was honored with the award of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).
Since this book as an autobiography, it is the story of the life of the author. Excerpts relevant to the importance of his position in the public service would thus be taken. “Of course, when the seat of government moved to Abuja… I was part of that movement on December 12, 1991, from Lagos to Abuja, the new federal capital of Nigeria. I witnessed the ceremony at the city gate of Abuja. It was so colourful and heart-warming … the judicial, legislative and executive arms of government formally and symbolically enter the city.”
The ceremony reminded him of the modest beginning in building the city.
It also reminded him, visiting the site of the Abuja Airport, now renamed Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. When the contractors for the site first moved to the place the access Zuba road was merely laterite pathway.
“Today, there are several landmarks, notably NICON Hilton Hotel (formerly known as NICON Noga Hilton), Sheraton Hotel and Towers, the International Conference Centre, NNPC Headquarters, Shehu Yar Adua Centre and many other significant structures. Even the satellite towns of Kubwa, Gwarinpa, Karu and Gwagwalada have now witnessed speedy structural development.”
A significant aspect of this book is the copious illustration with photographs. In the sections the book was illustrated with the author’s anniversaries of 44 pages, making indelible milestones along his illustrious life. In an otherwise blameless career, Usman once encountered a problem, which Olusegun Obasanjo highlighted in his book: Not My Will.
“One afternoon in 1975, I was invited to Dodan Barracks. On reaching there, I was ushered into General Murtala’s oval office. He was seated at his desk, with his fiery eyes staring at me. Before him were service chiefs, the chief of staff Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo and the secretary to the government of the federation, Allison Ayida. My boss at the time at the Special Services Office, Mr S.B. Agodo, the others were T.Y. Danjuma and M.D.Yusufu.”
Apparently, it is a breach of security for which Usman earned a query. That was only skirmish in an otherwise a memorable career. This is an inimitable autobiography intertwined with Nigerian history. I therefore recommend it to young men and women dreaming to lead Nigeria as visionary leaders. They will find the answers to Nigeria’s problems there.