Abdullahi Sule at 62: ‘Of life and Birth’
On July 30, 2019 at the Tony Elumelu Forum, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo remarked that: “No matter how young or old we might be, our lives are essentially stories that are being written and revised every day’. And on the occasion of the Vice President’s 63rd birthday, Engr Abdullahi Sule described Osinbajo as a dutiful man who is honor-bound and for whom piety is a way of life.
Indeed the stories of life range from what we are born into, to what our reality is and to what our life can become, and to Abdullahi A. Sule, he understands that for a political leader to be ascribed as being dutiful, he has to perform the tasks expected or required of him by his people with a sense of complete loyalty and implicit dedication so as to secure for himself a permanent place on the sands of time!
Today as Abdullahi Sule clocks 62 years old, there are many critical lessons to learn about his life. According to Jack Welch: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others!” This attribute of growing other people is what defines the politics and leadership style of Abdullahi A. Sule in Nasarawa.
To him, being a governor is not about himself or his relatives and political cronies; leadership to Sule is about the people he serves and others he comes across and builds in this brief journey of life. That is why he is making governance in Nasarawa State more responsive, more people centered, more human capital focused, more compassionate and more inclusive.
On Saturday July 15, 2019, about six weeks after he became governor; Sule was invited to discuss the Almajiri phenomenon on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) during the 9pm Weekend File.
Sule was shockingly blunt and condemned the situation where parents, mostly from northern Nigeria, will give birth to numerous children and send them far away from home to live them under the care of Islamic teachers. He was not evasive, diplomatic or politically correct. Sule simply spoke from his heart and stated with resounding clarity that the concept of Almajiri is a noble idea where young boys are sent off as scholars to go and seek Islamic knowledge in distant lands and experience the vagaries of life along the way, thereby being tempered by the vicissitudes of lifes challenges and learning as they grow to be compassionate, broad minded and accepting of all humanity.
However after hundreds of years, the noble Almajiri scholarly system has been bastardized to the extent that the current form has condemned millions of children to a live of penury, or even worst, of crime, especially with extremists religious groups waiting to conscript them when they are left hapless, vulnerable and prone to diseases as they beg on the streets.
Sule thereafter signed the Nasarawa State Child Protection Law of 2019 which provides for the safety, security, wellbeing, care, good health and education of a child, 14 years after the Executive Order for the Protection of Children was enacted in 2005.
History has it that private sector practitioners like Abdullahi A. Sule, who was the immediate past Group Managing Director of Dangote Sugar, often come into public service with a history of experience in corporate governance and a culture of discipline.
What is usually left to be seen is whether they can successfully transmit and infuse corporate culture into political governance
Taking his place as the fourth democratically elected governor of Nasarawa State, Sule coined the mantra of his administration to be: ‘Exceeding all expectations’, which he said was not just a slogan, but a prayer.
In his words; “I entered politics to serve and to make an impact in the lives of the people of Nasarawa State.” For indeed if politics was a religion and Abdullahi Sule was its prophet, he will stand out as an apostle of open government and one who believes that citizens have the right to access the documents, processes and proceedings of government, so as to allow for greater transparency, accountability and effective public oversight.
To most political leaders, the terms accountability, and transparency are mere political slogans or empty catchphrases used in campaigns to entice the electorate. Sule on the other hand, is a straight arrow who is upright, resolute and a worthy example of probity and fiscal discipline, and one who easily rises over and above the banality and fickle materiality of ‘chop I chop politics’.
Sule has shown strong political will and sincerity of purpose by assenting to the Nasarawa State Public Procurement Law of 2020 as a direct by-product of good governance, and for establishing the Nasarawa State Bureau of Public Procurement to serve as an integrity-centred mechanism which will manage public supplies and institute an accountable process of public procurement, so as to ensure value for money.
It is now over two years and by dint of his humane, humble and God-fearing value-set, Abdullahi Sule adequately qualifies to be called a ‘servant leader’, that is, one who leads by serving others.
Many years ago, the great American Icon and hero of the working class, Walter Reuther, who as president of the United Automobile Workers Union (UAW) grew the union to more than 1.5 million members was reputed to have said: “There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men and there is no greater contribution than to help the weak.”
The Nobel prize winner in Literature, George Bernard Shaw, who lived to be 94 years old, also reiterated that one person can make a difference in the life of a community and move an entire people forward, when the main goal of the leader is to serve. This is what George Bernard Shaw meant when he said “one man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t!”
Sule came into office as governor of Nasarawa State holding a document in his left hand called Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS), which encapsulated his vision and economic blueprint and on his right hand, he held firmly to a sincere fear of God and a deep abiding love for Nasarawa State.
In only a few months of stewardship, the people of Nasarawa State began to see and hear how the governor will quote verses from the Bible and recite the glorious Quran at public functions, where he reminded citizens that he is well aware that someday he will stand before the Almighty Allah and account for his leadership. Sule was so brazen at the National Quranic Recitation of 2019, which held in Lafia to declare that no governor has any reason to steal given the surplus legitimate benefits which come with being a governor.
The fact remains no other political leader in Nigeria of recent memory has repeatedly said how he is keenly aware and conscious that God will be the ultimate judge of his actions as a governor.
In May 2019, when he became governor, Abdullahi Sule assumed office with a fervent desire to foster business competitiveness in Nasarawa State. He wanted to unlock the constraints, which had hitherto held back investors from finding the state attractive for business. He began to establish new regulatory and institutional frameworks that will enable productive local and foreign firms to invest and grow, both domestically and internationally. Today Nasarawa State is not only the most investor efficient state, but also the most investor friendly state in Nigeria
For years, people have seen Nasarawa as a poor semi-rural state of peasant farmers. Abdullahi A. Sule has been working tirelessly in the last 30 months to move Nasarawa from the backwaters of poverty to the forefront of economic prosperity which is rapidly manifesting in the Karu Mega Bus Terminal Sule is building, the Farin Ruwa Waterfalls which he is developing to boost tourism, filmmaking and power generation; the 13,000 hectares of Industrial Mega City located on the fringe of the FCT around Karu-Gurku-Kabusu, as well as the towering presence of Agro-allied giants in Nasarawa State like Dangote Sugar, Azman Rice, Flour Mills and Olams mega farms as well as a swath of technology hubs and world class universities fit for a great place that is people-friendly, affordable and inclusive.
Indeed and without doubt Abdullahi A. Sule has instilled pride and value to his people, as Nasarawa State is increasingly getting recognised not just as being open for business, but also as a secure centre for peace building and diplomacy, as well as a national capital for culture, arts and entertainment.
It is said that it is when a leader caters to the needs of his followers the way Sule is doing that he becomes great in their sight. For as Mahatma Gandhi once asserted: “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.”
Sule is a recipient of the Zik Prize for Leadership and just like the revered Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, he also exemplifies political will. The Great Zik of Africa had the intellectual resonance to be futuristic and he stood for equity and social justice. Sule governs with the fear of God in his heart, which is why Arewa House, the centre for research and historical documentation, affiliated to Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, also recognised him as ‘The face of Integrity’.
Leader of the delegation, Dr. Samuel Salami, stated that Arewa House chose Sule as ‘The face of Integrity’ because of his striking resemblance in character to President Muhammadu Buhari, who is generally perceived to be a man of integrity.
In the words of Salami, “the rarity of gold, makes it precious and Arewa House has found you worthy to be called ‘The Face of Integrity’ because you are not only rare, but also precious to Nigeria.” In his response, Sule promised to continue to live with the fear of God because “once you have the fear of God, you will be like President Muhammadu Buhari.”
In life, we all know that no human being has a crystal ball to look into and know the exact time or place, he or she will be born; or if he or she will live to become a governor and no one knows when the curtains will fall on our lives, but even as we celebrate birthdays, we must recall the famous prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi entitled: ‘The Canticle of the Sun’, where he said: “Every person whom death finds doing God’s will is blessed.”
The name Abdullahi in Islam means Servant of Allah and it is clear to friends and foe alike that Abdullahi A. Sule is sincere in doing God’s work as governor of Nasarawa State. That is what gives men of goodwill within and outside the state the reason and deep joy to say Happy 62nd birthday him.
Yakubu Lamai is Director General, Strategic Communication and Events Management to Governor Abdullahi A. Sule of Nasarawa State.