I dare make this assertion because for over three decades, I have associated with the state as a news reporter.
I first stepped foot in Yola one hot Sunday afternoon as a young reporter in 1980.
I had a glimpse into the practice of government in Ondo state where I did my National Service in Adekunle Ajasins Governors Office but it was in Yola that I saw government at work at very close quarters.
Gongola was the only State where all the five registered political parties of the second republic were represented in its House of Assembly. At a time when the UPN would not touch the NPN with a long spoon at the National level, Gongola members of the two parties in the House collaborated to elect a UPN Speaker, Godwin Puldu and his NPN deputy, MaigariAhmadu.
I met Yerima Bwala, the Nigerian revolutionary who worked closely with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Ghandi – the only Nigerian who had close contact with the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement.
They were together when Ghandi was shot on that ghastly day – 30th of January 1948. He came back to Nigeria and with the revolutionary spirit fired by his Indian experience teamed up with MallamAminu Kano to form the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU. In the early 80’s when I met him, much of the revolutionary energy was sapped by the vicissitudes of wrenching political battles; he was an odd figure in the NPN.
In the First Republic, the most powerful Minister was AlhajiMuhammaduRibadu from Adamawa, referred to by his cabinet colleagues as the ‘power of powers’.
In a down to earth interview with Peter Enahoro in 1983, President ShehuShagari confessed that of all the NPC members of parliament, the man with the strongest character was Ribadu. So single minded was he that even their powerful leader, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello feared him.
My most enduring experience with Adamawa in the 80s was my meeting with a veteran of the minority struggles of the North in the 50’s and 60’s. Senator Gayus Gilama – THE DISTRIBUTOR OF ROCK BEER – as a giant bill board in Numan proudly announced was for many years the political torch light of the Bachama people. He took more than casual interest in the young Tiv reporter he met at his political meeting in Numan.
An invitation to his house followed and he almost drowned me in what he called ‘mineral water’. As I drank one bottle after another, he regaled me with stories of the epic battles he fought with J. S. Tarka for the emancipation of Northern minorities.
It was Tarka, he confessed, who introduced him to Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
At the time of our meeting, Tarka had parted ways with Awolowo and was late but he was still with the man – one of the two Senators elected from Gongola State on the ticket of the UPN.
I was in Adamawa for a greater part of the Babangida Presidency. I can dare say that Babangida virtually handed over his government to the people of Adamawa.
Consider these statistics: MohammaduGamboJimeta, Inspector General of Police; Ibrahim Alfa, Chief of Air Staff; MurtalaNyako, Chief of Naval Staff; JibrilAminu, Minister of Education and later Petroleum; General AbdullahiShelleng, MD Nigerian Ports Authority; etc. All of them from Adamawa!
For a state that has produced such intimidating political heavy weights to have descended in the abyss of political abracadabra we are witnessing today is very tragic! I can not help but remember the immortal words of Charles Dickens:
” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way”
That is the Adamawa of today. It is just as well that the quotation comes from Charles Dickens Novel – A Tale of Two Cities. The contradictions in Adamawa are only comparable in superlative degrees with the ones in Ekiti. In fact I was initially tempted to caption this piece ‘A Tale of Two States.’
In the late 70’s I found myself in the old Ondo state, doing my service to Nigeria. There was no better place for a young man than in a state that produced King Sunny Ade and Orlando Owo, some of the greatest musicians that Nigeria has ever given to the world. The old Ondo was populated with men full of talent – Peter Obe, the incomparable photo journalist and Augustus Adebayo, the extra ordinary civil servant, former Head of Service in the old Western Region, who taught me public administration in school; the most famous duo that IgbaraOke community in Ondo produced.
Owo town did not only produce a world class musician, it produced the legendry AdekunleAjasin with whom I spent one whole educative year in his governor’s office. It was in his house in Owo that a decision was taken in 1951 to promote the Egbe Omo Oduduwa cultural movement into a political party – the Action Group.
Now the elected governor of Ondo State, he was prepared and in fact did give his best in this last bus stop of his political and biological life.
Ondo state was also home to the Ekiti’s who immediately caught my attention.
Like the Tiv, they ate pounded yam abundantly in the morning, in the afternoon and would not go to bed without a dinner of pounded yam.
They were and still are a very energetic and intelligent people. In a very Ekiti home I visited, there was a professor; sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes four and most times five professors – all in one family.
With the return of democracy in 1999, I thought the Ekiti state will show us the way in how to behave properly in politics.
Democracy itself is to me the greatest civilization invented by man. But alas, Ekiti is not different from Adamawa and certainly not different from Nigeria where abundant resources, both human and material are wasted, with glee.
The latest National embarrassment comes from Ekiti where party hot heads are on the loose, roaming the courts in the state and giving some Judges public thrashing.
These are the type of stories we used to hear from Idi Dada Amin’s Uganda and Jean BedelBokasa’s Central African Empire in the 70’s. If at the time I was in old Ondo state I saw in my wildest dream such rascality coming to Nigeria, I would have woken up immediately to declare; “Not in Ekiti, Not in Ekiti”. But here we are today.