By Ali M Ali
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. John C. Maxwell
It has been a journey of stunning discoveries walking with Governor MA Abubakar of Bauchi State, these past couple of months. Stated hyperbolically, some of the discoveries amount to “culture shock”.
He is real. He says what he means. He means what he says. He walks his talk. He speaks straight from the heart. He calls a spade, a spade. No speaking through both sides of the mouth, no tongue in cheek statement. He speaks clearly and unambiguously. He is a lawyer and amazingly he is in politics!
You are at liberty to differ. I am an aide. I may therefore, be subjective. But this is the character summary of the man.
With MA Abubakar, no façade. No double face. What you see is what you get. Political “exigencies” won’t make him “amend” or “break” his resolve, some describe, as “iron cast” to do things right. ”Managers”, according to Peter Drucker, “do the right things, leaders do things right”.
Abubakar, guided by the constitution and an oath to do right, remains resolute and forthright.
Politicians in the state and possibly, beyond, marinated in the esoteric art of double speak are a little uncomfortable with this ‘forthrightness’’. Some of them think he is not a “politician”. Because he doesn’t call a spade, a shovel, he is therefore, according to this brand, unsuitable to head a government installed by politicians voted by the masses. To them, politics is basically the art of speaking through both sides of the mouth. Long circuitous gobbledygook speeches are the hallmarks of a politician. The typical politician, this school firmly believes, should overwhelm the people with piffle and flabbergast the voters with bunkum. The idea is to bamboozle them.
There is a near universal unflattering accord that politicians in Africa or Australia are actors-men and women of many words. What they say, they will never do. They are glib. They lie through their teeth.
Late Tony Wilson, that popular pop musician of the 70s hit song captured the essence of the politician.
He said of him in that song “he is a man of many words”
“He paints a picture, he is not artist, tries to make you see his point of view, all the while there is nothing wrong just changing, cause what he says today he will never do…he is a man of many words. Too many…”
Well, my governor is as straight as an arrow. He is also down to earth. He wears no airs. He certainly assumes none. In most of our “debates”, he rarely flaunt that “learned” thing lawyers are wont to. But make no mistake, when dealing with him, be prepared. Know your onions well or else you will be cooked. Once in one our “debates” session, he queried every single word in the memo I presented and almost punctured my well prepared verbal defense. A scrutinizing lawyer and a wary reporter. My trump card was “your Excellency, in my line of business, I don’t have to “prove” beyond reasonable doubt” to go to town.” He let that slide. I am a journalist. He is a lawyer.
If you get close enough, chances are that you will be charmed to the point of being besotted. He is disarmingly humble. Alone, we do banter freely from the sublime to the ridiculous. He is spontaneous. He is deep. He therefore, spots “eye service” from a mile away. He abhors that. Flattery is anathema to him. He detects that easily.
One morning I spoke to him “respectfully’’ in the office before a brief. He was incensed. “Why are you talking to me like a politician?” he charged as if I was in court being cross-examined.
“My friend”, he continued “speak to me like you normally do. Advise me sincerely. Tell me the truth no matter how discomforting.” And he has been walking this talk.
We dine from same table, same time. He treats “advisers” and “ordinary” mortals with equal courtesy. But he is firm on “protocol”. He is a stickler in that department. You can’t just intrude on his schedule that are incredibly tight.
With an incredible workforce of 105,000 and a humongous wage bill of N5.1bn, MA Abubakar is virtually doing magic delivering on campaign promises. His persistent lion’s share allocation to education three years in a row confirms his eminent status as a real statesman and not a politician. This is paying off because the percentage of success in NECO and WAEC has risen dramatically from a dismal 3% in 2015 to 27% last year. He is concerned about the next generation not the next election.
His traducers misconstrued his insistence on protocol as being “arrogant”. They won’t tell you that most times this “arrogance” also stem from his refusal to play their kind of “ball”. One such was the inherited mess of sharing “state resources” to “stakeholders” whose only qualification is that they are “elders” who leech on the state for their very survival.
They wont tell you that governor Abubakar’s frugality and scrutiny agreements have saved the state hundred of millions of naira now channeled to productive ends. His thrift has earned him derisive names. Not too long ago, he admitted to me that he knows that his critics call him “Mai wallet” (one who dashes money from his wallet). Such names are meant to put him on the defensive and make him open the vault of the state to be devoured. We had a good laugh. I had no idea he was aware he knew about such names. But he is not deterred or daunted.
My governor is well schooled to appreciate the timeless words of that English poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson that “to be great is to be misunderstood”. He has since come to terms with this. It is a cross he has to carry. Thankfully, folks unconcerned with the politics of resource allocation are in tune with his vision. They are accompanying him in the mission. His leadership has touched their lives in ways only them can testify. May be that explains, in part, why he is incredibly calm all the time in public or in private. Behind his back, among us, walking with him, we call him “Ba tension” (no tension). I don’t think he is aware of this one until now. He is probably chuckling this minute.
Mr Ali is an aide to Gov MA Abubakar