By Abdulwahab Oba
No, don’t mind me, it’s not the final meet. It’s not the end of our relationship. It’s the beginning of a bigger, better interaction. But it’s over as chief press secretary, CPS, to you as a Governor. This is to also formally rest this column, a column started five years ago to explain your positions and policies. The eight-year journey as CPS that started in 2015 has come to a glorious end. Alhamdulillah. All Glory, adoration and exultation belong to the Almighty Allah. To Him alone belong my beginning and the end. Many started the race with us but never finished the journey. Some were ‘injured’, others relapsed. Many slip by. And as I look back at the journey, I realise it’s apt to glorify His mighty name, appreciate those who facilitated and those who supported the opportunity for me to serve in the public arena in my dear state of Kwara.
Until my appointment as his Chief Press Secretary, having actively participated in electioneering his campaign as head of media relations, Print, I had not worked directly with His Excellency, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed, who then had just won election as governor of the state. Expectedly, I had hopes. I had expectations. I had my fears and I had several doubts about working in my community, coming from the media with all its intrigues and challenges, and coming to help along with others shape the media platform for the governor.
For my community, it was not a big problem. I have always been a home boy. For the media environment, it should not be a bigger challenge, or so I thought, since I had even been privileged to head the umbrella body of the fourth estate of the realm as a chairman of the Lagos Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
I had my guesses pretty much correct except that I was pleasantly surprised about my rapport with His Excellency in the eight year sojourn at the Ahmadu Bello Way working with Maigida n Kwara. No man is perfect. Therefore, is not to ascribe infallibility to the man who in two days time would become the immediate past governor of Kwara state. He has his Cup of imperfections like anyone and everyone. But it would be an unwilling uncharitable to dismiss the fact that he is a good man. When you are close to people, you have opportunities to see their two sides; the good and the bad. Most of often, outsiders, who mostly view their subjects from afar, cannot see the fine points of their goodness and can also not see the ugly spots of their imperfections, as Jonathan Swift, whose character, found out this truth in Gulliver’s Travel.
It is therefore a privilege to work closely with anyone in power. Only a few ever get the opportunity and that I could be on the seat for eights years, I’m grateful to Ahmed that I was given the opportunity to have been among the few these past eight years. Many may complained that Ahmed was tight fisted; he would not dole out money to people. I agree. He was. And he might still be, but who knows how he would spend his personal money now that he is out of government? It affected us greatly. It affected media operations. It affected interactions. It got to a point official newspaper allocations were revoked. The CPS got only three national dailies. Let him work out the rest by himself. It affected perception and it affected everything else, after all they say in politics perception is everything. But if in the end it is targeted at being accountable, if in the end it is so that a man would not suffer disgrace after leaving office, if at the end it was a way of preserving the little that was available for the sake of the generality of the population, I can only on his behalf tender an apology now. Please, forgive his imperfections.
No doubt, Dr Ahmed faced a daunting task ensuring Kwara had money. Forget about the politics in place, he was frugal and there are theories out there that we paid dearly for it. But we can walk with our heads high that we did it in public interest. The economic recession with its consequential drop in revenue was a big hit on his second term. But his ingenuity was evident when he started the KWIRS and later IFK, the platform for funding capital projects.
Again, I want to thank my principal that in the eight years I spent with him, I saw him as a man desirous of leaving a legacy worthy of emulation. He may not have dolled out what most regard as our common wealth the way they wanted, but he has achieved significant achievements compare with resources available to him. Thank you for your frugality and accountability. And, as you again venture into familiar terrain of the private sector, thank you for the unfettered access to you for every shade and shape of information I might have needed, which made my job a seamless one, not talking about breaking protocol for private reasons. You never pushed me aside. You never scolded me even while mounting what you may consider unnecessary pressure on you to ask very personal questions that could affect your public image. At home, in the office, you gave me the opportunity to talk with you without constraints and without the fear of being ignored.
You’re not a governor who breath down the neck of his aides. You allowed us do the needful as time and situation permitted. As you exit in few days time, there are many projects approved but couldn’t see the light of the day, not because you didn’t want them but because we didn’t have the sufficient resources. That is a painful but bitter truth to swallow. It hurts me to say it but I feel better speaking it out. I hope one day, I shall not only be able to present my work on “Shonga Farms: Contraction or Transformation?”, but other works that are on going at your instance.
Nonetheless, you allowed me develop myself further, and you respected my opinion on issues pertaining to my official engagement. If we were to argue, you would only dismiss my opinion if there was a better idea which I would also naturally subscribe to. To my boss and principal, I say a big thank you; for the lessons I learnt under you, about serving, about integrity, about humility, about being faithful even when you are hurt, about a good family life, about allowing people to perform at their best; these are life lessons that will continue with me beyond the walls of the office.
It was also a privilege working with a dynamic media team. Even though we had obvious but glaring duty overlaps, we still worked like no one was cut out to do anything in particular. What matterrd to us was getting the job done and not who does or doesn’t do what. And through such consensus process, we surmounted many hurdles. It was a great privilege working with colleagues in Kwara. Truth is that there are many grey journalists in this nation, even though their names may not be well known in public. I hope that one day we would have the real opportunity to thank each other for the sometimes great, sometimes disappointing, and at other times challenging times we had together. I also appreciate tremendous support and understanding I received from friends and families whose expectations I may not have met due largely to constraints of my office. I also apologise for the omissions, the commitions or the infractions. I’m human and perfection comes only from God. I, especially, thank my wife and children for their patience and perseverance for days of unannounced but largely unwitting absence from home duties. By His grace, there are better times ahead.
Since this space is dedicated to Maigida N Kwara, thank you, again and again, Your Excellency, for not relating with me according to the degree of my shortcomings under your service. Thank you for holding the flag for eight years while you presided. Thank you for standing committed even when your loyalty was seemingly tested. Thank you maintaining the peace. Others may have their reasons why we lost power, but time will come when the true narrative will be unveiled. But at any rate, who is perfect? Only Allah. As I join millions of muslims from across the world in the holy mosque to observe the night of majesty, I kneel and pray for you and your family. As long as there is a God in Heaven, you will never know shame. Your life will always have a meaning. The door of goodness shall not be shut against you and your family. Thank you for the opportunity given me to serve. Thank you for the unfettered assess accorded the media team. Thank you for your trust and love.
Good bye, Sai Maigida. No regret walking with you.
Oba can be reach via firstname.lastname@example.org