It was in the middle of a crucial meeting of the steering committee of the Joint Action Committee of Northern Youth Associations (JACNYA) that a member from one of the states interrupted the proceeding as he asked, what I initially thought a theoretical question: “Who is this man Ahmed Joda, that Former President Obasanjo just described in a tribute as a nationalist and as someone who saved Nigeria from disintegrating?”
At this point two of us, out of the 20 delegates asked mildly, “ya Rasu ne?(is he late) as the others tried to recall who he was.
The reactions from the steering committee members of the JACNYA who are mostly between the ages of 25- 40, the supposed beneficiaries of the’ great legacies and huge sacrifices late Joda made for the good of the country were quite revealing.
The glowing tributes that poured compared with the ignorance of the younger generation born during the Obasanjo era on his contributions is indicative of a huge disconnect between the elders and the younger generation.
As members devoted their time reading through the tributes that kept flowing in from the Presidency to former heads of State and the Former Vice President, focus was shifted from the main agenda of our meeting to interrogating historical evolution of leadership in the North from late Sir Ahmadu Bello’s era to the present crop of charlatans that have positioned themselves as ‘leaders,’ from the traditional and religious institutions to those in the civil service present and retired ( those in the category late Ahmed Joda) to the political class elected and appointed and those of us in the increasing civil society space that have arrogated claims of speaking for the north and her interests.
What became clear at the end of our painstaking evaluation, regrettably, was an apparent near absence of quality leadership in all strata and at all levels in the entire Northern region with its concomitant effects on the land and on our people.
Major factors responsible for our current lamentable situation delegates unanimously agreed, are greed, deceptions, lack of sincerity of purpose and importantly, zero mentorship mechanism that would ensure trans- generational value transmission.
Late, Ahmed Joda from his biography was among the very privileged few northerners that benefited enormously from the generous era of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s mentoring process of young promising northerners without recourse to ethnicity or religious affiliations.
This mentoring process of the Sardauna era made it possible for Ahmed Joda to succeed British colonial officers as the first indigenous information officer of the old northern region which positioned him for other subsequent opportunities he had to serve Nigeria’s in different capacities, as he rose to the peak of his career where he retired as super permanent secretary in his forty.
While it’s a historical facts that northern Nigeria was lagging far behind as at independence, another undeniable facts is that within six years of committed focused leadership under Sir Ahmadu Bello’s northernization policy which was anchored on the principle of mentorship, many lost grounds were regained within time and as a result, northern region became the cynosure of other regions of the country until Sir Ahmadu Bello’s gruesome murder by elements of Igbo extraction of the Nigerian Army.
As delegates pondered over the unbeatable record of the late legendary Former super Permanent Secretary with enormous influences and vast network and capacity for achievements through uncommon beaureaucratic brinkmanship that brought the country back from brink of disintegration, how come for the over thirteen years that the North east has been battling insurgency and over seven years herders/ farmers crisis in the North central and North West coupled with the ravaging criminal activities of the bandits in the North West and the state of Niger that we didn’t see him lead with such determination to stop the carnage taking place in North?
As we pray for the repose of the gentle soul of Ahmed Joda, it is ironic that the younger generation that are today supposed to celebrate his lofty achievements for their sake are the ones trying hard to remember his name just because of the lacuna between the old and the young in the north.
This should not continue. As the north seeks to move out from the shackles of poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, the future generation must be groomed on what constitutes purposeful leadership just as Sardauna was doing in his days.
The north cannot continue with the current trend where leadership serves only a privileged few while majority of the populace are left groping in the dark.
And for the other older ones who take advantage of the vulnerability of the young people and exploit them in the name of mentoring, should tread with caution as the day of reckoning will come.
Murtala Abubakar is the convener Joint Action Committee of Northern Youth Associations