PUTTING PATRIOTISM ABOVE SENTIMENTS
Before 2007 and as Permanent Secretary in the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOS) and the most senior permanent secretary, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, governor of Niger State, was the heir apparent , waiting in the wings to take over from his boss.
It is traditional that those occupying that position must have passed the stage of exhibiting any kind of radicalism which the system seriously frowns at. Anybody in Aliyu's position would be the last to want to rock the boat. Such person is always guided by the need to maintain the status quo and would do nothing, either by words or deeds, to make him be counted as opposed to the government of the day.
If you now have the fortune or misfortune of working in the Obasanjo administration where the president does not brood divergent opinions, you need to be extra careful and ensure that whether by your acts or utterances, or rather, nothing in your conduct must suggest that you have an opinion when the lord of the manor had spoken, or else you become what Yorubas call 'Soroye' or the modern day Moses who gets so close but could not reach the promised land.
Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu broke every aspect of those rules and came out unscathed. Alhaji Musa Shehu (not real name) presently a permanent secretary in the federal civil service was opportune to have worked closely with Aliyu when he was in Abuja and till today wondered how Aliyu had survived being sacked by the Obasanjo administration for daring to run where even angels fear to tread.
'Not once, not twice that we had attended meetings at the villa together. Naturally when we go like that we were always going with the aim of receiving orders and directives, not a place you go to tell them you have an opinion and everybody knows this except Dr. Babangida Aliyu who would insist on expressing his opinion no matter unpalatable it is to the powers that be.
'There were occasions everybody felt Aliyu would be sacked for openly disagreeing with them at the villa, only to hear later that the position he powerfully defended had been adopted by government. We still wonder where he got the courage.
As governor, nothing has indeed changed with Aliyu. He had said many things that even his friends and political associates have found to be politically inexpedient and had come back to ask him why he said what he said and he would fire back at them asking if what he said was the truth or not, if it is the truth, then he owes nobody any apology, and if it will cost him his re-election, so be it.
At several fora, Aliyu had made it plain that Nigeria would never achieve the desired greatness through adherence to primordial or other sentiments. Take his recent comments at the 10th year anniversary of the establishment of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) in Kaduna as example.
At the occasion, Aliyu in his characteristic brutal frankness, pointedly told an audience consisting largely of advocates of presidency returning to the North next year that he should be counted out of any arrangement that suggests tribal or ethnic sentiment.
According to him, no tribe or region or ethnic group has the monopoly of capable men and women to rule Nigeria .
'We must seriously wake up to the realities of globalization and interdependence for the good of the North and the nation at large. The era of lording it over others or simply thinking 'we have it' has passed. We should not continue to take things for granted in the political equation of this country.
'I believe we should focus attention squarely on how the average Nigerian can experience a decent life like his counterparts in other parts of the world in the 21st century. Many of the sensational issues that we preoccupy ourselves with are not necessary and should not take so much of our time, energy and resources, when others are moving on positively'
This is vintage Aliyu who has refused to learn that in Nigeria of today, it is politically suicidal to call a spade a spade.
To him, following in the footsteps of the Sardaunas and Awolowos of this country is the only way the country can attain greatnes. Most often his views are quite unpopular with those who stand by the maintainance of the status quo, those who believe it is the right thing to use ones priviledged position to oppress the common man and those who never believe that public office is a priviledge from God and to whom one is accountable.
Aliyu has on many occasions lambasted the elites of the country and their departure from the path of selfless service charted by the founding fathers of Nigeria , warning them to turn away from their evil ways or face the wrath of God.