AN ENCOUNTER WITH ALHAJI BAMANGA TUKUR
It was on a quiet afternoon, on April 28, 2012, in a special conference room of one of the exclusive hotels in Houston, Texas. For the regulars, St Regis is usually a serene lodge, as one might expect from the stature and the architecture, exclusively for the affluent and international leaders whose security is imperative. Behind the glass-screen door was Alhaji Bamanga Tukur sitting behind a white-draped table.
On his far right was his son, Awwal D. Tukur sitting beside his dad with a keen interest. When I walked in, there were members of the executive of PDP-USA Chapter. It was a pleasant setting for a political discourse.
In his brief statement, the PDP-USA Chapter Chairman, Otumba Dr. Tai Balofin, welcomed everyone. He specially thanked the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, whom he called 'our father' for granting Nigerians audience.
While talking, Balofin pleaded with Tukur to work with the people in the Diaspora to ensure that the Diaspora voting rights bill is passed in the National Assembly. Nigerians in the Diaspora have been agitating for the rights to vote in the Nigeria's elections.
He said, 'We're using this opportunity to implore you as a man of integrity to contact PDP members of the National Assembly to push for the passing of the Diaspora Voting Rights Bill.' He stressed that our full participation in the Nigerian politics is long overdue. Nigeria is the giant of Africa, but it is still disenfranchising its citizens abroad while smaller countries have a mechanism for their citizens abroad to vote. Balofin pledged that if Nigerians in the Diaspora are able to vote in Nigerian elections from their countries of residence, we will work harder to attract more credible investments to Nigeria. 'We will be able to bring credible investments to Nigeria,' he strongly promised the PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
Following Balofin's comments, Alhaji Tukur commenced his esteemed remarks. Alhaji Bamamga Tukur, in his unique and captivating voice, touched on several important national issues, but emphasized on the importance of Nigerians in the Diaspora in the nation building. He cited how African leaders in the past such as Nnamdi Azikiwe and Kwame Nkurumah, pan-africanists, met to organize in abroad for the independence and betterment of their respective countries. The work of Azikiwe, Nkurumah, and others underscored the importance of Africans, particularly Nigerians living abroad, in helping to rebuild and rebrand Nigeria.
The Chairman, Alhaji Tukur seems to be passionate and honest about incorporating Nigerians in the Diaspora in rebuilding Nigeria. He said to Nigerians, 'You can adequately contribute to the development in your various villages in Nigeria, which will in turn benefit the country as a whole. This is why Nigeria needs you.' He stated that it is his firm goal to integrate credible Nigerian professionals abroad into the development of the country. On foreign investment in Nigeria, Alhaji Bamaga Tukur assured Nigerians that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan will give investors opportunity to develop Nigeria. Nigeria will provide enabling environment for safe business activities. No investor should be afraid to invest in Nigeria. The country is fertile for Nigerians and foreigners to invest because the returns on investments are higher in Nigerian than in any other country. The resources and the market are there in Nigeria.
Tukur who arrived in the United States in the company of his wife, Alhaja Fatima Tukur, his son, Awwal D. Tukur, Mr. Alaboso Joejim, Mr. Dotun Ajayi, and Otunba Jide Taiwo, expressed his utmost gratitude to Nigerians particularly, the People Democratic Party of the United States, for bringing investment opportunities to Nigeria. He encouraged Nigerians to do more for their country.
On other policy matters, he shared his three Rs with us, which he said drive his policy articulation and implementation as the Party Chairman. Reconciliation, Reformation, and Rebirth are the veritable concepts that are defining Alhaji Tukur's leadership in PDP. Based on his reconciliation mantra, he is creating a vehicle that would facilitate the returning in droves those individuals that left the party. 'Those who left the party can come back.' Though he did not elaborate on the process through which they will come back. It is my opinion that the readmission of individuals into the party should be on case by case basis.
It would be dangerous to readmit every person that left the party. Those individuals who left because they felt that they were wronged by the Party could be readmitted with some conditions. Those individuals who left the Party for political expediency should not be allowed to return to the Party. PDP will be stronger and more attractive if it insists on party loyalty anchored in justice and equity. The Party has to begin to cultivate the culture of ideology and loyalty for its sustenance and longevity.
In his reformation concept, he stated that the Party will tightly align with the reformation policies eloquently articulated and enunciated by President Goodluck Jonathan. Alhaji Tukur fully embraced the President's reformation program and will work diligently to ensure a complete success of all the ingredients in the program. He invited all Nigerians to support the President to make sure Nigeria succeeds.
The third R, rebirth is where assiduous work has to be done, if PDP will remain the most viable Party in Africa. In his candid realization of the work ahead of him in this area, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur stated confidently that he will work conscientiously to rebrand the party based on equity and justice. 'Equity and justice must reign in our party,' he said as he articulated how we should start planning for the future.
Talking about the party and its linkage to Nigeria's global competitiveness, Alhaji Tukur said, 'We will take our rightful position in a global community because we have the population and the resources to do so.' In any case, it is a bold ambition that is achievable if Nigeria will plan well and utilize its resources efficiently. Alhaji Tukur added, 'We will have to start planning for our five-year olds now so that they will be effective leaders of tomorrow in various areas such as engineering, technology, medicine, arts, and management.
This is an attestation of Tukur's visionary leadership.
Admirably, Nigerians who were in the session were elated that Alhaji Tukur empathized with their agitation for the voting rights, which he promised that he will be personally involved to ensure the passage of the Diaspora Voting Rights Bill in the National Assembly. 'I am assuring Nigerians in the Diaspora that I and the NWC of the party will work with the National Assembly to ensure that the Voting Rights Bill is passed expeditiously,' Alhaji Bamanga Tukur assured Nigerians abroad.
Interestingly, Dr. Loretta Mbadugha, who was at the meeting expressed her gratitude to Chairman Tukur for allowing Nigerians, particularly PDP members to meet with him. She admired his sincerity and honesty concerning his views on the importance of Nigerians in the Diaspora. 'Nigeria is hungry for the people in the Diaspora to be more intellectually engaged in the process of rebuilding the country. On the other hand, the people in the corridor of power do not want to give us the opportunity to contribute. As a result, the country keeps recycling leadership to deny people like us to come in and contribute.'
Indeed, it was an enlightening encounter! Also, I had the pleasure to engage in one-on-one conversation with Tukur, that revealed a whole lot more about the man, his enormous pedigree and disposition. We discussed about the reason he came to the United States. Please read my next column for more details as this story is written immediately after the meeting on the 28th. The following day was our one-on-one conversation.
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