10 April 2007

Nigeria: Nyako - A Patriot in Politics


Lagos — It is not my habit to eulogise people, least of all, those in the arena of politics. However, when one sees men of extraordinary character immersing in the murky waters of Nigerian politics, one cannot but take notice of them. One of such people is Murtala Alhaji Haman -Yero Nyako, a patriot, an Admiral and gentleman.

Unknown to many Nigerians, Admiral Murtala Nyako then a Navy Lieutenant first came into the limelight in the Nigerian Navy while in action between 1967 and 68 during the civil war as the commanding officer of a Russian built Naval Patrol craft, N.N.S Ekpen. His exploits and tactical manoeuvers with his boat into the unswept channels of mined rebel territory between Bonny and Port Harcourt so much impressed the Officer in Tactical Command (OTC) and Senior Officer Afloat (SOA), Commander later Admiral Akin-Aduwo that he had to send a special signal to the Naval Headquarters commending the courage and bravery of young Lt Murtala Nyako. Reports by Officers in Tactical Command were taken most seriously by the Naval Headquarters, more so, coming from Commander Akin-Aduwo, reputed for his courage and no- nonsense operational efficiency in war front.

However, behind the iron curtain military strategist that he is, the man Murtala Nyako ordinarily is a pleasant personality to inter-act with, a down-to-earth honest person who discusses issues logically and persuasively, he is humble, kind- hearted and very humorous. He hates dishonest and corrupt people.

As a young Naval Commander, he was appointed Military Governor of Niger State by the late General Murtala Muhammed in February 1976, which was newly created from the then North- Western State. When he assumed office in Minna, the State capital, there was neither adequate office accommodation nor residential accommodation for the thousands of civil servants and their families returning from Sokoto. Nor was there adequate infrastructure on ground to support them. Basic amenities like electricity and potable water were lacking. Electricity supply came from an old and epileptic generating plant which after few weeks, broke down plunging the state capital into total darkness for 5 days. Water supply on the other hand was nothing to write home about as the existing water works were in complete shamble.

Murtala Nyako, together with his team of young commissioners which included technocrats like Sidi Aliyu Enagi, Sallahu Agaie, Idi Kuta, now a senator, Adbullahi Bisalla, Umaru Mashegu along with dedicated civil servants like late Abdulkarim Lafene, late Sulaiman Takuma Mallam Awwal Ibrahim now Emir of Suleja, Engr Akbar and Engr A.A. Lapai just to mention a few worked diligently round the clock to make Minna habitable. With a devastating efficiency, Murtala Nyako re-built the water-works, making water supply available 24 hours in Minna. Electricity supply was also pursued with the same vigour. Several visits by the Governor to the NEPA headquarters in Lagos and 24 hrs detention of NEPA District Manager in Minna yielded fruits, as more powerful generating plants were installed in Minna and other major towns of Niger state.

On housing, within six months, Nyako constructed 500 housing units for both senior and junior civil servants in Minna the state capital using indigenous local contractors and ensuring proper mixture of cement to sand ratio.

While solving the basic problems of accommodation, water and power supplies, Nyako also tackled the issue of indiscipline. First, he launched a campaign against late comers to the office, official corruption, shoddy jobs by contractors and son on. Governor Nyako would be at the gate of a ministry or government parastatal located either in Minna, Bida, Kontagora or Suleja as early as 7 am waiting for late-comers. Once it was 7.30 am, the gate would be ordered closed. Late comers would then be made to fall in together irrespective of rank or status. The Governor would then address them reminding them of their responsibility to the state and the nation, he would warn them of serious consequences they would face if such offence was repeated. He was a delight to watch.

Once, a state commissioner confessed that he was on his way to office when he noticed the Governor and his entourage already at the gate to his own ministry, so he simply made a round- about turn to save himself the embarrassment of being made to line up with junior officers of his ministry for coming late. Such was the degree of discipline that Nyako instilled in the civil servants in Niger state. So that by the time he left the state you could walk confidently in to any of the ministries at 7. 15 am and found everyone already on seat.

Nyako was absolutely incorruptible as the Governor of Niger state and till date does not own even a plot of land in Niger state. Compare this to what is happening in most states of the federation today, where according to EFCC reports, some chief executives treat public funds in their trust as personal wealth leaving the citizens of such states in utter penury, lacking in all social amenities including potable water.

After the selfless service in Niger state he returned to the Nigerian Navy where he rose steadily to become the Chief of Naval staff (CNS) in 1990. He revolutionised the Nigerian Navy by creating an engineering Command called Fleet Maintenance Corps to be headed only by naval engineers. Before then all naval commands were headed only by officers of the seaman department.

This revolution yielded fruits as the naval engineers took up the challenge and became more dedicated to duty. Today naval ships are no longer sent abroad for refit. The indigenous naval engineers carry-out both minor and major repair works on naval ships locally at the Naval Dock yards in Lagos and Port-Harcourt. They have become so efficient that even merchant vessels now patronize them. Hitherto, all major refit of ships were carried out in Europe costing the nation millions of scarce foreign exchange which is now saved, thanks to the patriotic zeal of Admiral Murtala Nyako.

Upon retirement from service in 1993, Nyako diligently pursued the noblest of all professions - farming. Within a couple of years, Nyako's farm located near his country home in Mayo-Belwa, a few kilometers from Yola became the talk of the town as one of the most successful farms in Nigeria. Sebore Farms as it is called, is reputed to be exporting mango and other fruits to Europe thus earning for the nation some foreign exchange.

But the Admiral did not stop there. He wanted every Nigerian farmer to be as successful as he is and so he began to spend his time and energy to organize Nigerian farmers who were in numerous and uncoordinated farmers associations scattered across the country. He succeed in obtaining the Federal Government support for the scheme thus today all the Nigerian farmers now operate under a common umbrella called All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) of which Admiral Nyako is the national President. The association is so well organized that its organogram clearly shows its national, state and local government officers. Every farm product has its national, state and local government officials, so that if you were a cassava or rice farmer at a remote village you have an officer at your local government area in charge of that crop who you could contact for necessary assistance.

One of the greatest problems that the Nigerian farmer could face is sourcing adequate finance to support his farm. Admiral Murtala Nyako speaking in the farmers language to the President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who is also a farmer per excellence did not find any difficulty in convincing Baba to make funds available in soft loans to Nigerian farmers. The Federal Government has since last year set aside a whopping N50 billion in designated banks to be given to farmers as loans with interest not exceeding 8 percent.

It was all these achievements by Admiral Murtala Nyako that made the people of Adamawa state to invite him to come and rescue them from the clutches of vision less leaders who have for the past eight years failed to provide the people of Adamawa, with the basic necessities of life vis housing, health care, good roads, good schools and potable water, in spite of billions of Naira collected from the federation account on their behalf.

I have no doubt that with Nyako as the Governor, Adamawa state would in less than two years become the state to beat in terms of development. Wishing the patriot the best of luck. And as sailors would say, Bon voyage.

Mohammed is a commentator on public affairs.

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