This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: When a Prophet Is Celebrated At Home

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Who said a prophet is not honoured at home?. For the Atyap people of Zango Kataf local government of Kaduna State, a prophet is celebrated at home. John Shiklam writes on how the people honoured of the their own in the person one of the group managing director of NBPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu

A prophet is not honoured at home, so goes a saying. But this is not the case with the Atyap community (Kataf) in Zangon Kataf Local government area of Kaduna State when they rolled out the drums in reception for their son, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, an engineer who was recently appointed the group managing director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

This was the reason why the friends and people of the sleepy village of Atak-njei, converge on the expansive Palace of the Agwatyap, the traditional ruler of the Kataf to celebrate their son as the first man from such a small tribe to be ever appointed to such exalted position.

It was an appointment worth celebrating, because in the past, such positions appeared to be a preserve for the big tribes. Atyap otherwise known as Kataf is one of the small tribes in the Southern part of Kaduna which like, most minority tribes in Nigeria has suffered so much discrimination and marginalisation.

For the Atyap people and indeed, the entire Southern Kaduna as well as the entire northern minorities , the appointment of Yakubu is an indication that there is a glimmer of hope for the minority ethnic groups in the Nigerian project. It was an appointment worth celebrating as hundreds of personalities from across the country stormed the village to share in the happiness of the Kataf people.

The atmosphere at Atak-njei that day was that of excitement and expectation from the villages. From the expression on their faces, it was obvious that the people of the community had not witnessed the influx of "big men" driving in their expensive assorted cars through the pothole ridden road from Samarun Kataf to the palace in recent time.

Most of the villagers merely stood by the sideline watching the stream of people queuing to be screened into the palace for the event since they were not invited and those without invitation card were not allowed into the palace by the combine team of a heavily are soldiers and the police who ensured tight security at the venue of the event organised by the Atyap Traditional Council, headed by the Agwatyap, Dr. Harrison Bungon, an engineer and a former commissioner for works in Kaduna State.

Every invited guest, with the exception of traditional rulers and other important personalities were thoroughly screened before being allowed into the palace with a large space almost twice the size of a stadium.

All vehicles, apart from those of very important personalities were not allowed into the palace. The magnificent palace, an architectural masterpiece occupied just one side of the large space. A tent with a seating capacity of about 5000 people was erected at the other side within the palace, fully furnished with air conditions, powered by a big generator.

The tent was filled to capacity with an array of personalities from different backgrounds and professional callings. In attendance were traditional rulers, mostly from the southern part of the Kaduna state, top government functionaries, politicians, retired military officers, especially from the area as well as some top management staff of the NNPC and some stakeholders in the oil and gas industries.

"We have invited you to join us to celebrate success" declared the Agwatyap, setting the tone for the event. He said the community was grateful to God and President Goodluck Jonathan for elevating their son.

Bungon said the community believes that the elevation of their son to a big corporation like the NNPC was due to his hardwork and professional competence.

He said, the Atyap community, being one of the small groups in the context of Nigeria was surprised that one of its own could be identified and given the chance to contribute to the development of Nigeria. "We thank God for elevating our son. We thank President Goodluck Jonathan for accepting and appointing our son as the GMD of the NNPC. We are grateful to the minister of Petroleum for recommending him for the appointment.

"We consider his appointment as the rejected stone that become the corner stone. For a GMD of a large corporation as the NNPC to come from this locality is a thing of pride to us as a people. "I believe his appointment is because of his hard work, dedication to duty and honesty and I pray that God will guide him in the service to the nation.

"The Atyap Community in regards to Nigeria is a small tribe and we are happy that one of our competent professionals has been identified and given the chance to contribute to nation building. I thank my people for the unity of purpose that we share. My magnificent Palace was built by the community and not by government and I am proud of the Atyap community. We thank Governor Patrick Yakowa for being supportive to the community" the traditional ruler said in his address at the occasion.

Also in his remarks, the chairman of the occasion, Air vice Marshall Ishaya Shekari (rtd) said the reception was partly a thanksgiving as well as a celebration by the community. According to him, "Industry watchers in the oil and gas industry will tell you that they knew Yakubu will become the GMD of the NNPC. I guess their prediction was based on his achievements in his previous positions in the NNPC" . Shekari appealed to the youth in the area to "look at our stars like Andrew Yakubu and follow their footsteps" by working hard to realise their dreams.

He noted that the assignment given to their son is a challenging one and called on the people not to disturb him with their personal demand, but to pray for his success. He described Yakubu as a humble and hardworking professional.

In an address, the Kaduna State Governor, Mr. Patrick Yakowa said Yakubu has come a long way to establish himself as an accomplish engineer and good manager of resources. Yakowa who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr. Abokie Galadima said the time had come for Nigerians to start celebrating those who have made achievements when they are still alive.

"Like the former President Olusegun Obasanjo said, Nigerians should start celebrating their heroes when they are alive. This occasion underscore that statement", Yakowa said.

While thanking the President for appointing their son, the governor called for prayers and support for him to succeed. "The favour of God will not depart from GMD. To me, given the chance, our people can contribute tremendously to the transformation agenda of Mr. President. If you have been in the struggle for power sharing in this state, you will know that this thing that is happening today has taken a lot of sacrifices from our people.

"We must cherish, protect and ensure that the people in positions do us proud and leave a legacy for the Nigerian nation" he said. Also in his comments, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Zangon Kataf Local Government, Mr. Dominc Gambo Yahaya said the people of Zangon Kataf have always been supporting the Federal Government and will continue to support the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

"We urged the President not to waver, but to remain focus because he has our total support. We are happy that our son is appointed to this position of high responsibility and it is our prayers that he does us proud by serving the nation well.

"As a worthy son of this community, we pray that at the end of your tenure, the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry shall witness enormous transformation" he said.

The Minister of Petroleum Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke who was represented by the NNPC Group Executive Director, Services, Dr Madu described the GMD as man who lives a simple life of contentment

According to Madu, "there is nobody who will want him to succeed more than the minister. We should all join hands to ensure his success" stressing that the government remain committed in its determination to transform the oil industry. "I urge all Nigerians to support the Petroleum Industry Bill by studying it thoroughly because it will be of benefit to all Nigerians" he added.

There was no doubt that the GMD was overwhelmed by encomiums and prayers from his people.

Addressing the gathering, he thanked the Royal father and other traditional rulers for the reception

"You have counselled me, advised me and prayed for me and I am grateful to all of you. Like the philosopher said 'you are the product of your society'. As your son, brother and professional colleague, I am challenged by the opportunity given to me by President Jonathan and I urged you all to pray for me" he said.

According to him, the management of NNPC was working hard to transform the oil and gas sector for the benefit of all Nigerians.

"We are revamping critical infrastructure to support oil delivery and petroleum product nationwide. However, the challenges ahead are enormous and this requires the continuous support of all Nigerians. We are all stakeholders, as stakeholders, your support remain invaluable" he urged.

The event featured special prayer sessions for the GMD and cultural dances.

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