Leadership (Abuja)

4 July 2013

Nigeria: TY Danjuma for All Seasons

General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma needs no introduction here in Nigeria and even across Africa. He had a distinguished career in the Nigerian Army and is one of the best chief of army staff Nigeria has ever produced. He had served in various peacekeeping operations in Africa and beyond. He was a commander during the Nigerian civil war and had intervened in the interest of the nation at various critical junctures of Nigeria's history. He has been decorated and given honorary degrees and traditional titles all over the country and beyond.

The citation written by Bayero University, Kano, on the conferment of a doctorate degree on Gen. Danjuma reads in part thus: "He it was who had at some time in the past held, and, by virtue of the influence he still wields on the political scene, by virtue of the moral force he is capable of exerting, by virtue of the legendary status he enjoys in military circles, and by virtue of the great esteem in which he is held in every nook and corner of Nigeria society, still holds the destiny of the Nigerian nation in his hands. In the past he had made and unmade presidents, toppled governments, and helped in setting them up; but, like the proverbial candle, had always burnt himself up so that others would see the light.

"Clearly, General Danjuma owes this nation an explanation why he had consistently declined to lead it at all the important junctures when he could have taken over. Many believed that if he had run this nation as well as he had run his businesses, Nigeria would today have been with Singapore and Malaysia in the First World league.

"Here standing before us today is this extraordinary Nigerian who has adopted the giving of succour to those in true need a way of life. His foundation is a source of relief to those in distress; and his is that broad shoulder on which every tear of distress may be shed; his is that ear in which every anxiety may be whispered; and his is that hand in which every trust may safely be put.

"He is without doubt Nigeria's greatest fighting man of any age. This intrepid son of Nigeria has been indomitable in battle and magnanimous in victory; but the world does not know how he behaves in defeat, and it will probably never know, because General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, the Abonta of Wukari, has never been defeated. This man before you, Chancellor, Sir, has never been defeated in battle or at peace, away or at home, in uniform or out of it."

On Saturday, June 22, 2013, Gen. Danjuma was conferred with the prestigious traditional title of Jarmai Zazzau by the Emir of Zazzau, His Highness Alhaji Shehu Idris. Gen. Danjuma delivered a speech entitled "REBUILDING A HARMONIOUS AND HOSPITABLE NORTHERN NIGERIA", which is hereby I have reproduced in full below for its import and significance: "It is with great joy that I stand before this historic gathering to accept the honour of the traditional title of Jarmai Zazzau from His Royal Highness Alhaji Shehu Idris, the Emir of Zazzau. I wish to express my sincere thanks to Your Highness and to the Zazzau Emirate Council that resolved to confer on me the honour of this title.

"It is really humbling and rather scary to hear all the wonderful things that have been said about me here today. Some of it sounds almost like a grave-side oration. Nevertheless, I truly appreciate your kindness and generosity. May we all live long enough to fulfil the purpose of God for our lives.

"When I first received an advance warning about this big honour, I recognised immediately that it would come with great responsibility and attendant risks. Nevertheless, I also recognised that for the sake of the renewal of northern Nigeria, I was duty-bound to accept this challenging honour.

"I have taken many risks in my life for the sake of Nigeria, and at the age of 75, I thought I have paid my dues. I just wanted to spend the rest of my life in quiet retirement, leaving the public arena for a new generation of leaders to improve on the modest achievement of my generation. It seems to me now that real retirement is only possible in the grave. Our lives and living are apparently inevitably tied eternally to responsibilities.

"This event was to be a festive occasion featuring a durbar. But given the sad reality of our present situation in northern Nigeria, I pleaded for a simple but dignified ceremony devoid of pomp and pageantry. We are in a season of sorrow and mourning caused by decades of neglect of a sizeable segment of our society. Now, our people are dying in thousands in needless battles and conflicts.

"Our society and economy are in tatters. In a highly competitive world, our children are missing out in getting qualitative and functional education. The masses of our people are chained down in dehumanizing and grinding poverty while we continue to maintain few islands of false prosperity in a turbulent ocean of penury and squalor. There cannot be peace and harmony where there is wide disparity between the few rich and a multitude of the poor.

"Nigeria, and indeed northern Nigeria, has never been in short supply of politicians scheming and screaming for due and undue advantages. What has been in short supply are patriotic elder statesmen who would use their experience and wisdom to give our country a clear sense of purpose and direction. When elders become decadent, the youth are bound to become delinquent. Our people are confused and perplexed; they have become like flock scattered on many hills without a shepherd. This is clear indication of leadership failure.

"We urgently need to put our house in order, so we can overcome our various challenges. This is the time for elders to be circumspect and temperate in their utterances. It is not in our character as northerners to talk too much. We need to think more, pray more, plan more, work harder, relate better, but talk less. Battles are better fought and won through wisdom and strategy than through inflammable pronouncements and political tantrums.

"It is most appropriate and gratifying that I am receiving this honour in Zaria where I spent some of my formative years. Zaria was one of the few northern cities that first opened her gates to pioneer missionaries in northern Nigeria, which is why Wusasa has become the second home of many northern Christian leaders. Zaria has therefore distinguished itself as a beacon of religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence and educational advancement.

"Nigeria, and especially northern Nigeria, urgently needs to recapture the spirit of Zaria -- the spirit of knowledge, tolerance, harmony, peace and prosperity. In spite of the many years of mismanaged opportunities and resources, I still believe that Nigeria can be reawakened and rebuilt to achieve greatness. If we renew our mind and reconcile with one another, if we coordinate our determined efforts, we can make northern Nigeria self-reliant and self-sufficient, while enhancing the unity and prosperity of all Nigeria. But, first, we must have peace.

"Once again, I am exceedingly grateful for this honour. I thank Your Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto and all our traditional rulers here present. Your presence underscores the broad-based support that we need and will get in our quest to promote peace, social justice and prosperity for all.

"I thank Your Excellency President Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President, former Heads of State, Governors, Lawmakers, members of the Diplomatic Community and everyone here today. Your presence has brought great honour to me. Ubangiji Allah ya albarkace ku, ya kuma kiyaye ku. Amin."

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