Only a surprising two out of the 19 governors from the North were at yesterday’s inaugural memorial lecture in Abuja in honour of the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello.
Present were the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu and his Kogi State counterpart, Capt Wada Idris. They were joined by their colleague from Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal.
The 17 other Northern governors, with the exception of the Governor of Taraba State, Dambaba Suntai, who is in Germany recuperating from injuries received in a recent plane crash in Adamawa State, refused to be part of the event.
Vice President Namadi Sambo, similarly, refused to be part of the event, which was held at the Yar’Adua Centre.
Governor Aliyu, who is also the Chairman of the Northern State Governors Forum, Dr. Babangia Aliyu and the Chairman of Board of Trustees of the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, defended the refusal of the governors and the VP to be at the event, saying “they are all represented and in fact the Vice President was supposed to be here before something came up.”
Only the governors of Kwara and Sokoto were represented at the event by their deputies.
The late Sardauna was among those who were killed in the coup d’etat of January 1966, when many of the governors were either in primary schools or yet to start school. He was an influential figure who initiated or helped establish several institutions, such as free education, for the benefit of Northerners. One of his initiatives, the New Nigerian newspaper, is currently undergoing serious problems at the hands of the governors.
“I was in Primary Four when he died,” said Governor Aliyu, meaning the future governor was in 1966 just nine or 10 years old.
Aliyu said, “When I talk about free education; I always remind people that many of us not only did not pay to go to school but [were] paid through our elementary school and in the secondary school, we were given transport money, cloth money and free food and after secondary school I enrolled as a teacher in College of Education and by the time I was in the university, I had much money.”
A former Federal Permanent Secretary, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, lambasted the governors, including those in attendance, for not emulating the late Sardauna in their daily activities.
He said while many of them claim to be his disciples, their stupendous wealth was contrary to such claim.
“When the late Premier died, he did not have any palatial building outside the country. He was a modest man. But can we say the same of our governors today?”
At a point, Governor Aliyu urged the master of ceremony to ask Ahmed to round up his points, an action that received jeers from the audience.