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Late Senator Engineer Magaji Abdullahi (1)

Adieu “Ruwa Baba’

A Tribute to the Late Senator Engineer Magaji A. Abdullahi, Ex-Deputy Governor of Kano State.

Sadly, since when Engineer Magaji Abdullahi left WRECA in November 1986 and quit his position as the Water Resources Commissioner in April 1991, the issue of Water supply in Kano has become something else. With all the Water works and the multiple dams in the state, the pitiable situation of water supply in Kano reminds me of some lines from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ written in 1797 by the English poet, Samuel T. Coleridge where a Sailor on a becalmed ship is surrounded by salt water he cannot drink said “Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink’

Abdulkadir Ahmed Ibrahim

Inna Lillahi Wa’ina Illaihir raji’un (From Allah we came and to Him we shall return) was my response to an early morning phone call on Sunday, August 24 2016, from a friend Alhaji Kassim Ahmed announcing the death of “Maigida” (Boss) former Deputy Governor of Kano State, Senator Engineer Magaji Adamu Abdullahi that very morning in Kano at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.

Alhaji Kassim (a former Personal Assistant to the deceased) wanted me (as the former Press Secretary to Engineer Magaji Abdullahi) to cause an obituary at all the Radio Stations in Kano and to specifically include that the funeral prayer would take place at ten o’clock of that morning at the Engineers’ Lane residence of the deceased situated at NNDC Housing Estate, Sharada in Kano.

I told Kassim that I was far away in Calabar, Cross River State, engaged  by an NGO (PRAWA) as the Media Focal person of a weeklong Human Rights Training Programme for Police Officers and an Alternative to Violence training project for the Inmates, Welfare Officers, Psychologists and other Wardens at the  120-year-old Calabar maximum Prison but will use the modern electronic communication devices, the mobile phone, Facebook and email to disseminate  the information. I did that to the Radio houses in Kano and also to the Correspondents of the major national Newspapers and News Agencies reporting from Kano. I also called the eldest son of the deceased, Engineer Ibrahim Magaji and my friend the Protocol Officer, Hussaini Abubakar Bayero and said my condolences. I broke the news to the protocol officer who two days earlier called to tell me the worsening health condition of ‘Maigida’. From the tone of his voice, I guessed Hussaini was crying. The story went viral and many people including Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, his deputy, former this and ex that, the political class, businessmen and others attended the funeral payer and the burial at Dandolo cemetery near Goron Dutse hill off Aminu Kano Way in Kano City.

Late Magaji Adamu Abdullahi was born on 2nd November, 1947, at Tattarawa village in Dawkin Tofa Local Government Area of Kano State to the family of late Sarkin Fulani Abdullahi Adamu the Village head of the town. He had his early western education at Dawakin Tofa Junior (1955 to 1957) and Dambatta Senior (1958 to 1960) Primary Schools and proceeded to the then Kano Native Authority Secondary School (now Rumfa College) in 1961 and passed out in 1965 with the West African School Certicate, WASC.

Magaji Abdullahi remained at Rumfa College (then known as Kano Government Secondary School) from 1966 to 1967 and obtained the Higher School Certificate (HSC). He gained admission into Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in October 1968 and graduated in June 1972 with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.

The quest for more knowledge took Engineer Magaji Abdullahi to Southampton University in the United Kingdom from October 1974 to September 1975 where he obtained a Master of Science Engineering degree in Water Resources Engineering. He went back to the United Kingdom in September 1976 but this time at Birmingham University for an eight month Postgraduate Certificate course in Advance Management of Water Resources. From February to August 1979, Engineer Magaji Abdullahi was at the National Institute of Public Management, Washington DC USA for a Certificate course in Financial Management and Budgetting. He attended the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, Plateau State from January to October 1988 and obtained the Certificate of Member National Institue (Mni).

Engineer Magaji Abdullahi was in the Public Service of Kano State for six months (April to September 1968) as an Assistant Accountant II at the Ministry of Finance after attending a three month course at the Staff Development Centre Kaduna. On graduating from the University in 1972,  he was employed by the Kano State Ministry of Works and Survey as a Pupil Engineer and worked at Hydrology, Materials and Soil Laboratory, Structural design at Tiga Dam site and Water Supply section among others till 1975 when he was promoted to Engineer I by the newly named Ministry of Works and Survey. He supervised the re-construction of the Kwakwachi bridge by direct labour and I remember the late ‘Maigida” once told me that he used the German model of building bridges during the second world war in the Kwakwachi bridge project. He also superintended the design of Gari dam penstock and the in-take structure and construction of Jakara and Thomas dams main canals among others.

Promoted Senior Engineer in 1976, he engineered the construction of Challawa gorge dam access road and the design of Kadawa irrigation scheme. Engineer Magaji Abdullahi became a Principal Engineer in 1977 and took charge of Kafin Chiri dam project, completed the construction of Warwarde dam and the reconstruction of Birnin Kudu dam after it failed in August 1977. He was engaged as Chief Construction Engineer in October 1977 by the Kano state owned Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency, WRECA.

For nearly two years (October 1977 to August 1979), Engineer Magaji was responsible for the execution of all projects undertaken by the agency including Tudun Wada gari, Watari, Magaga, Marashi and Guzuguzu dams in Kano state. Others were Tagwai and Kagara dams in Niger state and Oghedekpe dam in the old Bendel state (now Edo and Delta states). Others include all major Water supply projects and feeder roads throughout the old Kano state (now Kano and Jigawa states).

Engineer Magaji Adamu Abdullahi was the Managing Director of the agency (WRECA) for seven years (Sept. 1979 to Nov. 1986) where he held the position under two civilian (Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi and Aliyu Sabo Bakinzuwo) and Five Military Governors. He turned the agency to become the largest and most important state parastatal with more than 5,000 workers of various cadres and discipline. Under Engineer Magaji, WRECA was the cash cow of Kano state government and was responsible for the provision of water supply and other civil engineering works in the old Kano state. At that time scarcity of water supply (for domestic and industrial use) was a novelty to the people of Kano. This rare feat and the generosity of Engineer Magaji Abdullahi earned him the sobriquet ‘Ruwa Baba’ (Father who provides water) from his supporters when he later became a politician. Some of his political boys later borrowed the nickname and were addressed as such by their followers.

He was promoted Permanent Secretary in November 1986 and posted to Ministry of Works and Housing where served till January 1988 and when he returned from NIPSS in October 1988 he became  Director General at the newly formed Ministry of Works, Housing and Transport till February 1989 when he was appointed the Commissioner of the ministry. During his tenure, all abandoned projects were reactivated and completed including Karaye to Kiru to Kafin Mayaki (Kwanar Dangora) road (50km) and Rano to Sayasaya to Sumaila road (60km).

Other achievements of Magaji Abdullahi as Commissioner of Works, Housing and Transport from February 1989 to November 1990 include the completion of the abandoned Achilafiya to Batabata to Karkana road (30km), the Parliament building (the current Kano State House of Assembly adjacent to Kano State High Court Complex at Audu Bako Secretariat), the Nassarawa (now Muhammadu Abdullahi Wase Specialist) Hospital extention and the School of Nursing and Midwifery among others.

He also established the Kano State government owned Mass Transit Scheme known as Kano Line with an initial fleet of Forty buses and introduced the owner-occupier housing scheme for civil servants in particular and members of the public who were tenants at Kano State Housing Corporation Estates.

Engineer Magaji Abdullahi left the portfolio of Works, Housing and Transport Commissioner in November 1990 to become the pioneer Commissioner of Water Resources. During the five month he served in that capacity, he completed all pending major Water supply projects including Rimingado water scheme and the third Challawa Water treatment complex.

In his quest to further serve the society at any given situation and circumstance, Engineer Magaji Abdullahi warmed up himself and prepared for the challenges ahead with the emergence once more of a political wind when Nigerians were preparing for a democratic culture of governance in the early 1990s.

He resigned as the Kano State Commissioner for Water Resources on 1st April 1991 and joined the Social Democratic Party, SDP. From then, late Engineer Magaji Abdullahi held several political and elective posts and offices including Senator (Kano North) SDP from December 1992 to November 1993 (He was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on FCT), Member of the National Constitutional Conference in 1995, National Chairman of the National Centre Party of Nigeria, NCPN, from 1994 to 1997, Deputy Governor of Kano State under APP (later ANPP) from May 29 2003 to May 29 2007, a pioneer member and Gubernatorial candidate of the All Peoples Party, APP, in 1999, a pioneer member of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, (2010 to 2014) the All Progressives Congress, APC from 2014 till his death.

A staunch supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari, Engineer Magaji Abdullahi all along wished to become the Governor of Kano State and twice he contested in 1991 under SDP but “lost” to Architect Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya of the NRC and in 1999 he contested again as a candidate of the ANPP after defeating Kabiru Gaya in the party’s primary election but lost to his former staff at WRECA, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the PDP.

He contested in the Gubernatorial primary election of the ANPP when he was the deputy governor in 2007 against his boss the then Governor Ibrahim Shekarau. But half way into the primary election, Engineer Magaji Abdullahi who was not at the Sani Abacha stadium venue of the event, phoned his agents and directed them to walk out as he was reliably informed that his voters were intimidated. He later addressed a press conference and announced his formal withdrawal from the contest and described it as a sham. It was widely believed in Kano and beyond at that  time that the relationship between Governor Ibrahim Shekarau and his Deputy Magaji Abdullahi was everything but cordial. As the Press Secretary to the later, I am bold to say that it is not true though there were fifth columnists and political hangers-on around the duo who were feeding fat on rumor mongering. I suspend commenting on this issue for another day.

Since then late Magaji Abdullahi remained resolute and confident that with what remained of his supporters and the political popularity of his role model Muhammadu Buhari, he will one day have his ambition of becoming the Governor of Kano state fulfilled. In the APC in 2014 and 2015 Late Senator Magaji thought that with the backing of Muhammadu Buhari and the influence of his former staff, then Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who was on his second and final term in office, it will be an easy ride for him to the Africa House seat of government in Kano state. What happened is now history. But all close associates of Late Magaji Abdullahi know that of all his political travails, what pained him most and did not forget was the 1992 election he was said to have lost to Kabiru Gaya. He believed that both the election umpire, the election tribunal and the court of appeal robbed him, were unjust to him and denied him his victory.

With the victory of the APC in the 2015 general election, Senator Magaji Abdullahi was overconfident of becoming a Minister and when that hope was dashed, he was confidentially assured of an equally big position to head a cash cow and an economically sensitive parastatal of the federal government. Little did anyone know that the ultimate end for Senator Engineer Magaji Adamu Abdullahi was around the corner. He was serially sick in the last five years but the brave Senator acted the ‘Spartan Boy” especially during the APC nationwide campaigns and rallies. In 2014 he was robbed of his car and personal belongings (Phone sets and Cash) and those of the three other occupants of the 406 MODEL Peugeot car including the driver at around eight oclock in the evening along Kaduna to Kano ‘Expressway” when they returning from a visit to General Muhammadu Buhari. The robbers fled with their loot and drove on high speed on the smooth 50km Kafin Maiyaki (Kwanar Dangora) to Kiru to Karaye Magaji Abdullahi constructed when he was the Commissioner of Works between February 1989 to November 1990. The not “too bad” robbers later abandoned the Car, called a Bauchi based friend of Engineer Magaji whose phone number they saw on a Wedding Invitation card found in the car and informed him of their magnanimous decision based on what they discovered in the car about the personality of their victim. It is good to always be good.

Late Senator Magaji Abdullahi did not become the Governor of Kano State but it is hoped that he took solace in the fact that his former staff he trained, sent abroad together with many WRECA staff to further their education and groomed politically beginning from the SDP days, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was twice the Governor of Kano state. APC government did not appoint him Minister but his former staff he employed and trained at WRECA, Engineer Suleiman Adamu, is made the Minister of Water Resources.

Sadly, since when Engineer Magaji Abdullahi left WRECA in November 1986 and quit his position as the Water Resources Commissioner in April 1991, the issue of Water supply in Kano has become something else. With all the Water works and the multiple dams in the state, the pitiable situation of water supply in Kano reminds me of some lines from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ written in 1797 by the English poet, Samuel T. Coleridge where a Sailor on a becalmed ship is surrounded by salt water he cannot drink said “Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink’

As the Deputy Governor of Kano State (2003 to 2007) Engineer Magaji was actively involved in a campaign against desert project called Fight Against Desert Encroachment, FADE, founded by a Nigerian based Civil Engineer Chief Newton Jibunoh who crossed the Sahara Desert through Libya to Niger and transited in Kano in 1969 after his educational studies in Europe. He was a friend to the late Emir of Kano Ado Bayero who was a patron of the project. There was a yearly tree planting campaign which started at Makoda town in 2004 and the target was the planting of ten million trees in six years.

The project was funded personally by Engineer Jibunoh with the assistance of Kano State Government and the fatherly role of Emir Ado Bayero. Since late Engineer Magaji Abdullahi left office as Deputy Governor in 2007, FADE has faded.

A Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE) and Member of the National Institute (Mni), late Senator Magaji Abdullahi was honored with the 2005 award of ‘Innovation and Dignity of Labour in Water Resources Engineering and Management” by the Plateau State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR. Indeed Malvalio said in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that ‘In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

*Abdulkadir (Kwakwatawa), a veteran journalist, fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors was the Press Secretary of the late Deputy Governor and wrote from Kano. teeceexpee@yahoo.com


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