Column Opinion

An Agenda For National Rebirth (5)

By Hassan Gimba

Last week, we stated that “a leader creates and nurtures others to be leaders. He must possess a clear vision and focus, know what he wants for his country, and should be courageous enough to follow his dream. Apart from possessing integrity and honesty, a good leader has humility, is fair and just with the capacity for self-sacrifice and perseverance. A leader is one whose national interest subsumes his.” 

We also saw how the late prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, made his Private Secretary, who became Nigeria’s President in the Second Republic, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, refund to the federal government, from his salary, the cost of conveying the PM’s mother back home in the presidential jet. 

By that singular action, Shehu Shagari was taught never to use the presidential plane for anything other than what it was meant for because he had seen how his “oga” regarded the usage of such. 

We also saw how Sir Ahmadu Bello, the charismatic Sardaunan Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Region, was made to pay for the cost of flying a government aircraft to attend to personal needs by an assistant district officer. 

In the same material, we read how a body appointed by the late General Hassan Usman Katsina, the powerful military governor of Northern Nigeria, denied him a plot of land because, according to Dr Abubakar Imam, its general manager, they did not consider him qualified. After all, he was the governor. Imam told him that as the leader, he should be more interested in his subjects’ interests than his. “How sure are you that all citizens who wanted the plots got allocated before you applied?”, he asked him.

Dr Mahathir Mohammed risked his life for Malaysia when he refused to travel abroad for medical treatment in 1989, opting to be operated upon in Malaysia. He said, “as a doctor myself, I knew the risks. I knew there was a possibility that I might not survive the operation, as it was not a common procedure.” 

Yet he rejected his doctors’ recommendation for surgery in the US. “I had to have faith in our Malaysian doctors,” he said. “If I didn’t make an example of myself, no one else would have confidence in our medical service.” This led him to build world-class medical facilities in the then under-developed country. Now Malaysia is a medical tourist hub attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually. 

President John Magufuli of Tanzania died in office in March 2021. Dr Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), wrote in his condolence book: “I miss our discussions on your vision for Tanzania. In a brief time, you transformed Tanzania. You were bold. You were determined.” 

Magufuli became president at 55 under the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which in Swahili means “The Party of The Revolution”. CCM became the dominant ruling party in the country and the second longest-ruling party in Africa, after the True Whig Party of Liberia. 

Magufuli’s legacy is that he left Tanzania as the fastest industrialising country on the continent. Within his first five years in office, he sacked over 13 ministers and 19,000 civil servants for corrupt practices and inefficiency. Within the same period also, he built 96 district hospitals and over four hundred health centres. He connected over 90% of the country to the national electric grid from the 20% he met in 2015. Under President Magufuli, Tanzania, in collaboration with Egypt, is currently building the largest power dam in Africa at River Rufiji approximately 220 kilometres South-west of Dar es Salaam. The dam will generate 2GW of electricity when completed.

President Magufuli never left the continent of Africa, and only visited two African countries, Kenya and Rwanda. Apart from negotiating an oil pipeline project with Uganda that will earn his country billions of dollars in revenue for the next 30 years, he constructed the largest Children’s Cancer Center in the East African sub-region at Muhimbili, Dar es Salaam.

He reorganised and refurbished the nation’s educational institutions with the result that Dar es Salaam University currently has the largest library in East and Central Africa.

We had earlier seen how Sheikh Usman Danfodio had two lamps, one bought by the state and the other from his salary. After finishing state work with the state lamp at night, he blew it out and lit the personal one for his private work.

This reminds me of feeding and upkeep. There is nothing that irks more than for a country’s president to be fed with billions by the state while receiving stupendous salaries and allowances as well as other uncountable perks and privileges. If the government caters for his feeding and other domestic needs, who feeds the messenger, another government employee, or the councillor who was elected, as well?

Now, how do they do it in America from where we borrowed our current system of governance?

John Adams was the first president to move into the White House, partially unfinished then. Since there was no staff, he brought his own, obtained his food, drink, etc., but since then, despite staff being added to take care of the White House and the First Family, American presidents have kept paying for their food, drinks, toiletries, etc.

Official meals, such as state dinners, meals eaten during meetings and other such functions are paid for by the state, same for a business dinner or similar dining event, but for personal meals that take place in the executive residence, the president pays for the food himself.

Though the president and his family may not have to go down to the local grocery store, personal food items, toiletries, sundries, dry cleaning and other such things must be purchased and paid for by the first family. It is the same in Britain. The Daily Mail of 5 March 2021 published a story in which Downing Street revealed that Boris Johnson pays for all his family’s meals and drinks.

Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime, Email: agimbah01@gmail.com

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