• Even in death, his kinsmen treated him with disdain
From ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Kaduna
The late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa made history as the first minority, from a larger minority in the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District, to emerge governor of Kaduna State. He also made history as the first Christian to govern the state, just as he made history as the first governor in the history of the state to die while in office.
Interestingly too, Yakowa’s exit also gave way for another history to be made in the state, as his successor, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, became the first governor to emerge from the four walls of the original Zaria city enclave of the state. And in quick succession, the state became the first in Nigeria’s history to produce two Aminas as First Lady within a space of two years. Vice President Sambo’s wife bears Amina, so also is Yakowa’s wife. But neither of the two completed her tenure as first lady.
But beyond the new happenings in the state, Yakowa’s death, Daily Sun gathered, further exposed some of the Southern people as a group divided by selfish and individualistic tendencies. When Yakowa was elevated in 2010 to the position of governor, following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, which saw the then governor, Namadi Sambo, elevated to the position of vice president, many of the Southern Kaduna people openly confessed that they wished it was someone else and not Yakowa that would be a beneficiary of that accident of history.
In fact, during the build up to the 2011 election, some of them toyed with the idea of replacing Yakowa with a former lawmaker from the zone. But those making the move had to retrace their steps when it dawned on them that others might seize the opportunity to bring in another Muslim to run for the governorship. And when eventually Yakowa died, nothing in Southern Kaduna showed that they lost a great man.
Instead, a few of his aides from the area were plotting how they would be relevant politically again in the post-Yakowa era. Thus, barely a day after Yakowa’s death, they approached a section of the media to say that Yakowa’s widow had been endorsed by the elders in the zone to be the deputy governor.
The thinking was that if the group succeeded, it would have plotted its way back to government through her. But the leader of the elders mentioned in the said report, General Zamani Lekwot, came out to say that nothing like that happened.
Unknown to this group of people, Yakowa’s widow had told the husband, long before he died, that by 2015, he was on his own, as she would prefer they retired quietly to their home. Once the group realised its kite had failed to fly, it came up with other antics, limiting the choice of who should be picked as deputy governor to three persons. And expectedly, the list included the name of those playing politics with Yakowa’s name.
But this group, desperate for political survival, failed to play any role in the burial of Yakowa at Fadan Kagoma, where the remains of the late governor were laid to rest on Thursday, December 20, 2012. At the burial, outsiders were far more in number than the mourners from Southern Kaduna. Elsewhere, the whole town would have shut down in honour of the person of Yakowa’s calibre.
At the funeral, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, the Bishop of Sokoto, delivered the sermon. And he went down the memory lane on how the area suffered marginalisation. He was, however, quick to add that Yakowa’s coming broke that jinx and as such his brief stay as governor of Kaduna State, has given the people of the area some form of hope that after all, they could also get there.
While lampooning those he said manipulated religion for selfish gains in their course of governing the state, Kukah advised the new governor not to tread that path. He told the governor that he should “never be seduced by the whispers of the wicked whose devilish and selfish hold on power has held our society down,” adding that Yero, the new governor, should not be “tempted to think that Muslims have taken over what some wicked people believe was the prize that only belonged to them.”
He called on the governor to always obey what he (Kukah) called the “traffic signs, so that we can arrive at our destination. Balancing our dreams together can make us one of the biggest states in Nigeria,” he added. Once done with the sermon, prayers were said for the repose of Yakowa’s soul after which the Catholic’s Holy Communion was administered. Once that was over, the floodgates of tributes opened, with Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of the Kafanchan Catholic diocese, taking the lead.
Bagobiri, Daily Sun learnt, is Yakowa’s cousin. He described the late Yakowa as the “Moses of Southern Kaduna”, who took his people out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea but could not take them to the Promised Land before he was snatched by death. His tribute was closely followed by that of Yakowa’s only son, Jatau.
He described his father as a “bridge builder”, who united the country even in death. He said the father’s life while on earth was a confirmation of the fact that good men could make it in life, adding that his father “came, saw and conquered.” For Yakowa’s widow, Amina, after thanking all those who graced the occasion, she urged them, particularly the other first ladies, to keep to their words of sustaining the relationship existing between them and the family. Once it was the turn of the Chief Servant of Niger State, Governor Babangida Aliyu, he said “Yakowa and I shared a lot of things in common.
In 1990, we both transferred our services to the federal government and we were in Monaco together when I got a call that we had been appointed Permanent Secretaries in 1999. “As governors, Yakowa called me on a weekly basis and our relationship went beyond the call of duty. In 2010, when he was being sworn in as governor, Yakowa promised to be governor for all and not a Christian governor.
The crowd that gathered here today is a testimony that Yakowa lived up to that promise.” On his part, the new governor, Yero, also promised to be a governor for all, saying that “nobody will be discriminated against on the basis of his faith or tribe. He also promised to give his all “to the family of our departed governor,” saying that as long as he remained the governor of Kaduna state, he would do everything possible to enhance their personal welfare.
President Jonathan on his part, described death as inevitable, even as he warned Nigerian leaders to watch their tongues, insisting that what they say in the open must tally with what they do behind the doors. Like others before him, he also prayed for the repose of the dead. The President’s speech brought to an end the speeches on the occasion.
And by exactly 4.05pm, Thursday, December 20, exactly 19 days after his 64th birthday, Yakowa’s remains were lowered inside the grave, never to be seen on this earth again. Among the dignitaries who traveled to Fadan Kagoma to pay their last respect to late Yakowa were President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian President, former Head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who appointed Yakowa minister, President of the Senate, Senator David Mark and Speaker, House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal. Also there were Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, former Kaduna governor, who Yakowa first served as SSG and later as deputy governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum and governor of Rivers state, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, the Chief Servant of Niger State and chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State, Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, as well as the deputy governors of Kwara, Borno ,Yobe, Adamawa and Nasarawa states.
Also, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, PDP national chairman, three of his predecessors, Chief Solomon Lar, Dr Ahmadu Ali and Chief Audu Ogbe, several ministers, including Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, were among prominent Nigerians that bid Yakowa a final farewell.