“We are tomorrow’s past” Mary Webb.
How do you write, in a few hundred words, about the life and achievements of a man whose character and destiny were shaped by remarkable humility, faith and a hefty push from God? The answer is you don’t. You could sketch landmarks and turning points, and paint a general picture that should do justice to facts and history. But it is even more difficult to do this if you the man is related to you, in some ways.
Patrick Yakowa has been my friend for 25 years, since the day we were sworn-in by Colonel Dangiwa Umar (Rtd) as Permanent Secretaries in the Government of Kaduna State in 1987. We bunked together in a government guest house for four months while our houses were being renovated. The four of us, Yakowa, Mr Barnabas Pikawi, Mr Tanko Tete, (now Chief of Kaninkon in Jemaa Local Government Area) and I, bonded under a challenging atmosphere in which we were trusted with so much responsibility in a state that was beginning to show all the promises of becoming the nations religiou’s battlefield. When Dangiwa Umar alerted the nation that it catches cold whenever Kaduna sneezed, we knew what he meant. We were part of a virile civil service that still operated largely within the traditions of the civil service of old, and we knew that Kaduna State held the key to the future of the nation.
Since then, our paths parted and crossed many times. Patrick and Bulus James, who was our senior in the hierarchy of Permanent Secretaries were the only ones who declined to convert to Directors-General from Permanent Secretaries, or revert back to positions of Directors, as demanded by decree 43 of 1988. He left the state civil service and joined the federal civil service, with much encouragement from the late Wazirin Jamaa, Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed. It proved to be a decision that was to give him a new lease of life in the federal service. Patient, intelligent and hardworking, he made the rounds in Department and Ministries. By the time I joined him in the federal civil service in 1992, he was a full Director. He and I were to work again in Kaduna State, he as Commissioner for Commerce and I as Special Advisor on Parastatals under Colonel Lawal Jafaru Isa. I left after a year because I had no place in that administration, and returned to my federal civil service position. He stayed on as Commissioner until the end of Col. Isa’s administration, serving, as usual, with distinction. He was posted to the Ministry of Defence, Lagos as Director, Joint Services Department (JSD), while I was recalled back to Kaduna to serve as Secretary to Government of Kaduna State (SSG) under Colonel. Hameed I. Ali.
In 1998, while still a Director, Alhaji Gidado Idris, GCON somehow convinced General Abdullasalami Abubakar to appoint him a Minister, and he was assigned to the new Ministry of Solid Minerals. That rare feat, to have a civil servant in his career appointed a Minister, put Patrick squarely in the limelight, but he held his own, making major strides towards giving that Ministry which had so much potential to transform the non-oil extractive industry and benefit the north in particular, a solid foundation. At the end of Col. H. I Ali’s administration, I resumed my federal service career, and was assigned to take over the Department which Patrick had left to become a Minister, J.S.D in the Ministry of Defence. I therefore succeeded him directly.
In 1999 General Abdussalami appointed 16 new Permanent Secretaries. Again Patrick and I were in the list, the only two from one state. Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu, now Chief Servant and Governor of Niger State was on the list as well, and he christened us the sweet sixteen, partly owing to the our relatively younger age as Federal Permanent Secretaries, and partly, I think because we had beautiful and intelligent people like Amal Pepple in the group. Patrick was still serving as Minister, and I remember pleading with him many times to relinquish the Ministerial appointment and take up his more secure position as Permanent Secretary before the military handed over. I worried that civilians are not going to be well-disposed towards a Permanent Secretary who ceased to be a Minister today and becomes a Permanent Secretary the next day. Somehow, in spite of his promises to do so, he did not.
One of the first acts of President Obasanjo in office in 1999 was to suspend all appointments, contracts and awards made by the Abdussalami administration pending review. That included all appointments of new Permanent Secretaries, but this was later reviewed to include all serving Permanent Secretaries. All of us were directed to submit to a “re-orientation” programme, at the end of which many were retired. Patrick was one of them, and without doubt, his record as a civil servant Minister must have counted against him.
For the first time in his life, he was in the job market, but not for long. He served with the National Economic Intelligence Committee until 2003 when Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi appointed him Secretary to State Government (SSG). From that point on, it would appear that fate and divine hands took firmer control of his life. It is not easy to serve as SSG in a democratic setting. You run into too many obstacles, and your job tends to be nibbled constantly by a opportunists and appointees with little to do. But he did well enough to retain the confidence of the Governor to be appointed Deputy Governor when Shekari died. For this, the Governor must have felt that he satisfied the key requirements for a Deputy Governor: transparent loyalty, absence of an overt political ambition and lots of patience. A technocrat to the hilt, he stayed in his own corner, and must have endured the inherent frustrations of all Deputy Governors better than most of his colleagues because Makarfi was able to transfer him intact to the new Governor, Namadi Sambo. Death played a role in his elevation, but his patience and forebearance allowed him to retain his position.
Death again had a say in his next move. The elevation of Goodluck Jonathan as President, and the consequent move of Namadi Sambo to Abuja as Vice President made Patrick a Governor. Serving the rest of Namadi Sambo’s term was not really a challenge. The real challenge was to win his own election, and it was in the run-up and preparations to the gubernatorial elections that I saw how much our political process can suck in even the best among us into its murky and destructive waters. A man of peace who hated stepping on toes, Patrick’s contest for his own term as Governor, an event that could prove that southern Kaduna people can have their own in Kashim Ibrahim House, not by accident, but by right, was bitter, divisive and extremely damaging. The elections elevated religion and region as decisive factors more than any other time; and the riots which followed the announcement of results, at least in Kaduna had much to do with the combustion which was bound to follow the dangerous pandering to faith and other primordial sentiments in the campaigns. The uncanny similarities between the political paths of Jonathan and Yakowa were noted by many people, and this may explain the close rapport which existed between them.
From day one, Yakowa governed a massively polarized state, although he wanted to unite the people and run an all-inclusive administration. Constantly on edge, major conflicts took place around the elections, during the subsidy removal protests, after church bombings and on a number of occasions. He alienated the few Muslims who thought he could be firm and decisive by the tragically-slow response to the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in Zonkwa. He alienated christians who thought he favored Muslims in Jemaa by “protecting” them during conflicts; or by not protecting villagers in Zonkon Kataf and Kaura and Birnin Gwari LGAs from marauding murderers. In spite of unprecedented visible evidence of southern Kaduna indigenes in top positions, “his” people felt he had done too little for them. Substantial part of the population in the northern part which expected little from him anyway moved further away from his administration, and his sole anchor remained the Emir of Zazzau, with whom he had maintained a life-long respectful relationship.
The frontline status of Kaduna State in the fight for supremacy between religions in the north was compounded by the incursion of the JASLIWAJ (a.k.a. Boko Haram) insurgency. A governor who had all the experience and credentials to make a major difference in the economy of the state found himself literary fighting against its collapse between stopping fights, paying for security and looking around for support which did not exist. The state’s economy shrunk; businesses relocated, new investment dried up; motorists to or through Kaduna phoned in advance to make sure routes are safe; communities became more segregated along religion and sect, and politics became more bitter. The last hurrah, involving the claim that PDP won all but 1 of the 23 Local Government Chairmanship seats in the state showed clearly that PDP hawks are firmly in control of the Yakowa administration, and the 2015 elections will be a very bitter fight. He fought on many fronts, including many attempts to pitch him against Vice President Namadi Sambo, and against many parochial interests.
But for Patrick, all that is now in the past. History will note Patrick as a good man who had no trace of malice in his character. He was, in fact, ill-suited for the type of politics we play in this country, but once he was in it, he gave it his best. The hand of God which was so prominent in his life is again evident in the manner of his death. His life, Amina, and family will take comfort from being part of the life of a man who just wanted to do good. In the context of what we have become as nation, this saying a lot for any man.