Sayonara Salihijo Ahmad, By Babayola Muhammadu Toungo




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“…Although we loved him dearly,

He could not make him stay.

A golden heart stopped beating,

Hard working hands to rest.

God broke our hearts to prove to us

He only takes ‘The Best’.” 

Anonymous

Eighteen years ago today we lost one of our greatest teachers and mentors, the late Salihijo Ahmad.  The new political dispensation was barely a month into its takeoff when SA left us and since then many still find it difficult to believe he is gone for good.  He was larger than life and so most of us thought he will be there forever.  Alhamdulillah, he lived a fulfilled live and mentored a lot of us but unfortunately many amongst us failed him.  He taught me everything I know in life and made me a better Nigerian.

SA was an epitome of planning and meticulousness as can be attested by his last major assignment – Management Consultant to the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) then headed by General Muhammadu Buhari, current president.  The PTF still remains the benchmark for project planning and execution despite the numerous efforts of many to discredit its unparalleled achievements in terms of timely and efficient project delivery.  The way the PTF operated earned General Buhari tremendous respect, which he is still reaping.  But where is the Afri-Projects Consortium (APC) alumnus?  General Buhari is today the president of Nigeria but we failed to see a replication of the PTF success story in the way the country is run now

with the former PTF Chairman is running the show.  Could the absence of SA among the team be responsible for the start – stop nature of this administration?  With SA on board, I know we would have had a different style of governance and the results would have started manifesting.

If SA were alive, I don’t believe the government will look this impotent in the face of assaults on its authority from ethnicists and religious bigots.  We are witnessing hypocritical leadership and we do not seem to care a hoot.  While the Igbo leadership are laying the red carpet for Nnamdi Kanu, those of the north are calling for the arrest of some youth who urged the Igbos to leave the north in a move that I think will only hasten the realisation of their dream Eldorado republic.  I failed to fathom the brouhaha that followed the ultimatum issued by the youth since it only affirmed what the Igbos wanted.  I would have loved to know how SA will have reacted to this but I don’t want to second-guess him in public.

SA was spared witnessing the various human carnage we experienced under this civilian dispensation unfortunately we lived through it beginning with the Kaduna riots to the Mambilla massacre.  Through it all, the narratives were as determined by the villains.  In his wisdom even at that time, he incorporated a media consortium – Blueprints Consortium – made up of a subscription-only Newsletter, a weekly, a daily, a magazine and a Radio station.  It was to have given another view and dimension to public discourse and broaden the minds and perceptions of many.  He went to the extent of bringing in Charles Sharp, the man credited with the establishment of the New Nigerian newspapers to do a technical report on the establishment of the media consortium.  SA only saw a preview edition of the Newsletter before his death.  We failed him and failed him woefully by not continuing this laudable endeavour of his.  At least Sam Nda-Isaiah took the concept and made it work.  Had Blueprints Consortium came to fruition, the narratives would have been different I am sure. We would have had an avenue of putting forth a counter narrative with facts and figures

The level of decay in governance, the high level of corruption and impunity, the brazen robbery committed on Nigerians in the name of Privatisation and all other sundry issues are things SA didn’t see or experienced.  Today, with the Privatisation of the power sector, Nigeria has been taken back to the dark ages.  We hardly get electricity for three hours.All this is happening when his hero is on the saddle.  I would have given anything to know how he would have reacted and his thoughts on the current situation.

He was a man who was the proverbial knight in a shining amour to many of us; he taught you how to fish and made sure you know how to fish.  He led many out of darkness into light.  His satisfaction was in knowing he served.  He had a diverse constituency – the retired schoolteacher who still lives in a rented house despite giving thirty-five of his prime years to those who confined him to his condition; the lady who had to go to the farm before her family could feed.  SA’s masters were the widows, the poor, the less privileged; the anonymous barber in Mayo-Belwa; the retired teacher in Bole; the forgotten classmate in Gorobi.  The unselected and uncelebrated.  In short, the wretched of the earth.

SA was one of those people the sane world will never forget.  Because of his kindness, his gentleness, his concern about others and his care.  That was who he was.  A workaholic to the core – he was happiest whenever he was busy in the service of others.  Always quick to lend a helping hand.

SA’s desire was to serve and serve he did.  His vision, his courage and his strength came from his spirit.  Living his vision and providing service to mankind was achievement and fulfillment.  He never rested for a day in his quest for perfection in his desire to serve.  I pray he is resting in peace

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