A Note of Gratitude to Rt. Hon. Umar Imam

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“Let men see, let them know a real man, who lives as he was meant to live.”—Marcus Aurelius.

Rt. Hon. Umar Ahmed Imam the ‘Atona Osun’ (pathfinder), is the real man who is living as he is meant to live. A father, a gentleman, an achiever, a mentor, compassionate, empathetic being, amazing person, utterly committed to serving humanity without expecting praises or accolades.

I was actually blown away when it occurred to me that in such a small amount of time in Lokoja politics, Imam has achieved so much. A quintessential parliamentarian, a refined gentleman, lover of academics and healthy debate, a devoted family man and a leader.

Let me make some confessions: whenever I was in midst of friends I have never been oblivious to my background, what I underwent and how my life would have been without the intervention of this benevolent person. I must admit that, after I got admission things started to go haywire for me. As the third son in the family grappling to be on my feet, one must understand the frustrations of having brothers and sisters to take care of without bringing much burden on your parent while you were feeling the pinch!

Few people know the architect behind my success. Soaked in my thoughts about how dim the future would be, I received a glad tiding from Aliyu Yahaya early 2015, through him I got intimated with the former Speaker, Rt. Imam.

Interestingly, in a time when everyone is for himself and his family, the amiable Speaker was exceptional. He stood for me in every circumstance. I won’t forget when I was admited into Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto; the most peaceful university in Nigeria where he usually sent me money for an upkeep.

I quite found it appalling when critics of Hon Imam went on top of their voices to either deliberately misinterpret the facts for their political gains or to showcase their ignorance. How can you understand the man that your mind isn’t ready to? How can you ever see the good work of a person you declared your stark enemy?

It is imperative to have a spirit of discernment- be appreciative of the good done and be constructive in criticisms- in politics.

As Adlai Stevenson said: “I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them”.

I owe it as a duty to clear all the misconceptions propagated and infused to people. There was a time I visited him in his Speaker’s Lodge years back  during a semester break. When he asked why I don’t come and greet him, I told him it’s not funny without appointment. He looked at me smiling and said: “it’s your fault, had it been you are coming often the securities will know you as part of us”

If that’s not humility then I don’t know what it is. If that’s not leadership then I don’t know what it is and if that’s not fatherliness then I don’t know what it is.

How can you peddle lies on what you have no idea of? I am a proud product of Rt. Hon. Imam’s hospitality, generosity and sublimity. Quite a lot benefited from that. Just because they chose not to say it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Perhaps that’s their ways of appreciation.

It’s not everyday one come across gentlemen like the former Rt. Honorable speaker, that is differing things to different people. He’s a mentor to the youth, a voice for the voiceless and yes, hope to the hopeless. One only need to spend a little time with him to understand that his taciturnity is only a mask beneath which exist an aggressive zeal to leave behind indelible footprints where ever he set his foot.

It’s quite impressive how Rt. Hon. Imam juggle his personality to suit every moment or occasion. He could easily mingle with the downtrodden and the next minute, he will be up rubbing minds with the mighty and taking impacting decisions for millions of people. His simplicity is very natural. Whether in his office or at home, he is Umar Ahmed Imam and, one could always perceive a sense of embarrassment each time somebody address him with the traditional title of his office. He’s among the few VIPs I know who still waits for traffic warden’s signal or go about with lesser securities before they move. But for the insistence of his security details to obey rules and regulations, he would have done away with many of his office paraphernalia and protocols. The decision of members of the House to elect him as the then speaker is a testimony of their trust in his capacity and reliability. The story has been rosy since.

Imam’s meteoric rise over the last four years is a political success story that will enrich the libraries of scholars for decades to come. For rise of a dynasty is much less appealing political story than rise of an underdog who triumphed against heavy odds. Hon. Imam’s journey to the apex seat of the Speakership is full of miracles and clear fulfilment of destiny. And all of it pointed to a united progressive house who gave him all the support needed to excel.

While as a Speaker, the leadership of KSHA has provided just the atmosphere and harmony needed for good governance in a democratic setting. Thanks to the humility of Rt. Hon. Imam who, from day one, sees himself only as a first among equals in a practical sense and insisted on playing the game strictly by its rules. His insistence to ensure respectability and member equality created a House with zero tolerance for favouritism which, in turn, purged the House of envy and unnecessary competitions among members to gain the attention of the House leadership for possible undue favours. This created a proactive House always willing to carry out of it duties in accordance with statutory provisions while ensuring less friction with other arms of government. The enhanced symbiosis in governance in Kogi State is a clear testimony of Hon. Imam’s dexterity and excellent disposition to team work.

There are many important milestones in his life. The cumulative tend more to the positive. A life committed to the pursuit of the common good of all, irrespective of creed, region and ethnicity. He sees and treats everybody as human first. A social democrat whose religion is for the advancement and betterment of all peoples-he has influenced lots of government intervention and has personally intervened in the lots of his people.

Indeed, Imam is unusual. His understanding of life is evidenced in the fact that he places great premium on the nurturing of the spirit and excellence of the mind above mundane consideration or pursuits. Most importantly, he thrives in integrity and faith in God spiced with a burning desire to see the best for his people. That is the philosophy driving his involvement and engagement in politics.

Where most people who get elected into public offices are not leaders but mere politicians, Imam is a hybrid result of skillful crossing of leadership with politics. He’s a leader who is always willing to do what’s right even when it’s not easy but because in his best judgement it’s the right thing to do. He’s always willing to go an extra mile for his people without recourse to the political benefits involved.

In whatever way you look at the former Rt.Hon Speaker, you can’t dispute the fact that he is a leader who knows his onions. He is a practical demonstration of good leadership and how best to be a gentleman. It’s not accidental that he is an unrepentant Buharist. They say like minds attracts.

Just like President Buhari, his mentor, Imam is the type referred to in Nigeria’s political dictionary as “misfits” because of their uncontrollable desire to give politics some touch of morality to change its negative narrative.

Sadly, their types are endangered in an era and community of political populism like Lokoja. That, however, rather than dampen their spirits only bring the best out them. Very cerebral, scholarly and of intellectual bent, Imam is one political icon the social media can call its own.

His special preference for grassroots politics had him at the forefront of social media campaigns to oust the locust regime of PDP and replace it with what’s globally adjudged to be decent. And, don’t mistook his gentility for cowardice. He’s a fighter that takes no prisoners. Hon Babadoko and the rest PDP cyber-hawks could shed more light on this.

He is meticulous and known to be obsessed with only the finest data, statistics and empirical evidence in discharging his responsibilities whether official or personal. Very open minded and always susceptible to superior options. Actually he enjoys debating options as, according to him, doing so increase the mind in knowledge. It’s a common rule among his close aides and associates that, never go to him with a one way road to solution.

He is a firm believer in alternative routes. Whatever solution is on the table, be sure he will add his own or mix the two for a more enhanced solution. Such disposition may not be far from the reason why KSHA is a more a better house than he inherited. He is a team player and the best example of “first among equals”.

From a humble beginning he joined politics. The story of his struggles and his meteoric rise in politics is full of lessons to aspiring politicians. He started from scratch and rose through the ranks yet, his acumen and his impacting disposition at the helm is leaving indelible imprints without a fuss.

To students of political science, Imam’s character and public persona deserve public exposition if not to blow his trumpets, at least to learn from his virtues. People with the required skills could certainly help our political narrative by writing a book about IMAM.

Assuredly you cannot write the history of politics and governance in Kogi  State reference to the “New Direction” without devoting generous space to Imam. The content would however be largely dependent on the writer and the knowledge of the man.Whoever and whenever it is written, let it be on record that you may disagree with his approach but you cannot fault his intentions and the positivity he added to governance in the state by the non-confrontational and result-yielding style he adopted.

His patience even when obviously miffed or livid is the missing maturity lacking in many politicians. His constant references to scriptures from the Holy Qur’an and Teachings of our beloved prophet – pointed to a feisty individual guided by absolute faith and belief in a Supreme Being, Allah SWT.

To his credit, his constituency, Lokoja I, benefited from many life-touching programmes and project he initiated – some from his pocket and others he influenced through his position all in an effort to better the lives of his people. His hands are always full, from health, education, to youth and women empowerment, his contributions couldn’t be missed.

Hon. Imam is so humble and highly principled, A clear testimony of his merit based leadership. He is bold, fearless and courageous enough to defend his actions at any level. He is a perfect example of the conductor of the orchestra who must turn his back to the crowd whilst encouraging them to perform to the dictate of the game. The way he tighten the noose of the KSHA coffers and his prudent way of executing its mandate is exemplary.
Fastidious, time conscious and a free mixer, it beats one hallow how he joggles his time to meet his diverse responsibilities with ease. Despite his achievements, he remains calm, unassuming and this has made him a reservoir of good treasure and a fountain of goodwill. He is an exemplary leader and I take great pride in him and his actions. Keep up the good works sir and be assured of our continued best wishes.

That destiny is once again knocking on his door, is a mixture of sadness and happiness. The sadness path is that Lokoja | constituency and Kogi  State is going to miss his direct participation in its affairs and the happiness is that he’s answering a higher call which will hone his skills and capacity for a much higher call in the future Insha Allah!

– Abbas Yahaya writes from Sokoto

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