Robert Mankoff said that, as a cartoonist, he didn’t become a regular contributor to the New Yorker until he did an analysis of all the published cartoons in the magazine and realized that all the published ones
were the ones that made you think.
Abdulkareen Baba Aminu, the editor of Daily Trust on Saturday, does this well. His cartoon on the back page of last Saturday’s edition was the first positive spin I read on the appointment of Hadiza Bala Usman as the new managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority. (Uba Sani, Governor el-Rufai’s Special Adviser on politics and Hadiza’s colleague, has written another insightful piece since.) In the cartoon, someone telephoned the president saying: “Hello Mr. President. Sir, there’s a short bespectacled fellow outside the Aso Villa gates demanding to see you. He’s holding a large placard that says #BRINGBACK OUR CHIEF OF STAFF.”
This way, the cartoon shows that HadizaBala Usman’s appointment as the MD of NPA leaves a huge vacuum in Kaduna State; in other words, rather than being a lightweight appointee or a pretender, she is actually missed in her state. A phone conversation with Bashir Dabo, one of Gov. el-Rufai’s aides, confirmed that she was indeed missed.
Before the cartoon, I asked my wife, another Hadiza, if she could tell me why people were against her appointment. She said she couldn’t because all the reasons advanced against it, didn’t make sense to her. “Thank you,” I said, “I thought I was alone in thinking that!”
One of the reasons mentioned is the fact that she’s worked most of her adult life with el-Rufai. Viewed from this angle, those against the appointment may think that she’s not ripe enough or independent enough to helm an agency as big as the Nigerian Ports Authority. Muhammad Auta, my friend from Taraba State, and a faithful follower of this column, wrote in a letter to the editor in the Daily Trust of penultimate Friday: “She’s a square peg in a round hole.”
Others frown at this appointment because she’s a woman or because, they argue, all the Federal Government’s appointments from Kaduna State are of women.
While others have seen the development differently; they contend that there is nothing wrong with appointing a woman and at 40 years, she is old enough to be so appointed. If anything, they argue, her youth should be an advantage.
This author is more favorably disposed to the idea that being tutored and mentored by el-Rufai actually advantages the person so mentored. I agree with Gimba Kakanda, who told me that he preferred to work with a great leader that would inspire him to greatness himself. And many Nigerians would tell you that wherever el-Rufai has worked, he leaves behind such inspiring comment as “we’ve never seen anything like this, not before him or since.” Although one would concede that working with one man could be monotonous or boring, except that el-Rufai is anything but boring. So who better to train our future leaders?
Therefore, I see this appointment as one of the best – probably the best – appointment made so far by President Muhammadu Buhari. Consider for example a coin, or a pie chart with four segments. Call them the quadrants of experience: politics, activism, international experience and public service. Hadiza has compressed her 16 years of work experience to populate all of the quadrants. A complete package is a phrase you hear often, but this is one of the few times that it is actually merited.
In politics, she was a member of APC Strategy Committee which defined the policy thrust of the party and then developed the party manifesto. She also served as the secretary of the APC National Elections Planning Committee. The committee formulated and organized the party’s election winning strategies. Again, she was the Administrative Secretary of the APC Presidential Campaign. And finally as a member of the Presidential Inauguration Planning Committee representing the in-coming administration of President Buhari from April to May 2015.
Her public service record also shows that this is not the first time President Buhari is appointing her. In September 2015, the president chose her to serve as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption. An appointment that made her worthy of sitting together with respected members like Professor ItseSagay.
In July 2015, she was appointed as the Chief of Staff to the Kaduna State Governor, a position she held before the current appointment. These appointments occupy her public service quadrant. Her appointment by the UNDP (as assistant to the FCT minister on project implementation) and her education in the United Kingdom give her the international experience and the broad-brimmed perception that comes with it.
The #BringBackOurGirls campaign she co-founded in April 2014, to my reckoning,isthe flagship of her achievements; as three women in particular, namely Oby Ezekwesili, Aisha Yusuf and HadizaBala herself pulled together their drive and resilience to recruit people from all over the world – including Mrs Obama – to participate in their struggle to get back Chibok school girls seized by Boko Haram. Also, her position as director of strategy of Good Governance Group another non-Governmental Organization, completes her profile in the sector.
Even some international institutions have validated what I’ve just written. Financial Times [FT] named her as one of the most influential women of 2014. She was also included in the CNN’s most inspiring women of 2014. Ebony Magazine counted her among the 2014 100 most influential black women in the world.
The good thing about Hadiza Bala Usman’s appointment is that, at 40, she not only the leader of today. God willing, she will be here tomorrow too, when all these old people are gone.
Although the president should have made the appointment more palatable by announcing at the same time, all the political appointments in NPA, this way, all the zones of the country would have been represented and would have reduced the discontent of those saying that most positions are going to northerners.
In sum, when I told one of my mentors, Dr. Musa A. Ibrahim, that I was going to write a column on Hadiza, he said, “stop defending good people. Their competence is enough to prove people wrong.” So Hadiza, prove them wrong.