By Dirisu Yakubu
Oga, I have been doing this airport taxi business in Yola for 10 years, and I have never seen as many as 27 aircraft parked at the tarmac in one day,” said Musa, a car hire driver at the Yola airport. “Seriously speaking,” he continued, “I have never seen one man attract such a huge number of people, including oyibo and Nigerians, to Yola at the same time. I have never made the kind of money I have made in the past five days.”
Musa, a graduate of Sociology who failed to secure a white collar job after graduating from university, was referring to the November 22 to November 26 period during which former Vice President and PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, marked the Founder’s Day of the American University of Nigeria, established by him and his turbaning as the seventh Waziri of Adamawa.
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With the arrival of heavy-duty personalities and political bigwigs like former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, PDP Vice Presidential candidate Peter Obi and many business moguls coupled with the fact that the Waziri Adamawa is also the Presidential candidate of the PDP, it was clear that Yola was in for a big deal.
“My wife runs a joint. She closed late on each of those days and has been excited with the kind of money she has made. I have never seen one man attract so many important people at the same time,” Musa said. The fish market in Yola also had its fair share of the good times as visitors who heard about the outstanding quality of Adamawa dried fish made bulk purchases.
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Many prospective airline passengers had to resort to travelling by road because all the airlines that ply the Yola route from Abuja and Lagos were fully booked for the entire period of the ceremonies. “We had to divert buses meant for other destinations to Abuja just to cope with the flow of passengers to Yola,” said a driver at the Sunshine Garage, owned by the Adamawa State government. “See, there are no more vehicles in this place because of the increase in the number of passengers. This is more than what we experience during festive seasons.”
Musa also described how he assisted a number of his passengers to overcome the accommodation crises during those days when all the hotels in Yola were fully booked, by arranging accommodation for them in private apartments.
The rumour has spread around town that this kind of hosting will continue if Atiku becomes president, according to him, and he believes that this is enough reason for everyone in Adamawa State to vote for Atiku in February 2019.
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Musa added that his brother, who was a junior policeman, resigned to take on a job as a security man at the AUN, where he is paid N180,000 per month, an amount that is on a par with what some bankers earn in Lagos and Abuja.
The security job also offers world class training, and better equipment than that of many Nigerian policemen standing at checkpoints at major cities. Musa’s brother is just one of thousands of Adamawa indigenes who have benefitted from Atiku’s investments in the state, he noted. “If he decides to close all his businesses for six months, so many people will suffer untold hardship. Anybody who says Atiku will not be President should go and hang himself,” he said.
Students at the American University of Nigeria also had a lot to say about their hopes for an Atiku presidency. Ikechukwu, a freshman at the school and an indigene of South-East Nigeria, described his fascination at the structure and organisation of the school, established in the middle of the capital city of Adamawa.
“From what he has established in the capital city, Atiku has the capacity to rule Nigeria,” said Ikechukwu, a student of business administration. “AUN is both a mini-Nigeria and an international institution because the school goes for the best in terms of student recruitment and employment. Once you are good, you are engaged, irrespective of where you come from or the religion you practice.”
Ikechukwu’s testimony was confirmed on the school’s Founder’s Day, when different categories of staff were rewarded for their hard work and dedication to duty. The recipients were AUN staff from all parts of the country, with indigenes from the north, south, east and west represented.
“At the AUN, teaching entrepreneurship is a must for all students and that is one of the things that stand this school out,” Ikechukwu added. “It takes a man like Atiku who thinks outside the box for such a feat to be achieved in an institution of higher learning in Nigeria.”
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For AUN staff who are non-indigenes, Atiku has made Yola a second home for them judging by the facilities available at both the institution and the staff quarters. “In fact I have visited my home town only five times in seven years,” said a staff from a state in south-south Nigeria. “When I got this job, my people were worried because of the high temperature level of Yola and the security situation in the northeast but after one year, they discovered that I have settled down. Now, they visit regularly’,” she said.
Jimi Akanni, an administrative staff, described Atiku as a detribalized Nigerian who has proven that people can live and work in any part of the country and that people can seek knowledge in any part of the world.
“There are so many foreign students here,” he said. “He had the option of locating AUN in Abuja, Lagos or Port-Harcourt but he chose to build this university in Yola and the result is that the Adamawa state capital has been transformed from a sleepy town to a buzzing city. His business sense and the calculated business risks he takes are second to none.”
Atiku’s investments in various sectors in Adamawa and other parts of Nigeria include: media, education, agriculture, logistics, banking, food and beverages, medical, manufacturing, among others.
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He is regarded as the largest employer of labour in Rivers State, after the state government. To mourn scores of soldiers killed in Metele, Borno State on the 18th of November, Atiku issued a statement in the media, enjoining his family, friends and associates from placing congratulatory messages for him in the media on his birthday, calling on them to instead channel such funds to the less privileged and to charity.