Where these three individuals are after their meritorious service to their fatherland has been a subject of discourse lately; ELEOJO IDACHABA wonders in this piece.
Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji
Alhaji Alhaji, as he is popularly called, is a one-time minister of finance who took over from Chief Olu Falae during the administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. According to available records, he was christened Alhaji Alhaji because he was born on a Sallah day. However, in an interview, he rather said, “My father’s name is Alhaji Dogon Daji. He was the son of the district head of Dogon Daji and he was Alhaji Alhaji Dogon Daji. That was how I took Alhaji and the triple A. The Queen could not call me Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, so she nicknamed me Triple A and everybody started to call me that.”
This former minister who is in his 80s is currently the Sardauna of Sokoto. He had his entire public service career in the Federal Civil Service which began in 1964 at the Federal Ministry of Finance as an assistant secretary. He later got posted at various times to the Ministries of Industries, Trade, Budget and Planning, among others. At the end of the day, he climbed up the ladder to the position of a permanent secretary which is the pinnacle of the civil service career.
According to Blueprint editorial about this man, “Alhaji is such a man propelled into fame by a sequence of unpredictable events with an impact so profound that can rightly be considered providential.
“Unassuming and without guile, never having aspired to national office, he is not consumed by any driving aspiration. The Sardauna of Sokoto is endowed with the virtues of the full-blooded prince: sincerity, positivity, serenity, persona and integrity. He is not a man of many maudlin and egotistical words; he always speaks of substantive matters.
“For more than three decades of his service to his fatherland, he rose through cadres to the positions of government holding key offices and portfolios. He was a model in the public service, ranking in the memory of those that witnessed their generations who have devoted their lives to the ideals of the country. He was a Parker technocrat with dispositions that enabled him to stand for his country without losing sight of the larger interests of the nation. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, he knew that simplicity and concentration produce lucidity and decision. Among his notable deeds under his leadership were strengthening supervision of banks, private sector participation (liberalisation) of the economy and establishment of regulatory agencies. He was involved in managing Nigeria’s relationship with its external creditors and on the Nigerian negotiating team for the Lome II Agreement and signing on behalf of Nigeria’s IMF loan request from the Republic of Ireland in 1974. Perhaps, this was Alhaji Alhaji’s few roles in his era for the betterment of Nigeria.”
In the mid-1990s, he was Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Not much has been heard about this former minister in the recent past.
Salaudeen Adebola Latinwo is a retired Group Captain in the Nigerian Air Force and a former military governor of Kwara state under Gen Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State in 1984 to 1985; his stewardship in Kwara preceeded that of Cornelius Adebayo. Latinwo was part of the pioneering sets of officer cadets recruited into the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in 1963 under the first Chief of Air Staff, Colonel Gerhard Kahtz, who was on secondment as Head of the German Air Force Assistance Group when Nigerian Air force was formally established in 1964. Before this time, precisely in 1963, then Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, hand-picked Latinwo from the Northern Nigeria Ministry of Education and other youths for training in Germany with a view to forming the nucleus of the Nigerian Air Force.
Prior to being posted to Ilorin as military governor, he had performed military duties. For instance, from 1963 to 1966, he attended basic and advanced military training in Uetersen, Western Germany, where he trained as an Air Force Officer in Air Navigation. Upon arrival, he was appointed adjutant, Kaduna Air Force Base and Assistant Base Commander (NAF base) Kano and later as Deputy Base Commander, NAF, Benin City. In 1972, he attended a six-month conversion training on Ilyushin Il-28 fighter-bomber aircraft in Cairo, Egypt, and also attended the Fokker F-27 Aircraft Management Course in Amsterdam, the Netherlands therefore he earned his rank as Captain in 1972. These are beside other training in the UK, US and Command and Staff College in Nigeria at different times.
In 1984 as Group Captain, he was appointed by Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as the Military governor of Kwara state, a position he held until August 1985. When IBB took power in 1985, Latinwo was appointed as the director of the Directorate of Administration at the Nigerian Air Force Headquarters, Lagos, until he retired in 1986.
During Maj.-Gen. Buhari’s official visit to Kwara in 1985, he said of Latinwo, “I wish to say that the state government under the able leadership of the Kwara state Military governor, Group Captain Salaudeen Adebola Latinwo has done a lot to better the lots of the masses throughout Kwara state. His actions have instilled discipline and increased people’s confidence in his administration.”
In 2001, former President Olusegun Obasanjo approved the composition of the boards of federal government parastatals and appointed him as a board member of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). Again, in 2008, he was appointed by late President Umaru Yar’Adua as chairman for Kwara state at the National Committee on Mineral Resources and Environmental Compliance (MIREMCO). Since then, the question has been where this former Air Force chief could be.
Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka was a diplomat whose working career in the service of the country began way back in 1958 during the colonial rule in the office of Sir James Robertson who was the last governor general of Nigeria. He remained in Foreign Service up till 1999 when he held his last known public office as minister of foreign affairs during the one-year regime of Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar.
During his public service life, Olisemeka was ambassador to nine countries, including the two holiest nations in Christendom, one of which is The Vatican and the other one is Israel. In all these, he served for nearly six years and became Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps. In 1984, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari appointed him on merit as Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States where he brought a lot of cleansing especially to the embassy staff by cutting down their flamboyant lifestyle so as to conform with the resources available then. For inexplicable reasons, he was recalled into the country in 1987 by IBB and posted to NIPSS in Jos as directing staff. This in the views of many was a punitive measure, but for the man in the eye of the storm, he took it as one of the hazards of his career.
Speaking years later, he said, “All I knew and had always known was to work hard and express my views as candidly and as courageously as I could, regardless of the consequences.”
While reflecting on how, in 1984, Buhari appointed him despite never having met before, he said, “Without ever knowing or meeting me, Buhari gave me a chance. As I now write, (i.e. Feb. 2015) I have never met him one-on-one. We have never spoken to each other. It is an extraordinary experience of an unusual man.”
For Ambassador Olisemeka who turned 90 last year, he said the love of one’s country supersedes all.
“All said, let no one forget that there is no better country than Nigeria in the whole world. I feel happiest when I am in Nigeria, despite the agonising frustrations.”
In recent times, not much has been heard about him again.