By Ahmadu Shehu, PhD.
To continue our conversation on a better northern Nigeria, let me bring you three unlived legacies of Alhaji Ahmed Joda, one of the most accomplished civil servants in this country. These are fantastic ideas capable of turning around the socioeconomic situation of this region and the entire country for good.
For the benefit of those who do not know him, Ahmed Joda OFR, CON, CFR was born on February 13, 1930, in Girei, a village located a few kilometres from Yola, the capital of Adamawa state. His basic education started at Yola Elementary School, from where he proceeded to Barewa College Zaria, before graduating from Pitsman College, London, in 1956. Before delving into journalism, Baba Joda started his career in agriculture and later became one of the longest-serving permanent secretaries of various federal ministries, including education, information and industry.
Sometimes in 2019, former minister of Federal Capital Territory Dr Aliyu Umar Modibbo invited us to a meeting with Alh. Ahmed Joda. At the age of 90, Baba Joda, as we fondly called him, had assembled younger minds to think about the way forward for Nigeria and rethink the approach northern Nigeria has taken in negotiating its state, status and privileges within the Nigerian state. Baba Joda was very particular about the unity of this country, just as he was deeply concerned about the socioeconomic problems bedevilling the north. I, particularly, was astonished to see that despite his age, Baba Joda was chairing a four-hour meeting, perusing through documents and making amendments where necessary. After several meetings, recruitments, and deliberations, that meeting resulted in the “Nigerian Platform”, a collection of thinkers, excelled public servants, professionals, and academics, helping to chart a way forward for this country. The rest, as they say, is history.
Having noticed our contributions at the meeting, Baba Joda ensured my friend Dr MD Aminu and I stayed close to him and learned about this country as much as possible. We, indeed, kept in touch, learned, benefitted and enjoyed our relationship with this seasoned civil servant, experienced administrator, excellent intellectual and a special breed of the Nigerian elites.
One of Baba Joda’s agendas behind mentoring young Nigerians is to develop what he envisaged as the Nigeria Unity Forum (or any name that might suit the cause at the later stage of its development). Under this cause, Baba intended to develop a genuinely Pan-Nigerian national platform where citizens of this country will come together to discuss their grievances without hindrance, fear or hesitation. This was (to be) the first platform under which Nigerians from all walks of life, backgrounds and social status would have a free space to discuss, analyse and subject any topic of national interest without limits or limitations. The aim was to start a citizen-driven healing process among Nigerians to guarantee the true unity of our country. In the beginning, Baba had sacrificed his farmland and the facilities therein for weekly/monthly meetings of the groups. He was also to provide funding and feeding for the takeoff meetings.
Another concept Baba Joda nurtured was a Sustainable Agricultural Model in which he invested so much time and resources in its conceptualisation and trial. Noting the waning natural resources, especially land and water, and the ever-growing population, vis-à-vis climate change and the attendant crises we are already witnessing, Baba had commissioned research into various models adopted by other countries such as India and Botswana. These countries have faced or are facing similar socioeconomic and environmental challenges. After thorough comparative studies, Baba proposed an agro-livestock model that, in my opinion, will forever change our society for good. The most fascinating and novel aspect of his proposal is its capability to deal with land and water resources, and at the same time, create a sustainable economic model that will undoubtedly work for the majority.
The third and most important to him was the creation of the National Livestock Development Authority. Again, looking at the proposal of this agency, one cannot help but see the extraordinary visions and foresight in the manner in which it was to be designed, administered and supervised. This would not be another government-funded agency that would serve as a conduit for financial embezzlement and docility. Instead, it was meant to be a self-funding, self-sufficient and revenue-generating government agency responsible for making money for the country via our large, prosperous, but abandoned livestock sector. It was going to be a multibillion-dollar government company, richer than the NNPC and most of our aviation agencies. It would have led to vast foreign investments into our livestock sector, building companies for our manure, beef, leather, blood and born, etc., all expensive raw materials that go untapped in this part of the world. It would have been a major regional investor in this part of Africa, as it will not have had competitors for many years to come.
While all of these and many more programs were coming up slowly but steadily, we sadly lost Baba Joda on August 13, 2021, at the age of 91. While I pray to Allah for his forgiveness and mercy upon his soul, I equally pray that those of us who are alive and are lucky to have drunk from his ocean of wisdom and patriotism will continue the struggle for a better future. I also pray that Allah will lead many more people to this cause and that these dreams, these ideas, will see the light of the day. Since Baba Joda is no longer around to pursue these ideas, I invite you to join his disciples and those who genuinely love this country to vigorously pursue and patiently work towards realising these ideas and their possible implementation.
Dr Ahmadu Shehu is a nomad cum herdsman, an Assistant Professor at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, and is passionate about the Nigerian project. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.