Senator Aliyu Wamakko: Alu, still alluring

“The beauty of empowering others is that your own power is not diminished in the process” – Andrew Carnegie.

It is not surprising that Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, also known as Alu, has remained extremely popular throughout Sokoto state and beyond. His allure stems from the fact that he has never, for once, been known to abandon the people. The welfare of his people has always been the focus of his extensive and impactful political career, whether as the incumbent senator, representing Sokoto North Senatorial District, or as the director-general, Careers and Special Services, Governor’s Office, deputy governor, or as governor of Sokoto state.

One can say, with some degree of certainty, that the various offices Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, aka Alu, had occupied didn’t make him, or did they, in any way diminish him. Wamakko, like our Niger-Delta brothers would say “hold e corner tight”, unlike many of his contemporaries who have long become history because they treated the people with utter contempt and the people in return truncated their political career by making them one “termers”.

The average Nigerian politician has a perplexing disrespect for both the political party that sponsored them to power and the people that voted them into. Once elected they become inaccessible to their constituents until another election season when they must seek the peoples’ votes to remain in power. This unwholesome attitude is partly responsible for the high turn over of elected representatives. Over 130 members in the 2023 elections cycle failed to get the nod of their party to contest the general elections, according to Abubakar Sulaiman, the Director-General National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS). The implication is that the growth of the legislative arm is hampered and the huge resources spent on training them wasted. Low voters turnout have also been attributed to the manner many politicians treat voters after voting them into power.

Alu’s continued relevance beyond Sokoto state is a lesson to serving and aspiring politicians who have consciously decided on a lifetime of public service, especially with the determination of young voters to mobilise and vote out any representative deemed to have abandoned the people. Though most politicians have short memories, but they won’t easily forget the defeat of two 5th term members of the House of Representatives by unknown Labour Party candidates. The story is not different in many other states where unknown candidates defeated incumbents. The warning lights are on for smart politicians to properly adjust before the electorate show them the red card.

It must be stressed that in Nigeria, politicians hardly get voted out due to poor representation or failure to make consequential laws, but more due to their disdainful treatment of the people, punished more for their arrogance than incompetence.

Like the simple man that Alu is, he had no problem winning the election for the Sokoto North Senatorial District seat hands down and not because the machinery of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is firmly in the hands of his political family, which includes the amiable Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, the incumbent governor who was his deputy, but because the people insist that he continues to represent them, because they know and trust him. I have a feeling that Alu’s retirement from running for elective position would ultimately have to be negotiated with the people.

Alu sets a fine example to aspiring political leaders on how to manage their relationship with their followers. Since the return to civilian rule in 1999 godfather and godson political squabbles like the ongoing one in Rivers state have been the reoccurring decimal with serious consequences for the polity. If only these leaders would respect their governors like Wamakko respects Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto, we will have less crisis and support them like Wamakko’s unflinching support for governor Sokoto to succeed is not in doubt.

It’s a mark of Wamakko’s humility that he has vowed never to disrespect the governor as a person because he is a good man, nor in anyway disrespect the office which he once had the privilege of occupying. Another reason why both men would continue to work in harmony is the fact that while providing guidance to the governor, Wamakko tells whoever cares to listen that the buck stops on the governor’s table.

For instance, Wamakko is known to always arrive at a public function long before the governor as a respecter of protocol. I saw this during the flag off of the 2024 hajj airlift when he told his associates “we must never arrive at any function after the governor has arrived because that would be disrespectful to him.” On hearing this his associates wasted no time heading to the government house to join the governor in receiving Festus Keyamo, Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, who was in the state on official duty. Wamakko’s stance is worthy of emulation by other political leaders, after all respect, they say, begets respect and the young must grow.

Some weeks back, at Wamakko’s invitation, I visited Sokoto state, because he wanted me to witness first hand what Governor Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto had accomplished on his first year in office. Wamakko’s excitement on the solid accomplishments of Governor Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto were visible. He was over the moon when former President Olusegun Obasanjo and several other statesmen that commissioned several of the governor’s legacy projects showered encomiums on the governor for his impressive performance.

My impression of this encounter was similar to what I saw during my first visit when he was a governor and my conclusion is that Alu has not changed and would not change. I wasn’t really surprised that the people have continued to turn up in their hundreds at his expansive compound in the Gawon Nama area of Sokoto state capital, evidence of their unwavering trust in his leadership. That the people are still solidly with him speaks volumes about this unassuming man and that he has remained very friendly, warm, caring and accessible shows a genuine love for them that has absolutely nothing to do with winning elections.

You can count on Wamakko if the issue has to do with education, healthcare , human capital development, agriculture, in fact on virtually every matter, so long as it has to do with making life better for the people.

I am delighted that Wamakko’s high premium on education hasn’t waned. As governor he had pursued a compulsory, free universal basic education policy, the massive recruitment of teachers and the rehabilitation of schools. As a Distinguished Senator, he saw to the amendment of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004, to increase the federal government’s block grant of 2 percent to 3 percent and a reduction of the state governments’ commitment from 50 percent to 10 percent, to enable them easily access the funds. All these because, for Alu, the education of the next generation is key.

Equally delightful is his continued award of scholarships in and outside the country for post graduate programmes. In 2022 Wamakko spent N719,913,227.72 on scholarships for over 100 students to pursue their Ph.D’s and Masters degrees. When he mooted the idea for the establishment of the Sokoto State University many thought it was a joke that would fizzle out. The university was not only established but has been growing in leaps and bounds. He is poised to repeat the same feat with his establishment of the North-West University, his baby which would soon commence operation.

Whether as a public servant,governor or senator Wamakko has remained an educationist at heart.

Are leaders born or made,though the jury is still out,but Wamakko without doubt is a natural born leader whose focused vision, unwavering commitment to public service sets him apart from many others. The icing on the cake is his legendary empathy and genuine love of people no matter their status in life.

Wamakko, the Sarkin Yamman Sokoto, has not only survived some political gang ups but emerged stronger from every one of them. It’s the fervent hope of many political watchers that those he has politically mentored would emulate his open-door policy, love for the people, accessibility and political sagacity.

Ado writes from Kaduna, Kaduna state