If Governor Lamido were deliberate in my choice, the President on the other hand, was obviously glad to have a real youth representation in his cabinet and was determined to make it work.
President Goodluck Jonathan was already impressed by my appearance at the Senate. Again, immediately I settled down to work, he was to pleasantly comfort himself with my revealed character and competence. He was to accordingly entrust enormous state responsibilities on my little shoulders, and made available the logistics to see it through.
This commitment from Lamido and then later Jonathan to the ‘Youth Experiment’ had such a profound significance to both sides that even when Dutse and Abuja were to eventually have a political disagreement, the two gracefully resolved to handle it like men, keeping my young bewildered self out of it. Sensing my worries, Lamido would always encourage me to ignore the crossfire and remain loyal to my boss, the President. Jonathan on the other hand had drawn me closer with each further escalation of the situation.
I enjoyed an unprecedented access to power and authority at it’s highest levels around the world. Presidents, Prime Ministers and other powerful diplomats were my routine guests in Nigeria and generous hosts overseas. Despite apparent lack of experience and training, I fought to get my views respected (even if atimes objected) on the floors of both the Federal Executive and National Security Councils. I courageously led various Nigerian delegations to meetings around the world; from the ECOWAS level in West Africa, through the African Union, right up to the UN Security Council. I was also the President’s favourite envoy to other world leaders. My world was incredibly fast with a dizzying speed that was to totally demystify power before my eyes
I became so many things to different people. To President Jonathan, I was the youthful mighty, his Minister incharge of Africa and in ways that always humbled me, a possible future President of the Federal Republic. While to Presidents Allasane Ouattara of Cote’d’Ivoire, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yuweri Musaveni of Uganda, etc, I represented the future of the continent; bold bright and committed. To some colleagues at the Federal Executive Council however, I was a young turk and the only comrade in Council. The opportunistic elements who naturally would try to take advantage of my age and permissive mien had found me unusually difficult and uncompromising.
Though the bureaucrats in the Foreign Office saw me as more of the young medical doctor who seamlessly picked the rudiments of diplomacy alongside them, and project the nation’s foreign policy across the globe. I was probably the subject of ambivalence to most of the top diplomats in Europe and America; the awe and the frustrations of the unusually young Nigeria’s Minister. Guinea Bissau and Mali were flashpoints in the subregion and I led the ECOWAS’s onslaught against the interests of the P5 and EU . Yet to my professors and other senior colleagues at the National Postgraduate Medical College, I was just another Part II Candidate. And I remained essentially Nura/Dr Nura Hadejia to my school mates, childhood friends and professional colleagues.
Infact, to Mrs Erulu Olusola Obada, the Hon Minister of State Defense, I was still her corper doctor. In 2005, Mrs Obada was the Deputy Governor in Osun State when I did my NYSC in the government house as the personal physician to the first family. To the politicians, I was generally the young man of unusual luck and opportunities but who just didn’t know how to play the game and won’t learn either. In the end, it was perhaps only Sule Lamido, who had the full picture and was sure I was just being myself! I will explain that next
To not loose oneself – amidst all the glitz, glamour and power – to the temptations of hubris, hedonism, and even greed, one had to constantly test his realities and draw inspiration from significant others. And in the very few difficult circumstances that I had directly asked Lamido for guidance, he had consistently told me to remain myself and I shall remain eternally indebted for those three letter words. Because I accordingly deployed a great deal of conscious energy to first, explore that ‘myself’ and then ‘remain myself’. The President on the other hand had asked me loudly a couple of times about my plans after I leave government. ‘You have seen everything’, he would add. I took that literally as a subtle warning. Then my father – whose psychological software I think I inherited – had groomed me into a very deep philosophical construct that views the life as both ephemeral and not an end in itself.
My relationship with everyone from fellow ministers, to senior presidential aides and the top management of the Foreign Ministry down to the clerks remained very professional and examplary. I survived even the notoriety of the office of the Honourable Minister of Information that turns otherwise noble and wise men into objects of national scorn, opprobrium and ridicule. And through it all, I still had enough determination and grit to sit for my third and final postgraduate medical examinations by September 2013. I passed and qualified as a specialist consultant in Psychiatry and a fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria.
Throughout this sojourn though, what I regard as my proudest accomplishment is the fact that I disappointed neither my benefactors nor the youth constituency that I so proudly represented. It was a mark of total confidence from both sides that by the turn of October in 2014, when I was barely 37, Jonathan and Lamido had found me worthy of additional responsibilities; President Jonathan, despite my age and medical background appointed me as his Information Minister and Governor Lamido, invited me to join the 2015 PDP Gubernatorial ticket in Jigawa State
Such were the awesome potentials that a selfless and consciously executed mentorship could achieve; the young 33yrs old Senior Registrar (I) of Psychiatry with Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital by 2011, had risen within a very short span of three years to hold two federal cabinet level positions as the Nation’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and it’s Federal Minister of Information, and also the PDP Deputy Gubernatorial Candidate in his state. And at the professional level too, was able to accomplish his personal dream to qualify as an elite medical consultant.
I may no longer be a youth, atleast by the textbook definitions of the word (35yrs). But the thought that I had all these opportunities and privileges at that age still humbles me.
Morethan anything else, good leaders cannot be a creation of chance, accidents and other random events.They instead are to be carefully identified from among the younger generations and deliberately groomed into that all important role. This country is blessed with such an incredibly talented, smart and very resourceful young people. The missing links are clearly those selfless leaders who should – with no recourse to nepotism – identify and mentor them, most especially into our highest levels of politics and governance. Because only one such opportunity in as many as twenty years is rather too little and obviously too far apart
Dr Nuruddeen Muhammad
Former Minister of State Foreign Affairs & Minister of Information
Founder Unik Impact Foundation