Abdullahi Tijjani Gwarzo: Legacy of Excellence in Public Service
By Abdullahi Shugaba
Of all the sterling leadership qualities of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one that stands out is his unique capacity for talent hunting. Right from his days as Lagos State Governor, Tinubu has demonstrated a great ability to assemble the right team to get the job done; and to groom political disciples that can stand by him come rain come sun.
This pragmatic approach to politics and governance is largely responsible for his remarkable political accomplishments which made him unequivocally the most successful politician in the Fourth Republic.
It was in 2006 that the Asiwaju spotted Abdullahi Tijjani Mohammad Gwarzo while the latter was vying for Kano State Deputy Governor. Tinubu knew right away that Gwarzo was a political asset. They built and nurtured a rapport up till 2010 when he tasked Gwarzo to set up and lead the ACN structure in Kano State.
Gwarzo eventually contested the 2011 guber race on the party’s platform with the support of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN leader in Kano State then, late Baba Musa Gwadabe, former Minister of Labour and Productivity, during President Olusegun Obasajo’s first tenure and Yusuf Ali Chieftain of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the State.
Indeed it was a gallant fight but Gwarzo did not make that time but then Gwarzo and Tinubu kept close political ties up till 2014 when Gwarzo actively participated in actualizing the APC merger arrangement and became the pioneer Interim Chairman of the party in Kano State.
From that period to the 2023 electioneering season, Tinubu’s intimate association with ATM Gwarzo made him fully convinced that the latter was indeed a loyal, reliable and dependable ally. It therefore came as no surprise that while the President compiled his ministerial list, Gwarzo’s name from Kano came as a reflex action to Asiwaju. Whenever he met politicians from Kano he often asked in his characteristic loud and jocular voice “Where is Ruwa Baba!”
Gwarzo got the nickname ‘Ruwa Baba’ which means ‘Water Baba’ when he built the Fada Dam and water treatment plant in his hometown of Gwarzo while he served as the Kano State Deputy Governor and concurrently as Commissioner of Water Resources from 2007 to 2011. The facility has since then served more than fifteen towns and villages, ending the acute water scarcity in the Gwarzo axis of Kano North Senatorial District.
Gwarzo’s choice as Minister in the current dispensation is certainly well deserved, considering the dozens of projects he executed while he served four times as Local Government Chairman, then as Special Adviser on Special Duties to the then Kano State Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau before subsequently becoming his Deputy and Supervising Commissioner for the Ministry for Water Resources in Kano State.
The projects include Gwarzo township bye-pass, township and rural roads, shopping complex, Governor’s Lodge, District Head’s office and many other projects as well as impactful programs and policies that have transformed the lives and livelihoods of hundreds across Gwarzo, Kano North senatorial zone and the State in general.
During the period, he received numerous awards and recognitions which include Best Local Government Chairman, ALGON Merit Award, an honorary Doctorate Degree, and his emergence as ALGON Chairman in recognition of his outstanding performance in Gwarzo Local Government Area.
An alumni of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, he also served as the Chairman Governing Board of the Federal College of Education, Zaria, and supervised APC congresses, elections and reconciliations in many States and at zonal and national levels.
What is interesting is that his service to his people in the course of his three decades in politics have endeared him to them which gave him a solid base to excel in his political career.
On a visit to Gwarzo to feel the pulse of the residents on the appointment of their son to represent the State at the Federal Cabinet, the town was agog and cheerful over the appointment.
The most prominent feature is the Fada Dam which was constructed by ATM Gwarzo. On the north side were fishermen on boats strewn all over the coasts and upstream of the dam, dipping their hooks and spreading their nets to catch fishes while on the south side is the vast expanse of irrigation and grazing fields that are evergreen in all seasons, with farmers and pastoral herds earning a livelihood from the facility.
To the east, is the Water Treatment Plant equipped with giant water reservoirs, a power generator, filter beds, water clarifiers, flow metres and valves and some staffers manning the equipment. Further eastward into the town is a bye-pass and chains of feeder roads also constructed by ATM Gwarzo when he was the chairman of the local government.
While at his family home in Kofar Kudu Gwarzo metropolis, Hajiya Asabe Malami Koya, his aunt and foster mother, described him as a worthy son.
“I took custody of Abdullahi when he was very young, I was married at the time but I did not have any child, so he was my first child. He was very courteous and obedient, he never waited for you to tell him what to do, he always did his house chores without being asked to do it; and once he is done he goes to school very early in the morning.
“He is indeed diligent and is not like any other children I have groomed in all my years of motherhood, he was exceptional from the onset”, she said.
As for the Barde Kerarriyar Kano, District Head of Gwarzo, Alhaji Shehu Kabir Bayero, he was full of appreciation to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for appointing ATM Gwarzo whom he described as a dedicated public servant who has had an impactful career in politics and has left bold footprints in all the places and institutions where he had served.
For Alhaji Ibrahim Dan-Azumi Gwarzo, a childhood friend and longtime political associate of the Minister, AT Gwarzo’s excellence in politics and in life generally is a result of “his honesty, humility and doggedness in all his endeavours”.
“We grew up and met our parents as best of friends, my father was a friend to his father and so were our mothers. Both families had five male children, so each of us picked a mate from his age group and made friends, Our journey into politics started while we were still at the university.
“Whenever we came home for weekends or long break, we took part in local politics, then it was the Second Republic. We were a group of six friends and we always brought every matter to be discussed within the committee of friends.
“Looking back, we are proud of AT Gwarzo’s achievements and we are confident that he will do us proud both as indigenes of Gwarzo, Kano North Senatorial District and Kano State. What is interesting is that nobody lobbied for him to be made Minister, President Tinubu picked him directly and appointed him as Minister”, he said.
Meanwhile another member of the committee of friends, Alhaji Adamu Lawal, who is now a businessman and the Chairman of Community Reorientation Committee (CRC) of Gwarzo Local Government Area, recalled that their peer group was AT Gwarzo’s political cradle where they first met and decided to encourage one of them to vie for the Chairmanship of Gwarzo Local Government Area under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).
“Even from that time you could tell that Abdullahi was promising and he had the potential to excel in politics because he had a likeable personality and character.
“Today we are happy that he has led and transformed Gwarzo Local Government Area, and now he has a golden chance to replicate that feat at the national level”, he affirmed.
To Dr. Kabir Ahmed, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration at Sa’adatu Rimi University of Education, Kano, who is also the Vice Chairman Gwarzo Consultative Forum, ATM’s elevation to the position of Minister makes him a torch bearer of Gwarzo, Kano State, the Northwest, and the northern part of the country in general.
“He is indeed a worthy son of Gwarzo and we are very proud of him. When he served as Local Government Chairman, Special Adviser to the Governor, and Deputy Governor respectively, he did us proud and has left indelible marks in terms of infrastructure and human development.
“We are sure that his impact will now be felt on a larger scale, and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development will be better for it”.
ATM Gwarzo’s reputation and legacy of excellence make his appointment into the federal cabinet a case of a round peg in a round hole. Moreover, his pairing with Arch. Ahmed Musa Dangiwa at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development makes a team of astute and hard-working administrators that will effect a revolution in the sector at a time when the country faces a housing deficit that is estimated at 20 million.
Architect Ahmed Dangiwa, having served as the Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) for five years when he spearheaded dynamic and strategic institutional reforms in the bank will bring his wealth of experience to bear in his new role.
He will find ATM Gwarzo as a loyal, versed, creative and progressive comrade that is ready to contribute to the task of actualizing the objectives of the Renewed Hope Agenda in the Housing and Urban Development sector.
Abdullahi Shugaba writes from Abuja.