REMEMBERING HIS EXCELLENCY, LATE ENGINEER A. A. KURE -By Barr. Mohammed Abdulkadir

This piece is late but it is early enough. It is about a person who passed on several years ago but the thought of whom remained fresh in mine and other people’s memory. People won’t stop talking glowingly of him. He was late Engineeer A.A. Kure, former Executive Governor of Niger State. Fondly called “Ya Manya” by friends and relations.

Engineer A. A. Kure died on the 8th of January, 2016. I knew of his death. I was at the janaiza. I attended subsequent prayer sessions for him. Yet I did not pay my homage to him in written words like I did to several others who passed on after him. The reasons i have to give for that are, firstly, when Engineer A.A. kure died, i had not begun to write tribute to the departed  like i have been doing lately. I mourned his death in my heart and in my thoughts. I grieved repeatedly by remembering the man that he was and talking to myself about him. I still do. When I do, I am able to find words to console me. I also pray for him in the hope that such prayer will be a source of comfort for him. That had been the manner i mourned and grieve the death of Engineer A.A. Kure and several others that were close or dear to me.

As death continued to take more relations and friends after demise of Engineer A. A. Kure, my capcity to mourn in the manner i have been doing weakened. The news of deaths  coming at me were unrelenting, so i decided to ease my grief filled heart by writing down my grieve. This way I am able to relieve myself by reading any tribute i wrote in honour of a deceased person. These tributes have also become documentary guides to me and reminder that death is around and would be served on me and every other person when the time comes.

Secondly, I realised that every death reminds me of Engineer A.A. kure and every gathering of people who knew him and talked ceasely of the good that he was also reminded me of him. I believe Engineer A.A.K Kure  had so many traits worthy of emulation. A chronicle of one or two of such traits will be of immense value not only to me but others looking for a mentor.

Thirdly and most importantly, I have been unable to see the easing of grieve from the face of his wife, the Distinquished Senator Zainab Kure. I saw her recently at the prayer session for the repose of the soul of the late Hajiya Khadija Ibrahim Shehu ( mother of Hon. Habiba Lamido). Seeing the Distinquished Senator in that gathering reminded me of her husband once again and all the emotions the thought of him stirres in me  came to the fore with force, thus compelling me to write down my thoughts of him.

In any case, every widow needs the support of all.  A kind word about their loved ones may ease the loneliness they feel. Knowing that someone shares in one’s grieve can be soothing indeed. I beleive also that meeting a widow is a reminder to us that one day we shall leave people behind who may be so affected by our passage. I  believe that any consolation in whatever form will be worth the effort not only to myself, the widow and relations of the deceased but to others affected like we are.

Finally I believe in the saying of Uthman ibn Affan who was reported to have advised as follows –

” Acquire wisdom from the story of those who have already passed.”

My thoughts of late Engineer A. A. Kure consist of the much i knew of him and what I knew him to mean to others. This peace is therefore reminisce of my knowledge and thought of him. This piece is not a comprehensive description of Engineer A.A. Kure at all or chronicle of his achievements.  No it is not. He was much and worth more than I could tell.

Engineer A. A Kure first came into my consciousness when he became the Executive Governor of Niger State. I had before his election as Governor heard of him to be the then Director of Engineering Services in the Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja, the FCT. He was reported to be kind and religious. He was then to me just another Nigerlite impacting on the lives of Nigerians through his services.

The official portrait of Engineer A. A. Kure which adorned the wall of most offices in Niger State were my first “contact” with him. It never ceased to draw my attention to him. I was fascinated by the picture because I did not see authority around him in the picture like i saw in the pictures of past Military Governors that adorned offices prior to placement of his own picture. The aura of authority that was very visible on the persona of a Military Governor that had been planted in my consciousness by successive Military administrations did not give way even when civilian administration replaced the Military one.

I looked out for that authority in the picture of Engineer A. A. Kure being the Governor that assumed office next after a Military Governor and there was non. In place of authority was humility. In place of sophistry was simplicity and in place of power was leadership. He portrayed civility and accessibility in the picture. I was surprised.

His government took off smoothly. I was then in the Civil service of the State. In that capacity, I once undertook official assignment which required that I briefed a select group of members of his cabinent. My boss arranged the meeting. As I approached the Government House in Minna, I kept recalling my assessment of his person garnered from his official portrait. Wondering if a different persona awaits me. Then I met him. “Face to face” for the first time in the Government House of Niger State surrounded by all the official paraphernalia of office. The coat of arms, flag etc.

I was ushered into his office on arrival. The reception i got was as if his Excellency was waiting for me. “Me. Just a civil servant. And his Excellency waits” i muttered in awe and excitement. ” How should I even greet him? Should kneel down as a Nupe man would to an elder and in this particular case, the most powerful man in the State”? I asked myself as I approached the office. Before the answer came to me, I found myself with him. He left his sit and came around to meet me. He held out his hands to me and I took it with both hands bowing as I did so. He shook me vigorously like a mate of his. ” Welcome Abdulkadir” he said. ” Sit. Sit” he said without waiting for my reply. I took the sit he pointed at. The sit was close to his own sit and that made me nervous. I didn’t know whether to take the full sit or the edge of it. I took the edge.

I briefed him on the subject of the meeting. He was happy with me and he showed it. He won my heart. He was humble. He was simple. He was not arrogant. He did not allow the power in his hands to bear down on me or seep through him to weigh on me as i spoke. I spoke freely to him. No interruption and no inquisition. He was a gentleman. He again shook my hand as i left his office. I left relieved. Happy and grateful to Allah SWT for the opportunity He gave me.

I had been at the Government house previously for one official engagement or the other during Military regimes. No Governor accorded the privilege Engineer A.A. Kure extended to me. The previous ones kept me at bay. My presence were merely for reassurance but my voice was never heard. My superiors spoke on most occasions. I was used mostly to support a point being made. Engineer A.A. Kure would rather hear from me directly, the guy who did the job. He wanted to personally commend me. And he did.  I was to be informed later that my experience with him was not uncommon. He was like that with most people.

“His Excellency was truly a gentleman”, i said to myself as I drove back to my own office. I admired his simplicity, humility and candour. I resolved to shape myself along that line and to imbibe those virtues as I moved on in life. I feel it pays to be like that and I believed it will pay me to be like him.

My next meeting with him was shortly after he left office. It was in his home in Abuja. An issue came up and the then Honourable Minister of Youth and Sport

mentioned me to him. He invited me to his home. I was there with several others. As soon as he saw me, he recognised me. He did not wait for anyone to introduce me to him. He recognised me instantly. ” So you left us in Minna and ran to Abuja “koh” –  Abdulkadir? Anyway good to see you again. Hope you have been fine?” I replied in the affirmative. I took my sit along with others. The meeting held and he bade each of us farewell and thanked us. It was my last meeting with him. That meeting reaffirmed to me my view of him to be a gentleman. A good man.

The new civilian dispensation came with some leaders who were to be bricklayers. They were to lay the foundation for a stable democracy in the States and the Federation. They were expected  to understand, adhere and respect democratic principles. They were to be democrats.

A democrat is  “a person who believes in the rule of the people. … ”   He is such a person that believes and accept that  “every person should have a say in choosing who gets to represent him in government, and should be involved in promoting his own rights. A democrat is a person who believes in democracy”. ( see www.vocabulary.com ›).

Engineer A. A. Kure was a leader fit to be called a democrat. He was a good bricklayer. He helped lay the foundation for the growth of democracy and its institutions in Niger State.  As leader of government and the ruling Political party in the State, he adhered to the principles of democracy. One of which, in my view, is the provision of space for effective performance of institutions of a democratic government.

He ensured that the Legislature and the Judiciary functioned harmoniously with the Executive arm of government. Frictions were minimal and did not exceed the usual.

The Executive arm of government under him did its best not to rein in the capacity of other arms of government to function. The Legislature functioned within the space available resources could support. He cultivated fraternity with the other arms to make it easy for them to approach each other to smoothen rough edges. His relation with them was not ” the boss or outsider kind of relationship” or the “we against them”.  They were partners. Like co-pilot. Working towards a common goal.

Members of the Legislature of Niger State were never forced to “gangster” or take up “arms” against the Execitive. A scene that was common in the Country between 1999 and 2007 as it played out in several States of the Federation. There was no reason for them to do so because he did not smoother them. The judiciary enjoyed respect and was independent as it was expected to be. Court judgements were enforced with little fuss, especially those against government. The privileges of judges were observed, granted and allowed to be enjoyed . Niger State lived its name and self. A peaceful and accommodating State.

Engineer A.A. kure ensured that the State carried on like one in which democracy found comfortable sit and space to thrive. He ensured that leaders in the State exhibited such sophistry in countenance and temperament that would push an outsider to think that the State never experienced Military dictatorship.

Party leadership in the State were visible. They helped stabilise and give directions to government. Party discipline ensured that disagreement(if any) between the Legislature and the Executive arm of government in the State did not get out of hand and onto the streets. That much was to the credit of Engineer A.A. kure who in spite of being the leader of the ruling party in the State, did not take control of its machinery or undermined capacity of party leadership to function. Internal  democracy was visible in the conduct of affairs of the then ruling party.

Local government Council elections were conducted freely and fairly as circumstances permitted. Local government council officials were given free hand to perform their duties and their capacity to govern at the grassroots were never hindered. Local Government Council chairmen of that period were in fact visible, colourful, vocal and impacted.

The famous grassroot programme – Project “YES” is still fresh in our memory. I still recall the contribution of the Distinquished Senator Zainab Kure, the then first lady of the State, to the success of the programme. Engineer A.A Kure ensured that ” the initiator and motivator” of the project had support to succeed. He shared in the vision and provided the needed support to attain the mission. Women and youths were indeed empowered.

Engineer A.A. Kure was able to achieve the much he did in government because he was humble, civil and had a good heart. He had the temperament to listen, to accept and use advise. He deferred to wise counsel, he recognised and respected talent and rewarded hard work and commitment. He had time and words of appreciation and commendation to give to the one who did so much for the State in whatever capacity.His determined efforts and standing drew attention of the Federal Government to Niger State on some issues among which was airlift of pilgrims from Minna Airport. That to me was foundation for demonstrating the capacity of Minna Airport to handle international flights.

He understood that government is not bought or acquired but entrusted to a person. He understood that governance was service. And that the service was not to self but to the people. He understood that government is all about “creating equal opprtunities” and about ” giving expression to the will of the people” while the people get to ” keep their will” ( Lee Kuan Yew; Last National Day broadcast). He understood his role as a leader of government to be like the role of a commercial vehicle driver who though had complete control of the vehicle, is answerable to the owner of the vehicle. Not only as to returns but as to maintenance of the vehicle, comfort and safety of passengers. After all when all is said, government is in the end an enterprise. The investors are the people, their investment is the faith and trust they had in those they elected to office and the return they expect is for government to bring happiness to them in the real sense of the word and in all of its ramifications.

Engineer A. A. Kure was reported to often remind his lieutenants that power is transient. That the Governmemt House they so freely accessed during his tenure may afterwards be beyond their reach. That to even get to stand before the gate of the Government house will require so much, let alone to step foot in its premises. Those who heard him say that and are alive today will confirm the prophecy in those statements.

Engineer A. A. Kure was a Nigerain politician alright but he stood out among the pack. He was not the type to be run down along with others whose behavior as leaders and politicians calls the flack to all. To include him in the lot is to generalise wrongly. He was a man of vision and he was a man with a mission. He was a man of reason, he was a man of soft speech. Everybody was somebody to him. His perception of his role in public office and in the discharge of public duty and his expectations of those in public office and the citizenry seemed to echoe the words of former United States President, Theodore Roosevelt who was quoted to have said that –

“It is peculiarly incumbent upon you who have strength to set a right example to others. I ask you to remember that you cannot retain your self-respect if you are loose and foul of tongue, that a man who is to lead a clean and honorable life must inevitably suffer if his speech likewise is not clean and honorable. Every man here knows the temptations that beset all of us in this world. At times any man will slip. I do not expect perfection, but I do expect genuine and sincere effort toward being decent and cleanly in thought, in word, and in deed. As I said at the outset, I hail the work of this society as typifying one of those forces which tend to the betterment and uplifting of our social system. Our whole effort should be toward securing a combination of the strong qualities with those qualities which we term virtues. I expect you to be strong. I would not respect you if you were not. I do not want to see Christianity professed only by weaklings; I want to see it a moving spirit among men of strength. I do not expect you to lose one particle of your strength or courage by being decent. On the contrary, I should hope to see each man who is a member of this society, from his membership in it become all the fitter to do the rough work of the world; all the fitter to work in time of peace; and if, which may Heaven forfend, war should come, all the fitter to fight in time of war. I desire to see in this country the decent men strong and the strong men decent, and until we get that combination in pretty good shape we are not going to be by any means as successful as we should be. There is always a tendency among very young men and among boys who are not quite young men as yet to think that to be wicked is rather smart; to think it shows that they are men. Oh, how often you see some young fellow who boasts that he is going to “see life,” meaning by that that he is going to see that part of life which it is a thousandfold better should remain unseen! “

Engineer A. A. kure seemed to have listened to the advice and admonition of the then United Statement President in the manner he conducted public affairs. He was a devout muslim. His actions and comportment were moulded to meet the virtues promoted by his faith. These virtues made him valuable. This is because “when a person is imbued with requisite knowledge of the values identified as imperative and adhered or observed them, then he becomes valuable. It is the observance and adherence to those values that rates a person to a category of rankings both in his life time and after”( Mohammed Abdulkadir;  As it was at the beginning..,2020 unpublished).

Engineer A. A. Kure’s good and humane conduct placed him in the category of those ranked highly in the minds and hearts of Nigerlites. As it is, Time will keep him still. This is because as our memories of him continue to revive through time so will he be to us what he had always been – an icon to seek to behold.

Engineer A. A. Kure may have appeared to have played the fool, in the end he got the wool both for self and for the State. The wool he got is the love, affection and respect of the people as will be shown shortly.

When the news of the passing of Engineer A. A. Kure reached me, I was perplexed. I began to make calls to confirm the news. ” It is true”, a friend said. “The burial is tomorrow “, he concluded and hung up”. “Allahu Akbar” I said in resignation. I readied myself to attend the burial wherever it may hold. Thankfully, it was to be in Minna. I set out early enough the next day to be able to participate in the prayer session. I drove to his house, but had to park my car about half kilometre away from the house. Too many cars. Too many people. As I approached the house, I saw people change direction heading towards the Eid prayer ground. I enquired why. I was told that it was because his house and the space around it were too small to host the people who came for the prayer. Eid ground was therefore chosen. I followed them. Walking along with others to the Eid ground. A distance of about half kilometre from the house of the deceased.

I didn’t know how I found the energy to make the trip. I felt fit. Ready and determined to make it. My legs felt light and I walked as if I was being pushed. I looked out for others walking with me. They were as determined as I was. I looked at their faces. They looked agitated. They looked lost. They looked like debtors working hard to pay their debt ahead of time. In front of me was  sea of heads. Behind me too. I caught up with the vehicle conveying the corpse. I joined the snail walk to the Eid ground. After a while i left the procession behind in order to secure a good place at the Eid ground. I got to the Eid ground and met so many people waiting. All shades and class of persons were in attendance. The downtrodden most of all.

He was later brought into the Eid ground and the call to order was made for the prayer to commence. The normal lines for prayers were formed. The formation presented a look of another Eid. So many people came for it. The prayer was said and we left the burial ground for the house. Another huge task that was.

The burial was a different spectacle. Many people wanted to touch the body. Several more including the Royalty and top government officials wanted to join in lowering him down. It took time to reach a consensus on how to do that. Then he was lowered. More prayers followed. I never witnessed such a burial. It was different. It was admirable. It was the wool he earned. It was the wool he got. A special wool that was. Fit for a king and a sign of blessings for the soul of the departed. The mortals have done for him the much they could. They bade him farewell that was fit for a king. He was revered and he got reverence. It was the blessings they had to give and they gave him. They also prayed to Allah SWT to bless him more. Amin to all those prayers.

Looking back and recalling all of the above, I am reminded of the words of Uthman ibn Affan that  –

” Allah the Exalted loves him who forgoes worldly life, the Angels love him who rejects the vices, and the Muslims love him who gives up greediness in respect of the Muslims”.

I pray that whatever deeds he sent ahead and whatever effects he left behind attracted and continues to attract for him the Rahma of Allah SWT. I pray further that Allah forgives him and place him ” among the honoured ones”. I pray that on “that Day” he shall be among those favoured to receive “Salam” from his Lord. Amin Ya Allah.

Rest in Janna sir.

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