Engineer Hamman Adama Tukur is a man I will never forget in my life. Fact is, he changed the course of my career – my life history – maybe without even knowing it. He died last week.
It all started in 1982 after I joined the Sunday New Nigerian. As a Sunday newspaper, our Editor, Abba Dabo discouraged us from looking for run of the mill stories, tasking us instead to go for exclusives.
There was this day I decided to do a story on the Kaduna Polytechnic, KADPOLY. Next to the Ahmadu Bello University, it was the most important tertiary educational institution established by Northern Nigeria. I took a taxi to KADPOLY and then decided to start my story with the Rector. Hamman Tukur was the Rector at the time.
I had no previous appointment with him. Youthful exuberance was my driving force. I walked into his office and told his staff that I wanted to see him. They gave me a form to fill which I did indicating that I was a reporter from the Sunday New Nigerian seeking to interview him. Amazingly, he allowed me to come in instantly.
The fact that I was from the New Nigerian may have opened his door for me. Once I was in, another fact played in my favour to get the interview. Hamman Tukur was Fulani and after asking, he discovered I was Tiv. We joked, with him complaining that the Tiv after eating the Fulani cattle were always insistent on taking additional advantages over them (Fulani).
The good news was that he agreed to an instant interview. I was not prepared. I went without a recorder, a biro or a paper. Still, I asked some questions without recording and without writing. Immediately after the interview, I rushed back to the office and wrote my story. It was a front-page story the next Sunday.
“You surprised me Emmanuel. You came to my office and we had a long chat. I was surprised you wrote a story out of the chat and wrote it accurately,” he told me when we met a second time, about a month later.
The second meeting was the initiative of Abba Dabo, my Editor. By this time, Bamanga Tukur, elder brother of Hamman Tukur had left the Nigerian Ports Authority after about seven years as Chief Executive/Operating Officer and was angling to be the Governor of Gongola State in the elections coming up in 1983. Hamman had approached Abba asking that a reporter be sent to interview Bamanga. Abba promised to send his boy without telling him the name of the reporter.
When I showed up at his house on the day and time he agreed with my Editor, Hamman was shocked to discover I was the one to conduct the interview. It was then he confessed that I had impressed him with my first story on KADPOLY which I wrote after our chat in his office. It was a happy reunion.
I did the Bamanga interview and it was published. Later my Editor assigned me to do a political supplement on Gongola state, sponsored by the NPN, Bamanga Tukur’s political party which I did. Raymond Anyamikyegh, an advert executive of the New Nigerian worked with me on this. It was published and I followed it up with a publication of my own independent analysis of the gubernatorial race in Gongola.
Then all hell was unleashed against me. Rumours, accusing me of corruption and other unprofessional conduct were circulated at the New Nigerian. I didn’t know what was going on and continued doing my job without let. But the New Nigerian management took the unsubstantiated accusations very seriously and set up a panel to probe me. It was only at this stage that a friend who knew about the whole drama and also that I was innocent broke the whole scandal to me. I was mad and confronted my Editor. All my dealings with Bamanga Tukur were at his behest. My reports were submitted to him for publication. If he felt I had crossed professional borders, it was within his authority to kill my write ups, I complained. He told me not to worry.
The investigation was a fiasco. There was no truth in the allegations against me whatsoever. The panel did not even invite me to testify. They only invited people they expected to implicate me. Strangely, all of them testified in my favour.
Hamman Tukur felt pained that I was being victimized. He later told me I was a victim of high wired politicking in the Northern circle of the ruling NPN who didn’t want Bamanga to win the gubernatorial race for their party in Gongola in 1983.
I had studied political science at the University of Ibadan, the first and best university in Nigeria. My teachers there, Profs BJ Dudley, Bolaji Akinyemi, Richards Joseph etc. were the best you could find in the field anywhere in a University anywhere in the world. But faced with the reality of Nigerian politics, I was thrown into wilderness. It was a complex political maneuver which I could not understand at my youthful age.
Dr Raymond Dokpesi, the Director General of the Bamanga Tukur Campaign Organisation sent a message that I should leave my job at the New Nigerian and join the campaign team. I stayed on at the New Nigerian regardless.
When Bamanga Tukur won the election, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi sent a ticket for me to come to Yola immediately. I met him in Yola and he sent me to meet Mr David Barau the Deputy Governor elect. Bamanga Tukur himself was out of the country. David gave me an assignment to draft a speech which he was going to deliver in a short while. I did the draft and submitted it to him within a few minutes. He couldn’t believe what I gave him. Years later, he told me my handwriting was so beautiful he wanted to “eat it”; then the contents of the draft were just super.
Dr Raymond Dokpesi and David Barau insisted I was to be appointed Bamanga Tukur’s Chief Press Secretary in 1983. Engineer Hamman Tukur also took a flight from Kaduna sorely to come and insist that his senior brother Bamanga appointed me his Chief Press Secretary. Dr Raymond Dokpesi signed my letter of appointment, a weather-beaten piece of paper which I still keep and cherish today.
Hamman Tukur moved up and on in our national life. From Kaduna Polytechnic, he was appointed Managing Director, National Electric Power Authority, (NEPA) and later Director-General, Federal Ministry of Mines, Power and Steel and Ministry of Petroleum Resources. He was a Member, Institute of Strategic Studies, Kuru; Fellow, Nigerian Society of Engineers; Fellow, Yaba College of Technology and Member, Institute of Electrical Engineers (England). He was an Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) amongst several other honours.
The longest serving Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Tukur served two tenures – ten years. He introduced the monetisation policy in government as a system to reduce wastage of funds on public officers. He also compelled Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to be more open and transparent over alleged missing revenue from the oil sector during President Obasanjo’s government.
Before my appointment by Bamanga, I had started my journalistic career with the News Agency of Nigeria from where I moved to the New Nigerian Newspapers – all owned by the Federal Government.
My accidental encounter with Hamman Tukur in 1982 changed everything. From working with Federal Government agencies, I now started getting involved in State governments, a career diversion that has radically changed the course of my career and life history.