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AVM Hamza Abdullahi [1945-2019]

The death was announced on Wednesday, January 2, this year of retired Air Vice Marshal Hamza Abdullahi, former military governor of old Kano State and former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. He died in Germany and was brought back home for burial two days later.

Hamza Abdullahi, then an Air Commodore, shot into prominence in 1984, during the military regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, as military governor of the old Kano State. He held this position until August 1985 when he was redeployed. Although his stint as governor was brief, it was very memorable because of his dynamism and his humane handling of issues. It was during his tenure that, in January 1985, his government launched a program to revitalize the Expanded Program on Immunization, targeting children and pregnant women at risk from preventable diseases.

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Hamza Abdullahi was born in Hadejia, present-day Jigawa State, in 1945. He attended Nigeria Air Force Tactical Training Wing, Kaduna in 1964, completed the Aircraft Technical Officer’s Course in West Germany (1964-1966), and studied at the Royal Military Training Centre in Chichester, England in 1974. In July 1975, Lt. Colonel Abdullahi became Air Provost Marshal and was said to have been involved in the military coup of that month.

After his stint as Military Governor of Kano State, the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida appointed him as Minister of Works and Housing. In 1986, after the arrest and execution of FCT Minister Major General Mamman Vatsa, Ibrahim succeeded him as FCT Minister. As Minister of Federal Capital Territory from 1986 to 1989 and prior to the time the city became the capital of Nigeria, Abdullahi oversaw the construction of Phase 1 of Abuja. He described the new city as “a symbol of our unity” and his goal was to have 75% of the ministries in Abuja by 1990, the target date for the official transfer of the capital from Lagos. Abdullahi was promoted Air Vice-Marshal in October 1988 and retired from the Nigeria Air Force at the end of that year, though he continued for some time as a civilian FCT Minister. Since he left that post in 1989, he lived a quiet life, mostly in Kaduna, and was often seen at the side of his old friend, General Babangida, for whom he was a very close associate and confidant.

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In his condolence message to the family, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his profound grief and sorrow over the death of Air Vice Marshal Hamza Abdullahi and prayed Almighty Allah to grant eternal peace to the departed soul and strength and fortitude to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.

Even though Nigerians came to hate military rule due to its undemocratic, arbitrary and sometimes tyrannical nature and also because it lasted for many years in this country, some of the young military rulers of that era left a good impression in the minds of the people they ruled. One of them was AVM Hamza Abdullahi. Although the period of his governorship of Kano State was a difficult one following the collapse of the Second Republic, he handled the assignment with compassion and dexterity. Unlike some of the military governors that achieved notoriety because of their lack of compassion and their know-all attitude, Hamza Abdullahi left an indelible mark in Kano State and did not traumatize the populace as his other colleagues did.

His stint as Works Minister in the Babangida administration was too brief to make the desired impact but as FCT Minister for three years, he dedicated all his energy to the task of building a befitting federal capital city, into which the Federal Government officially moved in 1991. He was known for having laid most of the early ground rules of planning, order, cleanliness and infrastructural expansion in the FCT. Nigeria has lost a good man. He was survived by three wives and many children. May his gentle soul rest in peace.

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