By Michael Jegede
Distinguished Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) from Kogi State was on this day (May 6) fifty years ago born into the family of late Alhaji Umar Abatemi-Usman, one-time Deputy Governor of old Kwara State and Hajia Safiya Abatemi-Usman.
Deen, as he is popularly called, known to be an independent-minded and plain-spoken politician, was elected a senator in 2011 at age 39, after he had failed in two previous elections (2007 and 2003) when he contested for House of Representatives.
In the words of Winston Churchill, a British statesman who served twice as the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Abatemi-Usman was never weighed down by the earlier failures and disappointments he had in his attempts to go the Lower House, rather, like Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of America, he courageously stepped up to contest for Senate as against House of Reps in 2011, defeating the then sitting senator and some other political heavyweights in Kogi Central.
An accomplished professional with a wide range of experience in engineering, agriculture and management consultancy, Abatemi-Usman spent most of his career developing and implementing complex developmental projects in the private sector before his foray into politics. He served as a Special Assistant on political matters to Dimeji Bankole, ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, between 2007 and 2010 – a position that clearly gave him a better understanding of the workings of the legislature before he joined the Senate.
As the youngest senator in the seventh Senate, representing Kogi Central Senatorial District (2011-2015), the engineer turned politician gave a very different approach to leadership. The greatly renowned American-African singer, Marian Anderson, it was who said: “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” John Calvin Maxwell, an American author and pastor once said: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Deen, in the view of his admirers, is believed to have provided the best of leadership in his robust representation of the people of Kogi Central while he was in the Senate.
Senator Abatemi-Usman attracted various people-oriented projects and programmes to his senatorial zone and carried out a massive empowerment scheme that provided over 1,200 beneficiaries with tools and equipment to begin their trade. That was indeed the first of its kind in the history of legislative representation in Kogi Central.
In his push for the actualization of the Ajaokuta Steel project, he succeeded in getting the Federal Government to dissolve the Interim Management Committee (IMC) that had spent about five years as against six months causing more damage to the abandoned steel firm. Upon the dissolution of the IMC, he ensured that an Ebira man with over 30 years of experience in steelmaking was appointed the sole administrator.
As a peace-loving politician, he worked round the clock to ensure the entrenchment and sustenance of peace in Ebiraland with the various peace summits he organized during his time as Kogi Central senator. He never stopped making it clear to his supporters and followers his aversion to political thuggery and violence. Unlike some other politicians who openly move around with known thugs in the land, Deen had nothing to do with such persons at any time.
In the Senate, there was never a dull moment for Senator Abatemi-Usman as he was seen to be very active in the various committees he belonged to. They include: Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs; Member, Senate Committee on Power & Steel; Member, Senate Committee Federal Capital Territory (FCT); Member, Senate Committee Women’s Affairs & Youth Development; Member, Senate Adhoc Committee on SURE-P; International Appointment – Member of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP).
On the floor of the Senate, he moved different motions and bills which included a bill for the full integration of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) into the society and the establishment of a National Commission to help ameliorate the plight of the over 27 million people living with one form of disability or the other in Nigeria. The Disability Bill was successfully passed by the seventh Senate but was not signed into law by the then President Goodluck Jonathan. However, Deen’s greatest joy today as indicated in a recent interview he granted to a national television is the eventual signing into law of the Disability Bill by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari after it was again passed by the 8th National Assembly.
Since he joined the APC in 2015, Abatemi-Usman has remained a staunchly devoted member contributing his quota to the growth and development of the party. In August 2015, the senator contested for the Kogi APC governorship ticket and came next to the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello who took the second position in the primary election, despite just joining the party at that time. He was the Chairman, APC Wards/LGAs Congresses Appeal Committee for Adamawa State in 2018. He coordinated and spearheaded the formation of the APC Non-Serving Senators’ Forum in 2017 and he has been the Chairman of the political pressure group in the ruling party. He was a member of the Presidential ECOWAS Long-Term Observer Mission for Ghana Presidential Election in 2015.
An agricultural engineering graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Deen is a member of the recently constituted high-powered APC Strategy/Contact Committee made up of eminent personalities including former and serving governors, ex-House of Reps Speakers and the current Deputy Senate President. The committee is charged with the responsibility of helping to rebuild and reposition the party ahead of the 2023 General Election.
Over the course of his career, he has undertaken several professional courses including high-level legislative training at the International Law Institute, Washington DC, USA and Akademie Fur Welthandel, Germany. He is widely travelled and actively engages in philanthropic undertakings. He was a delegate at the 57th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, London (2011), CPA Conference, Livingstone, Zambia (2009) and WHO Conference, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2008).
As Distinguished Senator Abatemi-Usman celebrates his 50 years on earth today, I wish him many more fruitful years of sound health and pray God to continue to grant him His grace, mercy, favour and protection.
Happy birthday, Boss!
Michael Jegede, a media professional writes from Abuja