So, someone asked if I can write an article for publication on General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma. I smiled and answered “Okay. Let me see what I can do.” I truly had no inkling as to what to do. Aside from what is available in the public domain, I do not possess an additional ounce of knowledge of the General. The truth is, I have never even seen the General in person. Of course, I had written “When is TY Wrong” and, perhaps, it was mistaken for an “insider” perspective. It was nothing close to it. If I have written or said anything about the revered patriarch, I did so from the viewpoint of an admirer and nothing more. Later that day, however, I discussed the issue with a friend who said I should write the article. “What am I going to write about?” I asked bemused. “Just find something and write” answered my friend. I felt challenged but did not take the discussion seriously. Somehow, however, my mind started brooding on all that I have read and heard about the General, and was looking for a perspective to put ink to paper.
Usually, the image the name, General TY, conjures up in one’s mind is that of a dreaded, non-nonsense soldier man. But when you dwell a bit on the man, the image would morph to that of a wealthy, hardcore, powerful elder statesman who stares at people forever without saying a word. Dwell a bit longer and the image would morph yet again. I brooded a little more and ….“Eureka!” I almost shouted, when it felt like I had gotten a clue. I did a little research and felt intuitively correct.
An unhurried look into the General’s public life, removing all traces and forms of prejudice, you’d see that his contributions are tailored towards achieving the three key dimensions of Human Development Index (HDI), namely; a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent living. My mind settled on this, I suppose, because I have, lately, pre-occupied my mind studying Human Development Index (HDI).
The Human Development Index (HDI) was established to emphasise that people and their capabilities, and not economic growth alone, should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country. Evaluating a country’s potential for individual human development provides a supplementary metric for evaluating the country’s level of development besides considering standard economic growth statistics, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The 2022 Human Development Report showed that Nigeria ranked 163 out of 193 countries.
To contribute, therefore, in either building infrastructure or funding programmes aimed, directly or indirectly, at achieving any of the key dimensions of HDI mentioned above, is to contribute to the development and betterment of lives of individuals in one’s country. This, exactly, is what General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma truly embodies. I shall briefly mention each of the aforementioned and juxtapose them with the General’s contributions in those key areas.
A Long and Healthy Life
The measure of a long and healthy life is assessed by life expectancy at birth.
General TY’s contributions in providing access to quality healthcare delivery is wide-ranging and extensive and with special interest in healthy life at birth. He demonstrated this in building the Rufkatu Danjuma Maternity Hospital in his country home, Takum. The maternity hospital, which immortalises his mother, was built primarily to provide enhanced service delivery of maternal and perinatal healthcare. Aside from the primary priority of addressing maternal and child mortality and morbidity, the Rufkatu Maternity is thought to have created an estimated 100 direct jobs. Even before the construction of the maternity hospital, the General contributed immensely in providing access to quality healthcare through the TY Danjuma Foundation.
The Foundation, through its “Healthy Mother, Healthy Child” programme, has supported the implementation of evidence-based, innovative, high-quality, and sustainable interventions that aimed at ensuring that every mother can experience a healthy pregnancy and childbirth; and every child can thrive to realise their full potential. Other areas of interest for the TY Foundation are Neglected Tropical Diseases – where the foundation aims to reduce morbidity, disability and mortality – and preventable blindness – aimed to reduce the burden of preventable blindness. This is done under the “Vision for a Brighter Future” programme.
The education dimension is measured by the mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school-entering age.
There is no gainsaying that TY simply loves education. It is, unarguably, his biggest forte. His contributions to the educational sector are immense and ubiquitous. A cursory look at the educational programmes undertaken by the TY Foundation, one will see the deliberate and strategic approach taken to achieve this key index. The General, through the TY Foundation, and having studied the Nigeria Education Data Survey (NEDS) which revealed gaps in teachers’ knowledge of basic language and Mathematics, started the “Upgrading Teacher’s Quality” programme. The programme is aimed at reducing the number of teachers without the requisite skills and knowledge of basic content to deliver quality learning in public schools in target states, increase access to instructional materials for teaching, and improve the pedagogical skills of teachers to better transmit knowledge to pupils and students.
The General’s aim is that, a good learning environment, availability of instructional materials, and learning aids must all be weaved with skilled and dedicated teachers to improve learning outcomes, especially in public schools.
I was told that the minimum educational qualification for his family members, nuclear and extended, is a Master’s Degree. And the study is usually in a foreign country! To extend this generous handshake beyond family, the General established the TY MBA scholarship programme. The Scholarship provides financial support to post-graduate African students who have been accepted onto MBA programmes at the top 10 leading business schools in the world. Top 10 as ranked by the Financial Times.
TY’s track record in supporting educational growth through building infrastructure and monetary gifts across the country is unmatched by any Nigerian, dead or alive. His foot sprints are in almost every notable institution of higher learning; from Kano to Kaduna to Oyo to Benue to Taraba State et cetera et cetera. He was instrumental in establishing the Walter Miller University in Dikko, Niger State and work is ongoing at the site of the proposed T. Y. Danjuma University, Takum. It was rather unfortunate that when he asked the management of Taraba State University “what they wanted?” They told him “Sports Pavilion.” A university that has courses that are yet to get accreditation? Shame! He gave them money to build a Sports Pavilion.
Having a Decent Living
The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita. Per capita income is a metric used to determine the amount of money earned per individual in a nation or geographical area. To have a Human Development Index (HDI) of a nation, its economic growth should be persistent. Economic growth is broadly defined as the rise in the production capacity of an economy in the form of various goods and services called GDP, which results in further development of the current economy giving the opportunity or capability of producing additional value in future. Higher-income of individual citizens because of a better economy will lead to a better standard of living and to receive better healthcare services for improved quality of life.
It is a known fact that General TY Danjuma is one of the major employers of labour in Nigeria. He has created opportunities for individuals to be productive, to earn and improve their standard of living. Beginning with the Nigerian American Line (NAL), a shipping line he founded in 1979, the General has gone on to establish himself as one of the most successful businessmen in Nigeria. In 1984, he established COMET, a shipping agency, primarily to act as an agent for NAL. COMET grew and became one of the largest independent and experienced agents in Nigeria. Other companies established by the general include amongst others South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO), and LBS drills.
These companies have over the years become major employers of labour and source of income for many Nigerians. NAL-COMET, for instance, with branches at Port-Harcourt, Warri and Calabar Seaports, has about 250 employees as of 2009. Other companies and business outfits have a handful of employees. Getting employment is a vital aspect of life. A person needs to work to earn an income that would be used to provide basic human needs (food, cloth, residence, and health) – to have a shot at a decent living. I cannot, for the life in me, begin to imagine the number of people who have themselves become employers of labour through the benevolence of General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma.
General TY’s contributions in bettering people’s lives have not, as I see it, received the right publicity. Like, who among his contemporaries, especially in the military, left as much footprints on the sands of time like that of the gentle general? One can only disagree relative to the degree of what TY has done but in all sincerity, the man has paid his dues the best way he can.
Let me, therefore, end this piece with this; “Nigeria has been very kind to me. As a youngman, I rose through the ranks in the military to become Chief of Army staff. I retired and went into business and got lucky. I made a lot of money. I am giving back to the poor of my community, to the poor of my society some of the money I made in business as a show of gratitude to Nigeria and to Almighty God” – Lt. Gen. TY Danjuma (Rtd).
Kundila Epemilo Philip (Sir Othello) writes from Jalingo