PROFILE: Baba-Ahmed, Zaria-born politician who opposed Obasanjo’s third term agenda

PROFILE: Baba-Ahmed, Zaria-born politician who opposed Obasanjo’s third term agenda

A few weeks ago, when Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed dropped out as a hopeful of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Kaduna gubernatorial race, saying the process of the primary was “inconsistent” with his purpose of being in politics, little did he know that he would become a running mate to one of the leading presidential candidates in the 2023 general election.

On Friday, Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), unveiled Baba-Ahmed as his running mate for the 2023 general election. While making the announcement at a press conference in Abuja, Obi said he settled for Baba-Ahmed after a series of consultations owing to his records in the private and public sectors.

Obi said Baba-Ahmed is eminently qualified and “fits the bill” of what he wants to achieve when he becomes the president of Nigeria.

But who exactly is Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed?

BORN INTO A BIG FAMILY OF 33 CHILDREN

Datti was born in Zaria, Kaduna state, in 1969 to a big family of 33 children. Baba Ahmed, his father, was an Arab cattle trader from Mauritania who was said to be a professor and expert on Islamic jurisprudence.

Datti had his secondary school education at Airforce Military School, Jos, Plateau state, and then proceeded to the University of Maiduguri in Borno state where he obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics. He went ahead to secure an MBA from the University of Wales, Cardiff and in 2006, he successfully completed his PhD studies at the University of Westminster, London.

He has worked in different capacities including as project coordinator at Baze Research and Data Services Ltd. as well as officer II in the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, Lagos. He also worked as a banking officer with First Bank of Nigeria Plc from July 1997 to December 1998. He later became the managing director of Baze Research and Data Services Ltd from July 1999 to January 2003, before venturing into politics.

In 2011, he established Baze University, a private tertiary institution located in Abuja. In building the university, the founder said he sold nearly everything he had and mortgaged others. According to Baba-Ahmed, he was inspired to set up the university owing to the “appalling” state of the Nigerian educational system and he hopes “to contribute towards fixing the system in order for Nigeria to realise its potentials and address various challenges”.

FORAY INTO POLITICS

Although many young Nigerians might be getting to know the LP vice-presidential candidate for the first time, Baba-Ahmed is not new to politics. His political journey started in 2003 when he was elected to the house of representatives for the Zaria federal constituency, Kaduna, on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

As a lawmaker, he opposed the third-term agenda of President Obasanjo. According to him, that was his most memorable moment in the lower chamber. “My achievement then was the defeat or rather the withdrawal of the third term attempt by the then government,” he said in an interview.

In 2011, he won the Kaduna north senatorial seat under the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), but his victory was annulled in 2012 by the court following a suit filed by Ahmed Makarfi, then-candidate of the PDP, who was the closest challenger in the election.

In 2018, Baba-Ahmed also contested for the presidential ticket of the PDP but lost after he polled five votes, while the winner – Atiku Abubakar – scored 1,532 votes.

Before his announcement as LP’s vice-presidential candidate, Baba-Ahmed had earlier desired to run for Kaduna gubernatorial race under the PDP in the 2023 general election. He, however, backed down from the race. According to him, the process did not align with his political ideals.

A PHILANTHROPIST

While Baba-Ahmed’s career in academia and politics may be the most prominent, there are other parts of him that are not yet in full public glare. Baba-Ahmed is also a known philanthropist who engages in corporate social responsibility projects. He is credited with building and donating two junior secondary schools in Zaria that can accommodate about 4,000 students.

In 2015, Baba-Ahmed was appointed as chairman of the board of trustees (BOT) of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Hope Alive Foundation – an organisation that campaigns for the post-service economic survival of corps members who suffered permanent disability during service.

“NIGERIA NEEDS PEOPLE LIKE ME IN POWER”

During an interview with Daily Trust in February, Baba-Ahmed said he has “never been a politician” and that he joined politics because the country needs people like him.

He added that the Nigerian trend where promises are divergent from results and where politicians do not have employable skills asides politics is “a very dangerous trend.”

“I’m just a normal Nigerian citizen by character, by undertakings, by creation and nature. I’ve never been a politician. I’m doing politics all the way to become a presidential aspirant simply because Nigeria needs people like me,” he said.

“Whenever I see a divergence between promises and the results, I get worried. There’s a serious divergence  between what your Nigerian politicians tell the world as it happened in 2014-15 and what they achieved.”

BUHARI’S CRITIC AND ANTI-CORRUPTION ADVOCATE

He may be from the same geopolitical zone as President Muhammadu Buhari, but Baba-Ahmed would not spare the president of some lashings. According to the Kaduna-born politician, the president has not lived up to expectations and has not delivered on most of his promises. He also accused the Buhari administration of embracing corruption.

He once stated that a second term for the president would destroy the country and unsettle the rest of Africa.

“There is more to leading a complex federation like Nigeria than exploiting the sentiments and divisions among the people. There is nothing as dangerous as a leader promoting religious bigotry. There is nothing as bad as exploiting the masses illiteracy and lack of political awareness,” he said in an interview.

“What Buhari’s government has done is to destroy the fragile economy of Nigeria and allow insecurity to grow into new dimensions. I am not impressed whatsoever with nearly everything about Buhari’s government, not just the partiality. And I, like nearly all Nigerians are surprised at how disappointed we are in Buhari. The failure of Buhari is a classic case that some politicians can say and do anything to get to power.”

While he was a lawmaker, Baba-Ahmed sponsored the Prohibition of Inflated Government Contract Bill of 2004 with the aim of fighting corruption in public institutions. Also, he was reported to have openly supported the bill to criminalise same-sex unions in the country.

Overall, Baba-Ahmed feels being at the helms of affairs of the country will afford him the opportunity to make exploits in major sectors.

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