NIGERIAN OF THE YEAR
This has been a year of great national confusion and ordeal for Nigerians. It has been a time when we witnessed the rise in senseless violence, national disunity, economic hardship and institutional misappropriation. At times like this, finding an individual that stands head and shoulders above everyone else to be labelled ‘The Nigerian of the Year’ is a pretty hard task. But when I decided to rummage the length and breadth of this our glorious land to identify who I believe has distinguished themselves and deserves to be labelled the Nigerian of the Year, I had only one yardstick in mind.
What, perhaps, was the most important criteria for me was to identify a person who had built, not only on a very important tradition of civic leadership, but that of charity and stepped forward as an individual to solve the problems of our communities, without waiting for government to act. With that in mind, the first name that came into my head and lingered up to the time I wrote this piece was that of Gen. T.Y Danjuma (rtd), GCON.
Having followed his effort and contribution to the quality of countless Nigerian lives since leaving government, the choice of General Danjuma was a relatively easy one.
Talk is cheap, but General Danjuma has backed it up by walking the walk and demonstrating the characteristics of the principals and values that have made him into the respected statesman and generous philanthropist that he, no doubt, is. With his enormous charitable contributions over the last couple of years, especially this year, one would be hard pressed to find many Nigerians at his level that have given so much back to the needy in society.
Charitable giving should be central to a Nigerian society which has increasingly seen the collapse of families, the breakdown of the social fabric, and a slowdown in upward mobility. The hardship that people are facing daily is so much; Nigerians are currently painfully trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder. The spirit of giving should be the essence of our institutions, our communities and our educational training. One can only imagine how a substantial increase in charitable giving could help to achieve breakthrough solutions for some of our national crises and provide a safety net to reduce hunger, homelessness, and other forms of material poverty. Charity is necessary for the thriving of unity, education, the arts, science and medicine, and the protection and safety of our society. It provides food for the hungry, care for the sick, shelter for the homeless and maintenance for those less privileged. If we had more of a consciousness toward charitable giving, there is no doubt that we would be dealing with a more humane society and provide fresh thinking about how to offer hope and opportunity for impoverished Nigerians.However charitable giving, although ideal, is just not the reality for most Nigerians who barely have enough to cater for themselves and their families. But in our very peculiar society where 95% of the population can barely make ends meet, while 5% are worth more than the economy of a small nation, there are those that have been privileged and have the ability to exhibit the spirit of giving, should they choose, in a way that can really make an impact. The lifeblood of charitable giving is voluntary; individuals make their own decisions, following their own convictions about how they can best make a difference. And this is where I believe General Danjuma distinguishes himself.
General TY Danjuma has always impressed many people in the way he has conducted himself during many years of public service, especially given the fact that he is on record to be the only Nigerian Army officer known to have turned down an offer to be the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. History tells us that when General Murtala Muhammed was killed in the 1976, General Danjuma was asked to become the Head of State to which he refused. Upon insisting that the hierarchy must be followed, General Danjuma then went ahead to encourage the ascension of General Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State and single handily appointed General Shehu Yar’Adua as the second-in-command. However, despite such an impressive history, it is his work in charity and philanthropy that makes him stand head and shoulders above Nigerians of his calibre and makes him my Nigerian of the Year.
Apart from the personal and financial support he gives the families of his departed colleagues and individuals that ask for his help, General Danjuma gives a vast majority of charity through his Foundation. In 2008, the TY Danjuma Foundation was created and since then has spent almost N1 billion in giving aid to the poor and sick. Currently partnering with over 50 NGOs throughout Nigeria, the Foundation's purpose is to offer assistance to the less privileged through the use of development programs. Rather than operate as a conventional charity, the Foundation is run more as a philanthropic organization. By operating in this manner, the Foundation partners and makes grants available to other deserving causes and Non-Governmental Organizations.
Since its inception, the Foundation has provided basic amenities for poor communities, education for children and young adults while also providing free medical care for indigent people in order to alleviate poverty. Only very recently, approximately N180.6 million was given by the Foundation to 17 non-Governmental Organizations in order to assist them in their operations for the 2012 Grant Cycle while $500,000 was given out by the Foundation as grants to NGOs working to relieve suffering in the state of Taraba.
No matter the ‘Urban Legend’ attached to the seemingly overbearing persona of General TY Danjuma, the truth is that he is a very good, gentle and kind man who has shown loyalty to his friends and family and patriotism to his country. Earlier on in the year Leadership Newspaper named him ‘Man of The Year’ and outlined some of the Student Scholarships he provided outside his foundation. Apart from the Scholarships, Leadership delineated that; “He has built a hospital for the Nasarawa State University, a hall for Bighham University, a library for Ajayi Crowther University, and just about offering similar support for the Bayero University, Kano. All these are outside free medical services to more than 30,000 people. He has also built schools in Bauchi and FCT communities that have never had schools, provided income generation grants to women’s groups in Ekiti and Edo states, provided scholarships for more than 100 orphans in Nasarawa State, provided drinking water in Gombe and Taraba states, assisted people living with leprosy in five states, provided capacity building to more than 150 NGOs, established the Taraba Community Fund, and has already committed a minimum of $5million (N800million) to assist the nation in achieving the MDGs.
When I think of the philanthropy and the contributions to charity that General Danjuma has made, I smile. I smile for his spirit of giving, for his passion to alleviate poverty in communities by providing basic amenities, for his dedication to provide education for children and young adults, for his commitment to provide free medical care for indigent people, for his bravery, for his aerial ability, for his passion, for his patriotism, for his loyalty, for his professionalism, for his decades of service.
This has been a year of great national confusion and ordeal for Nigerians. It has been a time when we witnessed the rise in senseless violence, national disunity, economic hardship and institutional misappropriation. At times like this, finding an individual that stands head and shoulders above everyone else is a pretty hard task. In such an atmosphere lacking in many true role models, General Danjuma, because of his spirit of giving, stands as ‘The Nigerian of the Year’.
General TY Danjuma is truly a Nigerian hero. I have always admired him as a leader, a person, a mentor and a dear father. I have also admired the way he constantly challenges himself and displays his belief in discipline, instituted authority and orderly succession.
Many of us can learn a great deal from a person like General Danjuma and one hopes that those privileged Nigerians and those within his calibre can take a leaf from his book and ‘play it forward’.
I guess I’ll leave my last words of 2012 to my ‘Nigerian of The Year’, General TY Danjuma when, in a recent conference, he called on all well-meaning Nigerians who were endowed to commit to giving back to the society.
He said; ``The philanthropic space in Nigeria is empty but the need and cry for help from communities are huge; we cannot keep looking up to foreign donors and philanthropists to fill this gap, we must give back to our society.``
Hannatu MusawaI invite you to follow me on Twitter- @hanneymusawa