Sunday, 15 February 2015

One-on-one with Nigeria’s No 1 “Agbero” Dr. Najeem Usman Yasin | The Untold story of his humble beginning from grass-to-grace


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Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin with Asabeafrika's Gbenga Dan Asabe with Mr. Paul Ukpabio of The Nation's Newspaper
My trip to Abuja two weeks ago was primarily to meet my elder friend and statesman, General Sam Momah, a retired Military General, two time minister of Science and Technology, pioneer commandant of the Nigerian War College, former member of the revered Provisional ruling council under the military regime and author of the book Nigeria: Beyond Divorce.
General Momah who happens to have served as APC Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari’s Principal Staff Officer when the former was the GOC of Nigerian Army, Division 4 in Lagos had invited my blog amidst top editors for a press conference on the state of the nation and the candidacy of General Buhari. I was equally billed to meet Mr. Anegbe Tony Akiotu the very busy and always engaged GMD of DAAR Communications PLC (Owners of Raypower and AIT) for a special interview session which was influenced by a senior colleague from Atlanta Georgia. I never had it in mind that I will run into Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin, the President of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers. In fact it was not at all in my schedule. A senior colleague from one of the dailies who had joined me in my short holiday in Abuja muted the idea on Wednesday February 4th and we decided to visit the National Head Quarter of the union somewhere in Area II, Garki. To be honest, I was not even interested in meeting Dr. Yasin as I had other things like visiting few places and individuals before rushing out of the “Very Expensive” big City of Abuja. But somehow, we got there, waited long and met the man! I mean, the Number 1 Agbero man in the land.
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin answering a phone call after the interview
Meet Dr. Yasin….
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin is the National President of Nigeria’s National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) a mass organization of several transport workers spread across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.  Members of this famous organization are known as “Agbero” in the local Yoruba dialect. Agbero simply means ‘someone who takes people/ passengers in a travelling bus”-Agbe-Ero.  They are hated in most cases because of their overzealous attitude of demanding money from commuters on daily basis or taking levies by force from garages across the country. But the person of Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin is a great departure from the mass of people he presides over. He is not only a gentle man as admitted by many but he is equally a man who craves for wearing suites and imbibing new ideas. He is even married to a doctorate degree holder and has a daughter who is a Ph-D holder!
Meeting Yasin
  Meeting Dr. Yasin  at the National Secretariat of the organization situated on Number 8, plot 1236, Sapele Street, Garki II, FCT, Abuja is not an easy task by all standard as the man’s schedule is dodged with several meetings and appointments. But this cool headed man who is equally an Islamic Scholar and presently the Chairman of Ansar-Udeen Society in Northern Nigeria is one Nigerian personality whose attention is craved by many both within and outside his constituency. On getting to his office we went through some formalities like filling the form to state our purpose for coming around. Some well mannered security officials who made enquiry from me and my senior colleague later  invited us upstairs into the office of Dr. Yasin’s private secretary where a long wait ensured as the man was engaged in one meeting or the other and at a time we were told he was having his meal for the day at some minutes past 2 O’clock.  We waited long into another two hours before fortune smiled on us as his private secretary Alhaji Musa Yunusa noticed and called the attention of his boss to our long wait.
 I and my colleague were promptly ushered into a posh executive ambience where we exchanged pleasantries with Nigeria’s Number 1 Agbero, Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin
 Amidst deluge of phone calls on his two mobile lines and influx of guests who were ushered into his office at intervals, we engaged Dr. Yasin in an interview session that took less than 50 minutes due to his busy schedule. On several occasion during the interview session, Alhaji Yasin will break the encounter to greet one group of guests or the other trooping into his office to pay homage. But he totally ignored the deluge of calls that kept beeping his cell phones until he brought the interview session to a halt like a military man.
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin to Asabeafrika....A banker summit in Lagos made me change my dress from native to suit
Brief Profile of Dr. Yasin…
 Alhaji Yasin is a Board member of International Transport Association, a global association with offices in 150 countries across the world with its headquarters in London. He equally holds the Chieftaincy title of Makama Gusau in Zamfara state, north east Nigeria. The emergence of Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin as NURTW National President three years ago was said to be divine as he was not in any way close to the contest for the office. The then immediate past president, Alhaji Gidado and 5 other executives had died in an auto crash on their way back to Abuja after a peace/reconciliatory meeting between two warring factions of NURTW in Oyo state and that was how fate smiled on Dr. Yasin who was invited to come and stem the crisis roughing up the organization at the time.
 Dr. Yasin is married to an academic and Ph-D holder in the person of Hajia (Dr.) Maryam Yasin who is the chairperson of PENGASSAN. She was a delegate at the last national conference in Abuja. Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin told your soar away Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog Asabeafrika the story of his humble beginning amidst other national issues. Enjoy the excerpts.
His love for suits….
While waiting for him to close a phone conversation he was having before the interview commenced I noticed a beautiful picture at the southern corner of his highly decorated office where he was putting on a suite and almost mistaken for a banker. I asked him why he took the picture and with a smile playing on his cheek, Dr. Yasin responded while putting aside his two classy phones “That picture was taken at Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos during a banker’s forum I attended. Before I left for the event, I doubted about my outfit. Naturally I like being on native but to save myself from any impending embarrassment I decided to put a suit in my car while I wore my native attire. On getting to the occasion I stepped down from the car as my driver pulled over. But on getting into the hall it turned out that I was the odd man among them all; everybody was on suit and I said ‘okay, it is good I had an option’. I quickly went back into the car and changed and by the time I returned I was looking dapper like every other person (laughter). So, I took the picture at the lobby of the hotel after the conference”. That was the icing on the cake for the encounter which began earnestly.
A set of award plaques in his office in honor of his great achievements as a community leader
NURTW & the scope of new horizon
One thing you will notice from the security officials at the gate of the NURTW Headquarters down to the least staff including private secretaries and other junior staffs in Dr. Yasin’s office is the level of education and good manners. Nationally, the organization has equally witnessed peace since Dr. Yasin took over 3 years ago. We asked him how he achieved that and he told us the secret “We have several programs like seminars, workshops for the development of our members. We also believe that we are in the age of self enlightenment and being the major transport organization in Nigeria, there is no way we won’t create an avenue for educating and strengthening the abilities of our members. We want them to know that they have an organization that cares for their wellbeing and self-development. Right here, we now have what we call NURTW Study Center and an Open University to educate our members. That is part of the new strategy adopted to build our people and bring about the best of leadership in NURTW”.
How I run NURTW…
So, how tasking is the task of being the number 1 boss of a huge organization like the NURTW? “It is not an easy task to be the head of such a big organization like ours which is a worker’s organization but with God, nothing is impossible”. Yasin answered. He spoke further “It is actually a team effort and we have been able to put our best in place to ensure that we reposition the organization and take it from where we met it to another level entirely. We are having a transformation that has changed the face of the union from her old identity to a new one; you can see that there is now peace all over the country unlike before now, if you open the newspaper, you will read one or two bad news about NURTW but today the situation has changed, we are a renewed organization with a renewed mandate for change”.
The Makama of Gusau and President of NURTW who is also an IPAD loving leader taking a decision with a top member of his team over an Ipad
We are not touts but…..
In most cases people see members of NURTW as touts who harass transporters and collect all sorts of amount of money from them and in the process escalate the prices of transportation among ordinary people and on several occasions NURTW has been solely responsible for social disturbances in Oshodi (Lagos), Ibadan (Oyo state) and Oshogbo (Osun state) What is Dr. Yasin’s opinion of such perception held by the larger public? “But now as I am talking to you, the reverse is the case” the NURTW boss tries to change your thinking “Because there is a new orientation that was given in the form of a syndicated circular and like I said to you earlier, it is the God’s factor. We achieved every thing through prayer. With prayer, nothing is impossible. We have equally created a new attitude for developmental leadership at the NURTW”.
The GDA, Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin with Paul Ukpabio of The Nation Newspaper
The Yasin formula…
It will seem the Number 1 Agbero in Nigeria has a winning formula, hear him “Yes, like you rightly noticed there used to be pockets of violence at every instances of leadership change not just at the national level alone but even at the state level but today we have successfully nipped that in the bud because we now have our own leadership strategy.  The first thing I did when I took over four years ago was to pray fervently to God for an end to the entire crisis in our union across states. Immediately I came on board I told them to check themselves that no nonsense will be tolerated from any leader who sees leadership as a do-or-die affair. We have a strong committee that looks into every situation as it affects the running of the organization from state to state and like I said earlier, education and self enlightenment is the two most powerful weapons that can be used to restore confidence in any organization. Education is light and for us, under this regime, we take seminars and workshops seriously. We empower all the heads of units at inter-state level and ensure that they are recharged from time to time so that they can discharge their duties verbatim”.
International Awards from agencies across Africa and Europe for the Makama Gusau
The cross of Leadership
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin shared what can be termed his leadership cross with Asabeafrika “There are lots of challenges you face as a leader; everybody focus on you and you cannot avoid being an extrovert because everybody want to ensure they get what they want from you. Wearing the crown of leadership comes with lots of challenges but with God we have been able to solve our problems and move on with life”.
My Story is the story of grace…
Sharing his life experience with Asabeafrika, Dr. Yasin told us the story of his humble beginning “Life is not a bird of roses but God has destined what you are going to be in this world. No matter the obstacles, you must reach that level. Of course it is God that makes things to happen and it is God that equally crowns whoever is going to be a leader. I don’t have much to say than to thank the Almighty Allah for sparing my life and bringing me to the pinnacle of leadership today”
Another set of Awards inside his office in honor of his great stride in Corporate Nigeria
I started my career as a bus conductor…
“When I was young I was close to my parent and always did stuff for them and that enabled me to learn so much from them. I must confess that what I learnt from my parent is what is keeping me till today and I also have their blessing which is a major factor. Anyone you see in the society that is doing well, go and check his or her background you will see that he or she got parental blessing.  Before I started this transport job it was a tug of war. In those good old days, nobody wants his child to grow and become a driver or a bus conductor. They were seen as bad boys and very unserious people but in my own case, when I wanted to go into the business I got the blessing of my dad. I started the trade some 36 years ago as chairman of a taxi branch in Gwarzo in old Sokoto State which is now Zamfara state.  After my secondary school I had to choose driving as a profession in the old Sokoto state because I came from a humble home.  When my father saw how serious I was with my new vocation, he said ‘if that is what you choose to be in your own life, we pray may Almighty Allah bless you’. You know in this trade, you don’t start cheap. You start rough, most of these boys starts by being motor park touts and garage boys and from there they graduate into something else but in my own case, before I started the job, I got the blessing of my parent. I started as a bus conductor from there I graduated to become a driver and today I have spent over 35 years in the trade. I know all the problems and challenges in the business and I thank God for equipping me with the knowledge.  I started as a conductor rose to become a driver,  a park leader, as state organizing secretary, as state secretary and treasurer and from there we went on and on until we got here”.
Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin with newsmen at a public function
I bought my first bus for N1500…
Sharing the story of how he purchased his first vehicle with Asabeafrika, Dr. Yasin noted with nostalgia “My first vehicle is a Toyota Corolla, that small Toyota Corolla brand. I bought it at the rate of N700 or so; that was around 1978. Then from there I bought my first bus for transport business; it is a Ford-four wheeler. I bought it on higher purchase; I bought it from AA-Labaika Motors at Ikirun (Ofa, Kwara State). I bought it for N1500 higher purchase. I went all the way from Sokoto to Ikirun to take a higher purchase because that was what was obtainable at the time, if you have up to N500 Naira you can get your own car as Higher Purchase which you will be paying gradually and when you finish the payment it becomes your own fully. So, this was how I started my life as a driver”
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin....The team player strategising with his team @ NURTW, Abuja.
The Prayer that changed my destiny…
“When my mother was about to go, she said to me ‘My son, anything you want to do in this world, God will give you the wisdom to do it and anywhere you want to reach, anything you want, God will provide it for you’, that was her greatest prayer and that prayer is what is keeping me till today, that is my mum’s prayer. And my dad before he passed away, he said ‘My son, you have been struggling to get this seat, if you did not get it today, I pray, even if I am not alive you will get that seat and in this profession you have chosen, anywhere in the world, anywhere someone will take this job to, God will take you there. That is my dad’s prayer and the two prayers have come to pass because today the Union (National Union of Road Transport Workers) is now a globally affiliated union and I am one of the global executives. Right now we have the International Transport Federation (ITF) with Headquarters in London and I am an Executive Board member of the body representing Africa. The organization has 750 affiliates in 150 countries all over the world. The National Union of Road Transport Workers is an affiliate; I want you to just understand the level our union has gone not only in Nigeria but also in the global environment. It is now a global body and member of the international transport federation.  I just returned from Bulgaria for the global conference which had 750 countries in attendance”.
“Being among transport management experts from all over the world alone is a fact that what we are doing is not a joke but a big dream. We should thank God for making it possible to find one’s self in the midst of the international arm of the organization you lead where you mix with a lot of people and you get a lot of education and knowledge because travelling too is another form of gathering knowledge.  So, I am very happy that my parent’s prayer has taken over and above and today we are reaping the fruit of good leadership at the NURTW”.
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin....A lover of tradition as the Makama Gusau in Zamfara state, North East Nigeria
What we do for the Government…
Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin further discredited the notion that NURTW is nuisance organization and instead highlighted the values of the union “We are assisting the public in so many ways, the NURTW is not just an organization with mundane people, we have our command and control system. Before you came into Abuja, we had a meeting with the Inspector General of Police where the IG called for a partnership with us in the area of internal security. The Inspector General of Police said anywhere our members find any suspicious movement we should make a prompt report and give valuable information to the security agencies because we are in the public. We are working with the masses; those are some of the areas the National Union of Road Transport Workers help to contribute to the development of the country; that is just one of the assignments we carry out to aide national development. We just signed a memorandum of Understanding with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where our union will be providing vehicles for the entire 36 states including Abuja in respect of this coming election and which we have directed all our state executives to move in and meet the INEC residential electoral commissioner  of each state. So, they will work it out and know the number of vehicles from each state and Abuja inclusive. We have the mandate to do that, we have the officials that will do the job and even before election we will publish it out that the NURTW is providing so-so number of vehicles for the logistic of INEC and these are the phone numbers of the drivers. We will make it public so that people will know we played a role to make the election successful”
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin with the INEC Chairman Professor Atahiru Jega after a strategic meeting in Abuja
I am from Kwara but born & bread in Gusau….
Giving Asabeafrika a background of his life the number 1 NURTW man opened up “My dad’s name is Alhaji Usman Akanji Adeola Yasin and my mum is Alhaja Umuani Asabe. We are from Offa in Kwara state but we were born and bread in the north. I grew up in Zamfara because we were born in Zamfara and I became all I wanted there. As I am talking to you now, I am the MAKAMA of Gasua that is the capital city of Zamfara state. I am also the national president of Offa descendant Union (ODU) home and abroad. It only means that I did not forget where my parents hail from. I am a good ambassador of my parent’s state of origin and I did not equally forget where I was born and bread. Where I started the journey of life, I have my house and my entire family in Gusau I just returned yesterday”.
Alhaji (Dr.) Najeem Usman Yasin, President, NURTW
My Northern Lifestyle….
Dr. Yasin shared his opinion about the North where he grew with Asabeafrika, giving a narrative of how northern elite sees life from their southern counterpart “The north is pretty okay because everybody goes about their businesses peacefully and if God blesses one person today, you see one thousand people following him and benefiting from him. They will just come and get what they can get from him and keep praying for him at all times. But over here it is not like that, they will say ‘how can I go to another person’s house and beg for something?’ they wont want to do that even if they are hungry and dying but that is not the case with people of northern Nigeria. In the north you can just come now as you meet me, if you meet me eating you only need to wash your hand and start eating with me I don’t need to invite you over. It can’t happen like that over here (South) because your guest may say ‘ah, maybe he will just lay my food with Juju’ (Laughter). But in the north everybody is free.  That is the spirit of northern Nigeria”.
Dr. Yasin, the BIG BOSS @ NURTW

Why NURTW is strong and Powerful….
On why the level of coordination and leadership in NURTW is strong and unbreakable, Dr. Yasin noted as a veteran of the union “That is how the organization was established, in NURTW there is a chain of leadership. Everybody knows who is ahead of him and that cooperation is strong. I could remember when I was in Zamfara as the pioneer state chairman of NURTW our military administrator then in 1996, was Colonel Jibrin Bala Yakubu (Rtd). One day he called me he said ‘Najeem, what is the secret behind this organization?’; ‘if we are looking at the level of indiscipline we feel we should visit the motor park but at the same time you people command like soldiers, like military, you tell them to stop and they stop. What is the magic behind it?’ that is a military administrator asking me that question that he was surprised the way we organize our leadership, the cooperation we enjoy and the kind of respect our subordinates gives to us. Even the member of the union fears the union than any security agency. That is how God made it to be; you know everything you find that works well is established by God that is how God established the organization. It is a Godly organization”. “NURTW is one of the most viable organizations in this country and the most disciplined organization as I have explained to you. If I say within twenty four hours I want all the 36 state chairmen to report in Abuja right away, you will see all of them here. So, discipline and orderliness is a maximum standard”.

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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