In this new series on people who have had close encounters with presidential candidates, Bala Malgwi, who describes himself as the godson of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, shares his intimate experience with us:
What early leadership traits did you notice in him?
From the beginning, I’ve known Atiku to be a kind-hearted man. He has a very strong will. He is the kind of person that always wants people to be around him. Once he wakes up in the morning, the first thing he does is look around to see people that are around him.
He is also the kind of person that always wants to assist at every point once you come to him. The most pronounced sign of leadership is that he is a good listener. He tries to solve people's problems. At any given time, he is there for you.
Are there special memories of your relationship that linger on with you?
Yes. I will tell you a story on something that happened to me. Some years back, my ex-wife was in America and she was delivered of my second child. Some few days later, I got a call from America and my daughter was supposed to go for surgery.
I didn't have a dime. I looked left, right and centre. Who am I going to run to for assistance? I left my house at about 1am. I went to his house. At that time, he was in a meeting with a former governor of Kano. Immediately I peeped he saw me.
He said, ‘Bala, are you okay?’ I said, ‘Yes Daddy’. But I want to see you. He said okay, let me finish my meeting. He finished his meeting at about 2am and he called me and asked what the problem was. I narrated the story. He said he was heading to Ghana in the morning but asked me to see Babalele in the morning.
And in the morning at about 10am, Babalele called me and said, ‘I have a message for you from Daddy’. I said okay. I went to the office. Babalele gave me $50,000 from Atiku. If it were someone else with so much on his mind, he would definitely forget that he had made a promise. But this is one person, he didn't forget and first thing in the morning, I got a call. It is something I will never forget in my life.
He is also the kind of person that always wants to assist at every point once you come to him. The most pronounced sign of leadership is that he is a good listener.
What drives him?
He likes seeing the younger generation prosper in whatever they do in the life and he tries his best to encourage you. Financially, he will give that support. He will talk to you, he will give you that guidance. Even if it means getting a third party to advise you.
He can go to that length. He derives pleasure in helping people. He derives pleasure in seeing people all around Nigeria come as one, either you sure Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, name it. There is no religion, there is no tribe. Either you are a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim, Atiku Abubakar will relate with you.
What are his major weaknesses?
His weakness I will say is that he loves his people too much. That is one of his weaknesses.
Why should Nigerians vote for him?
He is the only man that can take us forward from where we are in this country because he understands the problems of the country. I will give you something that we discussed with him. Someone in the power sector came to me and said, ‘Look Bala, I want to meet Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’.
I made a call to his protocol officer and asked, ‘Where is Daddy?’ He said he is in the office. I said, okay I am coming. We went there, the man saw him, and we discussed about the energy sector. Guess what? What he told us was that he has had a plan for the sector since he was Vice President.
He used his money to put together a team of consultants that went round Nigeria for almost seven to eight months to bring out a plan. And he told this gentleman, this is my plan for Nigeria once I get the chance to become President.
Will you be disappointed if he loses?
I will be very disappointed. This is a man that is prepared to be president of Nigeria. Remember, back in the days of SDP, Atiku Abubakar was an aspirant. He stepped down for Moshood Abiola in the running for the presidential ticket.
Ever since, he has been preparing to be the president of this country. When you look from 1999 to 2007, the economic team he set up, with people like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Nuhu Ribadu, Charles Soludo, made up a very vibrant economic team. He knows what do to fix our problems.
He said he was heading to Ghana in the morning but asked me to see Babalele in the morning. And in the morning at about 10am, Babalele called me and said, ‘I have a message for you from Daddy’. I said okay. I went to the office. Babalele gave me $50,000 from Atiku.
What is the single most important thing to you in this election?
The most important thing for me is education, power, roads and agriculture. These are the four most important things for because when you give your people education, they will become more aware and they will come out of poverty. We have a lot of uneducated people.
Are you better off than you were four years ago?
No. I am not. I am a businessman. I employed at least 74 people. Right now, as I speak, I have only two people left because of government policies. I import goods. I understand the government is trying to stop importations so that we will start producing.
How do we produce when we don't have all the infrastructure? We don't have power. We don't have good roads. How do we produce? In fact, I have never experienced the kind of hardship I have experienced in the last three and a half years. I have wasted three and a half years of my life doing nothing.
I have never experienced the kind of hardship I have experienced in the last three and a half years. I have wasted three and a half years of my life doing nothing.
If Atiku were not in the ballot, who would you have voted for?
I will look for a better candidate. It might be anybody. But I will look for somebody that can move this country forward.
What is unique about him?
There are so many things unique about him. He is a father, a good father. And I have learnt something from him, a very good listener. That is very unique to me. Only unique people have that kind of character.