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

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”.

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