By Dr. Sule Ya’u Sule
It is with a heavy heart that I mourn the passing of my former boss His Excellency Brigadier-General Dominic Obukadata Oneya who died on Thursday, August 5, 2021. I had spoken with him on Tuesday and got the feeling he was hale and hearty. If I had known it would be our last ever conversation, I would have taken time to thank him for everything he had done for me and above all, for his humanity, decency, love of people, discipline, passion for sport, football in particular, and above all, his love for Kano and Kano people.
His Excellency General Oneya who was born on May 26, 1948, had a distinguished career in the Nigerian Army before serving as military administrator of Kano State between August 1996 and August 1998. He was later redeployed to Benue State where he handed over to an elected civilian Governor on May 29, 1999. He loved people, almost to a fault. He loved meeting new people but always remembered old friends. He had a generous and kind heart and would never discriminate against anyone based on religion or tribe or academic differences. He always wanted to make an impact in whatever assignment he was given. He was also a great family man, always cheerful and forgiving.
The then Colonel Oneya was one of the best governors to rule Kano and will be fondly missed by millions of his admirers, both young and old. He governed Kano state with fairness and justice; he left landmarks worth celebrating and earned the respect and admiration of the majority of people, with whom he retained friendship until he returned to his maker.
The rest of Nigeria, especially football lovers, remember him well as Chairman of the Nigeria Football Association (now Nigeria Football Federation) between January 2000 and October 2002. It was under his tenure that the Super Eagles won the silver medal at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations which Nigeria co-hosted with Ghana. More successes were to follow as the Super Eagles qualified for the FIFA World Cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan even as Nigeria picked up a bronze medal at the 2002 African Cup of Nations competition hosted in Mali.
As Military Administrator, he promoted sports in Kano. Football lovers remember the special attention and motivation he gave to Kano Pillars Football Club. Under Oneya, players and officials of Kano Pillars received enviable attention as he took a personal interest in the progress of the club.
As for me, all I have left are fond memories of my encounter with this wonderful man and father figure.
I can comfortably recall one busy day while working as a group news editor for Triumph Newspaper, and trying to fill the pages of the newspaper, my managing director, Alhaji Garba Shehu who is currently the Senior Special Assistant on Media to President Muhammadu Buhari, walked into the newsroom and came right towards me. He asked me, “Sule, do you know who the newly appointed Military Administrator is?”. I promptly replied, “No, I do not, Sir.”. He further asked, “Have you ever come in contact with him?”, to which I replied, “No, Sir”. This conversation occurred halfway through the year 1996. Alhaji Garba Shehu then told me that he received a call from the Government House asking for me. He asked me, “Did you write anything offensive?”, to which I replied, “Well Sir, apart from my regular column which appeared last week, which I believe you have read, I have not written anything offensive.” He replied, “Yes, that column was harmless, so why are you being called to the Government House?” I told him I did not know why I was being called. To be honest, I became apprehensive afterward as I sincerely did not know why I was being summoned by the Military Administrator.
Together, we set out towards the Government House. Upon arrival, we visited the office of the SSG. Afterward, the SSG, my Managing Director, and I went towards the other parts of the Government House to visit the current Military Administrator. After reaching his office, and as soon as I was introduced, the Military Administrator said to me, “You are a young man, how are you, Sule?”. I replied, “I am fine, Sir.” He then brought out a newspaper dated last week in which my article appeared. The Administrator then said, “You wrote this?”. I replied, “Yes, I did, Sir.” He further said, “Since you have articulated most of the problems of the State in this write-up, come let us solve them together.” He then turned towards the SSG and said, “SSG, go and appoint him as my Assistant Press Secretary.” That was the beginning of my relationship with Colonel Dominic Oneya. It was much later I understand someone actually mentioned my name to him.
My boss, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau used to be the top favorite civil servant of Colonel Oneya. He was the Permanent Secretary of Administration and General Services in the Cabinet office. Oneya greatly relied on him because of his versatility in handling matters concerning the civil service. This brought about a close working relationship between them, which continued even after he left Kano, and this continued up to a week to his death, when he called me to enquire about our whereabouts in Ghana. Oneya was a very aggressive Governor, he loved Kano a lot, and adopted Kano as his home. He quarreled with anyone who referred to him as a non-indigene of Kano.
He also loved sports. He tried to protect the traditions and religion of the people. I remember when any issue came up, so long it was about tradition or religion, Oneya would consult extensively before taking a decision.
Farewell, Brigadier-General Dominic Obukadata Oneya. You lived a great and fulfilling life worth celebrating