“Success is not measured by the position you reach, but by the obstacles you overcome”
-John Harold Johnson( late publisher of Ebony Magazine)
She is a rare breed; an iconic combination of brilliance, beauty and boldness. But more than these, she has become a jinx-breaker of some sort, making history by becoming the first Ihima-born politician to climb up to the pedestal of senator-ship, in Nigeria’s chequered history of democracy. Interestingly too, she is the first female politician in Kogi Central Senatorial District to achieve that feat. It means therefore, that her victory has come to balance the political equation, as she has perfectly hit the bull’s eye by using one stone to hit two birds.
Good enough, her concept of politics is encapsulated in the noble paradigm of the late President Yar’Adua’s promoted servant-leadership, to serve with her innate milk of human kindness, rather than to be served. She has come up therefore, as a patriot ready to change the narrative in Nigeria’s turbulent, socio- economic and political landscape.
For instance, over the past decade, she has stood head and shoulders above her peers as a beacon bearer- through philanthropy and political engineering- to show the way forward out of the long, dark tunnel of self-inflicted ignorance, mass acquiescence and servitude. Not surprising is that she encapsulates the leadership qualities of vision and the 5-C principles of character, commitment, candour, compassion and charisma. Not left out of course, are the rare attributes of the 3-H attributes of hard work, humility, and honesty of purpose. Mind you, one is not garbing her in the cloak of perfection. No one is.
The truth however, is that in spite of being born with the proverbial silver spoon, in the serene, scenic and idyllic Ihima setting back in 1979 she has not lost the common touch. She chose, in an uncommon decision-making process to wear the tattered shoes of the common man and knows exactly where they pinch him most. And more importantly, she does everything humanly possible to replace such shoes with new ones!
One is talking about no other person than Barrister Natasha Hadiza Akpoti-Uduahgan, a social entrepreneur and politician. As the founder, Builders Hub Impact Investment Program, BHIIP several lives have been touched; moving many erstwhile helpless and hapless citizens from the ignoble pit of mass poverty to self-sustenance and prosperity.
It is intriguing to note, that over 1000 children across Nigeria have benefitted from Natasha’s educational scholarship programs. At a point, 600 primary school children, 248 of which are orphans were adopted on the 9th December, 2015 from primary schools within her immediate community in Ihima, Kogi state and beyond. She has similarly adopted children she has come across, with some hawking sundry food items and others filling potholes on the streets to touch tellingly on the their human development index for good. As she had rightly noted: “I believe in the power of education as an essential life tool in eradicating poverty and no child must be deprived of such an opportunity”. Great, you would admit.
In fact, whatever iota of doubt anyone must have had about her ever-rising wave of influence has been washed away by the swirls of ovation and applause that trailed her recent electoral victory as the Appeal Court confirmed her, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as the rightful Senator to represent Kogi State Senatorial District. It dismissed the appeal filed by Abubakar Ohere, of the All Progressives Congress(APC) for lacking in merit.
It would be recalled that earlier in September, 2023 the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lokoja had nullified the victory of Ohere. But that was not the first time Natasha was throwing her beautiful hat into the ring for the contest.
Read also: Natasha Akpoti-Uduahan sworn in as senator
For instance, back in 2019, she picked the Social Democratic Party, SDP senate nomination form, to run for the same office but she lost. Yet, she did not give up. So, what lessons are we to learn from her political trajectory? As Harold Johnson rightly stated:”Failure is not final, it’s just the beginning of your next success”. Similarly, according to Queen Victoria, the former Empress of the British Empire,” We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat.” Always remember Gibbon’s admonition that: “Winners don’t quit and quitters never win.” And as Napoleon Hill stated: “Those who persist are those who win.” Of course, “saints are sinners who kept on going”. That is for people who are determined to succeed, against all odds, as Natasha has done.
Perhaps, we all could glean lessons from one of the most popular examples of the ‘never give up’ attitude, Abraham Lincoln who failed ten times in politics at different elections before eventually clinching the prestigious American presidency. The story would have been different if he had given up.The lesson therein is that as Ray Kroc, the fast-food entrepreneur expressly stated: “Persistence pays”!
Another lesson to learn from Natasha is her role as a dogged fighter for the revitalization of the moribund Ajaokuta steel company. Even as a non-member of the National Assembly she influenced the three bills in request for breathing life into it. The bills included: Bill to establish Steel Authority, as was sponsored by Nicholas Ossai, PDP, Delta State Ndokwa/Ukwani Federal Constituency.
Recall that at the tail end of 1979, the then General Olusegun Obasanjo-led military government signed the first global contract to give light and life to the steel company. As reflected in my book: ‘Drumbeats of Democracy’© 2018, partly dedicated to her, back then hopes were high that it would stimulate industrial revolution through its much-needed products, generate employment, and improve on human capacity development. Furthermore, it would encourage local technology with machine fabrication and reduce over dependence on imported tools and machines that have seen to huge capital flights.
By 1983 the Steel company had attained 95 per cent completion with four rolling mills (light section, billets, wire rod, medium/structural processes) in operation. Unfortunately, little did the brains behind the money-guzzling project (valued at $7 billion dollars) understand the undercurrents of international politics between the Soviet Union and the United States that played out.
Natasha’s patriotic role in the Ajaokuta steel Company therefore, runs in sync with the wise counsel of one Akin George of the Nigeria Mining and Geoscientists Society, NMGS. As he aptly warned : “No country can develop without an iron and steel industry. It is the backbone of industrialization. So, if the Committee set to look into its operations says it should be scrapped, that is nonsense and we can’t accept that rubbish. The person doing that is in connivance with the imperialist western world who does not want us to succeed.”
As Natasha assumes office at the Senate, she must come to terms with the fact that one’s victory in any given aspect of life leads to a new set of challenges. She must be ready for such. Meanwhile, history will reckon with her as an indefatigable fighter for human rights, a great lover of education and a female politician in the likes of Funmilayo Ranome-Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, and Hajiya Gambo Sawaba.
To succeed, she should reflect on Prof. Chiedozie Okoro’s position in his foreword to the book titled: ‘Contradictions-Lessons from the School of Life’ by Somi Uranta. It states that: ‘While you still breathe, don’t give up, don’t lose hope./Fiercely but wisely fight through the storms of life./The joy in life is not the regret over the spoils/ But in the unmasking of the spoils into bountiful harvests’.
Big kudos to Natasha, and wishing her the best years ahead.