First, was in 1994. Armed with a 1992 BSc (Hons) in International Relations from OAU IFE and fresh from the NYSC in Calabar where I served in the Press Unit of the Government House (1992/1993) I stormed Lagos and arrived in Baba Longjan’s office, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Marina, Lagos Island. I told him I wanted him to help me secure my dream job in the Nigerian Foreign Service.
Baba had just returned from posting by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgium. He gladly received my CV and academic credentials and perused them. He lamented, saying: “Nigeria! A young man like you with your kind and class of degree should be employed here without a day’s delay because we need you here but…”
Pronto! Baba drove me in his old Jeep straight to the Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi, where he obtained for me a form for employment in the Foreign Service via the Federal Civil Service Commission. He literally filled the form for me. (I remember meeting my friend and roommate in CSJ Vom, Pharmacist Albert Alkali, who happened to be in Ikoyi on same mission).
Baba later took me to his house in Ikoyi where I spent the night and ate a sumptuous five course dinner washed down with choice wines. We discussed deep into the night like mates. He thereafter did everything possible to secure the job but that wasn’t to be because the then Head of State, General Abacha placed an embargo on FG employment throughout his tenure! I had to inadvertently switch to professional journalism to survive and later became a Publisher.
Second, was in 2007, when Baba became the Chief of Staff to former Governor Jonah Jang. I approached him one day to seek his intervention in a court case which I won with my company, Periscope International. The debt amounted to some millions of Naira but the defendant Local Government in the state had refused to pay despite the court order. Baba immediately invited the council chairman and after listening to him directed him to go and pay, which was promptly complied with!
Third, was in 2008, when the Plateau State PDP was to conduct its state congresses. Baba summoned me to his office and told me point blank that he wanted me to vie for the position of State Publicity Secretary of the party. His words: “Look, Mark, you’re a young man with a lot of potentials, you’re very talented, well educated and exposed. I want to bring people like you into politics to take over because I’ll retire from politics at the end of the Jang Administration…” I nodded in affirmation and I could see his relief from his countenance.
However, my body language of not being too predisposed to partisan politics that time, coupled with a quantum of intrigues, blackmails and outright lies and falsehood against me following the bitter primaries of the local government chairmanship election in which his “candidate” lost, made Baba to later grudgingly settle for somebody else for the position of Publicity Secretary.
Fourth, was when the issue of appointing Secretaries to Local Governments in the state came up in 2009. Again, Baba stood firm behind me like the Rock of Ages. The then former Chairman of our local government, Theophilus Shan, had to call me to his office one day and asked me: “What is between you and Baba Longjan that he is putting so much pressure on me to appoint you as Secretary to the Local Government?”
I told him Baba only had a soft spot for me, that’s all, and we laughed if off. The rest is history, as the council chairman later defied him, picked somebody else and only compensated me with an apology and a few million Naira contract!
Fifth, was when he became Deputy Governor in 2011. Baba had penciled down my name for the position of his Chief Press Secretary. That, however, didn’t materialize because I was later told that the overbearing incumbent Governor Jang later overruled him and picked somebody for him for that office, a civil servant from the Plateau Central Senatorial Zone.
And so, when Governor Simon Lalong appointed me as his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Baba was highly elated and expressed his feelings to me when I went to his house to pay him a courtesy visit after my assumption of office. Baba then admonished me to “stay put in politics and avoid playing your usual disappearance acts whenever you’re most needed.”