About Senator Abdul-Aziz Murtala Nyako

Abdul-Aziz Murtala Nyako (ab-dool á-zeez moor-tá-lá nee-yá-ko) is the incumbent Senator of Adamawa state. With over 15 years of leadership experience in the Nigerian Navy, and an appointment as the Sarkin Matasa Adamawa (Youth Leader of Lamido Kingdom) in 2013, AbdulAziz has demonstrated initiative in tackling issues related to security, youth empowerment, and drug and law enforcement—all of which are important in encouraging a functional democratic society in Nigeria.

Early Challenges

“Between 1970-1980 I was virtually always on the move. I don’t think I spent more than 18 months in any particular location.”

Born in Kaduna in 1970 and the eldest of 17 children, Abdul-Aziz spent most of his childhood in Tamandu Barracks in Apapa, Lagos. In Nigeria, he moved around frequently between Bauchi, Adamawa, Niger, Borno, and Lagos due to the fact that his father, Murtala Nyako, an officer in the Nigerian Navy, was posted to various locations. As a result, he was enrolled in several nursery and primary schools from 1970-1981—completing parts of his primary education in the United Kingdom from 1978-1981. This continuous change in environment from the UK back to Nigeria proved to be trying for him as a young boy, although it improved his resilience, academic performance and understanding of various cultures and backgrounds.

It was not until 1985 that Abdul-Aziz found some stability. He spent five years at the Air Force Military School in Jos and in 1990 enrolled in the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) where he received a BSc. in Chemistry. The following year, he went back to the UK and trained at the Britania Royal Naval College (Dartmouth), where he was subsequently commissioned as a Sublieutenant in 1992. His time at Dartmouth was significant in that it renewed his sense of confidence and helped him reinforce his identity. Upon his return back to Nigeria that same year, Abdul-Aziz withdrew his commission and re-enrolled in the NDA.

NDA was especially difficult during his first year. As the son of Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako, the then Chief of Naval Staff of the Nigerian Navy, he received harsher treatment than some of his fellow classmates whose fathers were not military officials. Motivated by the challenges and abhorrence of failure, Abdul-Aziz made it his priority to graduate from the parade ground at NDA, just as he had at Dartmouth.

The Beginnings of a Leader

From 1992 onwards, most of Abdul-Aziz’ life was seaborne. In 1997, he was on board the NNS Aradu setting sail for Sierra Leone on a patrol mission. Instead of Sierra Leone, they arrived in Liberia and remained there for 7 months at the onset of the Second Liberian Civil War. During his time on board the ship, he organized a rescue mission to retrieve the bodies of five of his fallen colleagues after a sewage plant had caused poisonous gases to leak into the compartment where the men were carrying out routine operations. Using the training he received from Dartmouth, he was able to save the lives of two other colleagues.

From 2001 to 2006, he served on board many ships, including the naval team on board the first missile patrol craft in the Bakassi Peninsula in 2005. It was during his Junior Division training in Liberia in 2001, that he first considered leaving the Navy. When his father was elected Governor of Adamawa state in 2008, the opportunity was presented to leave the service.

A Sense of Purpose

“In politics you should always expect a good fight…don’t run away from it…particularly when it comes to fighting for the common good.”

When Abdul-Aziz attended the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji, he presented a paper in 2006 on the problems of grassroots development and solutions. When Vice Admiral Nyako won the governorship, he asked his son to spearhead a grassroots program for the state. This proved to be a god fit for him. In that year, Abdul-Aziz moved to Adamawa to begin the planning for this new program. When his father’s election was annulled, he remained in Adamawa to assist with the re-elections and planning. His experience assisting his father in Adamawa was the beginning of his involvement in politics.

Ahead of his promotion to captain in 2010, Abdul-Aziz retired from the service. When he returned to Adamawa, not only was he not affiliated with any political party, he did not participate in partisan politics at the time. He was still deeply concerned with the development of the grassroots program in Adamawa, which included the local apprenticeship scheme, farmer skill acquisition program, and the advancement of vocational and technical training centers. The contributions he made to the grassroots program were independent of any government or state appointment or political affiliation—he acted solely as civilian addressing the needs within his community.

A Title From the People

“Every mature citizen of this country should contribute his own or her own quota…where you can make your local environment better, you just have to contribute.”

By 2012, the grassroots program was fully functional. In 2013, the Lamido Adamawa appointed Abdul-Aziz the Sarkin Matassa Adamawa. In this role, he acts as the Chief Security Advisor of the Lamido Adamawa. He is also responsible for the empowerment and cultural reorientation of the youth and the encouragement of female participation in public service. As Sarkin Matassa, he has successfully conducted many security trainings and drug related programs for youth within the State. For women, he created an empowerment program and micro financing schemes to encourage business development.

Leadership in Politics

“The idea for us primarily was not just about defeating the PDP…the main focus for us was to try to get a platform for our people that were driven out of the PDP.”

In 2013, Abdul-Aziz launched himself into partisan politics when he joined the ANPP. Having noticed that the PDP, the ruling party, was becoming increasingly unjust in its dealings with its members, he sought to find an alternate party for the disgruntled members within the administration. After extensive deliberation, he left the state to seek a new party—chiefly as a response to what he saw as the disenfranchisement of the citizens and especially that of minority parties (ANPP, CPC, ACN) in the State. Although he was never a member of the PDP, it was always assumed that he was, since his father was a member of the party.

Abdul-Aziz was charged with the responsibility of protecting the interest of all stakeholders in the formation of the new party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). He promised the leadership of the various legacy parties that the new party would be just and it will ensure equitable representation for all stakeholders in the primaries of the new party (APC), despite the new PDP’s demands for 50 percent of the new party structure. When the agreements were reached and the courts approved the name APC, he joined the party.

Showing initiative and a deep concern for the successful formation of APC in Adamawa, AbdulAziz wanted to make certain that the newly formed Harmonization Committee—created to unify APC party members in state-level decision making—performed its duties while maintaining camaraderie. As a result, he mobilized 336 leaders from the women and youth groups, as well as chairmen and secretaries—all of which were representative of the 21 local governments in Adamawa. Under his leadership, he directed the leaders to collapse the former structures representing the four different parties at the local government level, and to create an office that was representative of only one party. His laudable efforts resulted in organized local government offices in the state.

Looking Ahead

“I think that at our level, politics should be about bringing benefit to the people…at any time you find yourself in a situation whereby you cannot really bring benefit to the people at the grassroots, then there’s no need for you to be in politics…there’s just no need…politics should be about service.”

Today, Senator Nyako believes that insecurity in the Northeast is endemic to Nigeria’s current problems. The facilitation of the youth empowerment program is essential to curtailing the security issues in the North by providing youth—who are the prime recruits of the insurgency— with constructive opportunities to better themselves and their communities. While in office, he plans to continue to grow the program and further increase its reach to other areas in the North.

Senator Nyako is also concerned with maritime safety and security. His background in the Navy will admit him in the organization of committees around the issues of maritime environment. His passion for grassroots-level state-building is essential to his political ideology. He is a proponent of a bottom-up approach to governance, whereby the needs and requirements of individuals at the grassroots level are directly recognized and acted upon by leaders at the federal level.

Senator Nyako continues to focus on transportation, energy, and agriculture in Adamawa— Energy will drive industries; good transportation services will increase production and productivity, leading to more employment opportunities. A focus on the Agro Allied industries will bring jobs and raw materials that can help regenerate the economy.