An encounter with Hon. Amos Gwamna Magaji leaves you in awe. He is intellectually driven and he was as one of the brightest in his younger days to the extent that everybody concluded that he would be a medical doctor. Fast-forward to his later years, a prolonged strike put his ambition on hold and he ended up in human physiology. From his aborted dream of becoming a medical doctor to his success story as a business tycoon, pastor and now a politician, Magaji, a PDP lawmaker representing Zangon Kataf/Jaba Federal Constituency of Kaduna State in the 10th National Assembly’s strength lies in believing in himself. Hon. Magaji, who chairs the House Committee on Health Institutions in a brief encounter tells Funke Olaode his story and hope for the
restoration of security to his Southern Kaduna constituency.
It was an unscheduled interview that happened on the corridor of a luxury hotel somewhere in Ikeja, Lagos one sunny afternoon. Amos Magaji has demonstrated the indomitable spirit that dwells in him, which underscores his unwavering support for his people. Looking dapper in a black suit, he is actually one of the ‘big boys’ in the House of Rep. But Magaji finds great strength in simplicity, which propels the conversation to dig deep to know more about his life, ideas and milestones.
To say that Magaji has the seed of greatness in him, a sound mind and potential for growth is like stating the obvious. He would later admit that his first code of success is being intentional about every move either in public or private.
“Prior to my foray into politics, I was in the private sector, consulting in occupational health and safety in Abuja and Lagos. So, you would be surprised that I never set out to be a politician,” he said as he opened up the conversation.
Magaji is intellectually driven and scholarly inspired. The traits nurtured as one of the brightest in his younger days that everybody concluded that he would be a medical doctor. “With modesty, my brilliance has always stood me out and I thought by now I would have been a professor but somehow I went through medical school and it was very tough.
“I have always wanted to be a medical doctor, not because I wanted to be but maybe after every quiz competition, when you represent your secondary school and you come out brilliantly, your teacher will say, ‘I hope you will be a doctor.’ I don’t know whether the dream was internally generated or it was imputed to me by the voices of many people I heard growing up. Because if you are doing well in school everybody will suggest you become a medical doctor. Then, I decided to write JAMB and put in medicine that I have been hearing in my head. I was the best student in geography, biology, and physics.”
Magaji has had his fair share of disruption in Nigeria’s education sector. In an unfortunate twist of fate, after spending close to a decade pursuing his dream, he jettisoned the idea and ended up in Human Physiology, which is still part of medicine. “None of my classmates spent less than 10 years at medical school. But I moved to Human Physiology. I was actually heartbroken but I believe in God and His will.”
Holding firmly to God’s instructions, Magaji still had the ambition of pursuing his early dream. With basic courses undertaken during his undergraduate days and a degree in HP, he was assured. Instead of joining his classmates in MBBS Class after graduation, he went for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps. After service, he got a job and moved on. Today, he has a master’s degree in Health Management, a professional certificate in Health and Safety and a PhD in Environmental Management.
By the way, Magaji is also a Pastor in House on the Rock. His reference to the Bible intermittently gave him away. He is firmly rooted in the words of God who guided him in that disturbing moment.
“I wanted to be a medical doctor but it didn’t materialise. There was no real disappointment. At the point I wanted to leave MBBS to study human physiology, I had a dream and I was praying. I actually went on fasting for 21 days. I was just praying to know the direction God wants me to go. Then, I dreamt that I saw a sun coming out which signified the dawn of a new day, the sun rose. So, when I went there, it wasn’t the sun that came but in the colour of the sun, words of hope came out. So, I said what does that mean? Then God took me to Jeremiah and said there is hope in your end.”
Magaji’s ambition may be thwarted but he has made it up through his commitments to the nation as a politician. He is currently Chairman House Committee on Health Institutions. With successes trailing him in the private sector where he has operated for over two decades, why did he throw in the towel to be a politician? His response: “The truth about it is that I have always been involved with my people but not in politics. If you had called me in 2018 to go into politics, I would have rejected it. But the bible says many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the counsel of the Lord that shall stand. And that is what I believe happened to me. I wasn’t even sure I would be in politics but suddenly I found myself in it. I think it was divine.”
Kaduna has been in the news for the wrong reasons due to ethnic/religious crises that have defied solutions. What steps are being taken to dowse the tension in Southern Kaduna? Magaji said he is hopeful.
“There are a lot of interventions concerning that. We are grateful for the establishment of a unit called Operation Safe Haven (local), which has also been helping to curb the crises. The unit is part of the office of the Chief of Defense Staff. Of course, we are also grateful that we have the Chief of Defence Staff from Zangokataf. I believe that with the new administration at both federal and state levels, a lot will be done to ensure that the security situation in Kaduna is restored.”
As Chairman House Committee on Health Institutions, loads of responsibilities fall on his table. Throwing more light on health situations, he emphasised that it goes beyond “Phensic and Panadol.”
“A nation thrives with a healthy population particularly development of children and women of child-bearing age. But we also have some very salient problems in our society right now, especially with people within my constituency, which is insecurity.
“Insecurity has affected the availability of food in rural areas within Nigeria especially the northern part of Nigeria and largely part of Kaduna State. In my constituency right now, many people are not able to go to their farms, so cultivating food becomes a problem. That is problem number one.”
Shedding more light on food fortification, he remarked that the need to survive has overshadowed the quest for quality food.
“And when you are talking about food fortification, which is the topic of discussion at the Forum where we met, people are not taking it very seriously because they are just looking for food to eat and survive. So, if you tell them let’s fortify our food, what they are actually looking for is that ‘let me have food that I will eat and survive, whether the food is rich in nutrients or not.’ And of course, food fortification also comes with the cost. At the point where the economy is not going the way everybody would have wanted in Nigeria, that becomes a problem again. When you are telling people to make sure they eat food that is fortified, people will tell you where they get this food from.
“But then, the legislation is there that encourages or mandates every large-scale food producer to fortify their food before they even bring it to the market. Even when the food is fortified, there are issues with transportation, storage and distribution of food. Within those chains, our food gets contaminated. Even if you have fortified food, retaining food becomes a challenge. People now have to eat contaminated fortified food. These are issues and areas we need to closely monitor to ensure that when people are given food, they are food that is safe.
“And with the current situation in the country, farmers normally put chemicals on their farm produce to save them from weevils and so on. And those chemicals have their duration, their lifeline, and the time it will take the chemicals to wear down so that you can consume them. For instance, as a farmer, if you have bags of beans and corn, and you apply chemicals and probably the produce was supposed to be safe for consumption in October and suddenly you hear that in August the bags are selling for so high. You too want to make quick money. And of course, you as a buyer do not know what the farmer has put in its own store. So you bring the food product, sell it out, and then people will eat and before you know what is happening, they will start having food poisoning. And if something happens, they will now start looking at the stepmother, that she is the one probably that has killed them. Not knowing that the problem of food poisoning, most times comes from the storage, transportation and retaining those food products. It is very good to have fortified food but it is also very important for us to make sure that the food that people are getting is safe.”
Hon. Magaji wears many caps. He is a husband, father, politician and pastor even right from his university days. He started as a Baptist then went to a Ministry called CRM, and later House On the Rock. His busy schedule as a politician hasn’t taken the shine off his responsibility as a dutiful husband and father.
“I am a family-oriented man. Again, I am just blessed with a wife who understands, if not I think politics and all the exigencies of the work affect the family. I have handled my responsibilities well without one affecting the other. For instance, I love to unwind by listening to music and going to the gym. Family is everything so I create time for my family,” he stated.