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Alhaji Aremu Babs Yahaya

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Aremu Babs Yahaya (born 1 September, 1941) is a Nigerian politician, businessman and film producer. He was Minister of State for Transport and Aviation (1993 – 1995) and was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1983, where he served as Chairman of the House Committee of Appropriations in the Nigerian Second Republic. He is the son of Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki, former Minister for Health.

Background Early Life Babs Yahaya was born on September 1st, 1941 in Ilorin, Kwara State. His father was Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki, former Minister of Health, who served in the cabinet along with Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and other prominent pre-independence leaders of Northern Nigeria. He started his primary education at United Primary School Ilorin, Kwara State before his father sent him to study at the West Africa People’s Institute in Calabar, Cross River State. It is for this reason he speaks fluent Igbo. He later transferred to St Johns College, Kaduna and then graduated from the School of Agriculture in Zaria. Film In 1962, Babs Yahaya travelled to the UK to study film production and cinematography at the London Film School. He subsequently trained in Italy, then the global centre of film, then France and subsequently the United States. After completing his film study, Yahaya returned to Nigeria to work at the Ministry of Information, where he subsequently became Head of the Nigeria Film Unit during what has been termed the Golden Age of Nigerian Cinema, with the rapid expansion of the cinema business and establishment of cinema houses across the country. He spearheaded the creation of film departments in many states of the federation and recruited and trained many of the first pioneers of the Nigerian film industry. At the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War, Yahaya was invited by the then Head of State, Yakubu Gowon and then Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Colonel Joseph Akahan, to film the conduct of the war and gather and disseminate information from the front. He was enlisted as a lieutenant alongside :Olabisi Ajala (also known as Ajala Globetrotter), who had just completed a bicycle tour of the United States and had acted in several films, including 20th Century Fox’s White Witch Doctor starring Robert Mitchum . During the war, Yahaya filmed at many theatres of operations and worked alongside and under the protection of his friend and fellow Ilorin indigene, General Tunde Idiagbon, as well as Major General Mohammed Shuwa, the first General Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army’s 1st Division, General George Innih and others. Much of the footage was fed to ABC News in the United States. After the war, Yahaya started his own film production company named Space Age Productions, being the major distributor of film and sound stock and producer of several documentary programmes including, most notably, the official film of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac 77) . He also produced films and documentaries in the UK and United States, including Yellowdog, directed and co-produced by Terence Donovan, whom he had met and formed a good relationship with during his earlier studies in the UK.

Business Yahaya has had a broad range of business interests, starting with the request from the late Ali Akilu, the first indigenous secretary to the Premier and Head of the Northern civil service, for him to expand the thriving Kaduuna-based Arewa Textiles business to Lagos. Yahaya established the successful Arewa Textile Stores Limited and followed this with several other businesses in the real estate, aviation and pharmaceutical sectors.

Politics In the late 1970s, Yahaya became a close friend and associate of Olusola Saraki, the erstwhile godfather of Kwara politics and Senator of the Nigerian Second Republic. It was Saraki who encouraged Yahaya to enter politics and, on 7th July, 1979, Yahaya was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives , on the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) platform. He subsequently became Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee of the House and was widely tipped to become Speaker. However, the military coup of 1983 led to a truncation of the Second Republic and Yahaya’s exit from democratic domestic politics. In November 1993, mostly to dampen international condemnation of his 17th November coup, General Sani Abacha appointed an almost all-civilian cabinet, including politicians known for their opposition to military rule and several strong supporters of Moshood Abiola, who had just won the Presidential election. Yahaya was among them and was appointed Minister of State for Transport and Aviation. However, the cabinet remained subordinate to the military-dominated Provisional Ruling Council and many of the civilian Ministers found it difficult to work with Abacha. In 1995, some months after Moshood Abiola was arrested and charged with treason and before Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) were convicted and executed, Yahaya, along with several of his fellow Ministers resigned from office. As a Minister, Yahaya is credited for launching the first audit of the then notoriously corrupt Nigeria Airways and activities at the airports. He also fought the cartel perpetrating flight ticket frauds, significantly increasing sector revenues. He was also responsible for the upgrade of the Owerri Airport, Imo State amongst others. Since being a Federal Minister, Yahaya has been less active in politics, but worked to establish the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Kwara State upon the request of Muhammadu Buhari, and continues to be an advisor to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Kwara political dynamics.

Personal Life Alhaji Yahaya is married to Tayibat Funmilayo Yahaya and has five children, Mulikat Arinola Ogunnusi, Yakubu Laiwola Yahaya, Dr. Abdulateef Folarin Yahaya, Nurudeen Kolawole Yahaya (now deceased) and Abdulrasheed Goriola Yahaya.


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