By ABBA MAHMOOD —
On Saturday, December 16, 2017, I was taking a nap in the morning when I got a phone call that woke me up. The caller was telling me that Alhaji Gidado Idris, the quintessential public servant who was secretary to the federal government (SGF), had died the previous night. He died around 11:30pm on Friday at the age of 82.
Alhaji Gidado had been ill for some time and was in an Abuja hospital, having refused to be flown abroad for treatment. It was a great loss for Nigeria as he was one of those who could be said to have seen it all from independence to date. I wish he had written his memoirs but knowing the late public servant, he would have seen it as a betrayal of his oath of secrecy.
Born in Zaria city to the Zazzau royal family on March 15, 1935, Alhaji Gidado was educated in Zaria Institute of Administration, Kongo, and the University of Leeds in the UK. He was district officer (DO) at various times in Benue, Sardauna and Adamawa provinces before he was appointed principal private secretary to the premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto. In fact, he was with the Sardauna hours before the military assassinated the premier during the first military coup of January 15, 1966.
Alhaji Gidado Idris subsequently served as permanent secretary in the defunct North Central State, now Kaduna and Katsina states, from 1971-75. He was appointed secretary to the Constitution Drafting Committee under Chief Rotimi Williams in 1975 and, in 1976, he served as secretary to the Constituent Assembly that gave birth to the 1979 Constitution. He subsequently became the first clerk of the National Assembly during the Second Republic, 1979-83.
After the military overthrew the government of President Shagari, Alhaji Gidado served variously in the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos; permanent secretary in the Federal ministries of Police Affairs, Aviation,and Finance at various times before he was appointed as secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) in which office he served two former heads of state, generals Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar, until he retired from public service in 1999.
Alhaji Gidado Idris was a living encyclopaedia of Nigeria’s public life. Having served in the premier’s office and undertaken many sensitive assignments, there was nothing he did not know about the making of Northern Nigeria, its political and socio-economic agenda. As the secretary to the Constituent Assembly and later clerk to the National Assembly, there was no Nigerian political actor that he did not know in the Second Republic and beyond. As the SGF he was the engine room of the federal government policies and head of the federal public service that implemented policies and midwifed the successful transition to civil rule in 1999.
He was a loving father to all of us. He had a decent home with a loving wife Aunty Maryam who had been very supportive of him throughout his life and career. In spite of all the positions he had held, no one had ever associated Alhaji Gidado with any corruption tendencies. Coming from his background as a Zazzau prince, it was the greatest disgrace to soil the family name. He was contented to live within his means and to remain in quiet retirement reading books and watching animal films, cartoons and documentaries as well as playing with his grandchildren.
May the Almighty Allah forgive Alhaji Gidado his mistakes and grant him aljannah firdausi. Amin.
Adieu, Emir Kabir Umar of Katagum
Last week, we lost yet another icon and leader, the Emir of Katagum His Highness Alhaji Muhammadu Kabir Umar. He died at the age of 89 years. It was a personal great loss to many of us who consider him a father: to Katagum Emirate that he served selflessly and diligently; to Bauchi State that he served as a wise leader; to northern Nigeria that he served as a minister in the cabinet of Sardauna in the First Republic; and to Nigeria that he loved and served with all his heart and might.
If there was any traditional ruler remaining who was a father-figure, the late Emir Kabir was one. He loved children and fathered 49 of his own and was shouldering the responsibility of many more within the extended family and community. He never discriminated against any of these children. He was happiest when his people were happy and peaceful. He liked to play with children in whose company he was most happy to be with, guiding them, advising them and admonishing them on how to live a decent and productive life for greater reward in the hereafter.
As a leader he was just and fair to all. Emir Kabir would wake up in the morning and, after prayers, he would go out incognito without any bodyguard and walk in various parts of his community to see things for himself. He was accessible to all and listened to complaints directly from the people. If it was something he could solve directly, he solved it immediately and if it required government intervention he brought it to the notice of the government officials at local, state or federal level.
Emir Kabir encouraged education and that was why there is virtually no field of human endeavour that his emirate did not produce experts in. He set personal example to encourage his people to go into public service; that was why he had a federal permanent secretary, a military officer and many others in other fields of public service among his children. Katagum is one of the few emirates that produced many ambassadors, permanent secretaries, security and intelligence personnel, two secretaries to the government of the federation, army, naval and air force officers and other paramilitary officers, all thanks to the guidance and encouragement of the late Emir Kabir.
May Allah grant him abode in the Garden of Eden. Allah ya jikan Sarkin Katagum Kabir Umar. Amin.