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Gidado Idris hits 80

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A VERY rare civil servant, Alhaji Gidado Idris, GCON, will be eighty (80) on Sunday March 15. He has served his country for 42 years. And he has seen it all. He has shaped and witnessed history in his years of service.

An adage says “If you let me frame the question, I will get the answer I want.” Alhaji Gidado Idris, born into the royal Idris family in the ancient city of Zaria, framed the question of his career in the civil service years ago and got the answer by rising to the highest pinnacle of his profession before retiring in 1999.

Soft spoken and highly principled, he cultivated a high degree of friendship from the lowest to the highest, across the country. He is like an encyclopaedia of events with accurate dates. He remembers all and forgets nothing.

A trusted aide to the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello (1910-1966), first and last premier of Northern Nigeria. An in-law to President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, a trusted friend to Major General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida (72), General Sani Abacha (1943-1998), General Abdusalami Abubakar and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. A very close aide to President Olusegun Obasanjo who gave him the National honour of CON in 1978. His wife Hajia Maryam Idris was the best friend of Hajia Maryam Babangida (1948-2009) – a friendship that started from their school days as secretarial students at the Federal Training Centre, Kaduna and spanned over 40 years until Maryam Babangida died on December 27, 2009 in a Los Angeles hospital in the United States of America

He cherishes friendship and builds trust among friends. On the directive of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Gidado Idris drafted and typed the dethronement letter of the former Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammed Sanusi, the father of the present Emir, in August 1963. A copy of the letter is still with him today.

On January 14, 1966, the then Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (1910-1966) in company of Chief Richard Abimbola Osuolale Akinjide (84) flew to Kaduna in a chartered helicopter to warn Sir Ahmadu Bello of an imminent coup d’état and of a grand plan to eliminate some key politicians including both of them.

Sir Ahmadu Bello advised Chief Akintola that there was no point running from the country and if he was truly the leader of his people it was most honourable to die among the people. Shortly after their departure back to Ibadan, Sir Ahmadu took a drive round Kaduna in an open car. Seated beside Ahmadu Bello was Gidado Idris. A few hours later Ahmadu Bello was killed. Gidado Idris had the misfortune of identifying the corpse of the late premier and that of his wife, Hajia Yanguwan who was also killed along with him.

With others, Alhaji Gidado Idris arranged a befitting burial for the late premier according to Muslim rites.

Few days later Major Chukwuma Patrick Kaduna Nzeogwu (1937-1967) assumed power in Kaduna. He then appointed Mr. Ignatius Julius Dawer Dulong as the Secretary to Government and Head of Service in the absence of Alhaji Alli Akilu who was hidden by the Northern Nigeria Police Commissioner, Alhaji Muhammadu Diko Yusuf from being killed. In the present day Nigeria, such an appointment will be greeted with thanksgiving but Ambassador Ignatius Julius Dawer Dulong declined the appointment, insisting that he was junior to Alhaji Akilu and that procedure must be followed.

Alhaji Gidado Idris who witnessed the drama once told me “that in life one must be righteous in all things”.

Incidentally Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusuf became the third Inspector General of Police and served between 1975-1979.

He was the one who brought the traditional rulers from Northern Nigeria to the Ibadan meeting between July 27 to 30, 1966, during which General Johnson Thomas Uwanaikwe Ironsi (1924-1966) was killed. He co-ordinated their safety back through Ibadan/Ilorin to their respective palaces.

The constituent assembly adjourned sine die on June 5, 1978 because members of the assembly became headstrong and recalcitrant and wanted to execute Executive responsibilities.

The regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo was worried after the adjournment because it wanted to keep its October 1, 1979 pledge. General Obasanjo then summoned the Chairman of the assembly and former Chief Justice of Uganda (63-39), Mr. Justice Egbert Udo Udoma (1919-1998) and Alhaji Gidado Idris on June 7, 1978 to Dodan Barracks, the then seat of government with an order to produce a new Constitution before May 1979 so that the Supreme Military Council could ratify the new Constitution before departure. With the assistance of the Chief draughtsman of the assembly, Justice John Hezekiah Omololu Thomas, Justice Udo Udoma and Alhaji Gidado Idris sat for weeks and months to produce the 254-paged 1979 Constitution without reconvening the Constituent Assembly. For doing a good job, General Obasanjo awarded Justice Udo Udoma CFR and equally awarded Alhaji Gidado Idris, CON.

After the death of General Sani Abacha on June 8, 1998, it was Alhaji Gidado Idris as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who conducted the stormy meeting of the council where General Abdusalami Abubakar emerged as the new Head of State in the early hours of June 9, 1998 in Abuja. I still remember the way and manner he announced the new Head of State to a fatigued media and members of the secretariat of the Executive Council on that day who had not slept for 26 hours. To me it is still the longest day of my life.

Alhaji Gidado was a product of the Institute of Administration, Zaria and that of University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He was appointed District Officer for Benue, Sardauna and Adamawa provinces which in the present day Nigeria will be regarded as Governor. He later became private and personal secretary to the late Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello. He served as Permanent Secretary in Kaduna State from 1971 to 1975. He was appointed Secretary of the Constitution Drafting Committee in 1975 and in 1976 he was also appointed Secretary of the Constituent Assembly. He was appointed first Clerk of the National Assembly in the Presidential System of Government in 1979. After the overthrow of the Presidential system of Government, he was appointed Secretary and Director of Administration of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru near Jos. Between 1984 and 1986, he was Permanent Secretary Ministry of Police Affairs; between 1986 and 1988; he became the Chairman of Productivity, Prices and Income Board. Shortly after, he became Permanent Secretary Ministry of Aviation. When General Sani Abacha took over in November 17, 1993, Alhaji Gidado Idris became the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and a few months later, he was appointed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, a post he held till he retired in 1999. Very urbane and shy, Alhaji Gidado Idris is a workaholic.

These days, he is seen in the company of Alhaji Yahaya Salami, Senator Dangana Idayanko carrying his golf kits to play at IBB Golf Club – his daily golf with Alhaji Ibrahim Hamza, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Alhaji Babagana Kingigbe and others. His value has not declined even in retirement for the likes of Emeka Offor, Senator Musa Adede, Alhaji Shehu Malami, Olu Adekunle, Dr. Goke Adegoroye, Col. Sabo Dasuki (rtd.), Col. Lawan Gwadabe (rtd.), Dr. Akin Ogunlewe, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Alhaji Baba Farouk, Dr. Aliyu Babangida and others see him often. Nothing gladdens his heart these days than to watch the Super Eagles and Arsenal football win their matches. He has paid his dues. He is a fulfilled man and totally at peace with himself.

• Eric Teniola, a former director at the presidency, stays in Lagos.



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