Yekini Jimoh encounters former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris on the sidelines of events marking his 70th birthday; as he reminiscences over his life and politics
How do you feel at 70?
I feel great and I am grateful to God to have kept me up to this moment. I remain grateful to Him for what He has been doing for me, what he has done for me and my family and what he has used me to do for the people, as well.
You served the state for a while, most of the things you left behind are still there, anytime you come to the state or maybe passing by, how do you see it?
Most of the things I left behind while in office are dilapidated. They are not being taken care of. Government should be a continuous exercise, when you leave, whoever is taking up from you will continue from where you stopped.
However, it is sad when you find out that some of those things left are not being taken care of, constantly checked to make sure they are working perfectly or even better than what you even left behind. I remember the one you call ‘Ibro Water’, the one that everybody is talking about, is not there anymore. I remember ‘Ibro Water’ was meant to service Okene, Kotonkarfi and even all the towns towards Kabba, because it produces about 50 million gallons every day. Up to the time I left, we don’t use up to five million gallons. We had enough for expansion.
There are so many. Do I talk about the roads, institutions, like Kogi State University that was ranked as one of the best state and private universities in Nigeria even in West Africa that was able to clock about 29 accredited courses within 29 months which I think Kogi State was the first and the only that has done it so far. That institution is now something that you will just sit back, look at and lament.
I remember when I was there, we had over 100 professors but now I doubt if there are more than 10. There are so many to count. All I will say is that I am not really happy when I see all the good job I have done not maintained.
As one of the leaders of the people in Kogi State, election is coming up in November, what steps are you taking to make sure that this power that APC is …
To be honest with you, my concern is to have a good leader who will take care of Kogi State. That is my main concern. I don’t really mind whether the person is from APC or from SDP or any party, my concern is to have a leader who will continue from where I stopped, so that people will have food on their table and live happily, people will have quality life. That is my concern but when these are not available and people are crying no food, you get disgusted. The question now is, when you ask people how you are doing now, they will tell you hunger, which is quite different from when they say ‘we are working hard’ though it is tight but they are hoping it will be well. To be frank and honest I am not happy with what is going on in Kogi, I am not trying to condemn anybody, condition of living in Kogi is so miserable.
Since you left office you have been living a quite life, little has been heard from you in terms of participation in politics. Is this deliberate?
From the word go, I am not a noise maker even while I was in the office. I am a silent achiever. I believe in doing things for the people to see and make use of. That is what is important. When I was there, most people didn’t see what I did. By the time I left they realised what I have done is there for the people to see. Even if you say I didn’t do anything, they are there for the people to see.
The fact is I do not believe in talking, I only talk when it is necessary. I don’t just wake up and start making noise. Not really that I am quiet, I may be quiet because people don’t hear me criticising and jeering people, I don’t believe in that, I don’t believe in violence. I want to live happily, quiet life, peaceful life with my people. But I will feel bad if I have food to eat with my family while the rest of my brothers and sisters out there have nothing to eat. For me, that’s where my concern comes. I don’t think there is a good leader who will be happy to see that happen to his people.
I don’t care who is there, my interest is who will serve the people well and give the people what they want. That is my interest. Where this doesn’t come then it is worrisome, it is something that everybody should be interested in. If PDP will be an answer to that, then I will work very hard collectively with every member of PDP to make sure we bring back our lost home, Kogi State.
You look younger than your age, what is the secret?
I am a contented person. I am grateful to God for what He has done for me. I believe it’s when you look for trouble that it will find you. I try to cut my cloth according to my size, I try to live a peaceful life. I don’t think about anybody, I don’t sleep with people in mind while sleeping and I don’t have people in mind when I wake up. Each time I lie down and think about God, I pray. That alone is enough to keep me young.
What is the greatest challenge you have ever faced in life?
It has not been smooth all through. I have always worked very hard, from my childhood God has always been kind to me. Things were difficult but God is always finding a way of putting it right for me. You find out people look at me and say why do I build Mosques and Churches all over, not because I have money, if I tell you that I lied. Why I do that is because I want to appreciate God for what He has done for me. I cannot pay God and I cannot bribe Him. I believe in helping to improve the houses of God be it Christian or Muslim, we are all praying to God. If it is so, then whatever I do, I do it because of God, that is all I think I can offer for now because I cannot pay Him enough for what He has done for me. I feel happier than the people I carry these projects to. That alone is enough happiness and joy for me and makes me look younger.
No regrets. I am very contented. I see myself like the most beloved person on earth. I am not saying that God does not love you. That is the way I see myself.
You were able to anoint you successor in Kogi State, former Governor Idris Wada. In this country we have seen former governors having problems with people they brought to power, how did you manage that we didn’t hear of any crisis within?
We are humans and we are not perfect. We are subject to make mistakes. It is normal, natural. You didn’t hear us quarrelling like other states because I mind my business, I am not the one that made him governor, it’s God that made him governor because I don’t have such powers. I may be instrumental to it but because that has happened does not mean I should tell him what to do while in office, I don’t have such right. But I can only advice him, where I advice him, he takes it and it works for him, fine; where he doesn’t, that is left to him.
To be honest, I never intruded in his administration from the beginning to the end. Mine is just to give him a useful advice that will help him get up. That was how we worked. That doesn’t mean he has not done anything to offend me. I have to know and I believe that the moment somebody is in power and you try to tell him what to do and how to do it, that is when you get into trouble. The moment you avoid that, you don’t have any problem and I did so. That was why you didn’t hear us quarrel.
What is your next political aspiration?
I am contented, to be frank between me and my God I am into politics today because of what is happening. My prayer to God when I was leaving office was to give me somebody that will do better than what I did. Luckily, I left the office without blemish from the people I served. I did not have ICPC or EFCC coming after me. Above all, today in Kogi, people still love me. For them to appreciate me, I think that is enough for me. There are some of my colleagues who cannot go back to their places.
For now, I don’t have any political ambition. To crown it all, being interested in politics was because of what is happening, I cannot sit down in my house eating, drinking and wining and other members outside are suffering and you want me to be happy. That was why I decided to come back to see what I can do. We need the cooperation of everybody; all hands must be on deck to work hard and see how best we can present PDP to the people. You can’t do it if the people don’t support you. I still believe PDP has ample opportunity in Kogi State to bring back the power. What is happening now is an eye opener to them.
Except if there is a change in the heart of the leadership to allow a free and fair election, if what they have done in the past elections will be repeated then there will be no free and fair election in the state.
Can you tell us your happiest day?
My happiest day was when I won my first election. It is God that gave me power to defeat an incumbent governor.
Your saddest day in life?
When my father and mother died, those two moments were my saddest days.