A former governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, recently marked his 70th birthday and therefore seized the occasion to interact with some reporters on his reflections about life and politics. Yekini Jimoh was there. Excerpts:
How do you feel at 70, sir?
Well, I’m feeling great and I am grateful to God to have kept me up till this moment, and I remain grateful to Him for what He has been doing for me, what he has done for me and my family, what he has used me to do for the people as well. So, I will say I am great.
You once served the state for a while, so, how do you see your legacy?
Most of the things I left behind while in office, so many of them are dilapidated; they are not being taken care of. It is hoped that government is a continuous exercise and as you leave, whoever is taking up from you will continue from where you stopped.
However, when you find out that some of those things left are not being taken care of, constantly check to make sure they are working perfectly or even better than what you’ve even left behind. For instance, I remember the one you call Ibro water, the one that everybody is talking about, is not there anymore. I remember Ibro water is meant to service Okene, Kotonkarfi and even all the towns towards Kabba, because it produces about 50 million gallons everyday. So, up till the time I left, we didn’t use up to 5 million. So, we just have enough for expansion and everything.
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 university in Nigeria even in West Africa that was able to clock about 29 accreditation within 29 months, which I think Kogi State was the first and the only that has done it so far is now something that you will just sit back, look at it and lament.
I remember when I was there, we had over one hundred professors but now I doubt if there are more than ten. So, there are so many to count. All I will say is that I am not really happy, when I see all the good jobs I have done so far are not maintained.
As one of the leaders of the people in Kogi State, an election is coming up in November, what steps are you taking to make an impact?
To be honest with you, my concern is to have a good leader, who will take care of my state, our state, 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 to live. That is my concern. But when these are not available and people are crying no food and hunger, you will 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, state of life in Kogi is so miserable.
You have since retired to a quiet life. Is this deliberate?
Well, from the word go, I am not a noisemaker even while I was in the office, I was a silent achiever. What I believe in doing for the people to see and making use of it. That is what is important. When I was there, most people didn’t see what I did. By the time I left, they realised that what I had done was there for the people to see. But then 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 criticise and jeer 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 the immediate food I will 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.
For me, like I said earlier, I don’t care who is there, my interest is that who will serve the people well and give the people what they want, and that is my interest. Where this doesn’t come, then, it is worrisome. It is something that everybody should be interested in. So, 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.
What’s the secret behind your youthful look?
You see, what is important about life is, I am a contented person. I am grateful to God for what He has done for me and I will continue till I die. 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, where 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 laid down and think about God, I pray. That alone is enough to keep me young like you have said.
What is the greatest challenge you 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 did I build Mosques and Churches all over and so on? 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. Of course I cannot pay God and I cannot bribe Him. But I believe maybe trying to help 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 out those projects for, and that alone is enough happiness and joy for me and makes me look even younger.
Have you any Regrets?
For me, there’s no regret. Like I said earlier, I am very contented. I see myself like the most beloved person on earth. I am not saying that God does not love you but that is the way I see myself.
You were able to anoint a successor in Kogi State, former governor Idris Wada. But we have seen former governors have problem with people they brought to power, how did you manage that, because we didn’t get to hear of any crisis between you both?
You see, we are humans and we are not perfect. So, we are subject to making mistakes. It is normal, natural. You probably didn’t hear us quarrel like other states, because I minded 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 advise him, where I advise him, he takes it and it works for him, fine; where he doesn’t, that is left for him.
To be honest, I have never intruded in his administration from the beginning to the end. Mine was just to give him a useful advice that would help him get up. That was how we have all worked through. But that doesn’t mean he has not done anything to offend me. But I have to know and I believe that the moment somebody is in power and you tried to tell him what to do and how to do it 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?
For me, 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 would do better than what I did. Luckily, I left the office without blemishes from the people I served. 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 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 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.
When can you describe as your happiest day?
My happiest day was when I won my first election in my life. That is the first election in my life. Like I said earlier, it is God that gave me to defeat an incumbent governor.
And when was your saddest day?
When my father and mother died; those two moments were my saddest days in life after which I don’t think there is any.