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Interview: My Most Honorable Life Has Been In Community Service –Senator Ida

Sen. Ibrahim Idah

Even after his retirement from public service as permanent secretary, Senator Ibrahim Ida has continued to contribute his wealth of experience to the development of the country. He was a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where he chaired the all-important Senate committee on Defence and Army. He also served in the just concluded National Conference. In a recent interview with African Examiner, Sen. Idah who wants to contest the 2015 governorship election in Katsina state, spoke on various issues affecting not only Katsina state but the country as a whole, including how he intends to serve his people if elected as governor in 2015.

Sen. Ibrahim Idah

Sen. Ibrahim Idah

Can you tell us more about yourself?

After my teaching education I went into the banking sector where I served until I rose to the position of Assistant general manager at the bank of the North in Lagos. Subsequently I transferred to the Civil service. The interesting is that, I really have a very fruitful career in both Bank of the North and the Central Bank. I was appointed a permanent secretary in 1992 and I served in various ministries and performed various ad-hoc activities culminating in my retirement as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence. I also served as permanent secretary Economic Affairs office in the Presidency; I worked for about 4 or 5 years and did a lot of satisfying work.

I was the secretary of vision 2010 committee, a programme we worked on tirelessly for 1 year and at the end of the day we came out with a report, which unfortunately was not used. People believe that if the report was implemented the country would have been better off. I was also the secretary of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), actually I was the permanent secretary when it was set up.

My most honorable life has been in community service and it was after I retired from the service that I went back to the University to complete legal course that I started. I went to law school and became a lawyer. I’m now a practicing lawyer operating a flourishing chamber with a friend.

What was your experience in the senate?

Serving in the senate is a collective work in the sense that as a senator you are part of 109 people and you have a clearly defined constitutional responsibility which is to work towards realising good governance for the country and you also have a collective responsibility in overseeing the disbursement and use of public funds and you also have a role to ensure that governance is performed in such a manner that electorates will get dividends of democracy and leadership gets the right environments to govern.

You as an individual, you also have your own role. I was chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and Army and I don’t think that was an accident because when I was in public service, I was permanent secretary in the ministry of defence that means I was already familiar with the environment. So when I became chairman on Defence, it was not difficult to appreciate the problems in defence establishment at a time and to work towards finding solution.

As a legislator, your role in terms of promoting interest of various arms of government is to make case for their budgets, if there is need for more funding for them, and you also have responsibility to ensure that whatever is appropriated for them is also used for that purpose of which it was appropriated. As an individual you can sponsor bill on any issue, it does not necessarily to be related to the issue of the committee you are overseeing or you are a member. So, I was fortunate enough to champion bills and motions that have direct bearing on Nigerians. I will give you example, I sponsored a bill on establishment of infrastructure to check against encroachment. I also sponsored a bill that provides proper management of financial system. These are just the few ones, and we also have motions. Motions are just statement you come and make, you raise on the chamber ultimately leading to a decision, the decision is not binding as law but it is advisory. It is a pointer to government or any other party concerned, if there is need to focus on specific issue, what you will do in the motion is to have prayers, it is in the prayers that you will make specific requests that you want government to do. Once the issue is debated and resolutions are taken one by one and adopted then the motion will be passed. Then, necessary agency to whom it may concern will take it up from there. Although, no legal binding effect, nevertheless, it is always respected and invariably implemented.

Also as a senator, you have constituency projects, here it is interesting, people think when you mention constituency project, people think senators are giving money, no it is contained in the appropriation. The only thing is that you as a legislator, you have a figure mentioned; it is left for you to apply those figures to the projects that have direct bearing on your constituents. You have no involvement in the actual execution of the project, nor do you have any involvement in the disbursement of the funds but you have the responsibility of ensuring that the amount is used for something beneficial to your constituency, and here, I did a lot of boreholes, primary health care, rural roads, employments, skill acquisition centers and then you also have influence of scouting around for employments and here it may not be necessarily be your constituency alone because as a senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria you meet people from many places other than you own constituency.

In the area of employment, I will say to my credit, I was instrumental to the recruitment of over 1800 people into various public service especially military agencies, now I grab that as one of my achievement because till date when I walk around I see many people come to greet me, in the end they salute and tell me that I was instrumental to their joining the service.

What is your vision for Katsina state?

First of all, I said I have been in public and private sector, so I know precisely what local problems are. These are problems of poverty, illiteracy, very poor health condition especially in respect of women, so definitely, I have a very clear vision of the problem. I want a government that is caring, making basic needs of life not only available but affordable to all. That is my vision and I think I wish to translate it into 8 points agenda.

We also find out that the problem affecting Nigerians is the problem of insecurity. And I believe that apart from the federal government that is in control of the military and other security agencies, I think within the purview of the constitution there is a provision that gives a lot of powers to local authorities in maintaining laws and orders, that is why the state governors are chief security officers, in conjunction with already existing institution, especially the traditional institution. I intend to ensure that Katsina remains a peaceful place, the current government is doing a marvelous job in maintaining security of lives and property, somehow Katsina has been peaceful, not by accident but by hardworking.

Now on the issue of employment, poverty comes where people are idle or they are not optimally utilized, we have teeming youths both men and women that are unemployed whom have finished their education but they are idle. I intend to put in place policy that will make use of available resources to ensure that these people are employed, one for economic benefit and other for social benefit because if you are employed, you will have dignity and respect for yourself and for others. Some require employment, while others empowerment. So I intend to put in place policy that will ensure both employment and empowerment for my people.

On Agriculture: Katsina is agrarian environment; we have excellent and very good fertile ground, which one can use. We have water resources, we are endowed with dams in four strategic locations in the state, which if properly harnessed, will provide adequate water for the people. We have traditional method of producing fertilizer but the era has gone now, we now have to adopt the modern method. First of all to use available resources to ensure that our farmers produce good products, second we now have to find market to sell agric produce. A basket of tomatoes may cost N1000 in Katsina, it may cost N2000 in Kawa, it is because there is no proper information on what is happening in the market , the market is rarely imperfect but there is need for state authority to take active interest and encourage their people to package their farm produce. I am happy to tell you that we have state government that is doing a good job to make agriculture products attractive. I believe if we can use agriculture alone to feed our people, occupy our people and empower our people.

On education: right from onset the state government is doing a lot to expand infrastructure in the state, we need high quality teachers, we need to motivate these teachers, we need to ensure that the facility exists, we need best yardstick, we need 99 percent of students sitting examinations to attain required grade that will enable them to fill our quota in various institutions. We need to ensure that education is qualitative.

At the moment Africa is battling with Ebola, Nigeria has done a marvelous job here, I want to commend the President and the governors, health workers and all those who contributed to ensure that the problem of Ebola is something of the past but we need to do a lot more.

Finally, I believe I have a sound history of public service. The way public service is performing I think a lot require to be done, to bring the civil service to its former glory. They are supposed to guide and to ensure implementation of government policy. They are best custodian of integrity. If they are properly motivated and trained, we will address the problem of corruption, producing a society that is focused on achieving much greater result than the one we have now. I believe I have what it takes in both character and learning to ensure progress and development in my state. I want Katsina state to be populated by God fearing and governed by just administration, to ensure that basic needs of life are not only available but affordable. I will make Katsina state a fiscal and wealthy society.

Can you speak about your plan for traditional institution?

I have a lot of respect for the traditional institution because I believe this is a section of our administration that have been used and tested, I believe they have a greater role to play than what is being assigned to them right now.

Now they are the custodian of high quality values, they are trusted by people, people are ready to do whatever the traditional rulers order them to do. In my own, if I feel that there is any issue that will be beneficial to the emirate and by extension emirate council, I will not hesitate to do it. You see this is just an institution that is performing very big executive, Judiciary and Legislative role; people respect their decisions without going to court, so we have to strengthen them to do more.

So I think what is necessary for me to do for the traditional institution is to formalize their structure to ensure that their activities are properly funded, enable them to play prominent roles in securing their communities, and form advisory role on traditional issues because they are the custodian of values, and finally to ensure they properly disseminate information from government to the people.

How did you become Gbobaniyi of Ondo?

Well, my wife of over 40 years has a relationship with traditional institution in Ondo state. So I am regarded as son of the soil in the place. I cherished the title very much. I regard the environment as my second home.

After living office as a senator, and while I was on my own legal practice and other businesses, I realise there is need for me to continue to work for the public. I believe it is something that should continue for life. When I was a senator, I was doing a lot of good things for the people and when I left the senate, I think I should continue to do it and set up a foundation.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I think people need to reflect after retirement on what they have done that is good and what they have done that is bad, weighing both of them. Please make sure that good things overweight bad things. So, I am driven by sense of service and loyalty and by sense of commitment to leave this world a better place. I want to leave a legacy of service. I want people to miss me when I leave the service. I want them to look for people that is like me or better than me, I don’t want them to be eager to get rid of me. And finally, the best way to serve is to serve with sincerity.


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