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Reminiscences With Capt Idris Wada

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Reminiscences With Capt Idris Wada

 

ITODO DANIEL SULE & AHMED TAHIR AJOBE

Captain Idris Wada (retd) is a former governor of Kogi State and seasoned pilot. He worked in the aviation sector for 35 years before he retired and went into politics. In this exclusive interview, Wada, who turned 70 recently, took us through the journey of his life, why he jettisoned his medical ambition to become a pilot, his experiences in politics, among other interesting issues.

How would you describe your childhood and experiences while growing up?

I was born in Dekina Local Government Area in the present Kogi State, into the family of Alhaji Halilu Wada Ijiga. My late mother was Hajiya Rakiya Wada. My father was a court scribe who developed himself and went to school almost as an adult. He rose to become an Upper Area Court judge. My father was very enthusiastic about western education and made sure that we added Quaranic education. We combined both.

As a judge they would transfer you from one place to another. I recall that I was with my father when he served in Ogugu in Olamaboro Local Government Area. I was living with him in Idah and he decided one day that I should follow him to Dekina. When we got to Dekina, we stopped to see one of his cousins, Alhaji Isah Adebu and he dropped me there, saying, “This is where you are going to stay from now on. You will do your Quaranic education here and we will find a primary school for you in town.’’ That was the beginning of my separation from my parents. My father practised what I will call hard love. To show his love for you he would put you in a difficult circumstance, but in the end it would be good for you.

Imagine that he dropped a 7-year-old child like me then with a family I had never met. I didn’t know anybody there, whereas when we were in Idah, I had friends at Saint Boniface Primary School.

How were you able to cope with the new environment?

Well, I had to find my feet and settle down quickly and face the reality. And the man had many wives. One of them, Hajiya Zainab, was designated as my foster mother. We used to go to the farm, fetch firewood and sell. Whatever money you earned you gave to your mother to keep for you. Our house was not far from the garage, so I used to go there to help traders carry load, just to earn some money, which I gave to my foster mother to keep for me. So during Sallah and other festivities they would buy new cloths for me from the money. From that age we were taught to be industrious. Nothing in life is really free.

I tried to excel in both Quaranic and western education. After three years, my father came one day and said he was taking me to another malam in Dekina, who was more learned. He took me to Malam Ndako, a Nupe man. Of course he had many children in his Quaranic education facility. There again, he gave me a new mother. I related with the children there and continued with my education. That was where I stayed till I finished primary school and moved to Government Secondary School (GSS), Dekina. In those days, you would take entrance exams to schools. So, I took one for Ochaja Boys’ Secondary School and did very well. I also took another exam for St Peters Secondary School, which was new in Idah. Again, I did very well. But I was determined to go to Government Secondary School, Dekina because it was an older school. Government schools in those days were fantastic; it is not what we have now.

From my childhood, it was clear to me that if I must extricate myself from the level of poverty, it was important to work hard and pass well in school. I thank God that throughout my secondary school, I was always top in my class. In those days, we had streams A and B. I was always in stream A; and if I didn’t come first, I would be second in the class.

I took my studies seriously, but I was not a bookworm. I was lucky that God blessed me with a very sharp memory. Once you taught me something I would remember it. I tried to see the logic in what they were teaching, so I could easily deduce where they were going. I found many of the subjects very easy.

What were your experiences at GSS, Dekina and FGC, Sokoto?

I finished from Dekina in 1968 and had the best result in my school from the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). In those days, if you passed WAEC exams you were sure of government’s scholarship. So those of us who did not come from rich families depended on our performances to move forward in life. As we were finishing secondary school, five of us were selected to take common entrance examination again for unity schools. I took the exam and was given the option of going to the Federal Government College (FGC), Warri; Kings College, Lagos and Federal Government College, Sokoto. I preferred Sokoto and I went there for my Higher School Certificate (HSC). When you resumed for HSC it took about three months for your result to come from the WAEC. The day my result came, during the morning assembly, the principal announced it and said it was the best they had ever seen in that school. Everybody clapped for me and made my head grew bigger. Of course it was wonderful. That made me to take my studies very seriously. I was in Sokoto for almost two years.

Can you still remember your mates in secondary school?

Of course, there are many of them around. They are in various fields: some engineers and others in the military. Some of them are still alive while some have passed on. One of them is Stephen Maiyaki, who became a commissioner when I became governor. He rose to become the managing director of UAC Properties. There is also Air Commodore Johnson Onekutu, Salihu Raji, a lawyer, and a host of others. I think I am the only politician among them. None of them became governor, apart from me.

Which subjects were your best?

I was very good in the sciences. I was also very good in Mathematics and Additional Mathematics. I didn’t like history because I don’t fancy stories that are difficult to relate with. I am a realist. In history, you just read and learn about what happened way back, but to transport yourself into their circumstances, that is a distance from reality. I like things that challenge my mind. Science attaches your imagination.

At what point did your dream of becoming a pilot begin? 

During my last term in Sokoto, I went to spend my summer holidays with a cousin of mine in Zaria. As an idle student on holidays I roamed round the town for one tourism attraction or another. One day, I went to the Nigeria College of Aviation, which is now called Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, and saw small airplanes flying. I saw that a young man entered the airplane and started the engine, taxied to the runway and took off. He came back and landed. He did that for about four times. I wondered who he was and somebody told me he was just an ordinary Nigerian, may be from somewhere in Kaduna. I asked, “You mean that children of ordinary Nigerians can learn how to fly an airplane?’’ They said yes and I asked if they thought the people in charge would take me, and they said yes. They told me that once I passed my exams with credits in Mathematics, Physics and English, they would take me and pay for me to do the course. Before then, I had thought that only children of rich or white people could fly airplanes. So, I was amazed. I went home and came back to enquire more and they confirmed that I could make it if I passed my exams.

That was few months for me to finish my HSC in Sokoto. Something rang a bell in me that this is the direction I should go. In HSC, I was doing Physics, Chemistry and Biology, with a view to becoming a medical doctor. My plan was to go to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) to become a medical doctor, but that encounter that day changed my mind. That was my first time of seeing a plane.

My challenges were what to tell my father, and my school in Sokoto, where they liked me because of my academic performance and sense of discipline. I was very industrious.

I learned how to play the guitar and became the band leader of the school. We were performing so well that our principal, Mr Hawood, called our school band the Beetle of Africa. I wondered whether the principal would allow me leave the school. But I summoned courage and approached his wife and pleaded with her to help me talk to her husband.

I told her everything and she assured me that she would talk to Mr Hawood. She told me that aviation was a good and new field, where I could easily rise in my career. She said one of her students who approached her in Ghana was the one in charge of civil aviation in that country. She encouraged me to go into it since it was new in Nigeria. She eventually told her husband. One day, after assembly, the principal called me to his office and said, “My wife told me you are interested in aviation; it is a good field. With your level of intelligence you will make it.’’ He asked when the exams would be and I told him. He promised to support me with transport money to go, and wished me success.

That was the beginning of my journey into aviation. I abandoned my plan to do medicine. At some point later on in my life, my mother told me that when I was little, about 6 to 7 years old, whenever I was trekking with her or on a journey and an airplane happened to fly in the air, I would usually tell her that I was the person piloting the plane up there. She said when I was saying that, she couldn’t understand what my connection with airplane was until I became a pilot. It looked like it was what God destined me to do.

I became a pilot with a lot of enthusiasm. I didn’t hesitate, despite the fact that it is a very risky and complicated profession. I thank God that for my 35 years in the aviation sector, I was able to overcome challenges and come out in flying colours. I am grateful to God.

What was the reaction of your father to your decision?

He said if that was where God was directing me, I should go for it. He gave me his full blessings and wished me well. That further motivated me. I got to the school of aviation in Zaria in 1970 and finished in 1972. Out of a class of 24, I think about 14 of us finished. In Zaria, if you failed any exam they would weed you out. It was purely a matter of performance, not who you knew.

Would you share your experiences in the aviation industry for 35 years?

In the aviation school I was selected to be trained as a flight instructor. A few months after graduation, I went abroad for further training to get licenses. I came back in 1973 and converted them to Nigerian licenses and started teaching people how to fly.

I trained many pilots who are still flying. Every time I travel with them they would remind me how I used to be strict and tough.  Some of them told me they thought I hated them, but from what they see now, they have come to realise that I meant good for them.

As an instructor, it is very pleasing when you see your products in positions. I worked as a flying instructor for five years. Those days, we had the Nigerian Airways, and as a flying instructor, you only flew smaller airplanes. Every commercial pilot wants to fly big jets, big planes. That is where your status comes out. The bigger the airplane you fly, the more satisfied you are as a professional. It is like astronauts going into the space; you rank them higher than pilots flying Boeing 747. We all like to fly big planes.

Out of my class of about 14 that graduated during our training, I was the only one retained as an instructor. All my mates went to the Nigerian Airways. I was eager to go and join them also. After five years, I negotiated with the School of Aviation, Zaria to allow me move to the Nigerian Airways. You see, the salary a commercial pilot earns in the airline industry is about five times higher than that of an instructor in Zaria. When I was paid 8pounds as allowance in Zaria, those who were sponsored by the Nigerian Airways, who were in my class, were paid 50pounds a month.

I am a man of conscience. The Federal Government sponsored me to become an instructor and I couldn’t just abandon them like that. There were some of them who refused to honour their obligations after enjoying such trainings. When I went to the US for training, I scored 100 per cent in the final exam set by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which is equivalent to our own NCAA. The school pasted it on their notice board to show that it was possible to have 100 per cent. American exams are objectives and very few essays we do here.

When I was about to finish, they said I should become a partner with them, that they would give me 10 per cent shares. They said they would give me citizenship so as to promote black American students to come to their school. Their government had a special programme for the minority, and for me being a black instructor, they would get some of those benefits. But I told them that the Nigerian government sponsored me and they were waiting for me back home. I told them that my conscience would not allow me. Apart from that, how about mother and siblings; who would look after them? So I left there.

Again, that was another level of patriotism I showed. Like I said, I needed to advance my career, and I negotiated with the school of aviation to allow me gain airline experience, and later in life, I could retire from the airline and become an instructor. The principal saw my point. I was the first person to come with such a smooth transition plan, and if such a thing could continue, their rate of losing pilots would reduce.

The principal wrote to the Nigerian Airways, supported by the Ministry of Aviation and they agreed that I should transfer my service from the School of Aviation to the Nigerian Airways. That meant that the period I served in Zaria would count as part of my service in the Nigerian Airways.

I was taken as a senior flight officer, which is the stage you reach before becoming a captain. Once you gained the required number of flying you would become a captain. I joined the Nigerian Airways in 1978 and started on FOCAL F28, which is a twin jet. By 1979, I was already training to become a captain, and by 1980, I was a captain. It was a very rapid rise in the Nigerian Airways.

Also, the Dantata family in Kano had a small aviation company called United Air Service. He recruited me as general manager and chief pilot. They had Europeans and Americans flying their private jets. They had about five airplanes. They offered me a salary that was five times what I was earning in the Nigeria Airways. They also offered me a house and a brand new Peugeot 505, all basically free. There was no loan repayment because the allowance they gave you to run for transport was more than what you needed to pay back. After some years, they would write it off for you.

I was attracted because at that time, the Nigerian Airways was already declining. As pilots, when we suggested what they needed to do, the management would say we were arrogant, and they would not take our advice. That was how the Nigerian Airways kept falling apart. So I left.

I managed those airplanes for the Dantata family for three years. By 1986, they said they wanted to sell their planes, explaining that the frustration was too much. I made a proposal to the late Alhaji Usman Dantata. I told him to give me the aircraft on hire purchase and I would pay over 12 months. My plan was to commercialise it. The Boeing 707 cargo airline we used to move goods from Europe to Nigeria was worth about $2 million.

He said somebody was ready to pay him cash and I should work with the man. But I told him I couldn’t work with the man. I said, “I worked for you because you are a disciplined man. You are a boss we all admire. There are very few people like you in this country.’’ I told him that the day I would stop working for him, I won’t work for any other person. The way I said it hit him very sharply and he asked if I meant what I was saying. I said yes. He asked for my proposal and I gave it to him.

I made contact with my partners in Europe and the United Kingdom (UK) and they accepted. So we started an airline called Executive Aviation Services (EAS), which we later changed to EAS Airlines. The man gave us the aircraft and we commercialised it. We started cargo operations from Nigeria to Europe, and eventually, they started chartering our aircraft to Canada, Germany, Japan and many other places.

It became a big business, by the grace of God. Exactly one year after, we paid off the cost of the aircraft. I gave shares to all the pilots and engineers working with me and we became a viable company. When we started, we kept our cost so minimal that we were able to beat even the British Airways. Within three years, we had three 707 under our airline. We were flying between 1987 and 1992/93 because of aircraft noise and the issue of environmental regulations. They said Boeing 707 was too noisy; and we could not afford to upgrade the engine to that of a modern aircraft, so we had to wind down that business.

At that point, as God would have it, Alhaji Aliko Dangote bought a new private jet, HS125, from the Nigerian Bottling Company and invited me to operate it. I was already thinking of leaving the aviation industry at that stage, but he insisted I should come. I agreed and joined him.

By 1996, I took a loan of $1million from the Inland Bank when former Governor Isah Yuguda of Bauchi State was the managing director. I never met him in my life. I wrote a proposal, submitted, and after undergoing their processes, he recommended that I should be given the loan. I wanted to go and thank him but he said I should not worry. He said he would come and see me whenever he came to Lagos, explaining that I was his customer. Can you imagine that in this Nigeria? That’s why I can never forget that man. He is a great Nigerian.

Again, within 12 months we paid everything. We bought some aircraft and were doing passenger services from Lagos to Jos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Enugu and all that. We had five airplanes operating domestic services. It was a world class operation. My conscience is clear that I contributed to the development of Nigeria. I made Nigeria proud in the aviation industry.

Can you recall any unforgettable incident or encounter in the course of your operations?

In 2002, one of our planes flying from Lagos to Kano and Jos crashed and some people died. The pilot was well experienced. Investigations indicated that it was a very hot day; hence the intensity of the heat impacted on the plane and perhaps led to engine failure, which can happen anytime. We lost the airplane. It was a trying moment for us. The government grounded all the airplanes in our fleet and they rotted away.

We subjected ourselves to thorough investigations and they did not find any negligence on the part of our company. Our records were clear. We had qualified pilots and our licenses were up-to-date, but the damage was done. For about seven months, we were out of operation. But we were determined to continue. We started negotiation and paid all the compensations according to the rule because our aircraft was insured in London. They sent their assessors and lawyers to help us on how to pay compensations. Everybody was paid. We decided to lease aircraft to start again.

We kept our employees on 50 per cent salaries for about 8 months. After that, we leased a 737 and started our operations. Because of our reputation we were able to attract patronage. Within a year, we had two airplanes in operation.

By 2007, Fani Kayode became the minister of aviation and made the rule that you must capitalise and have N2billion in your bank for you to be allowed to operate an airline in the country. He said if you wanted to fly domestic, you must have N500million in the bank; West Africa, N1billion and international, N2billion.


We said we had enough operating funds to keep our operations going and did not need to have N2billion in the bank, but he insisted that unless we had an evidence of N2billion in our account, we would not operate. That was how Jimoh Ibrahim approached us and promised to inject money and buy new airplanes for us to expand the business. We negotiated with our lawyers and accountants and agreed.

He said he would take 60 per cent of the company while we kept 40 per cent. That was how NICON Airways was formed. He said we should change our names to NICON Airways and we did so, but he never paid us the money he was supposed to pay us.

We still tried to run the airline, hoping that he would fulfill his obligation, but he never injected money into the airline. That was how we were betrayed and we lost everything.

I knew that God was sending me a message to stop. I left the company for him. People said I should go to court, but I rather decided to focus on something else. I left everything there, including my files. I and a friend of mine formed a construction company and started building roads. I threw myself into that and it helped me to get away from aviation.

Tell us how you joined politics and emerged as governor of Kogi State.

By 2011, providence brought me into politics. Maybe God saw my heart and the fact that I left everything to God. I became the governor of Kogi State by the grace of God and the efforts of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. It was something I never expected. It was never in my career path.

I didn’t like politics but I helped politicians because we need them to govern us. I never imagined that I would become part of them. So, when I came to Kogi I was determined to give back. I knew that God would ask me to account for the leadership opportunity he gave me. So I threw myself into the job. I was working 18 hours a day throughout my tenure as governor of Kogi State. There was a lot to do but very little money available, so one needed a lot of ingenuity and determination to make a difference.

Everything I did I always remembered that God was looking at me. He had high expectations from me and I could not deceive the people. I did not do any white elephant project or abracadabra to flabbergast the public; never. We were always working on reality. We did what we could afford. That’s the legacy I left behind in Kogi State. And I am very happy for that.

You clocked 70 years in August this year; how do you feel?

I feel great and thankful to God. I read a lot, write a lot and do a lot of charity. I am not interested in material things. I am very happy. My children are all grown up and have their own professions. At 70 I am in good health, and I thank God for that. Whatever you have in this life, if you don’t have good health, it is useless. I sleep with a clear conscience every day. I don’t have any enemy that I know. If you annoy me, I may shout at you at that time, but after that I forget about it. I don’t keep grudges. I don’t plan evil against anybody. I always deal with people with sincerity. If you deceive me, I leave you to God. Matters don’t go far with me because I hand them over to God. I am a happy man.

What would you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered as a man who came, did his best for his people, country and family.

What is your advice for the younger generation?

The younger generation should be disciplined and honest. They should persevere and do their best in every circumstance they found themselves. They must not compare themselves to others because every human being is unique. God has a purpose for each of us. Make the best of what God gives you. Don’t be in a rush in life. Hard times come and go, but focused and determined people stay the course. God always blesses the patient, so I advise young people to be patient and focused.

Culled from the DailyTrust

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Khalid Adams felicitates with Muslims at Ramadan

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Khalid Adams felicitates with Muslims at Ramadan

The MD/CEO of ROCHL investments and Properties, Abuja, Alhaji Khalid Adams has felicitated with the entire Muslim Ummah as they observe the one Pillar of Islam which is fasting in the Holy Month of Ramadan

The Kogi born politician/property manager also charged the Muslim Ummah in the State and nation at large to imbibe the spirit of forgivenes love and unity which he said, forms the core sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW).

He urged the people of the State to use the period to pray for the land and for sober reflection.

Adams who is also a former APC Governorship aspirant in the last Governorship primary of the party in he State, called on Nigerians to be security conscious at all times.

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Yobe Governor Mai Mala Buni marries fourth wife, Abacha’s daughter, Gumsu

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Yobe Governor Mai Mala Buni marries fourth wife, Abacha’s daughter, Gumsu

The governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni has tied the nuptial chords with Gumsu Sani Abacha, a daughter of former Nigeria’s Head of State.

The Governor, who is also the chairman, caretaker committee of the All Progressives Congress, APC, paid 24 gold coins as dowry.

The prices of gold coins vary, with American Buffalo costing $2,055.13; American Gold Eagle $2,060.13; Canadian Maple Leaf $2030.13; Australian Kangaroo $2015.13; and Chinese Panda which is sold at $1975.13.

The marriage ceremony took place on Wednesday at the Abuja residence of the bride’s elder brother, Mohammed Abacha.

Some of the dignitaries that graced the ceremony included, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali; National Commissioner, Refugees Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Bashir Garba-Lado.

Others are Kano-based Islamic cleric, Aminu Daurawa; Katsina State governorship aspirant in 2019 elections, Yakubu Lado-DanMarke, and many others.

It would be recalled that Buni had in 2019 married his predecessor’s daughter, Adama Ibrahim-Gaidam as his third wife.

The new bride Gumsu is now coming as the fourth wife to the governor.

The 45-year-old daughter of the late head of state was previously married to a Cameroonian multi-billionaire, Bayero Mohamadou.

But the 20-year-old marriage crashed in 2020.

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Tributes as Arochukwu indigenes, bid Eze Aro farewell

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Tributes as Arochukwu indigenes, bid Eze Aro farewell

Friends and well-wishers of Arochukwu and the entire kingdom have bid farewell to late Eze Ogbonnaya Okoro popularly known as Eze Aro.
At the final burial rites on Monday, April 5, 2021, both the young and old were at their best in display as the remains of Eze Aro were eventually interred.
The indigenes of Arochukwu in Arochukwu local government area of Abia state one after the other took turns to eulogise the lives and times of the departed first class Traditional Ruler.

The Chairman, Aro National Rites of Passage Committee, Prof. Okoro Ijeoma, described the deceased king as highly talented, educated, relaxed and very respectful.He said the late traditional ruler sacrificed a lot for the peace of his community.
Prof. Okoro used the occasion to draw the attention of the federal government on the deplorable state of Arochukwu/Ohafia highway.He said the completion of the road would be the best way to immortalise the highly respected late Monarch. 
“We have had a road which is in despair and it was one of those agonies that faced him when he was alive and we want a lasting legacy for the road to be fixed to honour him, because that is how we can grow economically and socially,” he said.
Also speaking, a two-time governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance now one of the top APC leaders in Abia state Dr Alex Otti who chaired the burial event commended the chairman of the National Committee on the burial rites of passage and committees for working so hard to organise a befitting burial for the Aro monarch. He also thanked Aro sons and daughters both at home and in the diaspora for their huge financial contributions to the burial and encouraged them to maintain the spirit of unity engendered by the event.”He remarked that the entire Aro people are consoled by the legacies the late Eze Aro left behind. Dr. Otti then prayed to God to show him mercy and grant his soul eternal rest, while calling on the immediate family of the deceased and the entire Aro kingdom to bear the loss with fortitude
Convener of the New Nigeria Group, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said the late Eze Aro loved his community and Nigeria at large.
He said, “Late Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro, preached peace and collective responsibility towards the development of his community while on the throne. Each time we visited him, he  will tell us that  the crown he was wearing was also on our heads, therefore we must work hard to protect it.
“He wanted all of us to be involved in seeking the peace, progress and development of the Arochukwu Kingdom.
“He never demanded anything from anyone, he was content with what he had. He was an extraordinary king, one would have expected him to be more demanding but he wasn’t.
Born on Monday, March 6, 1932, Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro, he ascended the famous Eze Aro throne in 1995 and his reign witnessed tremendous transformation of the kingdom and growth in inter-communal relations. 
Among other positions, Eze Ogbonnaya Okoro, was a first-class traditional ruler and occupied one of the ancient traditional stools in Nigeria and was the custodian of the Aro heritage worldwide.
He passed on after a protracted illness.

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