On 6th June 2019, the former governor of Kogi state, Captain Idris Wada threw his hat into the ring for the November 2019 governorship election, setting a stage for what now looks like a medley of contest. He declared his intention at a time when the terrain was already saturated with green horns and neophytes.
With less two months to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primary election, the timing could not be more appropriate.
His decision to join the fray of nearly 40 aspirants jostling for PDP ticket has no doubt stirred the waters. Suddenly he has become the front runner! If Kogi State needs a father-figure, it is Captain Wada Idris. If the state needs a mature, honest and hardworking governor, that person is the former state governor, Captain Idris Wada.
I followed the administration of Captain Wada closely between 2012 and 2016. I noticed a man who could not hurt a fly. I noticed that even politicians, especially the ones with skeletons in their cupboards, did not like him because of his honesty and kindness. Under his watch, financial fraud and revenue leakage was near zero. I learnt during his eventful administration in the state that the few vocal spoiled brats in his administration were not comfortable within his transparency.
Captain Wada as governor was a workaholic. His schedules were well laid out on daily basis, and he followed through each of them religiously. In fact, there was a consensus opinion that one of the reasons why he lost the 2015 governor election, was because he was not sharing government money to loafers and hangers-on. Governor Wada preferred to give you a net instead of fish!
I also noticed that God has endued him with the greatest of virtues – love. He sincerely loved the people. He hated seeing people suffer around him.
I also saw his simplicity, patience, sterling doggedness and heroism in the face of daunting challenges. He never allowed the burden of statecraft to overwhelm him.
To wit, his ideas for the management of the scarce resources of the state was legendary. I once had cause to beat my chest and exclaim, “thank God, it is Wada that is the Governor. Who else would have managed these scare resources.” It was such a great privilege to witness Governor Wada in action, firsthand.
As a public commentator, I often want to exercise the highest level of decorum and professionalism, when writing. I prefer to slit it down the middle, any issue before me, without looking at ‘their faces.’ As much as possible, I do not enjoy playing to the gallery or perch on the meal of flattery or sycophancy. I’m not taken in by hypocrisy either!
When Governor Wada assumed office, I was privileged to be in his office after a few days, along with my colleagues in the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), during a solidarity visit. The second time was when I appeared one-on-one with him in official capacity. I felt privileged and honoured because it was the first time I was doing that in all my life, before any state chief executive.
During my interaction with him, I could feel the coziness, serenity and opulence of the exalted office. I was immediately encouraged by his warmness and the groundswell of his humility to discuss the issues that brought me to his office. He gave me a rare 30 minutes to explain myself, without stopping me midstream. He was not yelling or ‘barking’ as some governors would do. I left his office with a lasting memory of somebody that was a stickler to details and excellence. He was just ‘human’. He was just natural.
He accepted my human frailties, mistakes and errors. He forgave all my ‘unforgivable offences’. He could be one of the few state governors that would not bark and curse when political appointees make mistakes.
He always gave those working with him the opportunity to discuss in cordial atmosphere, devoid of harassment and intimidation. When you erred, he did not shout on you! He condoned everybody’s short-comings. He did not impose his opinion on his subordinates, even when his exalted office gave him the licence to do so. He did not make a beast out of any of his aides.
Governor Wada knew his limits as governor. He never pretended that he knew all. He never claimed that he knew more than those he picked as commissioners. He had a lot of respect for professionalism.
During my brief, but eventful encounter with him, he spoke about the problems of the state, as if they were his personal problems. I could see the pain of the burden of statecraft in him. I could see the optimism that was written all over his face in spite of the slim resources at his disposal to play with. I could see somebody that was very confident and sure-footed to transform the state.
For the first time, a state governor personally took my phone number. For the first time I saw a state governor that received my phone calls and responded to my text messages.
In the past, state governors were looked upon as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Personally, it was the first time I was having the phone number of the state governor on my handset. Other governors could give numbers which eventually would not work, in the next minute; but Governor Wada’s phone numbers were without deception. As a matter of fact, he maintained the GSM number he had before he became governor.
Certainly, many of the PDP delegates may be forced to vote for the governor based on his honesty in handling state matters. Many others will vote for him for his humility and knack for good governance. A lot more will prefer him, for his vast experience on the job.
There was a time in the state when imprests to ministries and parastatals were never heard of.
There was an administration in the state that did not pay leave grant at all, neither was there any yearly salary increment. Captain Wada restored all.
There was a time in the past when payment of salary to civil servant was a luxury. There was a time in Kogi state, when pensioners were not existing in the mind of the government. They were nobody!
Thank God for Wada. He paid arrears of pension to deserving pensioners. He restored the dignity of pensioners. Pensioners started building houses and buying cars during Idris Wada’s administration. Pension was often paid before salary of workers. Pensioners that were on the verge of dying, as a result of lack and poverty were revived. His pro-poor policies gave life to many under-privileged persons.
I saw in Governor Wada a man that has no guile in him. I saw a man that is so frank and down-earth about how he wanted to rule the state. Apart from the fact that Governor Wada was the ‘most-litigated’ state chief executive in the history of Nigerian politics, he was arguably the ‘most distracted’ as well. But, amid all these, he did not lose focus.
What kept the administration of Captain Wada during the four years he spent was his abiding faith in the people of the state and the Almighty God. He did not do anything without seeking God’s face or approval.
In the 2015 election that he was rigged out, a great number of pensioners and civil servants voted for him. He was very faithful in the payment of salary. He paid leave bonus two times, before the economy of the state crumbled. He was advised several times to prune the number of civil servants, but he kicked against it, so many times, bearing in mind the reverberating effects.
The milk of human kindness in him refused to retrench anybody. But since he left office, the civil servants and pensioners have been in pains.
As a pilot of over 30 years’ experience, Captain Wada knew the principle of ‘hitting the ground running.’ He swung into action, immediately he was sworn in, in spite of the shadow cast over his administration by the swearing-in drama and the attendant litigations.
The enemy wanted to take him out, when he had car crash between Ajaokuta and Lokoja. Today, he is living by the grace of God. Not forgetful of God’s mercy, the state governor has always carried on with utmost fear of God.
The biggest personal accomplishment (to the glory of God) of the state governor was that, he survived all the arrows of the enemy. It was a sign that God wanted to keep him for another term in office. The time for that term is now!
I appreciate the policy employed by the administration of Governor Wada, whereby projects partially executed by his predecessor were not abandoned. He was undoubtedly the only governor in the history of the state to recognize the fact that government was a continuum. So many contracts which were awarded and part payments made by his predecessor were completed under his administration. Other administrations would have taken just a passing glance at such projects, but Wada said people’s money should not be thrown away anyhow.
The administration of governor Wada embarked on many revenue yielding projects. He approached the bond market for the sum of N20 billion. Sadly, only N8 billion was released to him; yet the various projects reached advance stages of completion, before he was rigged out of office.
Governor Wada’s frugality is never in doubt. For this, and for so many other reasons, he deserves to be returned to Lugard House.
Thank God Wada has come.
– Andrew Onojah wrote from Lokoja.