Nigeria suffered yet another depletion of the ranks of its eminent elder statesmen recently with the death of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Alhaji Gidado Idris. He died on Friday, December 15, 2017 at the age of 82. Alhaji Gidado Idris was born in Zaria city to the Zazzau royal family on March 15, 1935. He was educated in Zaria, Institute of Administration, Kongo and the University of Leeds in the UK. He served as Private Secretary to Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto and subsequently served as District Officer (DO) at various times in Benue, Sardauna and Adamawa Provinces of the then Northern Region. He was actually with Sardauna hours before mutinous soldiers assassinated the Premier during the first military coup of January 15, 1966.
This career civil servant subsequently served as Permanent Secretary in the defunct North Central State, now Kaduna and Katsina states from 1971-75. He was appointed Secretary to the Constitution Drafting Committee [CDC] under Chief Rotimi Williams in 1975 and in 1976 he served as Secretary to the Constituent Assembly that produced the 1979 Constitution which ushered in the Second Republic. During the four years of the Second Republic [1979-83], Alhaji Gidado Idris also served as Clerk to the National Assembly.
When the military overthrew the Second Republic in December 1983, Gidado resumed his service at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos; was Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministries of Police Affairs; Aviation and Finance at various times before he was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by General Sani Abacha in December 1995.he continued to serve as SGF under General Abdulsalami Abubakar till he retired from public service in 1999.
As the SGF he was the engine room of the federal government policies and head of the federal public service that implemented the policies and midwifed the successful transition to civil rule in 1999. Alhaji Gidado Idris also contributed to produce the 254-page 1979 constitution without reconvening the Constituent Assembly for which General Obasanjo awarded him the national honour of CON. After the death of General Sani Abacha on June 8 1998, it was Alhaji Gidado Idris as the Secretary of the Armed Forces Ruling Council in his position as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who conducted the stormy meeting of the council where General Abdulsalami Abubakar emerged as the new Head of State in the early hours of June 9, 1998 in Abuja.
Alhaji Gidado Idris was one of the last Nigerian civil servants of the old school who underwent their tutelage under the British, under the great pioneer civil servants and the great political leaders of the First Republic. He was also one of the longest serving public servants in Nigeria who served in very responsible positions for five full decades. He accomplished this service without blemish despite the corruption that pervaded that era. Shy, self effacing and an embodiment of humility in his trademark white robes and cap, Gidado Idris symbolised the era of selfless and dedicated service to God and country. Despite his service under great politicians, he shunned the allure of politics and remained the apolitical civil servant to the end. He once said that in his entire career, he never rejected a posting, never lobbied for any position and that he never ever wrote a petition about anything personal or official.
President Muhammadu Buhari described his passing as “a big loss to the nation” and said “being a highly experienced and quintessential technocrat who traversed the different stages of the political evolution of the country, his wise counsel will surely be missed.” Alhaji Gidado Idris paid his dues to Nigeria. He will forever live in the annals of great and principled public servants. May his soul find permanent rest in Aljannat.