Prominent Nigerians yesterday joined in mourning a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Gidado Idris, who passed away in Abuja on Friday night.
The former SGF, who was also a personal secretary to the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, died at 82 after a brief illness.
His remains were laid to rest Saturday at Gudu Cemetery in the Federal Capital Territory at about 3pm after funeral prayers at the Abuja National Mosque.
According to one of his brothers, Alhaji Sani Yusuf Magaji, Idris died around 11:30pm on Friday.
The deceased was buried amid tears and prayers from families and the Muslim community, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
President Muhammadu Buhari, according to a statement by his spokesman Femi Adesina, expressed sadness over the death of the “admirable octogenarian,” describing the death as a huge loss to the nation.
Buhari said Nigeria would surely miss the wise counsel of Idris, whom he described as a highly experienced and quintessential technocrat that traversed the different stages of the political evolution of the country.
He said the deceased, in addition to rising to the pinnacle of his public career as SGF, also served several civilian and military administrations meritoriously as federal permanent secretary.
He enjoined current and upcoming civil and public servants to emulate the cherished values of hard work, discipline, professionalism and integrity which, he stressed, the late distinguished nationalist embodied.
Buhari also commiserated with the family and associates of the deceased, praying that God will comfort them.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, on his part, said that Nigeria has lost an elder statesman and a bridge builder.
Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said, “Nigeria has lost a highly principled bridge builder who cultivated a high degree of friendship from the lowest to the highest across the country.
“His life and service embodied the best and the most challenging chapters of our nation’s historical development, where he served with total dedication and distinction.
“He will be sorely missed as a humble, yet passionate patriot, particularly at a time when his breed are thin on the ground.”
In his message of condolence, the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasiru El-Rufai, said, “Alhaji Idris was a dedicated public servant who provided decades of distinguished service to this country. He was a father to us, widely admired for his humility and discipline.
“I personally benefitted from his humility, wisdom and foresight when I served as a presidential advisor in the Programme Implementation and Monitoring Committee from 1998 to 1999.
“May Almighty Allah grant his soul Aljannah Firdausi, and his family the fortitude to bear this loss.”
El-Rufai’s condolence message was signed by Samuel Aruwan, the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity.
The burial was attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha and Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, the Minister of Interior, Alhaji Abdulraman Dambazau, the Chairman, Jaiz Bank Board of Directors, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, Alhaji Mamman Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s uncle, were among personalities at the funeral prayer .
Other dignitaries included the former Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ibrahim Mantu, former FCT Minister, Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo, former SGF, Babagana Kingibe, the Executive Secretary, Abuja National Mosque, Alhaji Ibrahim Jega. Also at the burial were Maj. Hamza Almustapha, former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to late Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha and former Gov. Babangida Aliyu of Niger State.
SGF Boss Mustapha said the deceased was among the brilliant technocrats produced by the country over the years.
He described him as “an embodiment of generous spirit, hard work and an experienced public servant.”
He said the late former SGF was endowed with institutional memory of the things that happened in the course of Nigeria’s journey to nationhood. He also described late Gidado as humble, thorough and a simple man who was very accessible to whomever stepped into his office as SGF.
“I believe he was endowed with institutional memory of the things that happened in the course of Nigeria’s growth as a nation.”
On his part, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the UK, Amb. Sarki Tafida, expressed shock over the death of Gidado, saying, “When I got the news earlier today, I was shocked but I know that life is in the hands of God and Allah can take one’s life at any time.”
The eldest son of the deceased, Alhaji Ali Gidado, described his father as a devoted family man and principled civil servant who taught his children to fear Allah wherever they found themselves.
Idris, who hailed from Zaria in Kaduna State, was appointed SGF in 1993 and he retired in 1999 after a civil service career that started before Nigeria’s independence.
Born on March 15, 1935 to the family of Ma’aji Babba, one of the royal families of the ancient city of Zaria, Idris began his early education in the Kwarbai area of the city.
After his elementary and secondary education, Idris was admitted into the Institute of Administration, which is now under the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He also attended the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
His outstanding performance as District Officer for Benue, Sardauna and Adamawa provinces endeared him to the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto. He was therefore appointed as the Premier’s private and personal Secretary.
He served as Permanent Secretary in Kaduna State from 1971 to 1975. He was appointed Secretary of the Constitution Drafting Committee in 1975 and in 1976, was appointed Secretary of the Constituent Assembly. He was appointed first Clerk of the National Assembly in 1979.
After the overthrow of the civilian regime, he was appointed Secretary and Director of Administration of the National Institute of Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos, Plateau State.
He served as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Police Affairs between 1984 and 1986 before being appointed Chairman of Productivity, Prices and Income Board in 1986.
He also served as Permanent Secretary Ministry of Aviation and when General Sani Abacha took over power on November 17, 1993, he became Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and was later appointed Secretary to the Federal Government. He was the SGF up to the time he retired in 1999.
After the demise of General Abacha on June 8, 1998, Idris was part of the decision that produced General Abdusalami Abubakar as new Head of State. He was the one that announced the appointment.
One of his outstanding contribution to the service of Nigeria was his participation in the committee that produced the 1979 constitution, bagging a Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) national merit award.
As Private and Personal Secretary to the late Premier, he played sensitive roles in the politics of the Northern region, one of the most controversial was drafting the letter that sacked the former emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, on the instruction of the Premier.
Hours before the late Premier was killed, Idris was with him when Sardauna went round the city of Kaduna.
His diligence and patriotism ensured his intimate relationship with many former and present leaders of Nigeria like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, President Muhammadu Buhari and many others.
Idris brother, Sani Yusuf Magaji, described him as “absolute gentleman and principled civil servant who cherished the unity of Nigeria and her progress.”
Gidado is survived by one wife and 11 children.