• ‘Why l knew my three daughters will survive 2006 plane crash that killed over 100’
By Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja
Alhaji Ibrahim Idris (Ibro) had a sit down with Sunday Vanguard in his Asokoro, Abuja residence to reminisce on how he became the governor of Kogi State at his first attempt. Idris also spoke on the October 29, 2006 ADC plane crash that killed over 100 persons, leaving five survivors with three of them being his children and some issues in the polity.
Foray into politics
I came into politics and won election as governor at the first attempt. I don’t know how it happened but God did it. I will not say I’m too kind. No. But I think I help people. At a time, I was just trying to help people and my community, and I was happy doing it. When I help, I’m happier than the person I helped. That has been my lifestyle. I didn’t know people were taking note of all the things I was doing. I was not doing it because I wanted to be a politician or to contest election.
However, a time came when people started coming to me in Abuja to say that I should contest for governor. I said no. I thought they were joking or wanted to get my hard earned money. I told them, if you want me to come into politics, it is a big mistake because I will not spend my hard earned money for politics. But destiny changed things.
There were people who were more educated, experienced and qualified. I came in and, at the first attempt, I won as governor. Many people were surprised that I have actually gone far. All these are God’s making.
Will I tell you also the number of accidents that I have had and l escaped unhurt or how God made me what I am today? It is uncountable. But let me tell you one thing, for all these things, I feel I don’t have what it takes to repay God. So I decided something has to be done to appreciate God. Before I became governor, I was doing my business in Sokoto but I decided to build my first central mosque in Ejule, Kogi State to appreciate God. After that, l built the Idah mosque, then Abejukolo and now the Anyigba mosque which I want to be the best in North-Central; and which, if God helps me, I will complete next year. I am not building only mosque. The church in my local government, I cannot say I built it completely but at least half of the money was provided by me, and in some other places. I enjoy doing anything that is associated with God.
Present situation in Kogi
It is sad what is happening in Kogi State. It is expected that anybody who is out to serve, should give his best. Service is to the people. It should be what you can give to the people and not what you can get. I’m not claiming to be perfect, but that is what I did while in office.
If you see people showing me love, it’s because of what I did for them when I was in office. This is one of the things that make me happy; to know that where you’ve served before, the people still love you many years after you left office. Sometime when you’re in office, people don’t actually see what you’ve done until you’ve left. I thank God that I came out without blemish. No matter where I go in the state, people show me love. Kogi State is having a lot of problems presently and we pray God will see us through.
Governor Bello’s probe
They are chasing shadow. I don’t know what they want to probe. They have done it, and I believe nothing was found.
I’m challenging them, because they claimed I borrowed money and it was affecting the payment of salary. I’m challenging the governor to tell the world if I borrow one kobo from either international or local banks. I’m telling you with pride today that throughout my eight years in office, I did not borrow a kobo from any bank or organization. I never borrowed and Kogites know that because, during my time, salaries were paid as and when due. I was the first governor in North Central to approve minimum wage, relativity and harmonization. Even pensioners, as soon as workers retired, they got their entitlements.
I don’t know why there should be problem now. I hear the governor is saying no money…that they are servicing the debts my administration owed. It is not true. You cannot be paying debts that I know I did not owe. Despite all they got – Bailout, Paris Refund and allocation. I believe our people deserve better than excuses. I don’t want to get myself too disturbed. But, there is no father who will be happy seeing his children suffering. I always feel bad seeing people complaining of hunger and no salaries in the state. I wish the governor well. All I’m praying for is that he sees to the happiness of the people of Kogi – workers and the generality of the people; and that is why he was put there to give good governance.
Mood when he heard of the 2006 ADC plane crash with three of his children on board.
They (children) were to go back to school in Sokoto and I told them the night before that there was no need to wake me up the following day. They should tell me what they needed so that I could provide. So, they gave me a list of what they needed and I provided and made arrangement for somebody that will drive them to the airport in Abuja from Lokoja.
But to my surprise around 11.00am the following day, I heard cry from my wife and few people around that there was a crash of an ADC flight going to Sokoto. They suspected that the children that left that morning must have been involved.
Moments later, I received a phone call from my son, Suleiman, who took them to the airport, that the plane that crashed had three of my daughters in it. He said the plane crashed and started burning. You may believe it or not but I said “even if it is so, nothing will happen to my daughters; even if it crashed into the sea”. I said that because I believe in God, and I know He loves me, He will not allow a bad thing to happen to them.
That very day, I refused to tell anybody initially. I took my bath. I was very confident, and nothing moved me. I told my ADC to get ready as we will be waiting for calls to know where it happened so that we could drive there straight. While we were waiting, there were many people who came to see me and I didn’t disclose to them what had happened. I warned my wife and the rest of the family not to disclose the news or cry. I just believed that nothing will happen to them. Then one of their brothers called again telling me what he had heard. I said yes, “Sule already informed me that there was such broadcast of an air crash”.
I had no premonition. A day before the journey, I worked up till 5.00am to clear my files. That was why I told them to give me their list ahead so that I could provide for their needs. After working that late, I knew I would be tired and didn’t want anybody to disturb my rest.
Going to hospital
When it was time and it became obvious that people should know, I asked my ADC to get set and we left Lokoja for the scene of the accident. That was when people knew my daughters were involved.
How their mother reacted
You know women. She was just crying, and questioning God about the event. I told her to relax that nothing would happen to our children. But I didn’t expect her to believe me. She continued to cry.
We left Lokoja around noon for the accident scene. When we got to Abaji, I received a call from my son that they were already at the scene of the accident and that they had seen Zainab. I said they should go ahead and search and they will see the remaining two girls.
By the time we got to Gwagwalada, I received another call that they had seen Jemila. I said “beautiful, keep searching”. As we turned to Airport Road, another call came in and they said they had seen Aisha. I said I knew because I believed nothing will happen to them.
My sons (Suleiman and Muhammed) were at the scene when they recovered all of them. And the way God did it, not that my daughters were sitting in the same area. They were all scattered in the plane but God is a wonderful God. In fact, Jemila came out of the crash with her seat belt strapped and, from what they told me, the others were found not too far away from each other. There were 109 passengers and five survivors, out of which three were my daughters. The other survivors were one boy and one girl.
We drove straight to National Hospital. When we got there, they took me into the theatre where the three girls had been admitted and l was told they needed blood. Luckily, we were of the same blood group with my sons, Abubakar and Muhammed. So, we all decided to donate blood. There was no need to look for blood outside to give to them.
What was required was if there was a need to move them out of the country. I was ready to give out my last kobo for them to be moved. But I thank Julius Berger for their quick intervention and kind heart. They made an arrangement, sent in a jet that flew the three of them to Germany.
But then, something happened again, the fourth girl had very serious injuries. The very moment they were to take my girls out, I went to see the girl. I did not know her but I said though this girl has no one to stand for her, I must help her as well. So I asked the girl to join my children because I believed I must save her life if I could. Eventually, four of them left Abuja for Germany. To the best of my knowledge, after the treatment, they were all discharged and they returned to Nigeria. All that was provided for my children was provided for the other girl as well and money for her to do shopping on her way back. When we got back to Nigeria airport, we embraced and she left. Till now, I’ve never set my eyes on her or heard anything about her. That does not bother me; all that is important was that I was able to help in saving her life.
What if your children were not involved?
I would have done the same thing all over again if my children were not involved. I will still donate blood as far as it will save lives. As a sitting governor, I had arrived at some accident scenes, stopped and helped victims.
How he views the incident today
I see it as love from God but some say it is luck. Very importantly, I know that God loves me most in this world because of his wonders in my life.
October 29 as tragedy or testimony
The memory for me is thanksgiving to God for my life, family and things that concern me. There are too many things that God did; if I start recounting them, it will fill up the whole newspapers to show that God has always been with me, and because of that love, I try as much as possible not do anything that will offend God. I believe He loves me more than other people.
The daughters now
All of them are married now. One of them is a fashion designer (Jemilah Fashion Designer). Her shop is inside my hotel (Grand Ibro Hotel). She is a mother of three (one boy, two girls) married to Muhammed Alfa.
Zainab is married to a banker in Katsina. She has four kids, while Aisha married this year. She lives with her husband in Sokoto.
There was no phobia at all. In fact, as soon as they came back from Germany, they flew to Sokoto from the same Abuja airport to continue their studies.
I’m not a saint nor perfect but I sincerely believe in God. And if you believe in God with a clean and good heart, there is no way God will not support you, in anything you do and protect you whenever the need arises. Make sure you don’t destroy or crush people, and whatever you do, there is justice and equity, and a free and open heart. Anything you can do for your fellow human being that will help, do it within your power though, because it will be unfortunate if you go beyond your power.
Nigeria sick aviation sector
There are people who are responsible for the smooth running of the sector. Government should make sure they do what they are supposed to do. Follow the guidelines. We are not the first neither are we the last. Aviation industry is virtually in every country. Other countries are doing well, some with their own national carriers.
Unfortunately, Nigeria Airways is no more. It a shame that a country like Nigeria cannot provide a standard airline for its citizens. I still believe government can look inward and come up with a corporation or company even in collaboration with the international community and create a better aviation industry. To do that, we need people who are experienced to handle it. It is possible, just that we don’t have people of courage and the desire.
I don’t see any reason we should not have it. We have all it takes to have a carrier and I believe we have very capable hands to handle it. However, I think the courage and determination is not there. Government is all about serving the people and if government cannot provide for the people, it has not done anything. I’m not blaming any particular government. I believe that is what any government coming next should look into. Nigerians are fantastic people; we have all the brains for a successful aviation industry. Why can’t we do it then?
The health sector during emergency
We need to look critically into the health sector as well. I disagree with anybody who tells me Nigeria is poor. We are not poor. We have all it takes. A country like Nigeria should have nothing less than four standard hospitals that can compete favourably with any other hospital outside the country. At least we need one in each geo-political zone. Why is it that we don’t have a hospital that has all the equipment when we have the personnel?
Our doctors are among the best in the world. They even have their hospitals too. Why can’t government come up with that important health care centres, that have all the facility and personnel? It is a shame that when emergencies happen, we start running out of Nigeria. We are not being fair to ourselves. Whoever is coming up, I pray such person understands this.
It is when you’re healthy that you think about food or money. Money is useless without health. That should be our priority. If you ask these medical personnel to return home, they will; provided you give them what they earned there and provide all the facilities. They will do wonders. It is an important area we should look into.
Son’s governorship aspiration
It is so bad that people think I want to force my son on the state as governor.