By Yushau Shuaib
On his 66th birthday on April 2, 2006, I wrote a tribute on the incorruptible nature of Alhaji Abu Muawiya Gidado, Nigeria’s former Minister of State for Finance and Chairman of the monthly meeting of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) during the Abacha administration.
I was his personal aide and spokesperson when he was Minister between 1994 and 1998. As he clocks 79 on April 2 this year, it is necessary to revisit the life of Alhaji Abu-Gidado as a man of unquestionable integrity, who distinguished himself through selfless service, godliness and simplicity.
Although tribute is usually paid to the memory of heroes, it is certainly more important and instructive to celebrate the exemplary leadership qualities of the living, as a way of encouraging others to emulate their virtues and inspiring ways of life. In any case, why wait for a hero to pass on when we have ample opportunities to testify to their goodness while alive, and whatever gives one the feeling of surviving such a person? Such are the ironies of life!
As a spokesperson in the Ministry of Finance back then, before I was assigned as his aide, Alhaji Gidado once said that a responsible person is conscious of his responsibility to the family and society. When he therefore encouraged me to marry early rather yield to temptations and indiscretion, I complied and later named my first child after him.
The Ministry of Finance during the military era was very powerful, combining both executive functions and those of the legislature in a democratic dispensation. The Minister was responsible for budgetary allocations and the appropriation of funds, while approving foreign exchange allocations, tax exemptions, import waivers, and the settlement of contractors and special grants.
As the Chairman of parastatals under the Finance Ministry and Chairman of FAAC, Abu Gidado stood for justice and fairness in the disbursement of allocations to all the tiers and arms of government. His official interventions and benevolence rescued a number of financial institutions and business enterprises from full weight of official sanction, while other genuine contractors and consultants thrived appropriately under the dispensation.
Yet, often to the dismay of the beneficiaries of his official magnanimity, Abu-Gidado rejected their various acts of gratitude, whether in the form of the allotment of shares, cash gifts, free products or other forms of appreciation. Not only did he routinely decline the inducements of stakeholders, he always insisted that his aides returned suspicious gifts, with the acknowledgment of the receipt of such by the senders. I and his security orderly, Ahmed Ibrahim who is currently an EFCC officer, were involved, in most cases, in returning these gifts.
Since I was responsible for keeping the finances of his office for maintenance, travelling and other contingencies, he always directed me to refund unutilized funds to the treasury, including unspent estacode for foreign trips. For instance, after a 1994 diplomatic-business tour of more than 10 African countries within a week in a President Jet, Abu-Gidado instructed me to refund the huge unexpended estacodes and contingency funds meant for a month tour. The jet was flown by the Flight Commander Samuel Atti and Captain Alkali Mamu who both retired as Air Vice Marshalls (AVM) in the Nigerian Airforce (NAF).
Before the introduction of the monetisation policy by the federal government, he keenly guarded against wastage of public funds on frivolities and extravagant social pastime. He was so uncompromising that he withheld endorsements from questionable expenditures and projects. For instance, when it was the practice for top public officers to have official guest houses, with all the services involved and amenities provided by the government, he declined this, even though he is polygamous. He only maintained an official residence in Abuja.
The former Minister never allowed nepotism to becloud his sense of judgment, as he did not allow members of his family to benefit from projects and contract awards within the ambit of the ministry. As a man of God who thinks about death as if he would die at any moment, he used to keep a special diary in which he recorded money he borrowed from individuals, with amounts sometimes as meagre as five hundred naira then, for the simple reason that his family had the obligation to settle all indebtedness from his assets at his demise.
With an understanding of his strict lifestyle of contentment but my own need for an additional source of income to augment my meagre official remuneration, I had pleaded with him to support the launch of my first book, ‘Nightmare for the Rich in 1997.’ Although, he reluctantly gave his endorsement and accepted to be the Chief Host, for fear of a conflict of interest. He nevertheless allowed me to use his name on the invitations. His name attracted top public functionaries, finance commissioners and chief executives of corporate organisations to the event. In fact, Bar Jimoh Ibrahim, Alhaji Waziri Kyari Mohammed, Mrs Cecilia Ibru, Hajia Hamrat Imam and Mr. Kayode Naiyeju were among top dignitaries who made generous donations at the book presentation. That was how I built my first house the same year!
When Abu Gidado was relieved of his appointment by the administration of General Abubakar Abdulsalam in 1998, he requested the presence of the Director of Finance and Supply, Mrs Grace Archibong and her staff to take an inventory of the items in his official residence. He accounted for and returned every single bit of public property in his possession, including cutlery, and even broken plates.
Immediately after the inventory was taken, instead of the official vehicles attached to him, he used his personal cars to convey himself and his family back to his hometown in Katsina. Mrs Archibong, who later became a Federal Permanent Secretary, was emotionally moved at the astonishing personality of Alhaji Gidado.
Before his appointment into the public service, his career in the private sector was meritorious, as he rose rapidly to the position of the Retail Manager (North) for Shell Nigeria limited, and then became General Manager, Arewa Textiles Limited, before later becoming Deputy Managing Director with Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN).
His patience after a frustrated attempt at getting into the civil service of the old Kaduna State was however subsequently rewarded with an appointment the following year as a Commissioner in the same Ministry, where he subsequently became Deputy Chairman of the State Executive Council, which handed over to the incoming civilian administration of Balarabe Musa in 1979.
Alhaji Gidado’s past high-profile engagements include serving as a member of the Boards of Directors of Peugeot Automobiles of Nigeria, Arewa Textiles and DPMS/IBM. He was a member of the Board of Governors, Kaduna Polytechnic; Chairman, Katsina State Water Board, and Finance Commissioner in the former Kaduna and Katsina States. He also served in TCPC Sub-Committee for Privatisation and Commercialisation in the Automotive Industry; director of some multinational conglomerates, and he represented Nigeria’s interest in the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), and Afreximbank, before serving as Federal Commissioner in the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
Abu-Gidado’s life is a clear testimony to the existence of incorruptible Nigerians who do not worship money or idolise godfathers to reach the peaks in their careers and earn public respect. Their simple lifestyles and self-contentment give them comforts that elude many powerful and wealthy people in society.
As Alhaji Abu Gidado graciously steps into his 79th year on earth, while remaining hale and hearty, may we learn and imbibe enduring lessons from such a great person.
Yushau A. Shuaib