BUKAR ABBA IBRAHIM: The demise of a promise keeper

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By Yakubu Ahmed BK

He was a good man by any stretch of imagination. He had always been a pleasure to be with and when you look at his privileged background as one old Borno’s “establishment prodigies” in mid 80’s and the aura he exuded as one of the future political leaders of his time, you will come away with that impression that his humility and easy going mien were characteristics of a man who knew his onions and potential place in history.

Late Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim

He was young, handsome and educated at a time people with these characteristics were looked up to, to design a pathway into a political and leadership future for the old Borno state.

Himself and the ilk of his age and privilege were legion and even though young and somewhat exuberant, they played their part by doing what was needful at that time to take the mantle of leadership even when military rule was the norm then.

Our paths crossed in 1987 or so, when as Commissioner of Works of the old Borno state under the military administration of Col Abdulmumini Aminu, it became my task, as Secretary of the Borno State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to sound him out on our request for his Ministry to construct a Badminton Court in the New GRA secretariat of the NUJ in Maiduguri.

He was one of the most popular Commissioners who had mastered the art of accommodating all, always wearing a smile and making people to feel at home and be comfortable with him.

I sauntered into his office, with that request in tow and I must confess that his modesty and charisma laced with that “feel-at-home” welcoming personality, I quickly relaxed, convinced that if I got out of his office without accomplishing my task, it must be something that was just unrealizable by any means.

I was younger, a bit reckless and adventurous, meeting old Borno’s high profiled Commissioner of Works, with a demand that was out of sync with government routines and statutory functions.

He heard me out and took about thirty seconds looking at some files on his table, perhaps thinking about the abnormal request and what to make of it.

He instantly shifted his gaze away from the files, looked at me in the eyes, and declared that work will start in three days.

Although I was carried away by the “success” of my mission, wanting at that point in time, to exclaim and may be shout, I kept my cool, stood up rather in a haste in the joy of my accomplishment, pumped his hands, rushed out and returned to the NUJ Secretariat to break the news to other union officials.

Will he keep this promise? Was it possible for him to mobilize men and materials – all in three days and start work, on a Badminton Court, something we truly desired and wanted, for us to multi use it to play Badminton, host events and get people to make it a relaxation destination?

On the third day, the man of promise kept true to his words. Engineers and tippers came into the building and work started right there and then.

Bukar Abba Ibrahim made sure all went well, and to emphasize his seriousness to it, he made it a habit to visit and see the progress of work, up to the point it was completed and handed over to us.

Surprisingly, he never bothered to corner credits or look for accolades for going out of his way to do for us, what was seen, even by some NUJ officials then, as “an impossible task.”

From then on, I began to look out for him and his performance in office. I literally became his friend, welcoming me into his office and home and doing whatever he could to offer both solicited and unsolicited favors.

Soon after that favor of constructing the Badminton Court, I secured a one bedroom apartment somewhere around Mafoni ward, but packing in presented a challenge because I was having difficulties purchasing my first set of “cushion chairs.”

He got to know about my problems and the next day, he sent for me to pick a beautiful set of chairs, almost angry with me, that despite how close I was with him, I could hide problems he could do something about, from him.

Of course, he continued to progress in life and it culminated into his becoming three times Governor of Yobe state, first in 1991 during the Babangida administration and then twice as democratically elected Governor of Yobe state in 1999 and went on to lay the foundation of midwifing the young state. He was also one of the longest serving Senators of his time in Nigeria.

Some weeks ago I visited him in his residence in Abuja along with his former Special Adviser on Media Alhaji Ibrahim Jirgi and the Deputy Director of Press and later Senator Alkali Jajere.

He was battling with his health no doubt, and even when it evidently harder for him to recognize us, he kept showing flashes of surprises at seeing us.

His dutiful wife, Honorable Hadiza Waziri Ibrahim, who was a one time Minister of Foreign Affairs and currently a member of the House of Representatives who was at hand to receive us and was tsking care of her ailing husband, exuded such rare gait and comportment, always by his side and trying to nurse him back to health.

As Allah has decreed, the news filtered today of his death. Allah ya jikan Bukar Abba Ibrahim, the keeper of his words.


*Yakubu Ahmed BK is the Commissioner of Information and Culture, Kebbi state.

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