Ahmed Joda, the legendary public servant who recently answered the call of his Maker at the age of 91, is remembered not just as a Super Perm. Sec. but also as a Super Mentor. This is what I gathered from a touching and eloquently delivered tribute on the life of the sage, by Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, aired on Arise TV. Hayatu-Deen, a former GMD of NNDC and Chairman/CEO of FSB International Bank Plc, was a close confidant of Ahmed Joda. I found the powerful testimony worth sharing with my readers. Please read on:
“I’ve had a very long and productive relationship with him as a father-figure, a guardian, a mentor, a teacher, a friend and a counsellor, over a period of 40 years.
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What makes him very unique is the fact that he was a man of extraordinary intellect and vision. God had endowed him with a very large, fluid and malleable brain. Second, he had a character as strong as a rock, solid like granite. Thirdly, he had left a legacy of extraordinary public service going back over the last 50-60 years. He kept very good company across the entire social structure, both in this country and all over the world. To many who did not know him very well, he was also very progressive and possessed radical views. Alhaji Ahmed Joda had a world view and he lived in the 21st Century both in terms of embracing modern ideas and modern tools. He was a peacemaker per excellence and the reconciler in chief. He was a man of great humour, a man of family and a man of God. So in summary, that’s how I see Alhaji Ahmed Joda and his life.
“He began his career in broadcasting in the Northern Region and grew through the ranks to become Chief Information Officer. He then went on to become the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information. Beyond that, he held three ministries at the federal level; Federal Ministry of Information, Ministry of Education and also Ministry of Industry as Permanent Secretary. So, he belonged to that extraordinary group of gentlemen of that era that were called Super Permanent Secretaries. Remember that from 1967-1971 when he was Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information, that was a very critical period in Nigeria’s history, and during that period, he invigilated over the dissemination and management of information during the entire period of the civil war. He was such a bridge-builder that he was able to generate consensus during that period so that the federal government was getting the right kind of information on the conduct of the civil war. Even then, what he wanted was to build bridges with the people in Biafra so that Nigeria could become a more united and stronger Country.
Subsequent to the end of the civil war, he was the articulator of the programme of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation (RRR) under the Gowon administration, the vision that helped accelerate the pace of healing the civil war wounds and bringing the nation together.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, he had told me on several occasions over the last 25-30 years that if this nation is to make (rapid) progress and join the league of progressive nations in a very fast-changing world, you consider the public service and the civil service as the bedrock, the engine room within which you actually frame public policy and also implement it seamlessly, so that Nigerians can have a much higher quality of life in terms of service delivery for the largest number of people. He has worked tirelessly. Up to two months ago, I can bear witness that he was busy on his computer producing all manner of policy positions for purposes of advocacy and of submitting to the government that Nigeria finds its rightful place in the comity of nations. I think one of the things that he would have carried away with him in terms of frustration is issues relating to the quality of public service that has deteriorated considerably over the last few decades. If he had his way, he would make that an issue of pre-eminence to ensure that the public service is geared for excellence going forward.
“Of course, with that, he recognised the many other things that have to go along with them; one is the quality of leadership because the political masters are those responsible for actually defining the destiny of the country and providing a very clear and cluttered vision as to where this country should go forward.
Second, to produce a blueprint and then based on that blueprint, the public servants can then be given the tools and then the training and the values and the ethos required to implement these policy proposals seamlessly. That was clearly something that was uppermost in his heart, no doubt about it.
Well, the thing is that Ahmed Joda is a perpetual optimist. He was never the kind of person that is going to be sulking and complaining. Ahmed Joda was never disappointed or aggrieved up to the time that he died. He just felt that it was important for people when they fell down to actually stand up, you know, pick things up and run with it. He’s always been living in the future so to speak and refused to be burdened by the baggage of the past.”