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Tinubu needs advice, if he can be reached – Alhaji Idi Farouk (former DG, NOA)

Alhaji Idris Muhammad Farouk, better known as Idi Farouk, is a man of many parts. He was in the Air Force as a young man…

Alhaji Idris Muhammad Farouk, better known as Idi Farouk, is a man of many parts. He was in the Air Force as a young man before moving on his own to the private sector. He found his mettle in public service and politics, where he became Permanent Secretary in Kaduna State. He was also a local government chairman, Chief of Staff to the Governor and Commissioner for Information, all in Kaduna State. At the national level, he was for some time the Director of Programmes of the Abacha Foundation and then the Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA).

 

We normally begin with background, born in Kano but from Kaduna, how did that happen? 

My grandmother, that is the mother of my mother, was a nurse in Kano City Hospital and, of course, when she got my pregnancy, she came to Kano to deliver, and there I was with my grandmother until I went to secondary school.

So, I spent the very beginning of my life in Kano. We were in Dorayi Nurses Quarters then, with very good neighbours like Rabiu Dansista, Alhaji Umaru Gumel. Those were our neighbours. So it was beautiful growing up, where we met with all sorts of people; and my grandmother, incidentally, was from Sierra Leone.

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I didn’t ask her that because she was too much of a disciplinarian. There are some subjects you didn’t even discuss because, you know, when we were growing up at one point, we couldn’t even touch the radio because of the kind of discipline that we had and you can’t come and sit down with elders when they are talking and choose to want to talk with them.

So, basically, I came up with that kind of strong discipline. Of all my siblings, I was the only one that grew up with her. My other siblings were in Kaduna with our parents.

Which school did you go to in Kano?

I went to CMS Primary School in Sabongari Kano, and we used to trek from Dorayi, where we lived, that is behind the hospital in Kano, to school and back. I cannot even tell you the mileage we covered at that time, at that age.

And when you closed from school, assuming you close at 3-4 o’clock or thereabouts, you are expected to be home by a certain time; they counted the number of hours that you should spend on the road. So the discipline was strict. I don’t know what to say, but, it was full military discipline, so to speak.

Then of course after that I went to St. Paul’s College in Wusasa, Zaria, which was another school of discipline. And from St. Paul’s College in Zaria, I never went to university, from St. Paul’s College it was to full life.

In your intro, you said I was a civil servant. I never was a civil servant. My first appointment in the civil service of Nigeria was as permanent secretary, under (Alhaji) Lawal Kaita, whose campaign at that time in 1983, led to his being governor. I found myself in it, and I acted very strongly in the campaign.

Indeed in that year, I was the first appointee of government, political appointee; so all my appointments had been political.

Yes. But before we go there, what decided your choice of the Air Force? And why did you go and leave so quickly? 

I had to leave the Air Force. My parents had very good friends in the Air Force, including, may his soul rest in peace, Col. Obada, who ended as Gen. Obada, Hamza Abdullahi,  of blessed memory, and Mukhtar.

AVM Mukhtar? 

AVM Mukhtar, yes. They were very close to my parents. And as a young man, before I went to the Air Force, I was working in some other places but I liked the Air Force because, at that time, they used to go to Germany.

And when they came back, they were just the star of the defense group. So, they convinced my parents to allow me to go into the Air Force, which I think they did in good faith.

But when I went in there, it became another military, the discipline there is also like the one I grew up to find and I didn’t want to continue on that path.

And in any case, I didn’t go to Germany because I think, at the time I got in there, Germany had whittled down, so to speak. So, the long and short of it is that I didn’t like continuing in the Air Force.

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alhaji idris muhammad farouk

 

So what did you do? Did you go on “AWOL” as they say?  

I did go on “AWOL”. That’s very clear. I went on “AWOL”. Two incidents happened at the time.

When I went on “AWOL”, of course, my parents did not like it. I went to Kano and one evening I was somewhere when my godfather then, AVM Mukhtar called my father, sounding very confused and unhappy.

So, you left Kaduna where you were supposed to be? 

I left Kaduna.

And moved back to Kano?  

I went to Kano. He (AVM Muhktar) took me from there. Fortunately, it was getting to time for Suhoor.

It was Ramadan?

Yes. Suhoor. So he left me in the car and went in. And I was there for about 15-20 minutes, and I asked myself, what am I doing here? From that place, if I got to Kaduna, it was straight to the guardroom and I wasn’t prepared for that.

So I just came down from the car and I left. I went back to my house in Kano. So that was how I left the Air Force. It was because really my expectations were not met.

And there were no consequences for you leaving like that, abruptly?

No, they will arrest you, they will lock you up. I was caught another time during the national durbar. We had a committee on catering. My mother, incidentally, was a caterer. I had now come back to Kaduna, even though I was AWOL and I was taken on a temporary basis.

To help your mother?

Yes, to help them. I was put in the store. And there was an Air Force officer; I don’t want to mention his name. May his soul rest in peace, he’s gone. He too, was a businessman, even in the Air Force. And they gave him the contract to bring firewood.  And the catering was carried out at the Government College, Kaduna, They had full catering service equipment in that place; big stoves, big cookers, gas and all.

The day he got his pay, the following day he arrested me. In fact, that was the final arrest, because I had the RSM then, very strong person, in the base. We called him Baba Umaru, very, very strong. But he facilitated, and I was left alone.

So, you were discharged?  

Is it discharged? Okay, I was discharged so to speak, yes.

You earlier said the first appointment that came to you in the Kaduna State Government was, I believe, DG of the Liaison Office?

Not DG, Permanent secretary.

Perm-Sec Liaison Office was a political appointment?

It is a political appointment.

At what point then, did you join politics?  

It is because of the politics that I got the appointment. I met with my friends. I said, look, I want to go into politics. And they all laughed, because it looked impregnable.

You were young then, right?  

I was very young, yes. That was even in 1978-79. So, I now decided I was going into politics. I said, but look at all the parties —GNPP, NPN and the rest. I thought where do I have people that I can relate with, because even as a young man and a young student, I had always had a passion for NPC (Northern Peoples Congress).

I always liked the Sardauna of Sokoto, you know. He was role model. I asked myself, in the five political parties, where can I really fit in? Even if they failed, I won’t fail. And I thought that the NPN was the place to be.

You were not tempted to go to PRP as a young man?

No. I didn’t want the PRP.

You were never tempted?  

I wasn’t the Aminu Kano kind of…

No radicalism?  

No, radical of some sort; but not that kind. In any case, when we decided, I decided on NPN, but how do I break into this strong wall? And I recall that, because now I was having a public relations company. You know, that kind of public relations that you hit your head against the wall and nothing is coming out of it. How do we break in?

So, meanwhile, the NPN was talking about housing and food. I got one, fortunately, there was a graphic artist who I later even assisted. He’s an Igbo boy called Mbonu.

I said look at what these people are preaching about. Can I get a visual…, what is it called? In any case, he came up with something, and I came up with the slogan, ‘Vote Against Hunger, Vote NPN, Vote Shagari’.

And then he designed a very beautiful banner. You know, in those days, we did not have the kind of posters they make today, and all those kinds of wrappers and things. This came out like a calendar that you have today.

We got this, and on credit, went to Maritime Printers in Kaduna, who did the (printing).

Shagari was coming into Kaduna on his last trip to Kaduna. We went to the Durba Hotel, that’s where he was going to be. But when he came, before he got to the lift, security cut everybody off.

Now, what do we do? We had these posters in hand. Fortunately, the supervisor on duty, Patience Jallo, I asked her, where (was) Shagari staying?

That supervisor in the hotel?

Yes, a supervisor in the hotel. I asked her, where (was) Shagari staying? She just gave it to me but how would I use it anyway? I went to the…

So, she told you the room number? 

Yes, she gave me the room number. And I went to the security there, took the phone, and I called. I said, can I speak to Mr President?

Was he president then? 

He was not. But that’s how he was addressed.

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alhaji idris muhammad farouk

 

He was a candidate?

He was a candidate. But then we had been calling him president for being a candidate. He took the phone and I said, you don’t know me, sir. I’m a politician and I have something for you here. He said, okay. The chairman Kaduna is downstairs. He said I should give it to him.

Meanwhile, may his soul rest in peace, Mallam Suleiman, he was the chairman, and he knew us in town. But he didn’t quite like us because we were too much; we were men about town, so to speak.

I met him, I showed him the poster and I said, Mr President says we should come with you and I gave him the room number.

He said we should wait, and about two, three minutes later, he said we should come.

And when we went in, sitting directly opposite the door was Alex Ekwueme, who was the vice presidential candidate; then Akinloye was sitting opposite Ekwueme and on the three-seater was Shehu Shagari. And standing behind Ekwueme was Sale Jambo. And Ibrahim, what’s his name, from Lafia, and, oh God, Jolly Tanko Yusuf and our poster was in his hand.

Ekwueme, you know, he was an architect. He said, gentlemen, what is this? I said, it’s just a graphic presentation of what you have been preaching, and campaigning about. And that’s all we thought it should be. He kept quiet.

Then he asked, ‘Where did you do this?’ We said, right here in Kaduna. And he just turned and said what are these people in Lagos doing? And then he decided to critique it because there were tomatoes and he said they were too red and red was the colour of PRP.

So, he said we should have toned that a little bit and things like that. So Shagari from where he sat asked of the Hausa version.

And he said, what is your programme like now? Tomorrow we are going to Sokoto. We will be in Kano two days later. I said, sir, you will get it in Kano.

Now, how do we translate the “vote against hunger” in Hausa? How do you translate it into Hausa, to capture the essence and the meaning? 

Fortunately, somebody told us about a young graduate of Hausa, Bello Sule who ended up as executive director of NTA. It didn’t take him one day, and he sent it back with a slight change.

“Help to fight hunger”?

Help fight hunger. Instead of “voting against hunger”. So that’s how it came. And then we took it to Kano. At that time, I didn’t have a car. So we took a taxi. We went to NPN headquarters in Kano, on the way to the airport.

They didn’t even know Shagari was coming to town. After a lot of inquiries, around 5:30-6pm, we got to know he was staying opposite the Daula Hotel, in one of the guest houses of Sanusi Dantata, who was the chairman of NPN, Kano.

And as we just got in, Shagari was coming out. He came from the bungalow and was going towards the car. “Ina poster”? He asked, in Hausa?

So, he remembered you?  

Sure, because it was only three days after. Meanwhile, we showed it to him. He said, oh, wonderful, wonderful. He said the chairman was inside. That’s Akinloye, he was going out. Meanwhile, the security boys too were the same we met in Kaduna.

We met Akinloye. We didn’t know the power of the chairman then. He looked at it. Oh, wonderful, wonderful, very good, very good, that is me and my partner then, who is also late gone now, Yahaya Shaba.

He said what next? We said the president said he was coming back. We couldn’t discuss anything with him. So he said, okay, so we sat, he now left us and went in.

So around seven, quarter past seven, those security boys came. “You people should discuss with the chairman, because Shagari doesn’t sleep here”, they said.

Now, when they opened the door, Akinloye was far gone. He was sleeping on the chair. So we had to leave and come back early in the morning.

When we got there in the morning, before you know it, vehicles have started to come. Huge, huge vehicles, and before you know it, we were standing among drivers. The last person to come was Isyaku Ibrahim.

He said we should come up and we took the posters to them inside.

You know, when you bring something beautiful everybody wants to have a share of it.

So later Shagari said they were going to Nguru that we should follow them to Nguru. I didn’t have a car and I didn’t have money with me. I didn’t have clothes to change. It just didn’t make sense. So, we just told him, no, we are not ready for it.

Fortunately on the posters, we wrote donated by News Lab Environmental Media, which is my company.

Then Abuja was coming up, Simon Shango, was the National Publicity Secretary of the NPN then and we knew him because he was in the New Nigeria and we knew him in town. So we wrote to him.

And at that time, the Action Group was the opposition? They were against coming to Abuja. So we went to NPN, now we have something to show.

We wrote to the National Publicity Secretary that we wanted to do a focus on Abuja itself because at that time, there were no houses but everything was under construction. So the publicity was very, very, very strong against even the movement.

So Simon gave us a letter of go-ahead because we were NPN people. So on the strength of his letter; we entered Abuja where you had Julius Berger, and the rest who were doing all the work.

And we were saying we were producing a publication on Abuja, including the houses there. And it is from there that we made the money we ought to have made under NPN.

And that is, it’s from that source I even got my first car. And my first car was a Mercedes Coupe 230, second hand but it looked like new because we went to Germany to get it.

But having said that I was against Lawal Kaita, you know?

You were against him?  

I was against him. But in 1983 I returned to him; and set up his campaign office because at that time general campaigns were mostly done at home. So we set up his campaign office in Kaduna and more or less ran it. I want to give you even an example of what we did.

I took him to ABU, took him to Congo Conference Centre to meet and explain to the youth what he has in store for them. And you know, Alhaji Lawal was a chain smoker. How do I stop him from this smoking?

I came and met him and said “ranka ya dade, I was just standing outside and I heard those students saying is that how you are going to come and teach them how to smoke”?

You know, they were very listening leaders.

The point I’m making here is that as a leader going for campaign you have to present yourself like, if you go to, you know, a wanzami. How do you say it in English?

Barber?

You have to allow him to push your face here, push your face there, so that you can look good after. That was the kind of leaders we had then.

So, what job did he give you? I mean you you led the PR side of his campaign right?

Yes, because he won the election. You know why I said I was the first appointee of the government, because even after the election, people started to come in. It was from the campaign office that we would go and tell him this has come in, that has come in. People were even bringing cows and whatever, and we took.

At one point, the deputy governor, Mallam Nuhu Babajo brought somebody to the campaign. We briefed them every day in the small office they had.

This was after the election? 

After the election, after they were elected. Then one day I told Bello, because he was worried, I said it was not about what we get, if we will get we will get.

One day as we were going out, Malam Kaita, he was a very jovial person. He joked a lot. He said “Nuhu, what are they going to give to them”? So I turned back and I said whatever they wished and we left. My other friend was very unhappy but I know that if you work you will get your reward.

So, you got Permanent secretary,Liaison, what did that mean? 

Yes, you know, I didn’t even meet with the person I was succeeding because he left immediately they lost the election. I didn’t even know him.

So, liaison to where?

I was the first person to be given the appointment because they were going to be sworn in on the 1st of October and on the 2nd of October he was going to Lagos. So it was Nuhu Babajo, the deputy governor that he sent to tell me that he was sending me to Lagos as the permanent secretary. I resisted, you understand. That I’m a man of the world so I should go there…

To Lagos?

Of course you know that was where the headquarters was and the National Assembly was there and everything was there, so from that point life became good.

You spent many years in the service of Kaduna State Government, from that position…?

You know from that position, then there was the coup of 31st of December and of course Governor Muazu was appointed as the governor. We stayed there for a little while because at one point the then head of service, who was also retained by Muazu, called me and said, the governor was highly embarrassed with my presence.

I said, “You didn’t tell me who to hand over to”. He said the hand over was to the highest person, of course I did that and I left. I went back to Kaduna and continued with my life. And there was another coup and Col. Dangiwa Umar took over.

This was the Babangida coup?

Yes, and appointed me Chairman Kaduna Local Government.

What was your connection to him?

I don’t know; it was not connection. You should ask him that question because I didn’t ask him I wanted to be. I was just appointed and I think I did creditably well in that position. I am saying that because one, by the time I was chairman, there was still these night soil men, I abolished it because every home must have proper toilets, not the one that somebody would come and take and go around.

And we came after Buhari, you know, they had this environmental day and things like that. People brought out all their rubbish and dump around the town. So many streets in Kaduna were already blocked.

During Buhari, it was possible because people “voluntarily” came with their vehicles, and contractors collected the refuse. But after him, it died down. So refuse was just piling up in town.

So on the 1st of October, I decided that no more, I mean, the laws of Northern Nigeria is very clear. Every home must have a refuse bin. So I enforced that and launched the home to landfill; meaning that we don’t want to see your rubbish.

We zoned the town, and called the contractors. You have to have the wherewithal and then when we did that, we put a price for collection.

So now when we go after you; we had all those sanitary inspectors, and very effective. So they come to your house, they saw too much rubbish, where’s your receipt? If you have your receipt, we take that contractor to court. We have a court. So it was effective because we cleared all the rubbish. I guess that we did well.

You served particularly a long time under Governor Makarfi. I think you were his…

You see, let me take you through the process because Governor Makarfi we met in cabinet too. I didn’t know him until we met in cabinet.

When a new government came, he decided that he was going to form his own cabinet and of course, we were dropped again and I went back to doing business.

The National Republican Convention (NRC) party had been formed and they were looking for director of organization and that was zoned to the North and of course, Mallam Adamu Ciroma held sway.

And Mallam Adamu, and Lawal Kaita presented me to NRC as the director of organisation. That’s how I came to be director of organisation.

And then of course, we ran the election, which Abiola was said to have won.

Then my mentor, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, you recall, said, Abiola won fair and square and that he should be given.

When I left Abuja, I went straight to Kaduna. He said Mallam Idi, you know how he talks, “did Abiola win the election”?

Of course, with reluctance, I said yes. He said, did he not win fair and square? I said yes. He said, “let me tell you something. The North has been known for fairness and justice. The man won fair and square. Give it to him.

We’ll go back to the drawing board. When an election comes again, we’ll go after it and win. If we win, we win. If we don’t win, whoever wins, we congratulate. The North is for fairness and justice.

And that’s what the rest of the country respects us for because they know where they can get fairness and justice. And I’m not prepared to throw it to the wind.”

So, when Abacha took over, I think they directed the military governors then to appoint, a minimum of one NRC and one SDP person. And one of our very good friends from Katsina, was Lawal Jafaru’s friend, he recommended me. I didn’t know Lawal Jafaru.

So, basically, that’s how I became the commissioner of information.

And I want to say that under all the governors that I served there none like  Lawal Jafaru. For instance, we as commissioners, when we came to his house and they were going out, if there was food on the table, we’re expected to start to eat, he would come and join us, which is not what I see happening today.

So, it was more collegial? 

It was more collegial. It was more, in fact, democratic, so to speak because our views were well taken. In our cabinet, we had a man who came from SDP, Harry. He was commissioner for works.

Makarfi, was the commissioner for finance. Balarabe Kubau was our agric commissioner. And Patrick Yakowa was our commissioner for commerce. We had one woman, Hajiya Rakiya. She is still alive, she is in Zaria now.

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alhaji idris muhammad farouk

 

And I’d like to ask you, suddenly, we saw you move to the Abacha Foundation. What’s your connection to Abacha?  

First, Abacha is known to me. I know him because he’s also from Kano. You get what I mean? And we go to the market and meet his father in the market. But his younger brother, Abdulkadir, is more my mate and friend.

But as the connection is, you recall that as commissioner of information in that period, Nigeria was under attack by the rest of the world. We were a pariah nation and what have you.

Because of Abacha’s government?

Because of Abacha and his government. Of course, I convinced my governor then and said, we need to do something strong and solid in defence of Nigeria and Nigerians.

And that’s how we came about the, ‘Not In Our Character’. So we did a seminar, Not In Our Character, and we launched the book here in Abuja. And of course, we informed them that the proceeds of that launching would be used to set up Abacha Foundation because at that time, Abacha too had given the impression that he was going at a certain time.

So the foundation was for him to retire into and continue with the good works. So basically, when one was no longer commissioner, the foundation was coming up, we got into it.

You were the idea’s man, you became the director of program?

In fact we created the foundation, it was our creation. Kaduna State, of course, I don’t want to give me the credit, but I want to give Lawal Jafaru the credit. So that’s how we came about it. With the proceeds of the launching of the “Not in Our Character” because we did the “Not in Our Character” book and of course, the video in two parts.

But we all know that Abacha didn’t really go, he stayed and so what was the foundation then in support of?  

No, we were more or less like helpless. At one point in time, it became an embarrassment. In truth, he supported the foundation. He was there for the laying of the foundation stone. He was there for the launching of the foundation. It was clear in our statement that it was for him to retire into. So he didn’t go. If he was alive, he probably should have gone. He should have retired and maybe go into the foundation.

Because when the Obasanjo government took over, I was still in the foundation. At that point, Makarfi had already become governor.

Makarfi was the director of finance? 

Yes, director of finance. I got a letter from the government. They wanted to know the status of that foundation and what have you.

As they wrote to me because Abacha didn’t have a penny inside the foundation, not one penny of Abacha or his wife or anybody’s; it was all contributions.

All I did was just to take a photocopy of the list of donors, which included half of the ministers then; Jerry Gana and the rest of them and I sent it to them.

Then, Modibbo, who was the lawyer then, said it was not a quarrel, but your letter sounded like that. I said it was a public trust. Every money, not government money, came in from people. that was what we used to build it.

But people remembered the foundation as a kind of propaganda arm of the Abacha elongation program?

The truth about it is that, I’m telling you, that foundation was set up for him to retire at the expiration of his tenure. But later on, like I said to you, my governor came and told me, Lawal Jafaru, he is still around. He said it was becoming an embarrassment.

But what did you do when you realised that Abacha really didn’t want to go? 

I didn’t, I mean don’t forget, Abacha set up about five, six political parties. UNCP…, I can’t remember the rest now. But, even at that point, the impression was that he was going.

It was much later that it became clear that he was going to be the only candidate of all the parties.

So, what would I do? Of course, I was with UNCP, with Makarfi in UNCP or so. Was it DPA? I can’t remember which one. But we were in one of them because Makarfi still even at that point, wanted to be governor. I recall in that period, we went to see Samaila Gwarzo.

Director of SSS?

Yes, he was in the Villa itself, with Makarfi. And he asked him, after we had spoken, he said, what do you want to be? He (Makarfi) said he wanted to contest for governorship.

And he said to him, “ah, you can’t, because it’s already been taken care of.” Somebody else, he mentioned the name has been penciled, but I won’t mention it.

So we left his office and I came with Makarfi. When we got home, he then asked me, what do I think? I said, we should continue with our quest. You want to be governor? Let’s go after it.

So, you were not really part of the project for Abacha to be the sole candidate of these parties? 

No, no, no. I said to you that the foundation was set up for him to retire into, that is what we did.

How did you find yourself in the Obasanjo-Atiku campaign, especially after serving in the Abacha Foundation?

But before then, I was not with Obasanjo, even for that. At the beginning of this PDP, APP, I was in APP. Even as Makarfi’s Chief of Staff, I was APP. You get what I mean?

I was very clear in my mind that APP would win that election because already, AD had been formed and AD was more like a gift item, so to speak because AD was to be part of APP.

We held a meeting in Sheraton, where I was there and AD had their own, they were not even AD then. But they had a representation.

In the 2003 election, I had already been chief of staff and Atiku at that time as vice president. I wasn’t with him either because we thought that he was against us in Kaduna.

And Makarfi now my boss, kept telling me, no Atiku is this, Atiku is that. Then I sought to see Atiku.

And I told him clearly; I said, before now, I didn’t like you. But my boss just keeps telling me that you are like me because we believe this and we believe that you are from Kaduna as far as we are concerned. You came from Kaduna to this office.

And then he told me that now that we are telling each other facts, when Makarfi talks about working with me he said, how can he work with somebody who sits everywhere and abused him? I said, ah, me? Anyway, that ended the ( matter); now, fast forward into the period of election.

2003?

Yes. In any case, you know Obasanjo went and announced his second term bid without mentioning the running mate. At that point, it was said that there was this little rift or something and maybe he wanted to change.

But not up to a week later that he announced Atiku as his running mate. And I went to see Atiku to congratulate him and I told him, now you are not a tag-along.

Probably he wanted to drop you but he found out that his fate also depends on your ticket, so that’s why I congratulate you. And he said thank you very much. And he was in his office, in his house, and he left where he was sitting and went to his drawer and came up with a white sheet of paper which Obasanjo gave him the day before.

It was given by one of the ministers to Obasanjo, what the campaign should look like and he gave me to go and develop, which I did.

So, that’s how you joined the campaign at that point, at the behest of Atiku? 

Yes, Atiku definitely. I gave it to him and I recommended six directorates. So, when I met him again after he said, he had taken that paper to what’s it called? And they have adopted all except that it would be five directorates and the sixth one would be the director general.

And he even told me that I would be either the director general or representing North West.

I sat down in my house about two weeks later, I saw the whole composition come up, Tagum, Kazaure  and no Idi Farouk.

So I went to see the wife and said I’d like to believe my vice president. In any case, to cut a long story short he now met with Obasanjo and told him that the balance was not good enough; the religious balance was not good enough and if he allowed that, there would be the need to have a director general, deputy director general and he has somebody in mind, Idi Farouk from Kaduna and Obasanjo said go ahead and that was how I got into the campaign.

Did that role you played in the campaign lead to your being the DG of National Orientation Agency?

I should think so because in truth, we played a very good role and the campaign was well managed because we had gurus in the campaign—Adamu Chiroma, Tony Aneni, Atiku himself, and Tangum. I believe that we ran a very good campaign and usually better campaigns to win the election.

And when Obasanjo became president-elect but in that period as director, we had formed a very close relationship with Obasanjo himself.

Now, he was forming his cabinet and I no longer could reach him even on the phone. Then the DG National Orientation came up and of course, the lines became free again and I went to see him.

And I told him I had difficulty reaching him but I could understand and that I came to thank him but I do not want to have difficulty reaching him because governments need information.

Like Obasanjo himself told me after, during Yar’Adua, he said “I have told Umaru to have cells, various cells where you get the kind of information that will help.”

You need to have cells and have people that will tell you what you want. I mean for instance, you recall what I told you about Lawal Kaita but I also talked to Obasanjo during the campaign because during the campaign we were not going to Benue. But we put Benue; we won’t go.

So Akiga, Stephen Akiga, he was my classmate; we were together in St. Paul’s, very close and was now Minister of Police so I said to him, why are we not going to your state? He said he had been trying, but nothing happened.

I said, let’s go and see Obasanjo, so we went to see Obasanjo. He said, “I don’t think I have any appointment with you”. I said, we don’t have an appointment but we have an appointment with you because it is about you and that made him want to hear.

I said to him I was on the plane (that was a story created) and that I happened to sit behind two people who turned out to be Tivs and they said, you do not like the Tivs, that things will happen in their state and you won’t come, you are not even coming for campaign there.

He said, no, it is not my fault, the governor told me that it was unsafe. I said but it was also unsafe in Kaduna, you have been to Kaduna; we had problem, religious crisis, you will be there, you have even gone to Zaria Water Works.

He took the phone and called the Water Minister who turned out to be Muktari Shagari and he said, you mean there is nothing that we can do in Benue and it turned out to be one of the best rallies we had in that period.

So, you created this story in order to make him go?

Yes, exactly. If there were two Tiv men and they were speaking Tiv language how would I understand?

I think there is this general impression among those who know that you are a very skilled propagandist, is that a fair thing to say about you?

I mean basically you have to create some of these things. It is not propaganda, it is just to get the man to go to Benue. He the leader should go to Benue, whether there’s is security or no security. It is not for him to provide himself security, it is the responsibility of security to provide security.

You spent almost nine years as DG of the National Orientation Agency…

Yes, I did.

What would you say are the highlights of your tenure?

Even before you go, I need to give you some of the publications we did on the…

Yes, is it only about publications, about conferences? Has the attitude, the orientation of Nigerians changed one bit in this period?

You know, first and foremost people make the mistake of thinking that attitudes should change from the National Orientation Agency. What the National Orientation Agency does for government, there are so many unseen; they have special reports, and they have so many reports they send to government on the goings on in the system.

And some governments, including President Bola Tinubu, in one conversation with me, said they relied on their report because the report from the National Orientation Agency is not like that from the security because the security are supposed to, when, if anything goes wrong, the security must have to tidy it up. But National Orientation would give you as it is.

In the Boko Haram case, if you go to the archives, you will see from the reports from the National Orientation Agency, who the founders are. The Director of NOA in Borno State was no longer doing it in the office because he doesn’t know who the Boko Haram person was but they know who was funding it if not even who founded it.

So, nationalism is more than the issue of change of attitude but a change of attitude belongs to all of us. Change of attitude must begin to be fashioned from the home.

So, is there any point in government setting up all these, they keep doing it, and it is still there; is there any point?

At all times, we must need national orientation in our lives, whether you call it National Orientation Agency or whatever but we must need orientation in our lives.

Even though it doesn’t seem to change the attitude of Nigerians?

But the issue of change of attitude, even the government itself has a role to play in changing attitudes of Nigerians.

If as a government you are making wrong appointments, what role will the National Orientation play for you? You also have a role to play.

You cannot be giving appointments to people who don’t even qualify, who do not even comprehend what they are supposed to be doing.

For instance, the Hannatu Musawa appointment, I consider it very faulty. Why couldn’t we wait until she finished her national youth service corps which was just about five, or six months away, then you give her an appointment?

But when you give that kind of appointment, what role can National Orientation or anybody else do to help you out, nothing?

I know you played so many roles, what of during the Buhari government; did you take any part in the formation?

My assessment of the Buhari’s government rather unfortunately, it was a failure, everything was done wrongly. You can’t go to Kaduna by road.

Buhari like I told you, I spoke to Atiku, if I were to have spoken to him, I would say you are also from Kaduna because you came from Kaduna to this office, he did nothing in that wise.

His strength is his weakness; Buhari’s strength is his weakness. He appoints you and he allows you to do, he doesn’t even care how you go on. There were so many governments in his government.

Did you offer any advice, did you….?

Yes, I wrote letters but never get a response because I don’t even think he knows me as a person. In my life, I think I met Buhari once in his house during one Sallah when I went to Kaduna. After the Eid prayer, so many of the people we normally go to had passed away. So I told my friend, who has also passed away, Mohammed Sani, we called him KDJ, and we went to meet him ( Buhari) at his house.

Just to greet him?

Yes, just to greet him and of course he received us, and we sat down. I said we just came to greet and he said thank you, “nagode, nagode”.

I said Mallam Sani let us pray and we prayed, after which we stood, he didn’t ask for my name and I didn’t give him my name.

And to be very clear, what I found the humorous about him, was when I said to him, permission to fall out, and he said, “fall out at your own risk”. Then he escorted us, it was drizzling, and saw us to the car.

But after that, I don’t think he knows me. No, he didn’t do well as president.

But I also voted for him because I thought coming from the military era, I thought in my mind that he would do better than Goodluck Jonathan but he didn’t, rather unfortunately.

 

alhaji idris muhammad farouk1
alhaji idris muhammad farouk

What about Tinubu, this is somebody better known to you?

Yes, this one I relate with him very well, but like in one of my interviews, I said people who spoilt democracy, turned leaders into tiny gods. They had no hand in how they became leaders. They are called protocol and security.

Immediately you are elected, governor-elect, president-elect, the military will give you soldiers, police will give you, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will send you their staff and before you know it your phone is in their hand. So they don’t know who you know.

So, you are not in touch with the new government now?

I have spoken to him once but I have tried several times over, and I have not been able to. I am still trying because he himself needs a lot of advice going forward.

What do you make of how the government is doing so far?

I knew even before he became president-elect, like all Nigerians know too because he said – and this is one-on-one and to the general public – that he was going to remove subsidy and I also agree to the fact that subsidy must be removed because we don’t know who that subsidy money is going to. So, I saw the subsidy as a scam.

How is his government faring now, I think it is too early to judge. But if we must judge, I think he needs to improve.

In what areas?

In nearly all areas: In security, for instance, security seems to be going from bad to worse, so I am sure he must have to give extra charge to his military. Otherwise, if they don’t do well, you change them. There are people down the line who can do well but you will not know until you give them the assignment.

So, these ones that you have given the assignment, if they are not doing it well and, it seems to me that they are not doing well or are yet to, so to speak, I think you give them a little more time. But the thing has become more scary that it has even entered fully into Abuja, which used to be like a sanctuary where nobody can penetrate.

I think that he needs to check his appointees. I mean that is the problem we have. I believe Tinubu is a well-grounded politician who knows Nigeria, so he should be able to choose his cabinet and not rely too much on people.

So, you think the cabinet is not really at par with what you would expect it to be?

No, no, no. The members of the cabinet, particularly from the South West is strong but you can’t say so for the other parts of Nigeria and it shows you what I just explained. You have to know the people; you get what I mean.

So, in the South West, he knows them one-on-one. He knows Dele Alake, he knows Wale Edun, he knows them. He knows what they can bring to the table. But in the other parts of Nigeria, he doesn’t seem to have fared well at all.

Let’s talk about the private Idi Faruq. When did you settle down as a young Air Force officer, as you said, as somebody around town?

My wife – I married her in 1984 – she is from Cross River State. We have three kids doing well, in my opinion, but I am still a man about town, so to speak.

I think growing up, I made so many friends.  Some like me, some older than me, and others below me kind of and I think there’s that goodwill which I think everybody needs.

So I think I am happy with the goodwill around me. Incidentally even you, you are one of the goodwill I am enjoying so to speak.

Now that you are not active in politics, what do you do?

I am active. It is just that I am not going about, I mean at 75, you can’t be running around the streets.

But then I do some packaging. Immediately I see the candidates that I need to support, I will go ahead and do what I will do for him or her and make sure he gets it and he utilizes it because I have done so many campaigns and I think that I can say that I am a guru in that direction.

So politics is not about contesting. I never contested an election; it is not about running around the streets and what have you. You can sit in your house and do as much politics as you can and that is what I am doing now.

What is your typical day like?

That is a very tough question because I really don’t know how to answer that question. This is one of the days now, I am having an interview.

I am talking of an average day, you know from when you wake up?

Now you know that I am a little indisposed as you can see. So, I go to my office, I have my office in Jabi. I have a small shopping plaza there where I have my office.

Do you still go to the office there?

It is still active because they bring, I write, they take and all that. It is just that I haven’t gone there to sit in the office but I will soon begin to when I get back my walking ability.

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