An Encounter with Jibrin Isah
Antecedents are valuable components of culture, which go a long way to shape the future. What we make of opportunities available to us are determinants for success or failure in every given society inhabited by mortals. This piece is a direct consequence of a chanced meeting I had with Jibrin Isah also known as Echo cho! .You reading this piece must be laughing I guess at the sound of such a name, but it translates to abundance in Igala dialect.
At the end of the encounter, I was gasping for breath, not for any negative reason but simply the dexterity with which he explained his disposition to life and issues generally.
I was billed to travel to Abuja from Lagos on one of the domestic airlines when I was actually manhandled by aides of a top government official for inexplicable reasons.
I felt slighted that I demanded for a refund from the airline in protest. In the midst of the ensuing melee, I felt a tap on my shoulders and I turned to catch a glimpse of who it was. To my utmost surprise, it was an unknown but pleasant face, looking trim and dressed in a brilliant suit.
Jibrin Isah and what is your name young man? Emm! Joshua Ocheja, I remember uttering in a low tone. You must be Igala he asked? And proudly I said yes, as issues that concerns my origin occupies an important part of my heart. He pacified me on the earlier incident and invited me over for a drink while we waited for our flight.
This was the beginning of the intriguing journey into the world of the personage called Jibrin Isah. We talked the length and breadth of happenings in Kogi state; we also talked about his passion for youths and mothers as well as doing everything within his power to assist whoever comes his way.
Suddenly he paused and looked straight into my eyes. I felt very uncomfortable with the sudden change in mood, as I neither could place the immediate cause. Quickly I composed myself, looking back at him and asking a question at the same time. He smiled and said. 'I want to make Kogi the best state in Nigeria'
Hmm, so he has an ambition too. I reasoned he must be like others that have signified interest in the race to Lugard house. Unconsciously I became uninterested in the conversation, which he obviously noticed, and he whispered in a low tone, 'We have to make Kogi state great again'. In the midst of the rumblings in my mind, I sensed his passion for Kogi state, his sincere intention at making the state great given the mandate. This I must confess was quite unlike me, and then his voice interrupted my mind from drifting off into the world of thoughts. My dear brother, Kogi state has the potentials. 'The resources are in abundance, but the challenge we have is that our leaders have refused to be proactive and productive. In all I think they lack passion and sincerity of purpose' and I nodded in the affirmative.
Joshua, my quest to make Kogi great is not borne out of selfish reasons, but purely on uplifting the living condition of the people and harnessing and utilizing the huge potentials of the state. God has blessed me that to become a governor and dip hands in the state coffers or to misappropriate funds will be utterly senseless of me, considering my background. 'The right procedures and approach must be embraced. The future will remain bleak for generations unborn if we do not salvage the situation now. If you will agree with me, the time to act is now' He thundered with an air of finality that sent shivers down my spine, reminding me of my formative years.
As a person, he continued, I do not believe in giving people fish alone. I will also create an enabling environment for fishing and likewise teach people how to fish with the fish I gave them. This is common sense, in that the multiplier effect will diffuse across the society and we would all be better for it.
Now this is where logic and foresight comes into play. I think it goes beyond roads, electricity, schools and hospitals. What about turning the people into productive assets? He asked rhetorically. And how do we go about this? He asked again with both hands stretched in my direction. This is passion. I said in my subconscious and he corroborated with a smile as if he read my mind.
I was glued to my seat listening with fixed breath at his display of intellectualism. I could also sense the burning desire to bring about the desired change in Kogi state. But, I needed to be convinced that he was sincere about what he was preaching, which is only natural as we have experienced all sorts of people at the helm of affairs in the state.
My blueprint is broad based. It covers virtually all aspect of the economy ranging from wealth creation, revenue generation, infrastructural development and peaceful coexistence. This is in addition to identifying the role the government must play for its citizenry to archive their goals. The time is now for us to liberate Kogi state from the clutch of despondency. Posterity will judge us should we fail to rise up to the occasion.
Our discussion continued and I noticed a man standing by the corner looking at us, I initially concluded that maybe he was waiting to catch his flight too. But I became edgy when he picked up his phone and was in a conversation. In this curious state, I notified Jibrin Isah of my observation. He turned towards the direction of the man and beckoned on him to come over. I marveled at his guts as I adjusted in my seat.
Hi, he said to the young man, in a scene reminiscent of a Nigerian movie; the man went down on his knees and started thanking him for his philanthropic gestures; he confessed that his family has indeed benefitted from his generosity.
I paused to watch his facial expression, please pardon my curiosity, as a trip to Kogi state will make you do same especially when you are in a conversation with a notable aspirant in the race to Luguard house. But I saw something rather weird; he was close to tears. Tears! I screamed in my mind. He then looked at the young man and said 'Ojima ki che Ojo' (all praises belong to God). He asked the young man to rise up to his feet as he dipped his hand into his pocket and availed his call card to him. A call card, aha this must be a different Igala man I concluded.
In the midst of the drama, I observed that his personality epitomizes humility, accessibility and a man with a large heart. The usual Igala man in his status will rather give money than a call card.
Suddenly, there was an announcement calling on us to proceed to the aircraft for boarding. We proceeded to the aircraft and to my astonishment he was flying economy class. Economy class I reasoned and could not help but express my surprise. All he uttered was flying business class is a thing of the mind. I don't follow the crowd, try to impress people or create a larger than life image. I am simply myself. This is the type of mindset I intend to inculcate in the heart of all Kogities. I call it strategic thinking and application.
This was how he ignited my senses, and I kept wondering about the state of affairs in Kogi state.
By Joshua Ocheja (