10 December 2003

Nigeria: Tribute: Remembering Late Senator Idris Abubakar


On Tuesday, December, 10th 2002 the sun set on distinguished Senator Idris Abubakar, the then Senator representing Gombe South Senatorial District on the platform of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP). Born in 1957, the Senator Idris Abubakar lived a rather short but eventful life that can hardly be forgotten by both his admirers and detractors alike.

Before his demise, the late Senator had been ill which started in August 2001. He had been in and out of several hospitals both in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom, battling for survival. For his ardent supporters, admirers and fans who kept day and night vigil supplicating to the Almighty God for his quick recovery, the news of his death though shocking and devastating as it was, did not come as a surprise given the fact that his illness was a terminal one.

It is hardly believable that one-year has quickly elapsed since the death of the acclaimed "Cicero of the Senate" who will always be remembered for his intelligence, eloquence, sagacity, articulation, courage, wits, debating capacity and ability.

Right from the inauguration of the first session of the National Assembly of the fourth Republic on the 3rd of June, 1999 till his untimely death, the late Senator Idris Abubakar left no one in doubt as to his vision and mission in politics.

Being a frontline member of the opposition party (ANPP) and aware and conscious of the doctrine of checks and balances inherent in the country's ground norm, i.e. the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and given his background as an independent minded, astute legal practitioner who was active in private legal practice which gave him a very sound footing and cutting edge in the articulation of sound and seasoned arguments, the late Senator never missed any opportunity to freely and forcefully articulate his views on topical and momentous issues both on the floor of the Senate and in the numerous interviews he granted the press in the electronic and print media.

He had a deep understanding of the meaning and application of the oversight functions of parliament as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. No wonder the Senate Local and Foreign Debt Committee which he initially chaired and the Public Accounts Committee which he ably chaired until he died performed creditably as both committees held numerous and various public hearings to expose shady deals in various ministries and paratatals. It was under his chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee for instance that the nation came to know of Ajaokuta debt buy back scam, the stink and fraud in the National Electric Power Authority, the National Identity Card Programme etc.

In his lifetime as a distinguished Senator until his illness aggravated towards the end of last year, hardly a week or two passed by without the nation hearing from Senator Idris Abubakar.

No wonder his colleagues gave him the deserved appellation "Cicero of the Senate." He was a good lawmaker and excellent debater. He was a prolific sponsor of motions and Bills in the Upper Chamber. He was philanthropic and kind. His kindness and generosity knew no bounds as it cut across party lines and constituency boundaries.

He was always willing to help, not minding whether one is from one tribe or the other, whether one belonged to one religion or the other. He was always close to his constituents and constituency, ever ready to assist in any way he could.

A joke was once made one of his colleagues in the Upper House. Given the daily influx of visitors to the late Senator's Apo Legislative quarters' residence, who would remove their shoes and wait for him in his living room, his colleague jokingly said that if he were to cat away and sell the shoes of visitors who daily visited the residence of the late Senator, he would be a millionaire. Such is the measure of openness and accessibility of late Senator Idris Abubakar.

He was always up and doing in the Upper House and could not be ignored by anyone. He was indeed respected and awed both in and out of the National Assembly.

He never lost his voice, neither did he close his eyes to unpopular policies of government that impacted negatively on the masses. When the then Senate Public Account Committee which was chaired by him was to hold a public hearing on the activities of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) i.e. the controversial NEPA funds, the committee invited the former Minister of Power and Steel who later became the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation late (again) Chief James Ajibola Ige (SAN), the Cicero of Esaoke, the later was proving to be difficult. The former Senate President late (again) Senator Chuba Okadigbo reminded the executive arm of government that the legislative arm also had their own Cicero in the person of Senator Idris Abubakar, who was a fit match for Chief James Ajibola Ige, the Cicero of Esaoke.

When the late Bola Ige eventually appeared before the Senate Public Accounts Committee, he openly paid tribute to the sagacity and intelligence of the late Senator Idris Abubakar.

It is no exaggeration to say that during his time as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, whenever the late Senator Idris Abubakar was not in Chamber of the Upper House, his absence was palpably felt both within and outside the chamber.

Though an opposition parliamentarian, he had a knack for successfully lobbying his colleagues across party lines in getting his numerous and often contentious motions sailing through.

One would readily remember in particular the last motion sponsored by the late Senator Idris Abubakar. This was the motion for the impeachment of President Olusegun Obasanjo over allegations of sundry breaches of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Appropriation Acts passed by parliament. That singular motion generated a lot of heat in the polity and it was the same motion that became one of former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim's Achiles' heel, as it created bad blood between him and the PDP hierarchy.

President Olusegun Obasanjo and the PDP hierarchy wondered how a motion for his impeachment by an opposition Senator could successfully sail through in the Upper House which was presided over and dominated by members of his party, the PDP.

That the motion for President Obasanjo's impeachment was conceived of and moved on the floor of the Senate by late Senator Idris Abubakar and concurred to his colleagues is a testimony to his capacity and ability to pull through thick and thin. For no unknown quantity and inconsequential Senator could have successfully done that.

Not a Senator to be ignored, shortly before he was flown to the United Kingdom for further medical attention, where he eventually died in a London Hospital, President Olusegun Obasanjo personally visited the late Senator on his sick bed in the National Hospital Abuja.

To give credence to William Shakespeare's often quoted verse in Julius Caesar that: "When beggars die no comets are seen, but the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes ." On the day of his burial, Saturday 14th December, 2002 his colleagues in the National Assembly, some governors, political associates, friends, relations and other sympathisers turned out enmasse to pay their last respect to the departed Senator.

It is arguably if Filiya, his hometown in Shongom local government area of Gombe State will ever again witness the kind of mammoth crowd that turned out on the day the late Senator was buried amidst wailing by both old and young.

No doubt the late Senator was a man of influence. His life impacted positively on a lot of people, many of who still mourn his demise. The absence of personalities like late Senator Dr Chuba Okadigbo, Idris Abubakar etc in the current National Assembly creates a palpable vacuum leaving one to wonder whether there are no Senators who are fit and ready to step in their big shoes, to continue the fight from where those late Senators stopped.

It is the eternal credit to late Senator Idris Abubakar that Gombe State and in particular Gombe South Senatorial District, a backwater Senatorial District became well published and known on the political map of Nigeria.

With his demise, Nigeria, Gombe State and Gombe South Senatorial District have indeed lost a gem of invaluable estimation, a fine legal mind and a distinguished lawmaker. Wherefrom comes another Senator Idris Abubabar? Almighty God, we beseech thee to raise more Idris Abubakar in Nigeria, Gombe State and Gombe South Senatorial District, so that the unfinished business left by him will be completed.

Adieu, Senator Idris Abubakar. Rest in perfect peace. We loved you all, but God loves you best.

Being a tribute in memory of late Senator Idris Abubakar by Barrister Sylvanus Tahir.

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