Elder statesman and former federal “Super Permanent Secretary”, Ahmed Joda, died in Yola, Adamawa State in Northeast Nigeria on Friday at the age of 91.
In a swift tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari highlighted Joda’s “monumental contributions to Nigeria’s unity and progress,” from birth of the nation until his death, saying “his lofty ideals will continue to motivate millions across the nation.”
One of Joda’s associates, Mohamed Baba told THISDAY that he died in the afternoon at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Yola, after a prolonged illness.
Another source said Joda had been buried according to Islamic rites.
“As I’m talking to you, the elder statesman has already been taken to the family cemetery for burial,” the source said.
Joda will always be remembered as the chairman of the 18-member transition committee nominated by the President Muhammadu Buhari to receive the handover notes from the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration in 2015.
He rose through the administrative cadre of the Northern regional government, and then the federal civil service, to retire as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industries. During the administration of the youthful General Yakubu Gowon, he was considered to be among a group known as Super Permanent Secretaries.
Joda was born in Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa State in 1930. His great-great-grandfather was Modibbo Raji, a 19th-century Islamic scholar and contemporary of Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio.
He attended Yola Elementary and Middle schools before proceeding to Barewa College. After completing his secondary education in 1948, he was admitted to Moor Plantation, Ibadan.
He worked briefly at an agricultural centre in Yola. Then, in the 1950s, he attended Pitman College, London and gained practical experience in journalism while staying in Britain. On his return to Nigeria, he practiced journalism at Gaskiya Corporation, Zaria.
He later worked with the then Northern Broadcasting Corporation in Kaduna before joining the Northern Nigeria civil service as Chief Information Officer.
Joda became a federal permanent secretary in 1967 in the Ministry of Information and subsequently moved to Lagos.
He retired into private business during the second Republic, where he served as chairman and board member of various companies, including the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation; Nigerian Communications Commission; SCOA Nigeria; Chagoury Group; Flour Mills of Nigeria, and the Nigerian LNG.
He was also a member of the 1988 Constituent Assembly which planned the constitutional transition of the Third Republic. In 1999, he was appointed as a member of the Committee to Advise the Presidency on Poverty Alleviation and in 2015, headed the Buhari presidential transition.
In his tribute to Joda, who is the last surviving member of Governor Hassan Usman’s Northern Nigeria cabinet, President Buhari highlighted his “monumental contributions to Nigeria’s unity and progress”, saying “his lofty ideals will continue to motivate millions across the nation.”
The President, in a release issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, noted that the late “Super Permanent Secretary”, as Joda and some of his colleagues were referred to in the 1970s, “distinguished himself as a remarkable scholar, journalist, intellectual, public servant and farmer.”
President Buhari called Joda “a hero for all Nigerians” who, even in death, “will continue to inspire every generation to move forward with love, brotherhood and harmony.”
He prayed to Allah to accept his good deeds and grant fortitude to those he left behind in his family, Adamawa Emirate Council and the entire people of the state, to bear the loss, adding, “We will not forget his sacrifices.”
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo described Joda’s death as “heartbreaking”.
In a statement yesterday, signed by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo said the late Joda was his friend for about 60 years.
The ex-President explained that the late former Federal Permanent Secretary saved the unity of Nigeria shortly after the 1966 coup d’état when others insisted that Nigeria should collapse.
Obasanjo described Joda “as not just a Nigerian, but, a true and great Nigerian, committed to unity, development and progress of the country”.
“Oh! What a heartbreaking news, that my friend for well over 60 years has passed to the great beyond. If every Nigerian have the attributes of Joda, Nigeria will have been better than what it is now.
“Ahmed Joda by his feature did not need to tell you he is a Fulani man, but, in everything I know he did, he lived not just as a Fulani man, he lived, he worked and he laboured as a true Nigerian. They are not many like him, and that was what strengthens our relationship since 1959,” Obasanjo was quoted to have said.
He said they met when he was a Second Lieutenant in the Nigeria Army and Joda was a Deputy Chief Information Officer in the Federal Civil service.
Obasanjo recalled that the effort of Joda and his other Super Permanent Secretaries as they were fondly called in the then civil service saved Nigeria in 1966.
According to the former President, “I know that if not for people like Joda and other Senior Permanent Secretaries, as they were called Super Permanent Secretary as at that time, after the second upheaval of 1966, we would have had Nigeria broken into pieces.
“But, it was Ahmed Joda and other Super Permanent Secretaries (senior civil servants) like Philip Asiodu, Liman Ciroma, Alison Ayida who prevailed not to have Nigeria broken up.
“Well, Dear Ahmed, you have served your family, your community. You have served your country and indeed humanity, you have done your best, including working for the transition between the Buhari administration and Jonathan administration.
“You have done your best working with me on the progress and programme of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library. You have done your best on becoming the Chancellor of Bells University. We love you, but God loves you best. Rest permanently in the bosom of Allah,” Obasanjo added.
The former vice president, Atiku Abubakar expressed shock about the death of Joda, saying “an iroko tree has fallen.”
In statement he signed, Atiku said: “Today, our beautiful Adamawa State has lost a colossus. Indeed, an iroko tree has fallen in Nigeria particularly Northern Nigeria.”
He said that the news of the death of Joda, came with some kind of a jolt even though he lived to a prime old age.
The former vice president said Jorda belonged to the first generation of Adamawa indigenes that put the state and the North in the map of modern Nigeria.
Atiku said: “His stature as an accomplished administrator was towering and colourful. He was a shining star in the galaxy of Nigeria’s public servants.
“Ahmed Joda, with a few of his peers, wrote the rule book of Nigeria’s civil service and his footprints will remain indelible.
“Nigeria mourns this great Nigerian with immense contribution to growth of our country, we pray that the Almighty Allah accepts his soul and provide his family with fortitude to bear the loss of a forthright and iconic patriarch.”
Charles Ajunwa in Lagos, Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Daji Sani in Yola