Vice Admiral Iko Ishaya Ibrahim, who I fondly called Triple I, CNS and later Former CNS until his sudden death. It has been difficult for my wife and I to put down some lines to celebrate this unusual and uncommon life of a selfless, focused, and determined achiever. A fighter with a human heart who spilled the milk of human kindness for the good of friends and foes alike.
He will be sorely missed. I heard about him during my primary school days in the mid ‘60s and early ’70s and really longed to see the only naval in-training Military Officer to come from our village Gora. Finally, I got to meet him for the first time when I was in Government College Kaduna. When I first met him, he appeared too gentle for the soldier I heard about. But with time, as I related with him throughout the several military postings and Command posts he held, I found that behind this gentleness was a man of steel, ready to take down an enemy whenever necessary.
This Vice Admiral was as humane and down to earth as he was sophisticated and full of class, disguised in simplicity. When I got married and took my wife, Funmi, now a Professor, to introduce to him and his wife Aunty Grace, he reminded me that traditionally my wife is his ‘wife’ and his wife, is my ‘wife.’ But he was so smart! Each time I visited them in Abuja, he would ‘hide’ his wife to ensure I wouldn’t pull any pranks before he allowed me to see Aunty Grace. Whenever I visited with my wife, he would be quick to thank me for bringing ‘his wife’ but warns not to take his wife Aunty Grace away from him – he wanted to outsmart me. We used to sit, relax and joke so warmly in our respective homes in Abuja and Jos whenever we visited each other. Anywhere we met, whether in our village Gora A, his village Gora B (Garage) or in his Kwoi home, his first question after welcoming me always was, “Where is ‘his wife?’ We will miss him big time.
The news of his death hit us very hard, as both Funmi and I, are away in UK. For days, I was dazed. It’s still like a dream, even now as I write this. My wife kept consoling me. Neither of us expected that he would be gone so soon.
There was so much we planned to do together. Our last meeting was in Kwoi when Kpop Ham, a First Class Monarch, His Royal Highness, Dr. Danladi Gyet Maude, called some of his sons and daughters to deliberate on critical and strategic matters for the collective wellbeing of Ham people. After the meeting, before I went to him, he walked over to have a word with Madakin Jaba, the amiable Senator Aziz and the enterprising Elder Elisha Buba, Wakilin Jaba and Triple I, walked up to me, shook and held my hand for some time, then he said “we need to meet. I have somethings I would like us to discuss together as a follow-up to this meeting.” I was still planning to visit him when I received news of his death via a phone call on January 4th from my childhood friend and his nephew – Dr. Danjuma Ndakson. I feel so pained, still. My Uncle, Triple I, you left with those issues undiscussed, but God knows your heart for our people, Southern Kaduna, Kaduna State and Nigeria. You wanted a Nigeria devoid of all the rancor and on-going senseless killings being witnessed today. In a sense, I think I have a glimpse into those issues, having been around you. You will never die in vain. You loved the people of Ham with all your heart. You were not happy with some things happening in Kaduna State today and wished it were not so. The Kaduna State you envisaged is not the Kaduna of your dream when you prevailed on me to support a change in government at the State level in 2015.
How sad that you died with such pain in your heart for Kaduna State. Nigeria’s unity was sacrosanct and you were even ready to die defending the interest of Jaba as Sarkin Yaki Jaba (Traditional Military Commander); and the survival of Nigeria against all forms of injustice: within and without.
You were mighty in the Military, mighty in heart and mighty in generosity. Engaging in acts of kindness to others including total strangers was for you a way of life. After Secondary School in Kagoro, you proceeded to Kufena College, Zaria, Fomer St. Paul’s for ‘A’ levels. Thereafter, you joined the Nigerian Army and went on to train at the Nigeria Defence Academy and graduated in Sec 14. You held several notable Military Command positions. At one time serving as: Commanding Officer, NDA, Commanding Office, Naval Dockyard, Lagos, Naval College in Onne, Rivers State, Director of Administration, NDA, Military Defence Attache, Cotonou, Benin Republic. You also served in some security duties at Dodan Barracks, as a young officer where you met, knew and developed a close personal relationship with the current President of Nigeria, Mohammadu Buhari, until your death and you wanted me to support him badly in 2015 to be Nigeria’s President. You later went for further training at the War College and became Defence Intelligence Officer at the Defence Hqts and then Chief of Logistics at the Naval Hqts, Abuja. Your meteoric rise continued as you also served as Flag Officer – equivalent of GOC: Naval Training Command, Flag Officer Naval Western Command and was later appointed, Chief of Naval Staff, Nigerian Navy. This position you served with distinction from August 2008 to September 2010 under two Presidents: the late Umaru Musa Yaradua and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. Triple I was a fearless and very courageous soldier. God blessed you to also serve on several Boards and until your death, as Chairman of the Nigerian Inland Water Ways Authority.
About two weeks before your death, in our village, the Youth of Gora in the presence of religious, traditional and community leaders, honored three of us with leadership Awards of Excellence and Selflessness; I stood in for you and spoke on our behalf. Unknown to all of us present, including myself, that would turn out to be a farewell salute to a worthy Gora son. Rest on – buried on 22nd. You are survived by your wife Mrs Grace Ibrahim and five (5) children. I am lost for words but submit totally to God because He knows the future you passionately envisioned. One day, we will meet at the feet of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ and part no more. May God condole and comfort Mummy Grace and the five children you left behind. God will remember you Triple I and take care of them. May God enable the rest of us to continue where you stopped in seeking to serve our people. O gallant soldier of Gora, Jaba, and the Nigerian Army: May your legacy live on!!!
The Revd Dr. Gideon Para-Mallam
President & CEO of The Para-Mallam Peace Foundation
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