Idris Yakubu: Celebrating an icon of humanity and service

Penultimate Monday, May 16, 2022, Alhaji Idris Yakubu gained an additional year of a life characterised by humane principles, refined values and remarkable achievements.

The meanings people make of birthdays are quite emotional. Our birthdays replicate the day we first opened our eyes to this wonderful world and experienced the beautiful creation of God, that is, for one who still sees the world as beautiful. Again, there are people who give birthdays an occultic interpretation involving the transport of the soul out of the body to the source for a meeting with the Supreme for sustaining powers. Whatever is done or undone, birthdays remain significant in our lives, one way or the other; it either rekindles the flame of our aspirations or brings us into the reckoning of our friends, families or associates, and their expectations on us.

For Idris Yakubu, birthdays especially this edition, are significant in more ways than one. Yakubu is a man after many hearts, a man of many parts and one surrounded by many who care, appreciate and genuinely love him. For them too, his birthday counts. The intriguing part that the former Managing Director/Chief Executive of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO), Alhaji Idris Yakubu, marked his birthday on May 16, is no mere coincidence! It is divinely ordained; piloted by the hands of God, that indeed underscores the significant roles one’s noble understanding and personal relationship can play in shaping one’s destiny.

This indeed raises the salient questions: Could Idris Yakubu have fathomed out that he would assume the enviable status of being acknowledged as one of the finest and best CEOs of the important but sensitive NAHCO before he resigned? Of course not. Could he also have dreamt in his widest imagination of achieving the enviable feat of becoming a graduate accountant and administrator at a very tender age, and rising to become an executive director in one of the major banks in the nation’s highly competitive financial services industry?

Alhaji Idris was the President of the prestigious nine times award winning Lagos Business School AMP 22 Alumni class from 2012 to 2016 and later President Worldwide of the University of Jos Alumni Association from June 2016 to February 2021, leading a team that is generally adjudged as the most successful in the annals of the association. Before these, he was President AIESEC University of Jos Chapter between 1988 and 1989 while in the university, and later National President AIESEC Alumni Nigeria between 2008 and 2011, excelling in sll these positions. Not in his widest imagination would Alhaji Idris know that he would begin to lead at an early age, and successfully lead his colleagues in nearly all the groups, associations and organisations he belonged.

It wasn’t therefore a surprise when he expressed a desire to become an accountant/business manager/banker in response to a question on his chosen profession.

But by the twist of fate unlike Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin before him were ignored in their youth, Idris Yakubu rose up and exceeded the expectations of many. Newton was derided by his class teacher that he would never rise to be somebody of substance. Einstein was derided by his chemistry teacher as a nonentity. Darwin was told off by his own father as better off as a hunter of rats and rabbits. But none of them gave up.

Newton, now regarded as the father of physics, defied his teacher and discovered the gravitational force, and Einstein gave the world the theory of relativity and was voted by the renowned Times magazine as the Man of the 20th century, while Darwin broke the rules with his ground-breaking Evolution phenomenon. Idris Yakubu, on the other hand, rose steadily to accomplish his dream of reaching the peak of his professional calling before the age of 50 years, becoming the Managing Director/CEO of NAHCO, the nation’s leading aviation cargo and aircraft handling company in 2017, an appointment where he brought to bear transformation, innovation and growth in the company. As executive director of Skye Bank, now Polaris Bank, Idris stood tall, head and shoulders amongst his peers with remarkable impact on his teams and the bank.

As Bruce Lee of blessed memory once admonished, great people turn their stumbling blocks into stepping stones. The hands of God have guided Idris Yakubu as he rose systematically and pragmatically through his God ordained career path, successfully leading teams and groups, and along the way, making huge positive impact in all situations and in the positions he has held before today, and climbing swiftly to achieve his dream and God’s desires for him. Yakubu is today one born to break the rules. The rest they say is history, and an interesting one at that.

His successes in all the positions he held in the banking industry follows the Quranic injunction which says; Do you see someone skilled in their work? They would serve before kings and not someone of low ranks. The hands of God truly seem evident in the achievements of Yakubu when he served as branch Manager, FSB International Bank, Apapa; general manager & head, Fidelity North Bank, and then as MD & CEO of NAHCO. The period he led the aviation & cargo handling company is today regarded as the golden years (in a long while) of NAHCO because of the many feats and achievements recorded by the company in the area of business volumes, airline mandates won, infrastructure developed, equipment acquired and improved quality of service rendered. Under his able leadership, NAHCO recorded about N9.5billion in its full year 2018 business turnover as against an average stagnant N8 billion in the three penultimate years 2015 – 2017, a growth of over 20% within only a year in office in the very tight operating aviation handling environment. The much-acclaimed excellent service delivery records of NAHCO received further endorsement with the continued recertification of its operations & facilities by IATA & other local and International Aviation regulators. Staff & employee relations received huge boost as Yakubu ensured the finalisation of the highly improved Staff Conditions of Service document (which had remained contentious for a long time) working closely with the workers unions before his exit, aside a remarkably improved work environment, to the delight of the workers.

Aside work, Idris Yakubu has impacted hugely on the less privileged and the vulnerable groups in all areas and locations that he has operated. He has helped to provide water & sanitation facilities; renovated schools, hospitals, roads; supported the business activities of many persons; sponsored the education of many; and helped to build mosques & social facilities in many locations. An attempt to discuss this will require a full write up.

Outside of work and his professional life, Yakubu is a good family man. Yakubu and his wife have their lives firmly rooted in God, with love, mutual respect and very good matrimonial virtues which have seen them continue to bond till today. She is a major pillar of support. Unknown to many, both Yakubu and his wife are epitomes of humility whose numerous acts of goodness & philanthropy are done in the quiet, known only to the beneficiaries.

When related to public service and governance, Idris Yakubu’s life, great passion for service, transparent record of honesty in his affairs, love for the family & his community, unquantified humility, dedication to God and duty, courage, candor, commitment to agreed causes, and loyalty would continue to see him recording more achievements and rise to commendable heights in his remaining life pursuits. He has now become a blossoming symbolic coconut plant, imbued with tremendous attributes; useful to mankind as food, to industry as a raw material and then as a unique plant with healing powers. He is a leader for today and the future. For a man who has no iota of betrayal in his DNA, the future remains very bright.

Writing a tribute for a man like Idris Yakubu on his birthday as he clocked 53 on May 16, 2022, is really a herculean task; not because of lacking in what to write about this great man, but because of being accused of either over patronising, or of ignoring many other aspects of the celebrant! But, we shall always write about him for people who have not had the opportunity to know him and his virtues, so they know him.

Like John Allen More once said, work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts would inevitably bring right results. This is true about the personality of Idris Yakubu that all should embrace. As Alhaji Idris Yakubu marked his 53rd birthday, we thank God for an impactful life and wish him a remarkable future, laced with memorable moments and one to continue to deliver service and value to the people.

Wada writes from Abuja via [email protected]

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