Ali, a son of the Chairman of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Transition Committee, Ahmed Joda, talks to MOTUNRAYO JOEL about his father
Tell us about yourself.
I am Ali Joda, one of the children of Ahmed Joda. I started my education at Capital School, Kaduna State. My parents were then residing in Kaduna State. My father was a civil servant in the employ of the Northern Nigeria Government then. He later moved to the Federal service. I think that was towards the end of 1967. During the period I spent in Lagos State, I attended Corona School, Victoria Island, Lagos. Two years after, I returned to Capital School. I proceeded to Barewa College and later moved to King’s College. After I completed Form Three, my father sent me to the United Kingdom to prevent me from playing Polo; I used to sneak out to play the game. I studied at a school in Oxford then I moved to another high school in Geneva to complete my high school education. For my tertiary education, I enrolled at Bradford College, I studied Business Management and Administration and I have a minor in Accounting.
How was it like growing up with your father?
It was a difficult one because his work kept him busy especially during the civil war. He was always out on official duties; we didn’t see much of him. I remember complaining to my mother, but I never complained to him. We hardly saw him at home for two consecutive weeks; he was always on one assignment or the other. This continued as he moved from one position to the other in his career. However, when he was home, he used to take us swimming during the weekends. This was in Kaduna State. I still remember visiting family friends after we moved back to Lagos. These were good times; I enjoyed those days.
Has your father’s name opened doors for you?
My answer is yes and no. Though, people always ask if I’m his son whenever they hear my surname. Sometimes I prefer not to mention my surname and other times, I acknowledge that he is my father. He is a father that does not want his children to use his name especially when we were looking for jobs. Hence, I never did. Of course, there were certain doors that were opened because I introduced myself as his son, but it was in selected places.
How does it feel to have such a surname?
I must say it is hard to cope bearing my surname sometimes because people expect so much from us his children. Many people think we have the world at our feet. But it isn’t so.
People may describe you as a silver spoon kid, is this true?
Those that know me very well will not say that. With my father, one gets what one deserves. He doesn’t tolerate indiscipline; he is actually a disciplinarian, though my late mother was much more of the disciplinarian at home. Growing up, he was tough. At one point, I felt like he was trying to choose my friends for me; he preferred certain friends of mine to others. I guess he heard some things about some of my friends.
What kind of father is he at home?
He is a good father, but of course a disciplinarian. The worst thing one could do to him is tell a lie. If one told a lie and my mother found out; such a child would be in serious trouble. She also would discipline such a child.
Growing up, how did he discipline any child who erred?
He gives the child a certain look which automatically speaks his mind.
Did he beat or flog?
If there was a need, he would, but he didn’t do it often.
What fond memories of growing up with your father do you have?
I remember the weekends we spent together when he would take us swimming. Other times, he would gather the family and take us to a beach. These are some of the memorable experiences I still have .
Did any of his children take after him in his line of profession?
I don’t think so. My sister is more into activities of non-governmental organisations. She started one herself; it is a woman-activism NGO. My brother is in a different field, he is into real estate, while I’m into telecommunications.
Did he at any point influence the career choices of his children?
No, I wouldn’t say that. I personally have always been interested in telecommunications. The same goes for my siblings. We were allowed to do what we wanted to do.
How did your family handle his appointment as Chairman of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Transition committee?
I didn’t expect he would be called to such an assignment because of his age, but I know President Buhari has a lot of regards for him. We supported him all the way.
Describe his relationship with President Buhari?
I know that President Buhari at one point came to my father’s house for a visit. I still remember back then in 2010, my father had a minor accident on a staircase, he broke his leg. This affected him and he wasn’t moving much. President Buhari used to come to visit him. They seem to be close.
What is his your father’s favourite sport?
He swims and plays golf once in a while. That was how he knew I used to sneak out to play polo. He used to hear my name being called out by the commentators (smiles).
What is the most important advice he gave you?
He always taught us to be humble, truthful and honest. He says one should respect other people’s feelings
Growing up, how was he able to shield his family from the limelight?
He brought us up in a humble manner; he ensured we had a normal childhood.
What are his likes and dislikes?
He dislikes dishonesty. If one is straight forward and honest with him, he will respect that person.
What are his hobbies?
At the moment he likes to read and travel; he travels a lot. He also has a farm; I think it is one of his hobbies. At 5:30am , he is already on his way to his farm. I suppose this is what keeps him going at his age; he is 85 years old yet still strong. He is very fit. I think if we try to stop him from travelling, it may affect his health.
What is the secret of his good health?
I think it is because he is always on the move. He isn’t sitting down idle, and we can’t get him to slow down. Maybe the best thing is to let him continue, if we try to slow him down, that may cause his health to deteriorate. Also, he hardly goes to the hospital. The only time I think he went to a hospital was when he broke his leg.
What is his favourite food?
He likes meals made from leaves of the plant used to make zobo drink. He also likes Chinese food, Indian meals, and French cuisine. The local food I know he likes is a particular leaf.
How is this leaf prepared?
Sometimes, groundnut paste is added to the leaf to give it a different taste. Other times, it is cooked alone.
At home, how does he like to dress?
He usually liked to wear casual, but in the last few years, he likes to wear kaftans.
Describe his daily schedule?
If he is in Yola, Adamawa State, by 5:30am he is off to the farm. He then takes his breakfast between 8 and 8:30am. In less than an hour after this, he is off to his other farm. He spends some time there then comes back at around 12 noon. After that he does other things or visits. Though he has very few friends left, most of them are gone. He eats his lunch at about 2pm, and have a siesta. At 4pm, he is off to the farm.
What time does he sleep and what time does he wake up?
I’m certain he wakes up some minutes to 5am since he gets to his farm around that time. He doesn’t have any particular time he sleeps. During the transition period, he had late nights. Sometimes, he slept at 12pm.
Is he sociable?
It depends on his mood, but he is sociable, though not very much.
When did he experience his saddest moment?
I think it was the period my mother died.
And when did he experience his happiest moment?
One of his happiest moments was when I had my first son in 1997. He left his board meeting quite early to catch an early flight. He was really excited.
Where does he see himself in the next three to five years?
He just wants to have a quiet life. He accepted the transition assignment because he felt it was a duty to the country and I think he couldn’t say no too.
Is he a private person?
Yes, my father is a private person.
While you were much younger did he advise you on marriage?
Not really, the only time he spoke to me about marriage was when my mother expressed her view about me getting married. He didn’t talk much on that area.
How did he handle misunderstandings with your late mother?
I never saw them argue, I guess he made me feel this way. Though, he did say to me that marriage isn’t a bed of roses. They knew how to handle their misunderstandings discreetly.
Who is his best friend?
His best friend is dead. He died in 1991. He has very close friends though.
What are the things Nigerians did not know about him?
He is time-conscious and loves punctuality; he doesn’t appreciate one showing up late for meetings. Also, he looks at things critically and once he has made up his mind about something, he doesn’t change his view. Of course, his views are not always right, it is human to err.
If he could change things about himself, what would they be?
He is tough, may be that is something he wants to change.
What are some of his achievements in the political sphere?
He isn’t a politician. At one time, he got chosen from the North-East as presidential candidate, they were six of them and he was selected. They pushed him into it but he didn’t want it.
What is his view about former President Goodluck Jonathan?
He has written him a few times, his views were not hidden. In one of his interviews, he asked him to declare that he would not contest for the presidency; I think it was the last presidential election. My father said if he did that he would get acceptance from people. His views about him are not hidden.
How did he feel when former President Jonathan contested?
I think that was one of the reasons the General Muhammadu Buhari support group was born.
What is his view on corruption?
He is disgusted with corruption. Sometimes, he is naïve about it. When one tells him that something negative is happening probably in the economy for example, he says ‘how can that be?’ He doesn’t believe things like that can happen, until he gets firsthand information. There were certain things I mentioned, and he got angry with me. He felt they weren’t happening, until I was proved right.
People may describe him as a rich man, what is your view on this?
That is an impression people have, probably because of his social standing. People think the same of me, they say I have billions stashed somewhere. I thank God I can pay my children’s school fees which is my topmost priority. Also, it depends on what one terms ‘rich.’
What is his view on Boko Haram?
He is disgusted with it.
What type of books does he read?
He reads wide.
What do you think is his legacy?
The name he has is his legacy. Where ever he goes, people have a great deal of respect for him. It also has its disadvantages because people think he has the power to do many things. He is the kind of person that wouldn’t do such a thing. People may respect and listen to one, but this doesn’t guarantee it will result into anything.
How many more years does he hope to live?
I wouldn’t know that, but I think he has an open mind. He knows he can die anytime.
How many wives does he have?
He has one wife and four children.
Why didn’t he marry more than one wife?
He wants only one wife.
Did he allow his children to marry outside their ethnic group?
He has no problem with any of his children marrying whoever they want. My sister in the United States is married to a white American. As long as that is what the child wants, he has no problem with it.
If any of his children were to go into acting or music, how would he react?
He would accept it; I don’t think he would have any problem with it.
What does he splurge money on?
He is a conservative spender.
Does he read what people write about him in the papers?
He doesn’t really read them, he may see them though.
During the transition period, was your family at any point scared for his life?
I don’t think so.