Mem­o­ries of Jus­tice Abubakar Jega

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Since 2006 I have writ­ten many tributes to public fig­ures that de­parted this world, but also three painful per­sonal tributes re­spec­tively to my close friend Mo­hamed Idris Koko in 2007, to my fa­ther Al­haji Muham­madu Jega in 2008 and to my el­der brother Ibrahim Jega in 2009. I wrote another one yesterday for my for­mer editor Ha­jiya Bilk­isu. To­day, I must write yet another one for Jus­tice Abubakar Ab­dulka­dir Jega, my first cousin who also died in the hajj stam­pede.

Although he was our cousin, Jus­tice Abubakar was such a vis­i­ble pres­ence when we were grow­ing up that many of my younger broth­ers and sis­ters for long thought that we were of the same par­ents. His fa­ther, the vet­eran school­teacher Malam Ab­dulka­dir Jega, left Birnin Kebbi for Kaduna in 1962 and was the head­mas­ter of Kakuri Pri­mary School for three decades. Baba Na Kakuri, as we called him, had a pol­icy of send­ing his chil­dren back to Sokoto for their sec­ondary school­ing, so Abubakar was sent to the Col­lege of Arts and Ara­bic Stud­ies, Sokoto in the late 1960s. Dur­ing those years we were go­ing to pri­mary school from our grand­fa­ther’s house in Jega. Abubakar used to visit Jega for a few days be­fore pro­ceed­ing to Kaduna on hol­i­days. We easily no­ticed that Ma­gatakarda and his wives dot­ted on Abubakar. This was partly be­cause he was a ma­ter­nal grand­child but maybe also be­cause his mother died when he was an in­fant.

I be­came even closer to him when I en­tered Gov­ern­ment Col­lege, Sokoto in 1973. He was in his fi­nal year at CAAS and ev­ery week­end I will walk to his com­pound and then we will go home to­gether. From CAAS he went to the ABU’s Kongo Cam­pus in 1973-75 for a com­bined diploma in com­mon law and shari’a. He then joined the Ju­di­ciary of the old Sokoto State in 1975 and be­came an as­sis­tant reg­is­trar at the Up­per Area Court, Birnin Kebbi. He was an avid reader of nov­els and mag­a­zines in those days, which he al­ways turned over to me.

I once vis­ited his of­fice in Birnin Kebbi and he told me of an in­ci­dent that hap­pened that day. A lo­cal woman came to file for di­vorce from her hus­band and she reeled out all the man’s evil deeds. As she spoke, the el­derly of­fice mes­sen­ger was clean­ing the of­fice and eavesdropping on the con­ver­sa­tion. Abubakar asked for the hus­band’s name and she said, “Ade,” then added, “He is a Yoruba man.” On hear­ing that, the mes­sen­ger dropped his broom and charged at her say­ing, “You, why did you marry a Yoruba man? Are you mad?”

Af­ter a year as court reg­is­trar Abubakar and all his mates ap­plied for study leave to re­turn to ABU for a de­gree in law. For rea­sons that we have never found out, the then Sokoto State Com­mis­sioner of Fi­nance ap­proved all the re­quests ex­cept Abubakar and his friend Mo­hamed Kalgo’s. One by one our fa­ther, who was a per­ma­nent sec­re­tary; the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, the chief reg­is­trar and all the judges of the state High Court ap­pealed to the com­mis­sioner. Af­ter ev­ery ap­peal, their files will be sent to him and he will re­turn them the next day with “not ap­proved.” The High Court chiefs were so fu­ri­ous that they did some­thing un­usual. They told Abubakar and Kalgo to pro­ceed to ABU on their salary, though with­out study al­lowances, while the Ju­di­ciary cov­ered up their ab­sence for three years.

Dur­ing those years, Abubakar shut­tled be­tween Zaria, Kaduna and Sokoto. His fa­ther was a leader of the Sokoto com­mu­nity in Kaduna and al­ways had mes­sages of cloth to be dyed. I al­ways went with Abubakar on his white Vespa to dye them at Al­haji Jibo Gagi’s dye­ing pits in Sokoto. Baba Na Kakuri liked me alot, stem­ming from one in­ci­dent. In 1979 I was re­turn­ing to Sokoto from La­gos when I missed my plane, so I took another plane to Kaduna. Partly be­cause I had no idea of the dis­tances in­volved, I went from the air­port to Kakuri to greet Baba be­fore I pro­ceeded to the mo­tor park. Many times in sub­se­quent years he told of that in­ci­dent as proof of how good a boy I was, and he sent me nu­mer­ous gifts through Abubakar of Kaduna’s famed Idris Mor­row bread and cakes.

Abubakar was clos­est to my el­der brother Ibrahim by virtue of their be­ing to­gether at Kongo. How­ever, Ibrahim did not share Abubakar’s ex­treme love for Coca Cola, so al­most ev­ery day the two of us will go to the kiosks near Col­lege of Arts. You could see from the way he licked his lips that he re­ally liked Coke. Af­ter we fin­ish a bot­tle each, he will lean over to me con­spir­a­to­ri­ally and say, “mu kara!”

Apart from Coke, there was noth­ing Abubakar liked more than sit­ting down with fam­ily mem­bers and friends to dis­cuss pol­i­tics and world af­fairs. At the on­set of the Sec­ond Re­pub­lic he was a PRP sup­porter and when it split into two, he stuck with Malam Aminu Kano’s tabo fac­tion. Abubakar did not share the other pas­sions of youths such as mu­sic, disco par­ties and wild mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ing. Of­ten times we had to dodge him when we were go­ing to some places, and he will be an­gry when we reap­peared, ask­ing why we went away with­out telling him.

Abubakar did his NYSC at the Le­gal Aid Coun­cil in Bauchi in 1980-81. He was as­signed to help a man who played with a hyena in the mar­ket and it killed a girl. Abubakar was in­ter­view­ing the man in or­der to pre­pare a de­fence but the man was not in­ter­ested; all he wanted from the lawyer was a cig­a­rette stick.

Soon af­ter his NYSC, Abubakar was ap­pointed a mag­is­trate and he served in Kau­rar Namoda, Gusau and Sokoto. Mag­is­trate Abubakar saw no rea­son why laws that ex­isted in the statute books could not be en­forced. One year he or­dered the po­lice to close all broth­els in Sokoto. Hun­dreds of pros­ti­tutes fled Sokoto overnight. In the late 1980s he be­came the Chief In­spec­tor of Area Courts. Ev­ery day I found Abubakar deal­ing with an Area Court judge who did one mis­de­meanour or another.

In 1990 he at­tended an in­ter­view in La­gos, came out tops and was ap­pointed Chief Reg­is­trar of the Court of Ap­peal. That was the be­gin­ning of his very close re­la­tion­ship with Ap­peal Court Pres­i­dents Jus­tice Mam­man Nasir and Mustapha Akanbi, un­der whom he served. He be­came a Fed­eral High Court judge in 1993 and was el­e­vated to the Court of Ap­peal in 2002. He served var­i­ously in La­gos, Kaduna, Ow­erri and Enugu. Un­til last week he was the Pre­sid­ing Judge of the Ap­peal Court’s Abuja Di­vi­sion.

Jus­tice Abubakar was highly de­voted to fam­ily mat­ters. Since his days as a young mag­is­trate, he de­voted his en­er­gies to se­cur­ing school ad­mis­sion for rel­a­tives, se­cur­ing jobs, ca­reer progress, set­tling dis­putes, ex­tri­cat­ing some from le­gal trou­ble or lead­ing the way to get wives for broth­ers and cousins. Un­cle Jus­tice, as his nu­mer­ous neph­ews and nieces called him, was also very re­li­gious; af­ter evening prayers he will sit with half-stretched legs and do a wuridi for up to two hours.

Tele­phone calls from Jus­tice Abubakar were some­thing else. He called me fre­quently and could speak on the phone for two hours. Back in the 1990s when he served in La­gos, he would call me on a land line to com­plain about what Tell and Tempo mag­a­zines wrote about the North. I coun­selled him to stop read­ing those mag­a­zines, say­ing even as a news­pa­per editor I did not read them.

In my mind’s eye I can still see Jus­tice Abubakar pray­ing at Ibrahim Jega’s fu­neral in 2009. I also stood at his side while he prayed at his sec­ond wife’s grave­side in May last year. In his own case, we can­not even pray at his grave­side. In fact, we are only as­sum­ing that Abubakar is no more be­cause no one has seen his re­mains. He is sur­vived by a wife and five chil­dren. May Al­lah re­ward Jus­tice Abubakar Jega for his decades of de­voted wor­ship and self­less ser­vice to hu­man­ity.

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