REMINISCENCES WITH MUHAMMAD JIBO
Alhaji Muhammad Jibo was the second Nigerian to become the bursar of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He was one of the few people from northern Nigeria that reached the peak of their careers without obtaining post secondary school qualification.
From a humble beginning you rose to become a bursar in ABU; how did the journey begin? I was born on December 31, 1932 in Sabon Gari, Zaria. My father died when I was young. I started elementary school in 1939. We were the first set in an elementary school now known as Baba Ahmad Primary School, Tudun Wada, Zaria. We started in a hut. I think in that set, only two of us are still alive. The other person is Aliyu Maikarfi; he is also in Tudun Wada.
In addition to the elementary school, I attended a Qur’anic school. In 1942, I was recommended to go to Zaria Middle School. In 1946, I took examination into the Kaduna College and was successful. Kaduna College is now known as Barewa College.
In 1949, I was among the best seven students that sat for the Cambridge School Leaving Certificate. The then Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Ja’afaru, sent for two of us. I was appointed to work in the treasury while Alhaji Jafaru Makarfi was to work in the emir’s office.
However, we were frightened with what we saw on the first day of our assumption of office at the palace. The life we saw was different from what we knew. Everybody in the office had to put on turban; I mean the real big turban. Again, every office you went to, you had to bow. And we were not used to that. At the end of the first day, we ran away. This is to say that we spent only one day at the palace.
What happened thereafter? Did they go after you for refusing to work in the palace?
They didn’t know that we had decided to run away. Luckily for us, when we left the palace, we learnt that the Nigerian Railway was recruiting new members of staff. We went to the recruiting venue without any application. Our status as students of Kaduna College was all we needed at the venue of the recruitment. The interview was conducted by Europeans. When it came to our turn as students of Kaduna College, instead of the Europeans to interview us, we ended up chatting. That was how we were employed.
We were made to go for training as new employees. However, to and from the training venue, we were always hiding because we were afraid that the palace guards would arrest us. We were lucky to be posted out after the training.
My first posting was in Kafanchan in the present Kaduna State. When I arrived at the railway station in Kafanchan and delivered a letter to the senior station master, he shouted and said, “Duniya don baje, na Hausa man be clerk?’’This literally means, ‘the world has changed; how can a Hausa man become a clerk?’ He asked me to get out of his office, saying I should go and join my brothers in the shed.
Does it mean there were no Hausa people working as clerks then?
Yes. The impression at that time was that Hausa people did not have the knowledge and capacity to do skilled jobs. They only worked as labourers at the various railway stations. When he said I should go and join my brothers at the shed, he meant that I should go and join my brothers and work as a labourer.
I was the first Hausa man to be posted there as a clerk. I went and joined my brothers in the shed as he directed. That was in October 1950.
Why didn’t you protest since you were officially posted there as clerk?
Why should I? God made me to be determined. Because of my age and physique, I couldn’t do the work the labourers were doing. However, on arrival at the shed, the labourers started jubilating, excited that a Hausa man was there as a clerk.
Because of the hatred, I was made to work at all sections of the Kafanchan station. However, that turned out to be a blessing for me. Within a period of one year, I mastered all the jobs in the station, to the extent that nothing could take place without my input.
When I was new at the station, this man used to call me hakorin zomo (rabbit’s tooth). I remember that at that time, the Associated Tin Mine was supreme in the North. There was a wagon of tin ore in Kafanchan and all the clerks were afraid to handle that wagon because if one failed to do the right thing on that wagon, there was the tendency for one to lose one’s job. The person handling that wagon fell sick and all the clerks refused to take over. I went to the station master and told him that I would handle that wagon. There and then I told him that hakorin zomo had become hakorin zaki (lion’s tooth). I asked him to bear that in mind. I had that gut because I had mastered all the techniques of the station. I did that job successfully.
When more northerners were sent to Kafanchan for training, I took the responsibility of training them. I took them through all the difficulties that I I went through. I did that because I wanted them to know that they had to work hard if they wanted to succeed.
Again, I was posted as a train clerk. A train clerk was responsible for all the wagons in the station. He posted wagons in and out of the station. Kafanchan used to be the centre of transportation. It linked the East and West with northern Nigeria. That was why you would find that sometimes the whole lines in Kafanchan would be choked up. The station was very important. Kafanchan was central to businesses. I used my experience to work successfully as a train clerk despite the difficulties of marshalling the influx of wagons and engines.
From Kafanchan, where did you go?
From Kafanchan, I was posted to Gwada, now in Niger State. When I went to the Kafanchan station master with my posting letter, the man said he was not happy to lose one of his best staff leave. This was the man that ridiculed me when I was posted there the first time. This tells you that hard work and determination are the secrets of success.
At Gwada, I was made the staff clerk. The station master ran the station in the morning while the staff clerk ran the station in the night. The reception at Gwada on my arrival was not similar to Kafanchan. The station master was friendly.
From Gwada, I was posted to Bukuru in the present Plateau State as goods delivery clerk. As the name applies, I was responsible for the delivery of goods to their owners.
On my arrival, I found that the owner of the goods on each wagon that arrived there had to pay the delivery clerk 5 pounds, while the owner of each load that went in or out of the shed had to pay one shilling. The money was shared among staff members of the station. This is to tell you that even then, there was corruption. Small as I was, I cancelled all those illicit practices, and traders were very happy. Within a period of three months, Bukuru became lively because traders were patronising the station following the cancellation of those payments.
However, I was in trouble with the station master because he was not receiving his proceed of corruption. He called to ask, and I told him that I was not used to that practice. You know, when you take such a decision it is likely that people would fight you because they are used to living above their means. So I wrote to the railway authorities, saying that I wanted to be relieved of that position or I would resign.
I was persuaded to stay. Senior officers intervened, but I stood my ground. I was asked where I wanted to go and I chose the signal section. This was a place that nobody in railway wanted. They were surprised about my choice because people were lobbying to be posted to my position while I was trying to run away.
When they finally accepted my demand, they came with a condition that I should train whoever would take over from me. However, when the new person came, he started talking about making money. Bukuru was then a centre of cattle trading. To allocate a wagon of cattle, one got 10 pounds. I refused to engage in that.
The new person and the station master connived and sidelined me. They wanted
Alhaji Muhammad Jibo