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.

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - From Isa Sa’idu, Zaria

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

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