Remembering my father Ndamed Adam Ibrahim two years after
Kindness begets kindness, it is said. In the iron ore town of Koton-Karfe, located in the province where River Niger meets River Benue, my father, Ndamed Adam Ibrahim, on 11th March, 2016, exactly two years today, returned to his maker, leaving behind little or nothing of worldly acquisition. But at that moment the angels came for him, he was surrounded by family, who cared and respected him. It was amidst these loved ones that he breathed his last, his honour unscathed, on a blessed day - a Friday!
In the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s, I grew up witnessing the innumerable kith and kin that came from the village, whom visited my family in Jos, back then. These relations ranged from young job seekers; those that needed aid for their schooling or support for medical attention or cousins, aunties, nephews, grannies and the likes who simply came to visit, “Uncle Jos”, “our brother” in the city. Father was kind to them all, he never had the heart to turn anyone away. This was at a time when it was common place for a visitor to show up at your doorstep unannounced.
In the social stratification at that point in history, “Uncle Jos” could arguably be labelled a successful middle class man among his peers. I remembered whenever the occasion called for it, father usually took us out, his kids, just to catch some fun. He had this blue beetle that came in its brand new chassis. As a kid I used to imagine this automobile as a tortoise, it was in it he took us, AbdulQadir, Abubakar, myself and mum for a ride (Salma was not born then). The main tourist destination at that time in the Tin City was the Jos Zoological Garden and the Jos Wildlife Park. The yummy icecream and the chocolate whistle sweets we used to lick and blew like the Boys Scouts whistle, were some of our favourite goodies. Father always came along with his Kodak camera and took shots. It fascinated me the way the camera printed out the photos instantly and in excellent colour. In one of those shots, I had on this coat of many colours, like the plentiful expensive clothing and toys he bought for us in those good old days. Father sure knew how to take care of himself. He kept an afro hair style, his wardrobe was lined with imported branded suites, ties and assorted shoes. We were living the life, but all these changed. Father lost his job after the company he had worked for, owned by expatriates, folded up.
Father was not born with a silver spoon. He was from a very humble background. My father was the eldest son to his own father but not the eldest child of my paternal grandparents. The death of father’s half-brother, Ibrahim Gambo in 2008, saw him becoming the only male heir in the midst of female siblings and halfsisters. Father was of royal linage, for he was a member of one of the four ruling clans in his ancestral home of Ibidun. His position in the family was therefore central.
Perhaps it was because of this reason that he had that zeal to see himself excel against all odds. And for him he had considered education as the vehicle to attain greatness. His journey to acquire the prerequisite western education started out at St. Pius Catholic Primary school, Koton-Karfe. It was this journey that took him to a commercial college in Okene in the 1960’s where he rose to become the Senior Prefect (Head boy) during his days there. Father studied hard, acquired quality knowledge and left school without a certificate. In as much as he had the passion to study, get that paper qualification and set out for greatness, financial encumbrances frustrated his noble efforts. Words soon got round to some Christian missionaries that a brilliant student had unceremoniously dropped out from that college. These men of God approached my father one day with an offer - accept the faith, and you’ll have your schooling and more all paid for. It was a tempting offer. A hard decision, a life defining one, had to be made. When father arrived at a decision, it was a definitive one - nothing, not even what he most cherished, was going to make him surrender his Islamic faith. It was not as if father was a Sheik or anything of the sort. But he was a man who was grounded on meeting whatever fate befell him with extraordinary perseverance. This attitude was to be the shield he will permanently adopt against the numerous tides of hazards he was to later encounter in life. I was a teenager when father said to me one cold morning in Jos, “Son, if you have a problem, face it. Running away from it will not make it go.”
Being the determined young man he was during those years, father left Koton-karfe in search of a job. The job he secured took him to Zaria, Kano and Maiduguri (where I was born). This job also took him to Kwakwi in Plateau State and finally to Jos.
When the whirlwind of hardship came knocking, with all the dust and debris, after father lost his job, it was not a swipe that hit him alone. It hit us all as a family, and the winds came knocking us from left and right. Father tried his hands on entrepreneurship. He had his own company, Fatimaco Global Enterprises, registered. He pursued small contracts. Sometimes he succeeded in securing a project. But the payments came too far apart. It got to a time, during the years of General Ibrahim Babangida’s Structural Adjustment Programme, when even the menial contracts he used to execute stopped coming altogether. Father could hardly make ends meet. And the ship wrecked.
Sometimes we went to bed on empty stomachs. It became impossible for father to pay the rent. So one day the landlord kicked us out from his house; a bed bug infested house, and the third house we stayed in a row as Being the determined young man he was during those years, father left Koton-karfe in search of a job. The job he secured took him to Zaria, Kano and Maiduguri (where I was born). This job also took him to Kwakwi in Plateau State and finally to Jos tenants. And to think that father built a solid four bedroom flat in Jos during those heydays which we never moved into, and for reasons he never told mum, and which I might never know. Father was an introvert, a very reclusive person who kept lots of things to himself and took a lot of them to his grave.
One evening father came back with the relieving news that he had gotten us a new apartment. We the boys were excited and followed him to see our new abode. And behold, it was a garage, offered to him by Baba Yunusa, father’s childhood friend.
In all of those years of storm and adversity, father receded into his shell of perseverance. Even though he was down, but armed with a shield, father had a sober view of life that saved him from running into insanity.
And it was interesting to note that, all the kith and kin that came visiting when the times were good, stopped coming altogether save for one - Hon. Osune, father’s nephew. He is more of an elder brother to my siblings and I than just any other cousin. He watched us grow just the same way as father had watched him grow. He along with his mother, Hajiya Maryam Shaibu Tutu, father’s elder sister, were the duo that asked father to retire back home. But father was reluctant. It was the ethno-religious unrest that started in Jos in 2001 amongst other factors that eventually forced father to return to Koton-Karfe. He acclimatized in going back to live in Koton-Karfe, the very town he was born, much faster than he had earlier envisaged. Those kith and kin he never turned away when they came visiting in Jos, were the same people he mingled with, who returned the kindness he once offered to them.
A golden opportunity presented itself in 2010 while father was living a quiet life in Koton-Karfe. The traditional king makers from his ancestral home of Ibidun, presented him with an offer of a second class chieftaincy title, after the demise of the previous occupant of the office. It was the turn of his clan to rule the kingdom, they had told him. All was set and the seal of accent from the state government was being awaited. It was during this period that a moneybag with vested interest in the stool, in the cover of darkness, connived with political interests and through the back door, stole the title right under my father’s nose. Yet again, father swallowed this injustice with patience. But I could tell he went to his grave feeling cheated of his right to ascend the throne.
The messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “No Muslim dies on the day of Friday, nor the night of Friday, except that Allah protects him from the trials of the grave.” My beloved father, may Allah cherish you in the grave and make Aljanatul Firduas your final destination.