Reminiscences with 104-Year-Old Muhammed Badisha
Muhammed Badisha is 104 years old. At this age he can still answer phone calls and read text messages from his mobile phone without the aid of eye glasses. When our correspondent called to schedule an interview with him, it was expected that either an aide or a family member would answer, but Badisha picked up the phone and introduced himself as the centenarian we were looking for. And he gave a vivid description of his house.
During the interview in his home, located at Muhammad Mustapha Way, Jimeta, Yola North, although he found it difficult to remember the exact dates some of the events he recounted took place, his narration was coherent. He kept his phone close, checking at short intervals to read incoming text messages.
He spoke about his early days while working for the British colonial administration and multinational companies. He also spoke about his relationship with the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Lamido Adamawa, Alhaji Aliyu Mustapha, among other people who belong to the first generation of Nigerian elites.
Going down 100 years of memory lane, the retired manager recalled events and remembered names of people who played important roles in his private and work life, as well as towns he came across since childhood. However, he often paused and struggled to remember dates. His 80-year-old second wife, 60-year-old third wife and two of his sons who were with him during part of his active days helped to fill in some of the gaps.
As a child, he learned the Qur’an and several Islamic subjects from local scholars before his father enrolled him into an elementary school in Yola. Interestingly, at that time, parents were opposed to western education and hid their children to avoid enrollment. Badisha could not forget the moral and material support he enjoyed from his father during his schooldays.
His father, Saad, a skilled artisan in the colonial era who worked in the United Africa Company (UAC) in Yola, had realised the importance of education in human development. He, therefore, did his best to raise an educated child in an era when western education was not a priority. It was considered alien to the people’s culture and values, especially in northern Nigeria.
Having passed his elementary school examination with high grades, he gained admission into the middle school in Yola, where he spent four years. His best subjects were Mathematics and English.
After middle school, he was employed by the British authorities as a clerical officer in Yola.
During the Second World War, he helped in recruiting soldiers. A research conducted by our reporter showed that from 1940 onwards, Britain conscripted more than 200,000 soldiers and labourers from West African colonies and ferried them to serve in the military in East and North Africa, as well as Asia. By July 1945, a total number of West Africans on the operation was put at 164.850, out of which the majority, 92,000, were from Nigeria, 47,000 from the Gold Coast, 21,000 from Serra Leone and 4,500 from The Gambia.
After working for the British administration in Yola and Gombe, the young Muhammed was employed by the UAC in Gusau and Maiduguri. At that time, a rival company, John Holt, discovered his managerial skills and tried to snatch him, promising higher pay and better condition of service. But to keep him, his employers instantly increased his pay to match the huge offer from John Holt and moved him to Kontagora. Finally, however, John Holt succeeded in getting his services and sent him to Maiduguri before taking him to Kano, then Gusau.
When the company moved him to Kano, an Arab merchant, Alhaji Hashim, became his friend and the two became close confidants. In Kano, he met and married his first wife, a relative of the present Emir of Paki. He later married a second wife from Gusau.
From Kano, he was transferred to Maiduguri, Jos, Sokoto, Kontagora and Kaduna respectively.
While he was the head of a UAC branch in Sokoto, his superiors in London sent auditors to investigate an alleged financial impropriety after his colleague accused him of an unauthorised supply of goods to a group of Arabian merchants.
Badisha provided his sales records and stayed away from office for several days to allow the investigators do their job. When the auditors found nothing incriminating and cleared him of the allegation, he resigned. His superiors in Lagos and London were surprised at his action and pleaded with him to rescind his decision, but he refused.
Many prominent persons, including Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, who became the premier of Northern Nigeria, were his friends. The Sardauna trusted him and the two remained close until the former was a
assassinated in the 1966 coup.
He said that Sardauna enrolled his first son, Ahmad, into the Magajin Rafi Primary School in Sokoto.
Badisha was in Kaduna during the reign of his friend, Sardauna, as the premier of Northern Nigeria. The premier asked him to join a company, Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria (ATMN) in Bukur as a senior industrial relations manager in 1965 to serve as his eyes there. He was in Bukur between 1965 and 1969 when he voluntarily resigned and took up a new appointment in another company. He retired from service in 1973 and returned to Yola.
While in retirement, a trading company in Yola, Mai Damisa Trading Company sought for his services as an administrative manager. He worked in the company until 1983 when he resigned.
Badisha lost his first wife, Hadiza Yari but now has three wives: 80year-old Jummai, Ladi and Marka. He gave birth to a total of 25 children, out of whom 20 are alive. They include Ahmed Muhammed Badisha; Abdulaziz Muhammed Badisha, Director of Administration, Code of Conduct Bureau, Abuja; Ibrahim
Muhammed Badisha, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs; Colonel Yusuf Muhammed Badisha, who works at the army headquarters and Aliyu Muhammed Badisha, a staff of the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing in Bauchi. He has 80 grandchildren.
Badisha also spoke about an exceptional relationship with his childhood friend, the late Lamido Adamawa, Aliyu Mustapha, who occasionally left his palace to visit him on the other side of the state capital. He said the monarch would leave his royal entourage outside his house and spend many hours discussing with him.
The centenarian described the late Lamido as a dependable friend who sacrificed a lot for his subjects at a time when leaders exuded arrogance, greed and disregard for old friends.
“Lamido Aliyu used to visit and spend hours with me in this house. Members of his entourage would stay outside waiting for him while we discussed personal issues and advised each other. The late Lamido was a good man; he was not arrogant at all, that’s why his subjects loved him. He listened to his friend,” Badisha recounted. He called his second wife to testify to Lamido’s humility and generosity when he visited the family.
“Whenever he visited this house, he brought gifts to my family. He gave her a big house worth millions of naira. The house is still there. We were childhood friends,” he added.
He also narrated how Sir Ahmadu Bello spent a night in his house at Kwanan Dangora when he travelled along Kano-Kaduna road. In the morning, he asked about the owner of the house and was surprised when he learnt that it belonged to his friend, Muhammed Badisha. The premier quickly sent for him and it was a
meeting of old friends. After a long discussion, the premier offered to introduce him to the head of the Marketing Board in Kano to take up a job there, but Badisha felt he could not work with the man, so he rejected the offer. The premier then introduced him to the white man in charge of Amalgamated Tin Miners of Nigeria (ATMN) in Bukur.
Apart from the Sardauna, he befriended other prominent personalities like the late Alhaji Sulaiman Gurin, a former senior district officer; the late Wazirin Sokoto, Sheikh Junaidu; Alhaji Hashim, a merchant in Kano and father to the late Abdallah Hashim, former permanent secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources during the regime of General Sani Abacha.
He was also close to a Second Republic politician and business mogul, the late Waziri Ibrahim, a presidential candidate of the defunct Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) who was his colleague at UAC and John Holt. His associates also included Patrick Pam from Plateau State and Mr Dotri.
Badisha mentored many prominent Nigerians, including Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, the former Inspector General of Police and the late Alhaji Abdallah Hashim, former permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Petroleum. He played a critical role in settling disputes in his community and contributed to the development of his state.
He has two siblings: a 93-year-old immediate younger sister, Hajiya Ladi Jimeta and his younger brother, Alhaji Umaru Said, who is 89 years old. He speaks Hausa, Fulfulde, Arabic and English languages fluently. Those who know him described him as honest, intelligent and principled.
Alhaji Badisha receiving a copy of Qur’an and other prizes from a community leader
Alhaji Muhammed Badisha
Alhaji Badisha, his two wives, his sons, Ahmed (with cap) born in 1954, Abdulaziz and others
Alhaji Badisha on bike then as a manager with the UAC in Maiduguri around 1963
Alhaji Badisha in his office at John Holt in Sokoto in 1954