How we do­nated our orig­i­nal name to FCT – Wazirin Suleja

Malam Ab­dul­lahi Ladan Katchalla, 90, was the Kat­callan Suleja be­fore he be­came the Wazirin Zaz­zau Suleja, a po­si­tion he in­her­ited from his grand­fa­ther. In this in­ter­view he took us down mem­ory lane, in­clud­ing how Suleja ceded its name, Abuja, to the Feder

Sunday Trust - - NEWS ROYALE - An you take us through your child­hood? What was the ex­pe­ri­ence like? From Bida, where did you move to? How was your Cairo ex­pe­ri­ence? Was Congo peace­ful at that time? What are the fond mem­o­ries of your youth? Can you de­scribe the late Emir of Suleja, Sule

CI was born on Au­gust 10, 1928. I grew up with my fa­ther and later, my grand­fa­ther, who was the Waziri Abuja. I stayed with him for 10 years. He sent me to the then Abuja El­e­men­tary School in 1936. In 1942, I went to Bida Mid­dle School. And in 1945, I went to Barewa Col­lege; that was af­ter it was moved from Katsina to Kaduna. I was there for four years. Af­ter that, I went to the School of Hy­giene, Kano, for two years and ob­tained a diploma in Pub­lic Health and Hy­giene. I passed out in 1949 as a third class san­i­tary in­spec­tor and was em­ployed by the gov­ern­ment. I was posted to Bida, where I worked for about three years.

In those days you worked com­fort­ably. Peo­ple were sin­cere and de­voted to their jobs. Every­body was obe­di­ent to civil ser­vice rules.

I was posted to Kano in 1954. I stayed there for three years be­fore I was posted to Katsina. In Kano, we em­barked on house-to­house in­spec­tions. Then, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment was called the Na­tive Au­thor­ity, and be­fore you put up a build­ing you had to sub­mit your plan to the health of­fice for ap­proval. We in­spected abat­toirs in Sabon Gari.

Mos­quito-con­trolled of­fices were cre­ated. We in­spected mos­quito breed­ing places and asked peo­ple to clean their houses and the drainage sys­tem. Th­ese days we don’t have sim­i­lar ser­vices. Things were bet­ter in those days be­cause you had a lot of dis­ci­pline.

From Katsina I was sent to La­gos. I was in La­gos for about six months; that was 1956. At that time, La­gos was not over­crowded, so you could move freely. We had drainage sys­tems to in­spect, and of course, the la­goon. My work was in Yaba Tech­ni­cal School. I lived in Agege be­fore mov­ing back to Katsina.

From Katsina I was posted to Sokoto Prov­ince, specif­i­cally Birnin Kebbi. By then the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) had started malaria con­trol cam­paign in Sokoto, I worked un­der the WHO in Birnin Kebbi. We were us­ing chem­i­cals to spray Fadama. Between River Niger and Birnin Kebbi, there was a wide Fadama which breaded mosquitoes. I went for sev­eral cour­ses un­der the WHO. From Birnin Kebbi I went to the Malaria Erad­i­ca­tion School, Cairo, in 1962. I was there for six months.

We had the Nige­rian Em­bassy, but the British Em­bassy was tak­ing care of it. That was my first time of go­ing out­side Nige­ria, but I knew that since Egypt was a Mus­lim coun­try, I would be in good hands. I vis­ited their vil­lages, the pyra­mids in Giza, and the River Nile. They had a lot of mosquitoes breed­ing where they did their ir­ri­gation. From Cairo, I went for an­other prac­ti­cal work un­der the WHO for Africa in Congo Brazav­ille. We have two Con­gos - Congo Brazav­ille and Congo Kin­shasa. The for­mer was un­der Bel­gium Leopodville and the other was un­der French Brazav­ille. I stayed in Brazav­ille, I was there when the Pa­trice Lu­mumba prob­lem started. Only River Congo di­vided the two.

I stayed with some ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple and learned a lot from them, es­pe­cially the WHO. It taught me a lot about gov­ern­ment pro­ce­dures etc. I also went to the Univer­sity of Ibadan dur­ing the civil war and stud­ied nutri­tion. There was the need to train peo­ple on nutri­tion in case of per­sons who were dis­placed from war.

Suleiman Ba­rau was a good man, very in­tel­li­gent and help­ful. He did a lot to de­velop Abuja, now called Suleja. He was the long­est serv­ing emir in Suleja. He ruled for 36 years. I got mar­ried in 1951 in Bida. My mar­riage was just like a fam­ily ar­range­ment be­cause my wife and I were brought up by Suleiman Ba­rau, the Emir of Suleja. Af­ter the death of my grand­fa­ther, Suleiman Ba­rau took me to his house. I was brought up there, so I had ac­cess to the palace. Yes.

It is a long his­tory. Af­ter my work with the WHO, there was the first coup in 1966 and the se­cond one in the same year. States were cre­ated af­ter the civil war.

I was in Birnin Kebbi. Yakubu Gowon cre­ated 12 states, so we had to move when Niger and Sokoto were merged as North Western states.

When Gen­eral Mur­tala Mo­hammed be­came head of state, more states were cre­ated, in­clud­ing Niger. So those of us from Niger moved to Minna, the cap­i­tal. I worked in Minna as a san­i­tary health in­spec­tor un­der the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health. Then there was the lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­form. The idea was that the pop­u­la­tion of a lo­cal gov­ern­ment should not be more than 300,000 but not less than 150,000.

I be­came the first sec­re­tary of Abuja Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment; hence I changed from pub­lic health to ad­min­is­tra­tion. At that time we only had an in­terim chair­man known as Muham­madu Gambo, but af­ter elec­tions we had Abubakar Mai Kwato.

Mur­tala brought the is­sue of mov­ing the feu­dal cap­i­tal from La­gos, say­ing it was con­gested. He cre­ated a board to go round, af­ter which he se­lected our Abuja to be part of the new fed­eral cap­i­tal.

When they mapped out the area, the greater part of it was from for­mer Abuja, three quar­ters ac­tu­ally. When they started think­ing of what name to give it, that’s where we came in. They wrote sev­eral names on pa­per but later asked whether the peo­ple of Abuja could re­lin­quish the name of their town for the new fed­eral cap­i­tal city and think of a new name for their town.

I was the sec­re­tary while Colonel Joseph Oni was the sole ad­min­is­tra­tor of Niger State. He was in­structed to con­tact us, so he sent a let­ter. As sec­re­tary, I read the let­ter to mem­bers of the coun­cil, in­clud­ing the emir, his coun­cilors, the chair­man and su­per­vi­sory coun­cilor. We went to Minna and had a meet­ing with Col. Oni. Af­ter fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion, we agreed that we would not re­tain Abuja as the name of our town.

But the emir said we would go back home and con­sult our peo­ple. When we came back he in­vited all the learned peo­ple, imams, traders, rich peo­ple and top civil ser­vants and asked me to ex­plain the mes­sage. Af­ter that, many names were sug­gested. At the end, it was agreed that the name of Suleiman Ba­rau, who was the long­est serv­ing emir, be com­bined with that of Abuja to be­come Suleja. Many peo­ple agreed and sup­ported the idea, so we wrote for­mally to the chief of staff, who replied that they were grate­ful.

That is the is­sue. They did what­ever they wanted to do through the Niger State Gov­ern­ment, so the com­mu­ni­ca­tion had to go through the state. They ac­cepted the de­ci­sion in good faith. Af­ter re­tire­ment I went into farm­ing. I have 14 chil­dren, two wives and 54 grand­chil­dren.

Suleja is very peace­ful, that’s why every­body wants to stay here In Suleja, no­body will mo­lest you ex­cept you put your­self into trou­ble. The in­di­genes are very hos­pitable, that’s why you see the town grow­ing. Most of the big peo­ple in Abuja have houses in Suleja be­cause it is just a 30-minute drive to Abuja.

At times it is be­yond my imag­i­na­tion be­cause I am blind now. I have been blind since 2002. I have glau­coma, the dis­ease that af­fects the eyes. It came sud­denly. As a health per­son I know it has no cure. I was taken to Amer­ica for pos­si­ble treat­ment; they tried, but I just had to ac­cept my des­tiny. But I am happy, I don’t have any worry. Once you al­low such things to worry you, you will be nowhere.

When I was grow­ing up, Abuja was not more than 7,000 peo­ple; every­body knew each other. Suleja is more pop­u­lated by vis­i­tors than in­di­genes but we ac­cept that. Some of the vis­i­tors don’t even want to go back to their vil­lages.

They should learn trade. When you con­sider the num­ber of new grad­u­ates, you can’t rely on the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide jobs for you.

Malam Ab­dul­lahi Ladan Katchalla

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.