The erudite scholar:Abubakar Lah at 100 (II)


By Mohammad Shehu Bida

Alhaji Abu Lah cried a lot when the news of the death of Lamido reached him just some minutes after he died. Waziri Adamawa, Alhaji Muhammadu Abba Muhammadu relayed to him at the late hour of the day around 7:30pm of that fateful day. The next person he grieved death of like that of Lamido was the death of Abubakar Sola Saraki. May their souls rest in perfect peace. (Amen).
Now, the last paragraph dedicated to his Sokoto middle school’s experience and his reminiscence about his students as well, Alh. Abu Lah was in 1948 transferred from Ilorin middle school to Sokoto Middle School to deputise, the man of wisdom, Alhaji Muhammadu Bida, later Iyan Sokoto who was the head of the school. The other staff in hierarchy were: Mamman Zako of Agaie, very funny man who would make one laugh out ohis intestine, Shehu Shagari, very wise fellow and a poet, Ahmadu Wurno later Imam of Wurno died in April 2004; Saidu Jega, later had mental problem. Saidu Jega and Ahmadu Wurno were classmates and best of friends. It was said Ahmadu resigned his appointment seeing his friend Saidu Jega becoming mad. The other teachers that followed were Bello Mai Wurno and Mamman Jega, father of Prof. Attahiru Jega what really informed my thought of dedicating a whole paragraph to Lah’s Sokoto experience because of the previous articles that much had been put down in terms of names he taught at both Yola and Ilorin middle schools. but that of students of Sokoto was very scanty because he could not remember many of them. Just of recent, he gropingly grabbed one of his English lesson books and gave it to me where on the cover of the book written boldly on it Sokoto middle school. Name: Abubakar Date: 15/10/48.
To my surprise, I saw the book still very neat and intact. but to my greatest surprise too, took were the names of his students who became prominent and held powerful positions in this country.
In getting hold of this book, I quickly looked at the names to see who is still alive and whom I can easily reach for personal contact to meet with since I am putting down a biography work about him. In the books the name I could make contact with, easily is Umar Shinkafi, a popular name in Nigerian circle as former police and N.S.O (National Security Organization) Boss. and with this coming to memory, I horridly contacted Sardauna Katsina, the second longest serving I.G. of police Ibrahim Ahmadu Coomasie, and within thirty seconds he sent Umar Shinkafi’s number to me. Also through this contact making, I got numbers of prof. Mahdi Adamu and Justice Usman Mohammed Argungu. and through Prof. Mahdi, I was able to get that of Umaru Imam Gusau whose daughter was wife to military officer, Mukhtar Mahdi, son of Prof Mahdi Adamu later, too I was able to meet Umaru Imam Gusau in Kaduna. Equally, with Justice Usman Muhammed, I got contact of Justice Umar Atu Kalgo and Mamman Shaho Argungu former Accountant general of the Federation but told me they left for abroad. and since then, I have never made an attempt to call them. I must confess getting Prof. Mahdi Adamu and Justice Usman Mohammed was like a manna from haven for me to eat to my satisfaction as I got enough events that occurred during Lah’s stay at middle school Sokoto and some names of his students which he could not have remembered.
Justice Usman Mohammed enrolled into Sokoto middle school in 1946, and that was when co-education was introduced for the first time.
The celebrant could up to this moment of his age recollect some memories of Sokoto middle school with a sort of mixed feelings; some of the memories sweet and some not so sweet. out of these experiences he had and still remembered, I will mention one each for sweet and not so sweet memory. In 1950, the then Headmaster Muhammadu Bida Dan Abdullahi “Wande ya yiya’’ went to London on study tour and returned were a red carpet welcoming back home was organized and in his honour both he and Shehu Shagari wrote poems to be recited on his arrival in the midst of cloud of staff and students singing beautifully with thunderous chorus pervading the air. His poem was in English and was the first to be recited being the most senior among the staff after the headmaster. The title of his poem was “His sigh and look’’. After his own, then Shehu Shagari’s’’. He stood to say in Hausa that “Mude ba mu yiya turenci ba amma ga Hausa da mu ka gada kuma mu ka yiya”. Then he started reciting his poem in Hausa to the admiration of all the staff and students with heavy choruses echoing every where. since then, Alhaji Abu Lah has been making plans to pay Shehu Shagari a visit and to ask him a copy of that poem. But right now, age has come upon him, his plan was to send me to him any moment but my contact with Justice Usman Muhammed when I paid him a visit in his house, at Abuja I had lengthy discussions with him and linked him up with his teacher on phone. the teacher asked him if he could still remember the Shehu Shagari poem off hand, and he said he could try, Justice did recite most of it to me after he dropped the call, but missed just a few stanzas. He did promise to contact some of his mates who he equally were trusted to have a good retentive memory. At the end, after contacting them all his mates that were still alive none could remember even a single line. and he finally advised I meet Shehu Shagari in person believing that he assured me, he must have had a copy of it kept somewhere in one of his shelves, because, he added, Mallam (that is referring to Shehu Shargari) is a highly meticulous person. The not so sweet experience at the Sokoto middle school was when one day one of his students did wrong and we meted out punishment to him, the other students found no any justification for such penalty and they got sympathy with some staff. the students went on a serious rampage that led to the closure of the school.
The teacher was not really happy with this event and still remember this with awe. But could not remember the student he so punished and asking his students, the likes of Prof Mahdi Adamu, Umar Imam Gusau and Adamu Wara who were students at the time could not have been able to remember the exact mate that the teacher punished eve though they remembered the event, too.
The first day I contacted Prof. Mahdi Adamu around 20th of September his year and asked him if could still remember one Abubakar Ilorin. The instant response was yes! But was he still alive, and I said yes! He said Shehu Bida, that your grandfather taught him and he will always be remembered for two things; the first was he speaks English with such an etonian cambridge elegance and the second was he is always looking very neat and by and large any student he taught must tell you he is a phonetician and a paragon of languages as he understands many languages.
In view of all what I have written in this paper about this aged teacher, I can continue on and on without exhausting events surrounding his life. He is truly an elephant, and very large one for that matter. but justice will be done in his biography as very soon all finishing touches will be completed and pray to have the book launched while he is still alive (Amen).


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