Why my father didn’t want me to go to school—Atiku Abubakar

Atiku Abubakar:Author, Politician & Administrator

My father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir, was fond of me.
He wanted me to become an Islamic
scholar, herdsman, farmer and trader—just like him. He was a deeply religious
man who was suspicious of Western Education which he believed could corrupt the
impressionable minds of young people.
My father
did not want me to go to school. He tried to hide me from the prying eyes of Native Authority officials who had
embarked on compulsory mass literacy campaign in the region. My father soon
discovered that he could not resist the wind of change that was blowing through
the area at that time.
My mother’s
older brother, Kawu Ali, who had received a little education through adult
literacy classes, registered me at Jada
Primary School
in January 1954 as Atiku

For trying
to stop me from going to school, my father was arrested, charged to an Alkali court and fined 10
shillings.  He refused to pay the fine.
He said he had no money. He spent a few days in jail until my maternal grandmother,
who made local soap for sale in the community, raised the money to pay the fine
and father was released to her.

Atiku Abubakar in his younger years. Down: With Mum, late Hajiya Aisha Kande

But my
father was not a happy man. He was sad and angry that his only son had been
taken away from him to be exposed to a strange world. He saw Western education
as a threat to their cherished values and way of life.
Father was
responding typically with fear and anxiety to the onslaught of change in Nigeria. People often feel safe in the
world they know. They see change as a harbinger of evil and as being disruptive
to the normal order of things.
My early school life in Jada…

From of the Book of Atiku

Jada Primary School was bare and rudimentary. The school
consisted of small round huts with thatched roofs. Classes were sometimes
taught under the tree. Some school buildings had no doors or windows. There
were class rooms without chairs or desks. We spent the first two years writing
on the floor. No wooden slates or exercise books. It was only in Primary Three that exercise books were
given to us.
The school
was made up of junior and senior primary schools. Pupils spent five years in
Junior Primary school and two years in senior primary school. Junior Primary
school closed every day at noon, giving the pupils time to assist their parents
in taking the animals out for grazing or to join in weeding, planting or
harvesting in the farms.
A boarding
facility was provided at the senior level.

Atiku: The Pictures get clearer and bigger

We slept on wooden beds covered with
locally made straw or palm fiber mats. Meals included rice, guinea corn, beans cake (Kose in Hausa), yam, and a custard-like drink known as Kunu which is made from guinea corn flour.
The food was prepared by cooks employed by the school and served to the pupils
in small bowls in the dining hall. It was an all-male school built and run by
the Native Authority.No tuition was
charged. Uniforms and other school materials were provided free. The teachers
too were men and they came from the community.

We began
each day with early morning chores, such as cutting the grass, sweeping the
school compound and watering the garden. Through these chores, the values of
hard work and of the dignity in labor were inculcated in us.
After about
half an hour of work, the bell would ring for the commencement of the morning
exercises to prepare us physically and mentally for the day’s tasks. We would
then go for breakfast. Breakfast was followed by “fall in”, a lingo for the assembly of all pupils.

Late Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo: The man who wrote Atiku Abubakar’s story

The teachers
would inspect us, looking out for sloppy appearance and listening to complaints
about those who did not do their home chores or participate in the physical
exercises. The offending pupils would be brought out, tried and punished. Canes
were liberally used to correct such offenders. Lessons resumed soon after
Arithmetic, English Language, Literature, Geography, Science, Religious Studies
and Handicraft. The rest of the day was taken up by lunch, siesta, dinner,
private studies (using kerosene lanterns for illumination) and bed-time.

Back of the Book of Atiku

I started
learning to read and speak Hausa in
that school. It was taught in the school to the predominantly Fulfude-speaking pupils. Like other
pupils in the school, I grew up speaking only Fulfude. I realized later that Hausa
is the lingual franca in most parts of Northern Nigeria. It was both the language of commerce, administration and
every day interactions in many parts of the region.
 (Read our next post titled “How my father died in a river’ tomorrow in
the story of the life of Atiku Abubakar)