Alhaji Iliyasu Tauheed was a former teacher with the Government College, Bida. He recalls with nostalgia in this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, some of his students including former Military President General Ibrahim Babangida and how one of his students later became his principal. Excerpt:
How was your growing up like?
Well, I have the problem of memory now. I don’t think I can recall most of the things. My name is Alhaji Iliyasu Tauheed. I was born in a village called Kasanagi, Katcha Local Government of Niger State. My father died when I was six years old. I was the only child of my father, though my mother had a daughter when she remarried. My mother died around 1978. I grew up under the care of Etsu Muhammadu Ndayako. He was the one who enrolled me in school. I started my education in 1938. I was enrolled in school by Etsu Muhammadu Ndayako popularly known as Etsu Baba Kudu. He was like a guardian to me. He married my aunt.
Acquiring western education was like a coincidence because I was enrolled in a Qur’anic school before Etsu Baba Kudu picked me and enrolled me in a western education school. That time, western education did not enjoy much acceptance by our people. But Etsu Baba Kudu encouraged people to seek western education – the one we call ‘boko’.
When Etsu Baba Kudu wanted to enroll me, I had the challenge of over age. But he used his influence and got me enrolled.
My elementary education was between 1942 and 1947. I went to Middle School between 1947 and 1951. I attended Government Technical Institute and Trade Centre, Kaduna from 1952 to 1954.
Were you into any social club as a student?
I was a very good athlete. I was also the president of the Red Cross, Northern Nigeria in 1961. I loved social clubs.
When did you start your career in the civil service?
I took my first appointment in April 1954 as a Manual Instructor with the Works Department of Niger Province. And because of my area of specialization and dedication, schools always invited me to give lectures and practicals. When the current Government College was converted to a conventional school, I was attached on internal arrangement basis. And because of my dedication to teaching, the school management requested for my transfer from the Native Authority to the Northern Nigeria Government because they had enjoyed my service.
In April 1966, my service was transferred from the Native Authority to the state government, and my permanent and pensionable appointment was approved in June 1966. I taught at the Government College up till 1982 when I was transferred to Government Technical College, Eyagi, Bida. I was there till 1988 when I retired as Master III Teacher after 35 years in service.
In those periods, between 1954 and 1965, I served as the Manual Instructor of Native Authority. In 1966, I was promoted to the rank of Master Technical Instructor I (Teacher), Metal, Wood Works and Technical Drawing. I also served as Form Master, Food Master, House Master and Maintenance Officer at the Government College. At Government Technical College, I served as Maintenance Officer.
In 1972, I received a letter of commendation from Suleiman A. Mashegu. I was then Senior Manual Instructor. Suleiman Mashegu was my student at the Government College who later became the school principal, and I worked under him. In 2014, I received an award marking the 100 years of the Government College. So many things have escaped my memory.
How did you feel working under your student as a principal?
I felt normal. He appreciated my contribution. The letter of commendation was written in appreciation of my service. He recommended my promotion to the post of Senior Manual Instructor. Leadership comes from Allah.
Since your retirement, what have you been doing?
When I retired from service, I bought grinding engine. These engines that grind cassava. I was the first to introduce it in Bida. But for the past six years, due to epileptic electricity supply, I sold them. Now I am not doing anything much, just relaxing and visiting my relations once in a while.
Who were some of your students?
I taught many people. Notably among them are General Ibrahim Babangida, former military president, Muhammadu Sani Sami, I think he is the current Emir of Zuru, Colonel Sani Bello, Garba Duba, Jerry Gana, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, Umaru Gbate, Jibrin Ndajiwo (late former Chief Judge, Niger State) Mohammed Yahaya Baro, General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi, and others. They were so many.
Are you in contact with them?
Yes! I am in contact with them through old boys (association). Even recently, they visited me when they heard that I was sick. They sent delegation to come and check on me. I am always in contact with them. In fact, even now, I am expecting them.
When did you get married?
It’s been long. My wives were four. Unfortunately, I have lost two. Hajiya Aishatu died seven years ago. The other one died in 2019.
How many children do you have?
I have 28 children in total but four had died, 24 are alive. My last child was born in 1987. One of my daughters was married to late Etsu Nupe, Umaru Sanda Ndayako.
What were your achievements as a teacher?
I was seated here that day and they told me that my student had become the president of Nigeria, that was General Babangida. Whenevet I go out and meet students who I taught, who are now in key positions, I am always happy.
What would you have done apart from being a teacher?
I loved seeing myself as a teacher. So, I will still choose to be a teacher. I was passionate about teaching. I didn’t start working as a teacher; I was deployed to the classroom to teach because of the passion they saw in me. So, if I am to choose again, I will still choose to be a teacher.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Well, not really. I have forgotten so many things.
How do you compare the teaching profession in your time and now? Do you see our teachers playing any role in terms of grooming the young ones to be good citizens?
You know in those days; teachers go to classroom with a passion. But nowadays, teachers go to classroom because they want to find what to eat and feed their families. I am not saying that there is no passion nowadays, but the first thing teachers recognize is salary. In those days, no teacher would want to see his student failing. So, there was always commitment to see that students were groomed to be good citizens and excel in life. Education generally has lost standard.
Sardauna was passionate about development of the North. Do you see the same spirit in today’s leaders in the region?
No, not at all. What is happening now, people killing people, you hear that 50 people are being killed in a day; people attacking people on the road, especially in the North, and northern leaders didn’t do anything. If Sardauna were here, I don’t think these things would be allowed to happen. The present northern leaders have different agenda from that of Sardauna. Sardauna carried every body along. What is happening in the North today is very unfortunate.