Not knowing how to start writing this piece and how to end it has made it a very difficult task to undertake in the last five years. Writing this tribute becomes more difficult, in realization of the emotion and memories this evokes in me and my other siblings whenever the thought of Baba Atiku (as we usually called him) comes to our minds. I stand to be corrected, but I make bold to state that we lost a father, like no other.
Late Alhaji Atiku Mohammed departed this world on 18th June, 2016 (15 Ramadan, 1437 A.H.) at the age of 80 years, leaving behind twenty-four (24) children (16 males and 8 females). To his credit, the family has a registered pharmacist, a professor, two medical consultants (three grandchildren medical doctors), two medical laboratory scientists, two engineers, a nurse, four teachers and a carpenter.
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In Gwagwarwa ward and neighboring wards, the effort of Baba in making sure that his children got the best in education is widely acknowledged and a reference for other families to emulate. Baba spared no effort to ensure that we got the best even at the cost of his personal comfort. What Baba did not leave behind in terms of material wealth, is by far overshadowed by the impact his children made and are still making in many spheres of human endeavors.
I am sure that all of us have very good stories to narrate about our relationship with Baba. On a personal note, I honestly feel that I benefitted immensely from Baba, having spent 46 years of my life with him (before and after marriage). The words of encouragement, prompt payment of school fees, unexpected gifts of clothes, marital counselling, prayers, phone calls and many others not mentioned here will forever remain green in my mind.
One singular and important event that I continuously reminded Baba of, was our impromptu trip to Lagos to fill JAMB form in 1979. This trip became necessary when my name did not appear on the admission list of ABU Zaria and Baba’s inquiry at JAMB’s office in Lagos indicated that my form was missing.
After filling the form, Baba did not relent, as we took weekly visits to Academic Office, at ABU Zaria. Baba’s efforts paid up when I secured admission to study B.Sc. Biochemistry at ABU Zaria. Baba’s initial intention was to have me study medicine for the MBBS degree. On one of his trips abroad, he came back with Physiology and Anatomy textbooks preparatory to commencement of the envisioned MBBS degree. As Allah would have it, these books were used by my junior brother, who is now a Consultant Anesthesiologist.
Baba’s effort at ensuring that I secured appointment with Bayero University Kano as a Graduate Assistant, paved the way for my journey in the academic world. Upon successful defense of my PhD. dissertation, Baba was the first person to receive the good news. In like manner, news of my promotion to the rank of Professor was first broken to him. In fact, for anything that I did, I consulted and sought for his prayers and blessings.
Sadly, when I got wind of Baba’s terminal illness, I was distraught and felt helpless as there was very little one could have done to either arrest or reverse the condition. We all watched helplessly and without any hope of recovery as Baba’s health condition deteriorated gradually.
With the passage of time, my early mornings phone calls were received with apprehension more particularly if it came from a family member. However, when Baba went into coma, little did I know that I was setting my eyes on him for the last time in the evening of 17th June, 2016. When Baba died at night, efforts to reach me were futile as my phone was switched off. However, the sad news of Baba’s death was passed to me during Sahur’s time for the 15th Ramadan fast of 1437 A.H. equivalent to 18th June, 2016. I could not control the tears rolling out from my eyes, having realized the import of the monumental loss of a father. We lost a father who sacrificed his life by laying a solid foundation for the education of his children.
We cannot pay you enough but we are consoled by the fact that you left behind a solid and united family. Personally, I am happy that unlike my mother who died in 2001, you lived long enough to see me reach the pinnacle of the teaching profession.
Let me end this piece with the following wise words as they aptly fit into Baba’s sojourn on earth.
“A life is not significant except for its impact on other lives.”
“Like it or not you, will be remembered after your death, either for the problems you created or the problems you solved.”
“Our dead are not dead until we forget them.”
Gone away from us for the past five years, we have kept you in our prayers and will continue to do so until the end of our times. May Allah bless, forgive and make Al-Jannatul Fiddaussi the final abode of Baba Atiku. Amin!!!
Prof. Mohammed Kano Atiku sent in this tribute from the Department of Biochemistry Bayero University, Kano