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Tribute to late Alhaji (Dr) Umaru Baba, OFR (Magajin Garin Muri) 1940 – 2021

‘Every soul will taste of death. And you will only receive your full reward on the Day of Judgement….’ Qur’an 3:185.  Our father, Umaru Muhammad…

‘Every soul will taste of death. And you will only receive your full reward on the Day of Judgement….’ Qur’an 3:185. 

Our father, Umaru Muhammad Baba, tasted death on Thursday 25th March 2021, at the age of 81. 

That day would remain etched in our memory. It seems like yesterday, but it is already a year now.  I remember vividly, I was at work in Abuja that afternoon, when I got a call from Aisha, my wife, and I heard her crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she ended the call. Before I could call her back, my sister Zainab’s call came through and as soon as I picked it, I heard her crying as well. My heart sank and I knew without being told, that my loving dad was no more. As the thought was going through my mind, I still asked Zainab what was wrong, and she said “wai Bappa ya rasu,” informing me of his passing on. 

It came as a devastating shock to me, more so as I had called my elder brother, Munir, who was with him at the hospital, a few hours before then to enquire about his condition. Even though he was not in a particularly good condition, we had no inkling that he had just a few hours left to live. Death was not on my mind. 

I had visited him two days earlier, on Tuesday 23rd. I was quite alarmed when I saw him lying on the hospital bed; as I have never in my life seen my dad on a hospital bed! He was blessed with good health, and he always downplayed any ailment he had (typical Fulani pulaku).

The doctor we spoke to on Tuesday was optimistic that he would pull through, and I really thought he would. So, I took the evening train back to Abuja. If only I knew he had less than two days to live, I would not have left his side! But Allah knows best. Innalillahi Wainna Ilaihirraji’un (From Allah we come and to him we shall return).

Our father was an honest, God-fearing and upright man. He was blessed by Allah in so many ways. He was endowed with material wealth, but it never made him pompous. He gave it out and touched others with it. He was always caring, always giving and never hesitant when it came to a worthy cause. He was blessed with 44 children (one was a stillborn and two died before him -Nafisa and Amina. May Allah have mercy on their souls). But despite that, he never looked down on those without children. He was blessed with intelligence, quick thinking and the ability to analyse and respond to issues on the spot. But it never made him proud. He was very decisive in taking decisions. He gave out freely to solve other people’s problems without worrying about the future. However, he never lacked! Yes, Bappa never lacked! 

He so much believed that education empowers you to rise to limitless levels. To emphasise the value of education, he once told me that even if a person is a firewood seller, with an education, the way he would tie his firewood bunch would be different and better than the way a non-educated wood seller would tie his. 

He trained us so well. When we were growing up, he always told us that he would spend his last kobo to educate us to any level we wanted and anywhere we wanted – and he did. I remember when I graduated from ABU and was doing my NYSC programme, our discussions were mostly on the need for me tome further my studies. He personally sponsored me (as he did with many other siblings) to do my Masters degree programme at the University of Wales in the UK. After my MBA, he again sponsored me to do the ACCA in England.

I remember the day I called him on the phone from London and told him I had qualified as a chartered accountant. He started crying on the phone and kept saying: “Allah Yayi maka albarka Armiyau, Allah Yayi maka albarka.” I cried on the phone as well, as I am shedding tears now, remembering and writing this. I am yet to meet anyone who takes pride in other people’s successes and achievements the way my dad did.

Alhamdulillah. Thanks to the training he gave us. Thirty-seven of his children have first degrees (two younger ones are on their ways to obtaining theirs), 20 have Masters degrees, three have PhDs and two others are rounding off their PhDs. In addition, one is a Chartered Accountant Fellow, while another is in the making. He had personally sponsored over 50 other relations and non-relations to at least first-degree level.

He encouraged the quest for Islamic knowledge. Not surprising, coming from a family of Islamic scholars and judges. His father, grandfather and great grandfather were all judges/Islamic scholars (alkalis). He made us all attend Qur’anic school after school hours and at weekends, without exception. Under his encouragement, two of our mothers memorised the holy Qur’an and are hafizs. The other two have gone far in their Qur’anic memorisations as well.

He loved his family and always provided protection and a listening ear to all that were under his wings. He loved travelling (I must have gotten that from him) and he had visited practically all African countries, all OPEC countries and so many countries in Europe, the Americas, Middle East and the far East. But despite his busy schedules, he always found time and gave attention to his family.

He was an incredibly good listener and would never interrupt you but would patiently listen to whatever you were telling him. He analysed issues deeply and always seemed to have a solution for everything and everyone! The moment you came to him with a problem, it immediately became his and he would do all within his power to solve it for you.

He led by showing good examples. So many people that he worked with at one time or the other came to condole us and said so many glorious things about him. He touched so many lives positively. He was a quiet philanthropist that had helped so many people. We never knew he had built as many schools, mosques and boreholes/wells in so many locations, until when he died and people from those communities came to condole us and told us about his efforts. We only knew of a few. May Allah reward his efforts with Jannah, amin.

The late Alhaji Umaru Baba had served Nigeria in many capacities. He was an elected member of the 49-member Constituent Assembly (CA) in 1977 that gave birth to the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He was at two separate times a member of the highest ruling bodies in Nigeria. First as Secretary of State for Defence and Member, Transitional Council between 1992-1993, during the Shonekan-led Transitional Council at the tail end of the IBB regime and secondly, as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, from 1993 -1995, at the beginning of the Sani Abacha regime.

During his time as Petroleum Minister of State, he worked hard for, and saw to the creation of the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development from the then Ministry of Petroleum Resources. He also led the Federal Government team that lobbied other OPEC countries and campaigned for the successful emergence of the Late Dr Rilwanu Lukman as Secretary General of OPEC.

In 2006, he was honoured with the National Merit award of Officer, Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

The late Alhaji Umaru Baba started his early education at Mutum-biyu Elementary School in 1947 and then Yola Middle School in 1952. He then proceeded to Barewa College, Zaria, in 1955 (B1101) and Ahmadu Bello University in 1961, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration. He was among the first set of ABU graduates.

He started his working career as a clerk with the Muri Native Authority. He later worked with UAC Nigeria Ltd, and then, Mobil Oil Nigeria Ltd, where he was the Northern Region Supervisor. He also worked with the Nigeria Livestock and Meat Authority as Head of Marketing and Industrial Division. He later moved to Stirling Astaldi (later Stirling Civil Engineering Nig Ltd), as Industrial Adviser and Financial Controller.

During the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, Umaru Baba served as Commissioner for Trade and Industry from 1973-1975, in the then North-eastern state governed by the late Brigadier Musa Usman.

During that period, he pioneered the setting up of Ashaka Cement Co. Nig Ltd, Gombe Oil Seed Nigeria Ltd, Nguru Oil Mills Nig Ltd, Northeast Tannery Ltd (NETAL), Nigerian Beverages Production Ltd (makers of highland tea), Lau Tomato Canning Ltd and Savannah Sugar Co. Ltd. He was chairman of all the above companies during that period.

He was known to be very dedicated to whatever cause he set for himself, especially if it would benefit others. He was at various times Chairman, Gongola State Water Board, Chairman, Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic Idah, Chairman, National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna, Chairman Board of Trustees, Taraba State Family Support Programme, Chairman, Taraba Savings and Loans Limited, and Chairman, Governing Board, Nigerian Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme.

He was a pioneer member of the Board of Trustees of the Education Trust Fund (ETF), now TETFUND. He was a Member, Governing Council, Federal University of Technology Yola (FUTY), Member, Governing Council, Taraba State University, Member, Taraba Tourism and Development Board,

He participated actively in the political front. He was a member of the NPN Presidential Campaign Committee between 1982 -1983. He was the Vice Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Gongola State in 1983 and later contested the primaries for governorship of the then Gongola State under the NPN. He lost to Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who went on to become the governor of Gongola State in 1983. He was a member, Board of Trustees of the PDP from 1999, but voluntarily took a step back from that position years back, when he decided to keep away from active politics.

(Continued on www.dailytrust.com)

Armiyau Umaru Baba

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