You left this ephemeral world exactly six years ago. Since then we have been missing your humorous stories about your journeys to Ngaundare, Doala, Garoua, Maroua, Tibati, all in Cameroun Republic, as well as Mambila, Gembu, Mubi, Ngurore, Gashaka, Ganye and Jada, where you married your first wife. Your stories about how your life was shaped by your uncle, the late Alhaji Mamman Dafami in Dikwa, Gulumba, Bama, and how you garnered trading experience from your brother-in-law, the late Alhaji Mallam Umara Kokari at the Maiduguri Central Market in the 1960s still resonate in our minds. You lived a loving and inspiring life, so much that we are always gladdened when we meet those outsiders you used to closely gist with while you were alive; their first-hand information they relate to us whenever we meet are satisfyingly inspiring and consoling.
Of recent, I met with a sitting senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing a district in Taraba State, and to my awe, when I was introducing myself to him, he quickly asked again, “Which of the Alkali Habibs? My friend, by your look I am sure you are the son of the late Alkali Habib who always accommodated our Fulani brethren whenever they visited the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital on medical grounds.”
The senator further proved to me that it was our father he was referring to and prayed for his departed soul. He was even telling me that Alkali Habib was a household name at one time in Mambila (Gembu), especially to all the adults that lived from 1955 to 1970, such as Alhaji Abubakar Bobboi Jauro (retired federal permanent secretary), Alhaji Sani Madaga, families of the late Alhaji Umoru Nyawe, the Late Alhaji Kaka Abore. Alhamdulillah for this glowing testimony.
As the late Dr Yusuf Maitama Sule (Danmasanin Kano) would describe Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) as a true Nigerian and patriot for completing his tenure after eight years as president of Nigeria (1999-2007), having led and left Nigeria intact, I am pleased to inform you that as you left us in the early morning of February 1, 2016, we are still living in peace and harmony. We are equally intact. None of us has allowed his/her selfish judgement to becloud that of the overall interest of the family. You always preached to us on the significance of peace and unity.
Your virtues, principles, tenets, discipline, guide and wisdom with which you raised us have remained unwavering and they always serve as our driving force. Despite the periodic darkness of the world, we use those characteristics as the torchlight that gives us light, being strong while feeling weak and hope in our hours of despair.
Indeed, what you bequeathed to us in terms of respect for one another, regard for the less privileged, the elderly, loyalty to teachers (mallam) and commoners, irrespective of tribe, religion or any other primordial inclination, moral rectitude, seeking knowledge (Islam and Western), need to be tolerant, patient, courteous, thoughtful, self-disciplined and independent-minded, are key to our individual and collective journey in our dealings with people so far.
In your 35 years of public service, you had sweet and bitter experiences of life. We can vividly recall how you were transferred out of your locality (Yerwa) to Machina during the Yakubu Gowon regime in the early 1970s. Since then you did not have the luxury of staying in Yerwa until in 1991 when you were appointed the khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of Borno State by President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (GCFR). Prior to that, you served in Gamboru Ngala, Gujba, Buni Yadi (twice), Nguru (twice), Gashua, Askira, Geidam, Damboa and Gwoza.
During his transfer from Gamboru to Gujba in 1979, which was a punitive action orchestrated by Justice Kalu Anya (a National Party of Nigeria (NPN) chief judge, relief came the way of our late father when the late governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Kayode Lateef Jakande, visited Borno State on a state visit.
Governor Mohammed Goni, while touring some selected local government areas out of the then 18 in the old Borno State, deliberately visited Gujba, where our father was the judge of the area court. In the presence of the then secretary of Gujba Local Government Area, Alhaji Karumi Gujba and some prominent Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) politicians, such as Alhaji Ibrahim Anas, Alhaji Shettima Ali Kidaji, Alhaji Hassan Yusuf Damaturu, Alhaji Bukar Jallaba, Alhaji Shettima Ahmad Mukhtar Liberty, Alhaji Abdulrahman Shugaba Darman (majority leader of the then Borno State House of Assembly, etc, Governor Goni introduced our father and apprised his visiting colleague of how and why he was transferred from the border town of Gamboru to Gujba. In those days, Gujba was seen as not only a landlocked town but the most backward in terms of infrastructure and lacking in all the basic needs of livelihood as far as the 18 local government areas of the old Borno State were concerned.
Governor Goni emphatically said this to Jakande, “Your Excellency, this judge was transferred based on victimisation because of his sympathy to me and my government. I implore you to give him some words of courage and assure him that we are solidly with him despite his present predicament.”
While responding, Governor Jakande, with his right hand on the shoulder of our father, asked if there was a place better than Gujba. The secretary of the local government (Karumi Gujba) responded that there was a town better than Gujba, called Buni Yadi, but the challenge was that there was no court facility and accommodation for the judge to relocate.
Jakande responded, “Provide all…” That was how the court facility and the judge’s accommodation were provided and our father moved from Gujba to Buni Yadi in January 1980 as the first judge to commission both the court and the house; and happily, these facilities continued to be utilised by successive judges till today.
For the information and benefit of our younger ones in Borno State and Nigeria, both Lagos Street and Lagos House in Maiduguri were named after Lagos because of the financial support the state enjoyed during the tenure of Governor Jakande from 1979 to 1983.
The federal government was headed by the NPN; hence Borno, being an opposition, was starved of all the necessary resources that could have helped in revamping the state.
That notwithstanding, however, and within the meager resources generated internally and provided for by the Lagos State Government, Goni performed well as far as infrastructural and human development of Borno State were concerned. History recorded it dearly in his favour till his death in 2020.
I hereby pay special tribute to those governors, Jakande and Goni, for their resilience and moral support during the moment of need of our late father.
After you left us, we have sadly experienced some colossal losses in the immediate family, as well as in some of the friends of the family, who you closely related with while alive. The list is long, but within those six years, there were personalities like Professor Yaganami Karta; Alhaji Shettima Ali Kidaji; Hajja Kori Liman Wupchama; Hajja Fati Fulata; Yaa Bintu Kawuwa (Konto); Alhaji Garba Satomi; Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno; Justice Kaumi Mohammed Kolo; Alhaji Bukar Bolori; Governor Goni (on whose cause you were described as GNPP Bormusuwa in the aborted Second Republic and vindictively transferred from Gamboru Ngala to Gujba in 1979.
Others were Lateef Jakande; the Shehu of Bama, Alhaji Kyari Ibn Umar El-Kanemi; Shehu of Dikwa, Alhaji Muhammad Ibn-Masta El-Kanemi; Galadima Dikwa (Ba Galadima Modu Mala Sheriff), Alhaji Umara Bolori; Baba Fugu Wanzama; Baba Bakura Gazali; Alhaji Tijjani Bolori; Alhaji Jiddah Rufai and Ambassardor Usman Gaji Galtimari.
Ambassador Bunu Sheriff Musa; Ambassardor Hamza Abubakar (Yirima); Khadi Tijjani Yahaya Dukawa; Justice Muhammad Sadi Mato; Khadi Alkali Aliyu Mandawari; your bosom friend, the late Ambassador Zannah Musa Hindi’s son, Waziri Galadima Zanna, Alhaji Baba Bukar Machinama (son of the late Mai Machinama) etc have been lost to the cold hands of death. Incidentally, all of these men and women I mentioned had in one way or another, direct link with our late father.
It may interest Nigerians to note that our father was amongst the beneficiaries of annual alms (zakkah) offered by the late MKO Abiola prior to his arrest and subsequent detention by the military in 1994.
His personal assistant would fly into Maiduguri through the moribund Concord Airlines and move straight to the chambers of our father in the sharia court complex around the post office area with a brief case.
I had the opportunity to witness one of the payments, in which I even signed one of the acknowledgment papers accompanying the payment at one time. We later confirmed that Abiola and one other member of the Kaduna Mafia (name withheld) were instrumental to our father’s shortlist to the numerous goodwill he was enjoying due to his track record of administration of justice, sense of humility and how he selflessly lived his life despite having the privilege of promoting selfish aggrandizement in his career as a public servant.
As we await our time to come, may we die when Allah is completely pleased with our deeds; and may he grant the gentle souls of all our departed beloved ones Aljannah Firda’us.
Mohammed Habib, ACIPM, also known as Baba Kaduna Alkali Habib (email@example.com)