When and where were you born?
I was born on December 11, 1950, at Gashu’a, now Bade local government area of Yobe State.
How did you know that was when you were born?
My family was very lucky because my uncle, my fathers’ younger brother, was the treasurer of the Bade Emirate Council. So, he kept reliable records of all births and deaths in our extended family.
How was growing up like?
In those days, things were cool and peaceful because even politics was not awkward courtesy of peace in the land then. There was contentment among people because the financial situation then was good and due to this, the little that our parents earned was enough to feed, clothe and shoulder most of our needs. Everything was available and affordable.
When did you start schooling?
I did not start schooling at a tender age as required due to some ailment I was battling with when I was young. Because of that ailment, even my younger brothers were enrolled into primary school before me. In fact, I started my basic or primary education at the age of 10, on January 1961. I started my early education at Gashu’a Central Primary School from 1961 to December, 1967, while my Junior Secondary School was at Government Craft School, Maiduguri from 1968 to 1970, then I proceeded to Government Technical School, Kano from January 1971 to December 1973, for my senior secondary education. Upon completion of my Senior Secondary School Education (technical), I gained admission into Kaduna Polytechnic for a National Diploma (ND) in Water Resources Engineering in 1974. When I completed that I returned home and later went back to the Kaduna Polytechnic again for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Irrigation Engineering. I went to Loughborough University in the United Kingdom for my postgraduate study after that. I did my NYSC at Oyo State from 1982 to 1983 with Ogun/Osun River Basin Development Authority. During my service year, I was attached to the Dam Construction Task Force at a small town called Sepeteri.
When did you start work?
I started work in July 1977, that’s immediately after the completion of my Diploma in Water Resources Engineering. All along my civil service career, I’ve been a staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, from the Borno State Ministry of Agriculture to Yobe State Ministry of Agriculture when the state was created in 1991. I was attached to Yobe State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) from 1991 to 2010 when I retired.
Why did you choose to work at the Ministry of Agriculture throughout your career?
I decided to work at the Ministry of Agriculture because of the nature of my specialization. While at Technical School, Kano, I read a lot of water related trades so I decided to continue with what I knew best and, the Ministry of Agriculture had all it takes to demonstrate that skill. Initially, I thought of going to the water board because under water resources engineering there was the option of irrigation engineering or municipal engineering which is water supply, as well as, hydrology. So, I chose irrigation engineering out of the three because I was more interested in irrigation agriculture. In a nutshell, my decision to work at the Ministry of Agriculture throughout my civil service career was deliberate and not by accident.
When did you get married?
I still remember it very vividly. I got married to my first wife on February 24, 1979, and then five years later, on March 1984, I had my second wife. I decided to take a second wife because initially it was such that I stayed with my first wife for five consecutive years without any issue. At that time my wife of blessed memory advised me to get a second wife, which was very hard for a wife to tell her husband but she did. She was amazing.
How many children do you have?
Right now, I have 13 children, many of whom are university graduates. I equally named one of my female children after my first wife (Maryam) of blessed memory.
How was life in service?
Life in service in those days was very good. To start with, the arrangement was such that the civil service was really very, very interesting because if one joined the service, everything was almost perfect, and for us who worked in the agriculture ministry, we had a lot to do in the field especially irrigation engineering. As of then, the state government has some irrigation schemes scattered in different parts of the state like Yau, Geidam, Biu, Gashu’a, Nguru and other places, and fortunately for me I have worked in almost all these places. In those days, when you’re talking of irrigation in Borno State, for sure I had no problem because I almost worked in most parts of former Borno State and indeed the present Yobe, where I worked in different capacities. I served as the liaison officer for the study of irrigation potentials in Yobe State under the first phase of the National Fadama Project Programme from January 1992 to December 1993. After the study, I was appointed the head of component, Fadama Development for 9 years from 1993 to 2003 where we provided several tube wells, washed boreholes and water pumps for rural farmers across the state.
How is life in retirement?
Life after retirement is was not that interesting but then, I already had the opportunity to plan before retirement because I had seen many who their living condition turned to something else after retirement. Based on that I decided to invest before retirement, and that was precisely three years before my retirement. I started planning for a company, Jambo Water Nigeria Limited. So, with that company, even after retirement, in fact there wasn’t much problem on my side; what happened to others served as a lesson to me and since then I am content with Alhamdulillah. I retired on December 31, 2010, before my retirement I was the state facilitator for irrigation and rural infrastructure under the National Programme for Food Security in Yobe State, and I was retained to continue with the job after retirement up to 2015 when the programme was closed due to my commitment and dedication. As I mentioned earlier, that component of irrigation and rural infrastructure chain included small scale irrigation development where we provided tube wells, washed boreholes and water pumps for rural farmers, and then we had the rural infrastructure like the construction of feeder roads, dams, markets stalls, water supply and livestock ponds. When the National Programme for Food Security winded up in 2015, the Yobe State government based on the study conducted under the National Fadama Development on Irrigation Potentials in Yobe State which outlined all the potential sites, decided to set up a taskforce on irrigation development. I was co-opted into that taskforce as a member and that one has been on up till now, and we have been able to rehabilitate some irrigation schemes and even constructed new ones. The current stand of the taskforce under the present leadership of the state governor, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, decided to invite professionals for a retreat on agricultural development in Yobe State, and we are waiting for the blueprint of the retreat for action. The truth of the matter is that the Yobe State government has been tapping into the experience of experts and personalities especially the retired ones in moving the state forward.
How would you compare life during your time with what obtains now?
The difference between life in those days and now or when I was in service and after retirement is that, in those days’ things were well arranged, the budget proposals were strictly followed and there was a lot of work to be done, so workers were fully engaged doing what they know best depending on their area of specialization. What is happening now is that many agencies have little work to do and as usual the experienced hands are gradually retiring day by day. For now, apart from professional work such as medical doctors, teachers among others many have less work to do and the effect of this will be when someone retires, he or she will find it difficult to cope with life because of lack of what to do. So, the point is, we have a lot of graduates everywhere but practicing what they learnt is becoming difficult due to lack of what to do, and of course this is very inconvenient for the youths and even their parents.
The situation is not even safe for the society because when you have someone who has prepared his mind to work after graduation just to find that getting employment is difficult. It is discouraging especially for those that are yet to secure any job.
Are you suggesting changes in the curriculum of our institutions of learning?
Before talking of curriculum, let’s talk about career guidance for the students; I am sorry to say this has been overlooked but that was not the case during our time. Due to lack of career guidance, students study courses just to get the certificate and end up getting nothing to do. For example, now, if you can groom your children and prepare their mind towards agriculture, I would like to assure you they will not lack what to do in life. These are some of the guidance our children lack. They should be shown how to plan for their future. Let me tell you, Nigeria can feed herself with irrigation farming let alone other sources of agriculture income. For example, take Geidam/Boloram, Nguru irrigation schemes which I surveyed in 1977 up to the biggest irrigation scheme then in Borno which is Yau with four different project schemes including the 2632 acres at Daya, Yau 1500 acres, Abadam 850 acres and then at Arge 560 acres were all irrigation project sites with a lot of people engaged. The harvest then was marvellous, food has never been a problem. So, there was less poverty because everybody had something to do and there was ready market for the crops they produce. I assure you, if the government wants, it can resuscitate all those irrigation areas and even create new ones for food security. It was fascinating then, because even civil servants visit the scheme sites looking for land for irrigation farming and they feed their family with what they produce and even sell others. Look, if we are serious, there will be nothing like importation of food. Look at the Yau rice in particular, it was much better than the ones we import.
Where were you during the independence in 1960?
Like I said, I was supposed to be in primary school in 1957 because my age mates were in primary one at that year. But as God would have it, I had an ailment and was sick during the independence.
Have your hopes at independence been met?
Honestly, I will say I am okay. As far as I am concerned a lot has been achieved due to the good condition of service laid down. I was able to serve my state and the country very well. My target was not to become rich but successful in life, and full of contentment, and I have achieved that.
What was your favourite food now and then?
In those days, my favourite food was a traditional food called Burabusko (Biski) and coming from Gahu’a town, rice was also available while my favourite soup was Miyan Kuka (leaves of Baobab tree) with fish.
How did you unwind in younger days?
I used to play football in those days but not much of music because the policy of our family was that one must attend the Qur’anic school initially before going to primary school, so, instead of listening to music, I have some favourite things to do like going to the farm, almost always, and I even learnt that from my parents. But like I said, I also played football.
What were your hobbies then and what are your hobbies now?
They remain the same, playing football, going to farm. I like reading as well. I also enjoy taking a walk especially in mountainous areas because at one time I used to walk around the Bauchi area when my elder brother was there.
What challenges did you face while growing up, in work life and now at retirement?
The challenges, like I said, started right from my early childhood because I could not attend school until I was around 10-year-old because I was critically sick.
For challenges during service, in those days honestly, I won’t say there were major challenges because the civil service was made in such a way that work wasn’t a problem, every civil servant has something to do and the rules were being followed. The indiscipline that is prevalent now was not there then.
For challenges after retirement, if I said I didn’t have any, I may not be telling the truth because initially when I retired, although I said I have my own registered company but I needed some capital and as such the time I took to get my benefit to get the company going was a bit difficult. But then when I got my benefit, I was able to stabilize and even forgot I was once a civil servant because many people and organizations have been patronizing the company especially for drilling tube wells for irrigation and borehole for water supply. That kept me very busy and I have a lot to do. In fact, I feel much better after retirement.
For sure, there must be regrets in life but then one must thank God because what He predestined to happen must happen. I don’t think one should consider their destiny as a regret.
Advice to the younger generation.
The government would come in but, the advice to the younger generation is simple because as you can see job opportunities are now very scarce. In this case it is high time for them to start thinking, even while in school, of what to do after graduation. The time for automatic jobs is over but, if someone prepares his mind on what to do after graduation or retirement from service then of course it would help him. I was happy when I saw some young men many of whom were students, engaging in part time jobs which earn them practical experience so that even when they graduate, they would have something to depend on.
You started by saying the government has to come in. How do you mean?
What I mean by government is this, like now all these irrigation schemes, the idea is to provide job opportunities for youths. In this case, the government can encourage the youths by giving them tube wells, water pumps and the seeds to start practicing irrigation farming. With this, the youths would have something to do because I was in one community in Yobe State and what I saw impressed me very much. I saw some youths, many of them secondary school leavers who engaged in small-scale irrigation, trying very hard to be self-reliant while others said they used their little earnings in paying tuition fees among other expenses. Look, if you can do a cost benefit analysis, what you spend in irrigation, the return is much higher than investment in many other sectors. So, it is the quickest way of making money and engaging people. Furthermore, investing in irrigation farming would bring to an end the issue of youth restiveness thereby reducing the high rate of criminal activities among the people. A lot of the youths who engage in criminal acts do so because of lack of job and if the government can invest more, not necessarily in agriculture but even other sub-sectors including artisanship and encouraging small scale businesses, the situation can be reduced. I know the Yobe State government is trying its best in training the youths on skills acquisition but most of them sold the start-up kits given to them at the end of the training programme which is quite unfortunate.
What do you think is the future of Yobe State and indeed Nigeria as a whole?
Well despite challenges, the future of Nigeria and Yobe State is bright. One thing is, once you have capable leaders in control of affairs nothing is impossible. But in Hausa there is an adage which if translated into English Language means, there is never a bad leader but only bad followers, this is what is happening in Nigeria. Presently, I think the leaders are doing their best but unfortunately corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the society before they came to power so now it is becoming very, very difficult to get rid of this menace. That is the major problem which I think the leaders are facing now and believe me if there is no corruption there would have been more progress in all aspects of life. In those days or years, even a permanent secretary could not buy a car because he would be questioned how he got money to buy that car. But now you see how young people compete with buying cars. How one got money is nobody’s problem but, in those days, there was little or no corruption.
What is the way forward sir?
It is a collective responsibility because people should know they have to account for what they have done in life. For instance, if someone looks back at least even if their parents are alive, their grandparents are not and it is a trend which everyone must go through. One day their parents will not be there and even they will not be there. So, there is a day to give account and everybody should have this at the back of their mind.