On Friday,13th August,2021, I was in a workshop in Lagos when I opened my cellphone during break and read of the most devastating stories in recent times – that Mallam Ahmed Joda,the Super Permanent Secretary was no more.That was the „end“ of the workshop for me technically, as I could not concentrate anymore and I went up to my room in the hotel. I was elected the Secretary General of the Barewa Old Boys Association(BOBA) on Saturday,15th December, 2012 during the Annual General Meeting (AGM)of the Association of that year which also witnessed an election and Iwas unanimously elected the Secretary General unopposed. I served as Secretary General of BOBA for nine years, till 31st July,2021, which was two weeks ago,when I concluded my maximum two terms totalling eight(8)years(no AGM last year due to the lockdown necessitated by the Coronavirus Pandemic). My being secretary general brought me very closely to the late Mallam Ahmed Joda, a member of the Board of Trustees(BoT)of the Association though even as the 2nd Assistant Secretary General of BOBA from 2004 to 2012, I was in contact with him but not too closely.The late Mall.Ahmed Joda was admitted into Kaduna College(now Barewa College, Zaria) on 16th February,1945 with admission number B.502. It would be recalled that the College was first established as Katsina Training College in Katsina in 1921 as the first public post primary educational institution for the whole of the then Northern Region(now nineteen States of the North and the FCT). In 1929,the Colonial Administration changed the name to Katsina Higher College,still in Katsina,and in 1938,the College was moved out of Katsina to a more central Kaduna, hence the change of name to Kaduna College. It lasted in Kaduna till 1949/50 when the College was removed to Zaria and renamed Zaria Secondary School and it has been in Zaria ever since these past seventy two years.
Mallam Ahmed Joda and his classmates were never in Zaria nor Katsina, but in Kaduna from Form One to Five. The school‘s name changed to Government College, still in Zaria in 1956. And in 1971 during the Golden Jubilee celebration,renamed Barewa College,Zaria, a name it has maintained the longest as the College celebrated(and is still celebrating)the 100 year anniversary this year.There was the Centenary Anniversary Lecture by His Excellency General Yakubu Gowon,GCFR, PhD (B.783), the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT)of BOBA which took place in the Transcorp Hilton hotel, Abuja on Saturday, 30th March, 2021, but Mallam Ahmed Joda was in Yola and could not attend due to his being unwell. Gen Gowon had also directed me as the secretary of the BoT to ask Mall.Ahmed Joda to represent him to Chair the AGM which took place on 31st July, 2021 in Barewa College at the Sultan Muhammad Sa‘ad Assembly Hall,Barewa College, Zaria, but again he could not, as he was recuperating after having been to the UK for advanced medical attention. Mallam Ahmed Joda had always represented Gen Gowon at BOBA events whenever the former who is the BoT chairman could not attend. Let me say that the bond between the late Mallam Ahmed Joda and His Excellency General Gowon was very strong at least from the BOBA perspective as I observed all these years. This piece is therefore more about the late Mallam Ahmed Joda‘s association with BOBA which he exhibited with all his energy,time and money,and i saw the passion,body language and all exhibited by Mall Ahmed Joda in this direction. His house in Kaduna, along Bakori Road was open to me as I was a regular visitor without invitation.We will spend hours talking about the College and BOBA on end at times with his son, Aliyu who was some years my junior in Barewa College, and other times with Abubakar,the second son, who unlike Aliyu went to Federal Government College, Kaduna.I became a member of the family of a sort with Aliyu and/or Abubakar and their grandchildren in the house having dinners or lunches,which were regular as the late Mallam always liked eating in group with people.I was involved in several decisions of the family, especiall of the grandchildren in their academic persuit, myself being part of the Nigerian University system accross three Universities (ABU,Zaria, KASU, Kaduna and IUO, Okada) for the past thirty six years.
Mallam wanted to have a complete new Barewa College to be owned by the Old Boys Association and ran by the exco.The College presently is owned by the Kaduna State Government and there is a limit to what BOBA can do by way of intervention,the good intentions notwithstanding. Mallam Ahmed Joda took a trip from Zaria to Soba on Jos road at one time, and again from Kaduna along Kachia road at different time,amd and I was privileged to accompany him for the third similar trip from Kaduna past Afaka towards Birnin Gwari, all in an attempt to identify a suitable location to have a “new“ Barewa College. Members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Association were all aware of these efforts and were full of gratitude. He directed me to compile a list of at least 100 old boys who could contribute N1million each so that we can raise N100,000,000 (one hundred million naira )with which to approach the Kaduna State Government and solicit for leasing, a PPP arrangement, or whatever arrangement that could allow the old boys association to make better inputs in the running of the College. He single handedly procured the services of one Mr.Debo a consultant based in Lagos who had flown into Kaduna several times and we had meetings far into the night,the three of us in Bakori road discussing how Barewa College could be reverted to its days of glory under an arrangement acceptable to the Kaduna State Government. At a time he asked me to get an architect to assist with the concepts we were developing along with Mr.Debo. I quickly got in touch with Arc. Zubairu Ahmed Bakori,an architect and one year behind me in Barewa College Zaria and that was how we continued ,the four of us (Baba Ahmed Joda, Mr. Debo, Arc. Bakori and myself) with meetings articulating how the College should be reorganised. The objectives were: (a) To totally build a new Barewa Legacy College that would be a leading secondary school in West Africa and a centre of Leadership training, having trained five(5)former Nigeria‘s, Prime Minister/Heads of States and/or Presidents(Abubakar Tafawa Balewa,Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Usmanu Aliyu Shagari and Ummaru Musa Yar‘adua).No College in Nigeria and indeed West Africa has this record; (b)To establish merit-based admission into the College as was the case in the past for pupils from the thirteen Northern Provinces; (c)To have an attractive salary package and welfare – housing, access to qualitative healthcare, frequent training and development,etc to the staff of the college; (d)To decongest the population of the College and have acceptable teacher-students ratio(e)To massively improve students hostel accomodation, meals, and state-of-the- art infratrucure within the college .We brainstormed on these.