BREAKTHROUGH with Prof. M.K Othman: Adieu Baba Abdulkarim Ka’ida, the Epitome of “Due Process”
It was in 1976 when I was still a teenager that Baba Abdulkarim Ka’ida sent a message to Baba Mani, a cousin to my father and then my guardian, that I should relocate from Funtua to Bindawa to complete my primary school education. When the message was relayed to me, I was apprehensive and hesitant. I wondered why I should move out of a complete cosmopolitan city of Funtua in the southern part of Katsina state to a relatively homogenous and less urbanized society of Bindawa in the northern part. No basis for comparison; Bindawa had no attractive and adventurous locations such as Dutsen Funtua, railway station and three cut-throat competitive primary schools: Aya, Gudindi and Shehu LEA primary school. I was not given a chance to choose, it was simply an instruction for me to obey. I relocated and continued my education in Bindawa under the watchful eye of Baba Abdulkarim. I am happy I did. The period between 1976 and 1977 was full of life experiences and marked a turning point for me as a teenager with dramatic influence on life up to date.
Baba was a man of few words with each word carrying a clear message, instruction or advice depending on the circumstance. He was a man who thought before he spoke. He was a man of many trades but his major preoccupations were farming and trading. He had a provision shop located at the heart of Bindawa town. The shop grew to become the largest in the 1970s and 80s. He travelled to Sabon Gari market in Kano to purchase provision items for the shop twice a week- Saturday and Tuesday. These days were purposely selected to enable him make sales on Sunday at Charanchi market, Wednesday at Kankia market, Thursday at Bindawa Market and Friday at Rinjin Baushe Market, respectively.
Baba was a multi-task expert. He loved doing many things at the same time and he imparted such habit on me at my early age. While attending my primary school, I was also engaged in marketing of provisions in market stalls especially during holidays. I and Kawu Naisa, his shop keeper occupied different stalls at Charanchi market on Sunday, Rinjin Baushi market on Friday, Bindawa market on Thursday and Kankiya market on Wednesday, respectively. I was made to realize there is dignity in labour and one could make high profit through sales. This business/trading skill assisted me and made me to earn stipends for my upkeep right from primary school to University level. Even after my NYSC, in the 1980s, I went straight into newspapers distribution and sales business before I got a teaching appointment in Katsina Polytechnic (Now Hassan Usman Polytechnic).
Baba Abadulkarim was an ardent believer of “due process”. He was nicknamed “Kaida” a Hausa word that can be translated as “follower or respecter of the due process”. This was a name he earned more than 60 years ago and it became his personal identity in Bindawa town and beyond. Once, rules of engagement have been set and agreed upon, he respected such rules to the letter and expected everybody to do the same.
Baba Abdulkarim continued his preoccupation of farming and trading despite his old age. We tried to stop him but he steadily and firmly refused, and preferred to make efforts and earn a living. He was never arrogant and appreciated whatever assistance we could render. He however, believed strongly that as long as a person is alive, he/she should make efforts to be productive.
After the death of his elder brother Baba Ado, my father, and his cousins (Baba Dantababa, Baba Wada, Baba Kasimu, Baba Mani, etc), Baba Abdulkarim took the mantle of leadership of the Lungu family. In the last 25 years, he was a pillar of the family and commanded respect of all and sundry. His words were law to us out of the tremendous respect we had for him.
Baba was loved by all the family members because there was no limit to what he could do to attend or address family matters. I vividly remember Baba’s surprise appearance at my wedding in the early 1990s whenAbachaeconomy was hitting hard as lecturers of Federal Polytechnic Bauchi. Considering the situation then, I informed my relations in Bindawa of my marriage but relieved them of the trouble of coming to Bauchi for the wedding. I wasn’t unaware that such decision was not good for me especially in Bauchi, because at important events like marriages, people are interested in knowing the family members of the groom. When I appointed a senior colleague to accept the bride on my behalf as demanded by tradition, people started asking is MK Othman really from Katsina as he claims? Naturally, I was disturbed that my origin was being questioned and it was just too late. On the day of the event, Baba led two busloads of delegation from Bindawa for the weddingand physically accepted the bride on my behalf. I was certainly thrilled and my happiness knew no bounds.
In recent years, Baba’s health started failing him. At a point he could no longer come out to attend to his shop. A shop, he built more than 60 years ago. One particular day, this year, I received a call from a cousin that Baba was terribly sick and was taken to hospital. I rushed to Bindawa from Zaria only to meet him relatively healthy and hearty; I was elated seeing his magical recovery considering what I was told. I deliberately spent hours with him that day discussing issues while enjoying his company. At the same time, I was replaying his life 30 to 40 years back, he was an energetic individual always ready to take responsibilities, a free councilor to the young and the old. He had no formal education but he was highly knowledgeable on politics, civil service and current affairs. It was from him, I started learning names like Kashamir, Anwar Saddat, Kwame Nkruma etc. When he was telling me these stories, I imagined he visited such people and places, it was only later I realised Baba knew such events and people through BBC, VOA Hausa service and Radio Kaduna. He was highly knowledgeable of civil servants because they come to collect provisions on credit and pay at the end of the month when salaries are paid.
In the last five years or so, he emerged to be the oldest in Lungu family, a family with over 500 people across the nation and outside. His house became a sort of Mecca for consultations, advices and support. He was an expert in conflict resolution either inter or intra families. He was a voice that everybody respected and a man virtually with no known enemies.
On Saturday 15th Oct, 2016, I was on my way to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to board the 7am British Airline for a planned trip to Cornell University Ithaca, New York State, USA, when I called home, as usual to bid them bye only to be told that Baba’s health condition had deteriorated. I requested to speak to him directly but he couldn’t speak to me. I was disturbed and worried; torn between the concern for Baba’s health condition and obtaining a board pass and going through the numerous security checks at the Airport. Should I stop the trip? What help could I render to Baba at this time? I went ahead with the trip, undertook more than 20hrs flight (Abuja-London-Washington-Syracuse and to Ithaca by road). The battery of my Blackberry was dead, and I was virtually incommunicado by the time I arrived my destination at 2:00 am on Sunday. On Sunday 6am, American time (12 noon, Nigerian time), I was able to open my inbox using my Galaxy note, the first message from my childhood friend Prof. Mansir Auwal Bindawa was a condolence message over the death of Baba Abdulkarim. The news was like a thunder; shocking and devastating but Ahmadu Lillah, we are all mortals awaiting for our appointed times. Babas’ time had come and gone, may Allah grant him Aljannah Firdausi, amen. Adieu Baba Abdulkarim, “Kaida,” epitome of ” due process”.
Prof. M.K Othman is the Director National Agricultural Extension and Research Liason Services (ABU Zaria).
He hails from Bindawa L.G Katsina state.