I built my first house @ age 15—Atiku Abubakar + How Dad died in a river

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Up: Atiku Abubakar as a 15 Years Old Boy. Down: Atiku Abubakar with mum, Late Hajiya Aisha Kande

Three years after I started school, tragedy struck in December 1957. I was then 11 years old. I was just about to begin the Senior Primary School in Jada as a boarding pupil. My father drowned while trying to cross a small river known as Mayo Choncha on the outskirts of Toungo, a neighboring town. The river was in high tide following a heavy rainfall.
Father’s body was recovered the following day and buried in Toungo according to Islamic rites. He was less than 40 years old when he died. I built an Islamic Primary School at his burial site years later to immortalize him. He was a simple, hard working, kind, honest and God fearing man. I will forever miss him.
After my father’s death, the task of raising me fell on my mother, Aisha Kande, and her childless sister, Azumi, as well as my father’s extended family members in Kojoli. Although people were generally kind and caring towards me, it was difficult for relatives to feel the vacuum left by my father. As such, I was often sad and lonely. Father’s death pained me greatly.
Atiku Abubakar: A former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

I resolved to work hard, remain focused and successful in life to make my father proud. I was sure that he was somewhere watching over me. I did not want to disappoint him. I wished father had lived long enough to see the benefit of Western education in my life.
My early life in Yola…
The Front of the Book of Atiku Abubakar
After completing my primary school in Jada in 1960, I was admitted into Adamawa Provincial Secondary School in Yola. I joined 59 other young boys from Adamawa and beyond in January 1961 to begin a five year high school journey. The school’s motto is ‘Tiddo Yo Daddo’, a Fulani aphorism for ‘Endurance is Success’. It reminded us daily the success in life would only come to those who worked hard and persevered.
Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, like others in the region, belonged in the second category of post-primary institutions in Northern Nigeria. The most prestigious schools were the Government Colleges in Zaria and Keffi. Pupils who excelled in the entrance examination went to the Government Colleges;those who did reasonably well went to the provincial secondary schools; average students were sent to the craft schools in the various Divisions; and those who failed the examination were sent to farm Centers which were established in all the Districts.
Aliyu Musdafa: Lamido of Adamawa...who later became Atiku's foster father
It was a good system which took care of everyone irrespective of his or her level of intelligence.  The system left out no one. The Native Authorities ran the schools as a social service. Students received free uniforms (white shorts and shirts for classes, khaki overall for manual work and white caftans over white trousers for visits to the town on Fridays and Sundays), free books, free boarding facilities, a weekly allowance of three to six pence, and transport fares for those traveling outside Yola and Jimeta at the end of every term. Some district councils would chatter a commercial lorry to pick up their holiday-bound students from the school.
The school authorities mostly British, were firm and strict, commending good conduct and academic excellence and sanctioning bad behavior, sloppiness and poor academic performance. Refusal to do one’s homework, rudeness to a teacher or senior student, dirty uniform and slipshod appearance attracted light punishment (canning or manual work)while serious offenses such as stealing, drinking, smoking, insulting or fighting a teacher could lead to dismissal or “detention”. “Detention” meant that such a student would not be allowed to visit the town on Fridays and Sundays with other students. Since we all looked forward to going into town, everyone tried to avoid committing offenses that could lead to “detention”.
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I belonged to Wazirawa House. I was not quite six months in the school when the school principal, Mr. David West, warned me that I would be expelled from the school if I did not stop fighting with people. I was quite, but I would never run away from trouble. As a keen hockey player, I was always with my hockey sticks and did not hesitate to use them against any student who tried to bully me. In addition to hockey, I played soccer and did well in athletics too. One important tradition at Adamawa Provincial Secondary School in the 1960s was the Friday visit to the Lamido of Adamawa. On the first and last Friday of every term, all the students would march in their white-caftans-on-white-trousers from the school campus in Jimeta to the Lamido’s palace in Yola, a distance of about 5 kilometers, to pay homage to the traditional ruler and spiritual head of Adamawa Emirate.
Up: Atiku as a Customs officer: Down: His political godfather, Shehu Musa Yar' Adua
Lamido Aliyu Musdafa, a former student of the school had been installed in 1953 as the 11th ruler of the emirate which was founded by Modibbo Adama in the 19th century. The eponymous Adamawa Emirate and later Adamawa State are named after him. In 1841, Modibbo Adama had selected Yola, located on a swampy plain near the Benue River, as his headquarters.
As soon as we were ushered into his presence, Lamido Musdafa would receive us, pray for us and counsel us to embrace the good old values of hard work, honesty, and the fear of Allah.
In school, I had friends from everywhere. Some of my friends were non Fulanis and non Muslims. As I grew older and more independent towards the end of my stay at Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, I used to spend part of school holidays with my friends in different parts of Adamawa Emirate. I wanted to be exposed to other cultures and experiences.
Back of the Book of Atiku Abubakar
I have always worked for peace and harmony among the Fulani and dozens of other groups in our area. When fellow students wanted to set up Jada Students Association only for the Fulani students and Chamba Students Association for non-Fulani students, I addressed members of the two associations to form a central body devoid of ethnic labels. They booed and shouted me down. I was not deterred. I simply refused to join either of them. They later accepted my proposal to set up Ganye Students Association for all the students from the area. I gladly identified with the new all encompassing association.
When I was 15, I spent my school holiday at home, working as clerk in Ganye Native Authority. My boss was Adamu Ciroma, the then District Officer. From my holiday job earnings, I bought a house for my mother in Ganye the headquarters of the local government council. The thatched mood bungalow had two rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom. It cost me about nine Pounds Sterling. My mother was very happy and proud of me. I had saved her from homelessness after her older brother sold the family house in Jadda without her knowledge.
(Read our next post titled “Life as Kano-Kaduna boy” tomorrow in the story of the life of Atiku Abubakar)

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