Alhaji Iliyasu Tauheed was a former teacher at Government College in Bida. He nostalgically recalls in this interview with the Daily Trust on Saturday some of his students including former military president General Ibrahim Babangida and how one of his students later became his principal. Extract:
HHow did you grow up
Well I have a memory problem now. I don’t think I can remember most things. My name is Alhaji Iliyasu Tauheed. I was born in a village called Kasanagi, Katcha local government in Niger State. My father died when I was six years old. I was my father’s only child, although my mother had a daughter when she remarried. My mother died around 1978. I grew up in the care of Etsu Muhammadu Ndayako. He was the one who enrolled me in school. I started my studies in 1938. I was enrolled in the school by Etsu Muhammadu Ndayako, known as Etsu Baba Kudu. He was like a tutor to me. He married my aunt.
Gaining a Western education was like a coincidence because I was enrolled in a Koranic school before Etsu Baba Kudu chose me and enrolled me in a Western education school. At that time, Western education was not very accepted by our people. But Etsu Baba Kudu encouraged people to seek a Western education – the one we call “boko”.
When Etsu Baba Kudu wanted to register, I had the challenge of over-age. But he used his influence and got me registered.
My elementary education was between 1942 and 1947. I attended college between 1947 and 1951. I attended the Government Technical Institute and Kaduna Shopping Center from 1952 to 1954.
Were you in a social club as a student?
I was a very good athlete. I was also president of the Northern Nigeria Red Cross in 1961. I loved social clubs.
When did you start your career in the public service?
I took my first appointment in April 1954 as a manual instructor in the Directorate of Public Works of the Province of Niger. And because of my area of specialization and my dedication, schools have always invited me to give lectures and practical work. When the current Government College was converted to a conventional school, I was attached on the basis of an internal arrangement. And due to my dedication to teaching, the school administration requested my transfer of indigenous authority to the government of northern Nigeria because they appreciated my service.
In April 1966 my service was transferred from the Native Authority to the State Government, and my permanent, pensionable appointment was approved in June 1966. I taught at Government College until 1982, when which I transferred to Government Technical College, Eyagi, Bida. . I stayed there until 1988, when I retired as a Master III teacher after 35 years of service.
During these periods, between 1954 and 1965, I served as a manual instructor of Native authority. In 1966, I was promoted to the rank of Master Technical Instructor I (Teacher), Metal, Woodwork and Technical Drawing. I was also a master of forms, master of food, master of the house and maintenance worker at the Government College. At Government Technical College, I worked as a maintenance officer.
In 1972, I received a letter of recommendation from Suleiman A. Mashegu. I was then Senior Manual Instructor. Suleiman Mashegu was my student at Government College who later became the principal of the school, and I worked under him. In 2014, I received an award marking 100 years of Government College. So much has escaped my memory.
How did you feel working under the direction of your student as a school principal?
I felt normal. He appreciated my contribution. The letter of recommendation was written as a thank you for my service. He recommended my promotion to Senior Manual Instructor. Leadership comes from Allah.
Since your retirement, what have you been doing?
When I retired, I bought a grinding motor. These engines that crush cassava. I was the first to introduce it to Bida. But for six years, because of an epileptic power supply, I have been selling them. Now I don’t do much anymore, I just relax and visit my relationships every now and then.
Who were some of your students?
I have taught a lot of people. Among them are in particular General Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president, Muhammadu Sani Sami, I think he is the current emir of Zuru, Colonel Sani Bello, Garba Duba, Jerry Gana, judge Idris Legbo Kutigi, Umaru Gbate, Jibrin Ndajiwo (late former chief judge, State of Niger) Mohammed Yahaya Baro, General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi, and others. There were so many of them.
Are you in contact with them?
Yes! I am in contact with them through old boys (association). Until recently, they visited me when they found out that I was ill. They sent a delegation to come and see me. I am still in contact with them. In fact, even now, I am waiting for them.
When did you get married?
It’s been a long time. My wives were four years old. Unfortunately, I lost two. Hajiya Aishatu passed away seven years ago. The other died in 2019.
How many kids do you have?
I have 28 children in total but four are dead, 24 are alive. My last child was born in 1987. One of my daughters was married to the late Etsu Nupe, Umaru Sanda Ndayako.
What were your accomplishments as a teacher?
I was sitting here that day and they told me that my student had become President of Nigeria, it was General Babangida. Whenever I go out and meet students I have taught who are now in key positions, I am always happy.
What would you have done other than being a teacher?
I loved seeing myself as a teacher. So, I will always choose to be a teacher. I was passionate about teaching. I did not start working as a teacher; I was deployed to the classroom to teach because of the passion they saw in me. So if I have to choose again, I will always choose to be a teacher.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Well not really. I forgot so many things.
How do you compare the teaching profession then and now? Do you think our teachers play a role in preparing young people to become good citizens?
You know back then; teachers go to class with passion. But nowadays teachers go to class because they want to find food and feed their families. I’m not saying there is no passion these days, but the first thing teachers recognize is the salary. At this time, no teacher would want their student to fail. So, there was always a commitment to ensuring that students were prepared to become good citizens and to excel in life. Education has generally lost its level.
Sardauna was passionate about the development of the North. Do you see the same spirit in today’s leaders in the region?
Not at all. What happens now, people killing people, you hear 50 people being killed in one day; people were attacking people on the road, especially in the north, and the northern leadership did nothing. If Sardauna were here I don’t think these things would be allowed to happen. The current leaders of the North have a different agenda from that of Sardauna. Sardauna took everyone away. What is happening in the North today is very unfortunate.