AN EXTRACT FROM “MY LIFE” ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY LATE ALHAJI YUSUF IDIARO.
EXTRACTED AND TYPED BY ABDULHAMEED AYO IDIARO (HIS YOUNGEST CHILD).
SOURCE: ORIGINAL WRITING OF LATE ALHAJI YUSUF IDIARO (SOME LETTERINGS HAVE PEELED OFF DUE TO PASSAGE OF TIME BUT I HAVE TRIED TO CAPTURE THE MEANING AS ACCURATELY AS POSSIBLE IN SUCH CASE)
TYPED FROM THE ORIGINAL WRITING:
I was born in the year 1920, as I was told, as there was no birth registration during the time. I grew up at Idiaro Area near the Emir’s market Ilorin.
In the year 1934, I entered Okesuna Elementary School, which had been the only Elementary School in the whole of Ilorin. It was that year that the second Elementary School in Ilorin town was established at Pakata. When I was in the Elementary School, I used to take 1st position in all the examinations. There was one Abdurahim Okekere who also took 1st position in Pakata school in their examinations.
In 1938, we took entrance examination to the Middle School, now G.S.S. Those of us that passed the examination were called for another test at the Middle School. I was one of the successful candidates. I was then admitted into the first class called Remove class. We were admitted to the Middle School together (with Abdurahim Okekere). Since the beginning at the Middle School, if I took first position, he would take second, or when he took first, I would take second.
The second year, I was in Middle one. One day, at the Middle one, the European in charge of Ilorin province on education matters came to our class and said that Abdulrahim Okekere and myself were wasting our time in the class and that the two of us should be promoted to Middle two with immediate effect. We were now in Middle two. At the end of our first month, I took first position in the monthly examination while Abdurahim Okekere took the second. From the date of the release of the examination results, the whole class became unfriendly to the two of us. We continued like that until 1941 when the Army took over the Middle School during the world war II, The Hitler’s war. Those of us in Middles three and four were moved to Bida Middle School while those in Middle one and two were moved to Omu-Aran Native Authority School and the Remove class was moved to Okesuna School.
Early in 1942, we took entrance examination to Kaduna College, now called Barewa College, which was for the whole northern region. Four of us passed the examination, we were (1) late Emir of Lafiage, called Umaru Okeode, (2) Nagode Itakure, (3) Abdurahim Okekere, who opted for the law school Kano because he was also very good in Arabic, and (4)Myself.
25 of us were then admitted into the college from all over the northern region. On resumption, we were told that we were too many, therefore, there would be a weeding examination by the end of the first year. At the end of the year, Seven were weeded out of our class, remaining only 18 in our class.
In 1944, we passed out with the examination called Middle six examination. Before we finished, every one of us was asked to choose the type of work that we would like to do. I then chose Administration. Later, I was called to the then secretariat in Kaduna where I was told that I was needed to come to Ilorin to teach at the then Middle school. I was told to do so for one year, at the end of the year, if I wish to go back to my original choice, I would be free to do so as the employment would be kept for me that year. But if I would like to continue with the teaching, I should continue.
When I started teaching, I was not happy with the then Provincial Education Officer, Mr A.L.B. Hay, an European who was worrying me not to put on shoes to the classroom. I then told the Headmaster, Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki, that I would leave as I did not agree with the white man who wanted me to be going to school bare footed. I told him that even in the college, Barewa college, where most of our teachers were Europeans, we were allowed to go to our classes with our shoes. The Headmaster then cooled me down, and told me that as far as he was concerned, he did not mind my wearing shoes to the classrooms. I then ignored the European officer. I had my shoes on, one morning, he came to my class and found that I was with my shoes on, I said good morning to him but he did not answer me. The following day, my class was the first for him to visit. I too ignored him. He then went out. Not much longer, the officer was posted to Kano. A few months later, I was asked to go to Kano for a teacher’s course under the supervision of the same officer under whom I had wanted to resign. We were to go from Ilorin to Kabba provinces to go for the course. The other person was Alhaji Obadaki, who was my classmate at Barewa College. I told him the story of the officer, Mr. A.L.B Hay, about wearing of shoes. He too said that he would resist going about without shoes.
On arrival at Kano, we went to report to the officer, who, to my surprised, received me very warmly. He even offered on his own, to lend me some money, which I received. Since then, in the whole school, only the two of us were wearing shoes to the classrooms. All other teachers would put their shoes off before getting into the classrooms.
At the end of the course, an inspector came from Kaduna who inspected our work, and the two of us passed the examination. I was then back to Ilorin Middle School.
By the year 1950, I got married to the daughter of the kind Headmaster, who stopped me from resigning from the school.
In 1951, I was called for an interview in Kaduna together with other people, we were 150 all together. After the interview, 10 of us from the North were selected to go for another interview in Lagos, where we would be interviewed with others from all over Nigeria.
On the day that my first daughter was born, someone brought a newspaper to me to see my name on the list of those selected by the Federal Government to go to the University of London on scholarship.
Out of the ten of us from the Northern region that went for the interview, only two of us were selected for the scholarship, myself and Aliyu Goroso from Kano.
In 1952, we sailed to Liverpool in M.V Aurial, the most modern ship at that time. The journey was pleasant. It took us two weeks to get to Liverpool. Our first stop was Takoradi where we spent 10 hours. We took that opportunity to go to Secondi by taxi on site seeing. Our next stop was Las Pamas, a beautiful Canary Island. By the end of the second week, we arrived at Liverpool. We were met in the boat by the student officer at the Colonial office who was in charge of Nigerian students, Dr Biobaku, now Professor Biobaku, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos. From Liverpool, we were put on the train that took us to London. From the railway station, we were taken to Sloons garden, a temporary accommodation, from where everybody would look for his own accommodation.
When I was in Nigeria, I heard so much about a student hostel called Hans Crescent in Knights Bridge, in London. We all rushed there for accommodation, but we were only recorded for waiting list, as accommodation there was scarce. We kept going there, but each time we would be told that we could not see the Director who was in charge of the Hostel. It was a British Council Hostel.
One day when I was there, I saw Mr. Steward, who was the British Council for Nigeria. I knew him and he knew me very well, because I was the secretary for the British Council in Nigeria. I used to arrange lectures for the British Council sponsored lecturers coming to Nigeria, and I used to keep their travelling Library in Nigeria, when I was at the same time the secretary for the Extra Mural studies of the University of Ibadan. Mr. Steward asked me when I arrived in London, and what I was looking for. I told him that it was the problem of accommodation that brought me there. He then asked me to wait for him. He then went in, after the secretary had got him cleared to see the Director, who was difficult to see. When Mr. Steward came out, he was escorted out by the Director whom we would see for the first time. When the Director saw me, he said “Mr. Idiaro, you are welcome here”. I then found him to be Mr. Paget, who came to Ilorin on a lecture tour under the auspices of the British Council, and it was I who arranged his lecture which took place at the African Club in Ilorin. He asked what my problem was and I told him that I was not yet able to get an accommodation. He then called his secretary and told her to locate a self contained accommodation for me on that very day. Other students were surprised how I was able to get accommodation there. The hostel was very convenient and close to a tube station, Knight Bridge.
When I was in London, I was able to go to Paris for a summer holiday course for three weeks. It was warm there. In UK, I also visited Cambridge, and Oxford Universities. I was also able to visit various country sides officially and privately, such as Court, Surry, etc. At the end of the course, I was one of the successful candidates.
I then returned to Nigeria by the same M.V. Aureal Boat. At Apapa port, I was met by many friends. I was warmly received by friends, as anyone that came back from England in those days would be highly honoured. Many wanted to take photographs with me. I later returned to Ilorin by train. I was met at the Railway Station by many people.
When I resumed work, I was given an automatic promotion with seven years increment. I was at the Middle School for a few months before I was asked to go and take charge of a Boarding school at Baboko in Ilorin, which was for students all over Ilorin province.
I was at the school when my first daughter was to start school. It was the year that Baptist school was established but they could not get children to recruit to their school, while I was facing the problem of too many children whose parents wished to send them to my school. Many of such parents would not listen that they could send their children to the Baptist school nearby. My own child was there. That was how the Baptist School was able to take off. Though, I later pulled out my daughter from the school for a boarding one at Offa.
Sometime after my successful stay at Baboko School, it was directed from Kaduna that I should be posted to the boarding school that was catering for the whole of Ilorin North, at Malete. The school at Malete was to be closed down because it was badly run. The standard was poor, the health of the students was poor, almost everyone had crowcrow. By the end of that year, we had 100% success at the school leaving examination. Many of my students then have now become important people e.g. one of them is SMG, one is now a judge of Sharia Court of Appeal.
When I left Malete, I was asked to return to Baboko since I had put Malete School into a proper order. The students that had ran away from the school returned on their own saying that the good news of the school reached them and that was the reason why they wanted to be back there.
In 1959, I was asked to go to Bauchi for an Inspectorate course. When I got to Jos where I stayed the night with a European friend, Mr. Gaskell, who arranged a dinner party for me, among the invitees at the dinner was an Inspector of Education from Kaduna, Mr. Spiser, who was then telling me that with my grade, I would be used to teach the students of the Teacher Training College in Bauchi.
After spending six months in Bauchi, I was coming home on holidays, when I called at Kaduna. In Kaduna, I was told that I was posted to Katsina. I then said I should be allowed to have my holidays first. As soon as I got to Ilorin, I was told that it was a pity that I would not be able to get a holiday. Because the then Education Officer who was in charge of Education Administration, my father in law, Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki of Ilorin, would be going on leave and that I should take over from him immediately. I therefore had no leave. I took up the job without handing over or taking over since the former officer was travelling out of the town. I therefore started by creating and gathering experience from left and right.
My first problem in the office was that many people were trooping in for help as to get their children into primary and secondary schools. I then decided to get more primary schools established. The following were then established: (1) An abandoned weaving centre at Pakata was turned into a school. (2) I got hold of an Alhaji at Adeta to release a piece of land at Adeta for the establishment of Adeta School. (3) I got hold of a Magaji at Karuma who surrendered a piece of land for the establishment of Karuma School. (4) Alore School was also established. (5) Pake School was opened. (6) Okelele School was also established. This exercise went on in the town and in the villages.
In one village called Babaloke in Ipaye District, I decided to establish a school there, because in many Districts, Ilorin Northern Districts in particular, the parents did not want to send their children to school and the children always ran away from schools. When I went to the village, I found that there was no water for people to drink. I then called the people that they should support a school by sending their children there and that I would sink a modern well for the school and that the whole village could use the well, to make them know the value of a school. Some of the schools in such areas were made boarding, and houses were built for the teachers there.
One major problem was for the children of Ilorin town and Ilorin North to get admission into Secondary Schools. I then decided to get a post Primary school established where the children will spend two years after primary education. I did this because during the common entrance examinations, children from Ilorin town, Ilorin North, Borgu and Lafiagi/pategi usually trail behind those that came from other areas, especially from Mission schools. But with the post primary education, the children from there always passed very well and as a result of this many of them got places in the secondary schools. With the achievement of the success of the children of Ilorin town in particular, some enemies of Ilorin lobbied and got the post primary school closed down because it was serving a section of the community.
Once again, I became a beggar for the children of Ilorin origin at the various community secondary schools, such as Offa Grammar School, Oro Grammar School, Esie Iludun Grammar School, Isanlu Isin Grammar School and many others. Through my position I was able to get many of the children of Ilorin origin into various such institutions.
The problem that I had was that those institutions had their own children to cater for. However, they were accepting as many of Ilorin children as they could admit. Yet, many children were left without places to go to.
I then initiated another idea of having a Secondary School for Ilorin town. The way to do it was not strange to me since I was the one that processed the establishment of many other Secondary Schools, such as those of Oro, Esie Iludun, Omupo, St Clears Offa and many others. I then summoned a few people of Ilorin origin and explained to them the problems being encountered by the Ilorin people in getting their children to post primary schools and that the solution is to establish a secondary school of our own for Ilorin town.
After the meeting, I went to brief the then Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari and requested for his support. He then gave me go ahead. The necessary forms were completed by me. I went to Kaduna several times and to Lagos once for various briefing. I then got the proposed school registered with the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs with 3 Sortees (1) The Emir of Ilorin (2) Alhaji……………………………… (3) Alhaji Yusuf Idiaro.
I then organized a fund raising activity with the Emir of Ilorin presiding at the Palace Cinema House Ilorin. I also sent letters of appeal to various individuals at home and outside. With the money realized, we started building the Administrative block and some classrooms. I had previously got the plans approved in Kaduna for the school. After necessary things have been provided for the school, the application for its establishment was approved. Among the things that we had to provide was water. We then sunk a well. I also moved a water tank from the old weaving centre at Pakata to the school which I had changed into a primary school. It was serving the school for the kitchen and dormitory use.
Through my appeal to known individuals, water was supplied to the school which was paid for by Alhaji Saadu Alanamu who was then in Lagos. Also, Dr. Olushola Saraki also paid six thousand pounds to NEPA then called ECN to bring Light to the school from the town. While some other individuals donated cash to the school.
We then advertised the post of the Principal which was well responded to. We then conducted an interview and the first Principal was appointed. An entrance examination was conducted and many Ilorin children were admitted into the school. I then became relieved as I was no more a beggar for Ilorin Children that I had been fighting for for some years and which was hardly realized by the people of Ilorin.
What Ilorin people wanted was whatever they wanted must be achieved, if not you the helper did not want to help and you are blackmailed for it.
Coming to the Land on which Ilorin Grammar School was established, I went from house to house to meet the owners of various parts of the land. I gave some of them some money from my salaries, savings, and personal borrowings so as to leave part of their family or individual land to the school.
In due course, one particular family put the school to court for the use of their land. On this, I attended Magistrate court twice, Upper Area Court three times, but I won the case for the school in all the cases and in all the courts. This was so because I acquired the land in a clean way. Before the C of O was granted to the school, The Ilorin Provincial District officer, Mr. Stafford called a meeting at Ilorin Secretariat, of all the people from whom I got the land for the school, and some officials of the then Native Authority and The Emir’s representative. At the meeting, the P.D.O asked all the land owners to confirm if they actually surrendered their land to me for the proposed Ilorin Grammar School, which they all confirmed. The C of O was later approved for the land, for the school, after the recommendation of the P.D.O to Kaduna.
Social activities: It was before I left Kaduna College, now called Barewa College, in the year 1944, I was called by the then principal of the college, Mr. E.L Mart, that since I was going to work in Ilorin, they would like to have a Scout Troop to be established in Ilorin. Mr. Mart was the Scout Commissioner for the then Northern Region. At the college, I was one of the patrol Leaders for the scout.
I then started the Scout Troop at the St. Barnabas School Ilorin. Before I came back to Ilorin, there was one UAC staff, Mr. Durosaro who had interest in scouting. He had the intention to start scouting, but he could not start anything when he was transferred to Ibadan from Ilorin. He became my friend on account of this. We later met in London, when he was studying law and when I too was a student at the University of London. He is now a Chief in Ibadan and he has been holding important positions in Ibadan and Lagos.
Scouting had since became well known in Ilorin, and I went for various Scout courses in Nigeria, in Ghana and in England.
When I was the scout master, when I was then a teacher at the Middle School, one European, Mr. O. Neil who was brought to Ilorin to start a Teacher Training College, now the ITC, called me and told me that the Regional Government at Kaduna wanted us to start a Red Cross Society. He and I then started one which has since been existing up till now. Many people, men and women have since been trained in First Aid, which was the main purpose of starting the society.
Shortly after this British Council Group was inaugurated in Ilorin, I was recommended to the British Council Representatives that came from Ibadan and (….part torn off)…… then Resident that I was to be the secretary for the British Council for (….partly torn off but most likely “Ilorin”) Province. I was to organize lectures and visits for British people that came to Nigeria either on a lecture tour or on visits. I was also to keep a Travelling Library.
During this time, Extra Mural Study was also organized by the University of Ibadan through the British Council. I was also asked to be the Secretary for the Extra Mural studies. I was the one organizing the lectures conducted by the staff of the University. It was started by Dr. Gardiner, later a professor at a University in Australia.
I recruited students for the Extra Mural Studies Course. One of the students was the former Deputy Governor of Kwara State, Chief Oyeyipo and many others.
We had a Union called Ilorin Progressive Element comprised of people like late A.A Jiwa, Late Abdurahim Okekere, Alhaji Saidu Kawu, Alhaji Baker, Late Sidiku Gegele, and many others. We used to meet in my house, and I was the President of the Union. We used to organize various activities. Alhaji Saidu Kawu was the Activity Organiser of the union.
(This remaining part of the story had two pages before it which is now nowhere to be found):
It was Nigerian Government that made the arrangement. It was there that we, the successful candidates met ourselves. Afternoon tea was made for us and we were taught how to take tea, how to sip it and not to drink it like water etc. A dinner was also prepared and we were taught how to handle fork and knife. How to say yes please, or no thank you when you are offered more food or drink.
I, as a person had many European friends in Ilorin then, most of them invited me to dinner or tea in their houses.
One particular one, who was then the District Officer Incharge Ilorin Province invited me and my wife and my little daughter- late Afusat, to come for a weekend in his GRA house from Friday afternoon, so as to teach us how to sleep and how to do many other things.
On our way to England, we travelled by Boat, called M.V. Orial, the only system of travelling to United Kingdom in those days was by boat. It was during the voyage that we put our previous learning into
practice, such as feeding, sleeping, shopping, talking to people and making friends, some of my mates then are still very good friends to me.
END OF THE WRITING
Alhaji Yusuf Idiaro is the Grand Father of Abdulazeez Idiaro