Alhaji Suleiman Baffa is a well-known banker and administrator. He was managing director of two old generation banks; the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Union Bank. He was also a managing director of the Nigerian Printing and Minting Company, which prints the naira notes. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, the 84-year-old former permanent secretary, who retired from active service in 1999, spoke on his experiences and services to the country, as well as other issues.
You were born in Auyo in the present day Jigawa State about 84 years ago, how would you describe the olden days?
I was born in Auyo but I can’t remember the day or even the month. I am now over 80 years. I do not count my age, but I followed the official one; whether it is correct or not is something different.
I attended junior primary school in Auyo and senior primary in Hadejia. I had my secondary school in the Kano Middle School, which is now called Rumfa College and started working at 18. But then, an opportunity came when I was told that there was a new training college for grade two teachers in Gombe, so I jumped at the opportunity and went there. I spent four years there and graduated as a grade two teacher. That was about the time northern Nigeria started having teachers’ certificate, which was equivalent to that of secondary school. It was a six-year training programme.
I started teaching in Hadejia, which was a new school also. Then an opportunity arose when there was an election at Hadejia and students were posted to conduct it. That was how I developed myself as a gentleman at the age of 18.
So you switched from teaching to administration?
Well, nobody wants to die a teacher. But there were very few schools in northern Nigeria, especially from middle to secondary school, to teacher training.
First, we were pioneers in the teacher training college I attended in Gombe, and with European teachers. The principal was an Englishman, the assistant principal was an English person also, and few local teachers.
From the whole of northern Nigeria I was the only one from Kano Province. Having completed all that and started working, the election came in two constituencies in Hadejia—North and South—and I happened to be an assistant, what they called electoral officer for Hadejia South.
And the person, a European, Johnson, who took Hadejia north, somehow loaded me with a very important position to ensure that we were doing the right thing, and so forth; and we should organise ourselves.
To cut the story short, at the end of the day, in Kano Province, Hadejia north and south became the third in the announcement of the results.
Was it a House of Assembly election?
Not House of Assembly; yes, House of Representatives.
Was the election the opening for you to become an administrative officer, where you went to Kongo, Zaria?
Yes, I went to Kongo with others who were selected from all parts of the North to have that kind of training, which was more about management, and of course, responsibility to handle everything well.
When you finished from Kongo you became an assistant district officer, moving around the North; tell us about life as a young administrative officer?
Well, as a district officer you were never posted to your own province, you had to be posted somewhere else, maybe to Sokoto or Zaria.
Did you go to Jos?
I went to Jos.
Was it strange or something you enjoyed as a young officer?
I was familiar with the territory, I had friends.
As a young administrative officer, how was your relationship with the Sardauna? Everybody had his Sardauna story: how he behaved; what was your experience with him?
Very close, especially when he came to Plateau. My name to him was Hadejia. I was in charge of the government guest house where he stayed at the local authority in Jos town. It was my responsibility to make sure that things went well.
What was he visiting Jos for?
Many things. I think that in the North he didn’t see any location that was more suitable for him. It was quite cool and clean. He also visited on the invitation of those companies doing one thing or another there. They invited him to launch or do something else.
Secondly, he wanted to really make sure that from time to time he was in Jos to rest.
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