Last week Saturday January 18, 2020 was memorable for old students of the College of Arts and Islamic Studies (CAIS), Minna when they marked the 50th anniversary of their alma mater. The occasion which was organized by College of Arts and Islamic Studies Old Students Association (CAISOSA) was used to recognize the achievements attained by some of its members that have distinguished themselves in their respective fields of endeavor.
Shortly before the start of the occasion, the principal of the college, Alhaji Shehu Yunusa Adam, took old students round physical structures and facilities; some of them in dilapidated state. Returning to the hall that served as venue of the event, the occasion began with an opening prayer and recitations from the Glorious Qur’an. The two Masters of Ceremony (MC), Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar Sadiq and Alhaji Umar Kaduna quickly took the audience through brief introduction of members of the “High Table” and the awardees.
At the beginning of his speech, the Interim President of CAISOSA, Alhaji Muhammad Idris ACGP (rtd) announced a template of how every member of CAISOSA would address the audience. He said whoever stood up to speak should mention his full name, admission number, the set of class he belonged to, and his nickname (if any) while a student in CAIS. He said his nickname was ‘Disco’. He continued by giving a history of the college, which started in 1971 as Ahmadiyya Secondary School operating then at a temporary site in Sabongari area, close to Minna central market. As a co-education school, male and female students, Muslims as well as Christians, were admitted into the school. In 1973, the school was taken over by the then North-Western State and had its name changed to Government Arabic Teachers College (GATC); admitting only male students. Female students were consequently transferred to Government Girls Secondary School, Bida.
Later in 1977, the school had its name changed to College of Arts and Islamic Studies; to become a replica of the College of Arts and Arabic Studies (CAAS), Sokoto. The Higher Islamic Studies (HIS, previously called Higher Muslim Studies) section was eventually introduced in addition to the existing Grade II section. In 1977, the school was moved to another temporary site at the then Sarkin Zango primary school (now Government Day Secondary School Minna). Before the school was moved to its present site at Tudun Fulani in 1981, students’ hostels were rented apartments scattered in Paida, Kuta road, and Sabongari (near old motor garage) areas of Minna. To conclude his speech, ‘Senior’ Idris (rtd) gave a historical account of CAISOSA, its Board of Trustees, Interim National Executives and its activities.
Next was the turn of the chairman of CAISOSA Steering Committee, Alhaji Muhammad Maude, mni, to give a welcome address. Alhaji Maude who is also the Madami Lapai and former Head of Service of Niger State explained the justification of harmonizing between interim executive and the steering committee. Soon after Madami’s address, the hall became a bit noisy as old students engaged themselves in greetings, self-introductions, tributes, encomiums, conversations, homages and exchange of phone numbers and address. When ‘Senior’ Idris (ACGP, rtd) took the mic and said he was going to ask noise makers in the hall to ‘kneel down’, the MC announced that it was a privileged occasion for interaction among people who are now long bearded with grey-hairs and have not seen themselves for decades. They should therefore be allowed to intermingle as freely as possible.
Few of my classmates attended the event including the current Comptroller General (CG) of the Federal Fire Service (FFS); Alhaji Ibrahim Liman who was the head boy of our set, Alhaji Abdu-Naeem Abdus-Salam from whom no one in our class could snatch over-all 1st position, from our form one through form five; Alhaji Garba Saka (Jemeema), Alhaji Sule Ahmed (Kekere) who is an Immigration officer; Alhaji Yau Aliyu; Alhaji Ibrahim Muhammad Kontagora (Lanky) who was our food prefect; Alhaji Abubakar Usman (Coach) who was the class monitor we couldn’t remove after many attempts; Alhaji Abdulkadir Umar (Whizzy); and Muhammad Alhassan.
Some school mates at the occasion include Alhaji Yusuf Sulaiman (Susco) who is the current Commissioner of Water Resources in Niger State; Barr M. T. Zakari who is the Commissioner for Environment in Niger State; Barr Rabiu Muhammad Bida; Alhaji Hamzat, Senior Ismaila Umar with whom I stayed in the same room while he was the House Captain in hostel ‘A’; Senior Isyaku (Flamingo); Senior Usman (labour prefect); and Senior Sulaiman Muhammad. Other seniors at the occasion include Senior Ibrahim Muhammad Anzak who was the Imam and Mu’adhin (caller to prayer) in Hostel ‘A’; Senior Bayo (Skido); and Senior AbdulHamid Yusuf all of whom belonged to the first set of the college that graduated in 1975. AbdulHamid (nicknamed Captain Billy Cusmos) was the head boy of the first set. Senior Anzak has refused to grow old!
The event was an occasion for reminiscences, storytelling, and fond memories of past events including the ridiculous name (FAG) with which form one students were called; and the types of punishment that existed then in the college such as ‘P.1’. It was also a moment to renew relationships and for giving thanks to our creator as some of us came there with walking sticks. While discussing with one of my school mates there, we recalled the bloody evening when in 1976 students of our school (then called GATC) clashed near hostel ‘A’ with the military police; leading to the death of one of them. Men of the military police had gone to ‘relax’ in Paida area where our hostel was located. Paida had all the features of a red-light district in Paris. The military men returned at dusk and brutalized everyone at sight; sending dozens with broken hands and legs to the casualty ward of the Minna General Hospital. I hate to remember that fateful day.
Awardees at the occasion include the CG of the FFS, two serving commissioners in Niger State, Grand Qadi of the Niger State Sharia Court of Appeal, senior officers in the armed forces, police and para-military, professors and some senior academics including Professor Ibrahim Husam. When I was called out to be recognized with an award, I gave my full name, my admission number ‘223’, and announced that I had no nickname but everyone in the college called me ‘small Ndagi’. I belonged to the fifth set which came in 1974 and graduated in 1979 (41 years ago). I then brought out my college identity card and gave it to members of the ‘High Table’ to confirm. After seeing the ID card, many of them said I actually earned the name ‘small Ndagi’.
When I was asked to respond on behalf of all the awardees, I thanked Allah (SWT) for sparing our lives to witness the occasion and appreciated the organizers for honouring us. I expressed gratitude to our teachers who laid the foundation of what we are today. Two staff members, Mr Adams (Ma’a Salam) and Hajiya Inna-Malle (the head cook during our time) attended the occasion. GATC was a school without a library, dining hall, and sports field; yet Allah made us what He wanted us to be. Speaking as a Guest of Honour, the CG of FFS recalled that most of our teachers were Grade II teachers. The CG, however, ‘yabbed’ me with banters when he said they were helping me to climb my double-bunk bed when we were in form one. The occasion ended with a closing prayer offered by Shaykh Musa Ibrahim, an old student and former principal of the college. May Allah reward the organizers, amin.