It is difficult for one to write a tribute on his late dad who traversed most parts of the country and died in his prime when all his children were still young. However, being a man who was referred to as “a man of many parts’, it is not easy to say a few things about him.
It is 30 years since we lost our father, Mr. Philip Apurugba Maliki, on February 1, 1988, at the age of 52. It was indeed a sad situation; leaving our mother a widow at 44 years, without any work, to cater for six of us: Anthony the first, followed by the twins: Martha and Mary, then Ashoke, Iyima and Ozashawa. But along the line, we lost Martha and Iyima.
Our mum, Margaret Abingye, retired as a nurse from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) in 1982 at just 38 years and became a full-time housewife.
At the time of his death, we saw our dad as a very old man. But even as children, we recognised so many of his traits and achievements, especially for a middle-class worker that he was.
One thing I observed with dad was his love for communal relationship without bias to ethnicity or religion. This was exemplified in so many ways, and no wonder, many just referred to him as Maliki, disregarding his first name, Philip.
Another aspect was his love for his village people. Kaduna being a convergence hub of all northern people, many people from our village came to either seek admission at the Kaduna Polytechnic or the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, or for jobs. Many of them stayed in our house before settling down on their own.
Others seeking medical attention also stayed in our house, and our mum being a nurse, cared for them before they saw a doctor and thereafter.
Any time people came from our village, my dad would call us and say, “This is your elder brother, elder sister, aunt, uncle” and so on. In fact, it was when I grew up that I realised that many of those people were only from our village and not really our relatives.
It is now that we have come to realise that our father was a man of many parts; inherited from his father (our grandfather) who was said to be a man of many parts.
Our grandfather’s Jukun name was Agbeneba Ajidoku, but he was popularly called Maliki. He was a traditionalist who believed in communality. Maliki was the name his Muslim friends called him, and it stuck. They said he had the attributes of Prophet Abdulmalik; and it was said he liked the name.
Being a great fisherman and very generous, my grandfather traversed the length of the River Benue, stretching from his Abinsi community in Benue State to Numan in Adamawa State. His fishing expeditions also took him down the River Benue to River Niger in Lokoja, then Onitsha, and up the Niger to places like Jebba where he made many friends. These trips sometimes took many months before he returned to Abinsi to refresh, plan and set out again.
Even in Abinsi, many people that came from other parts of the country bonded with our grandad. As kids, on a visit to the village around 1980, my siblings and I were introduced to an old Hausa man called Babale; a blacksmith. We were told that he was our grandfather’s friend for a very long time. We bonded with this old man anytime we visited the village until he died and was buried in Abinsi.
As a young man, my dad always accompanied his dad on his fishing trips, hence it is believed that he took after his traits.
Dad also continuously talked about his secondary school mates at the Provincial School, Katsina-Ala, in Benue State, as if they were from the same village and of the same language. He was in the class of 1958 with the likes of the late Emir of Lafia, Dr. Mustapha Agwai I, a former Director General of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Kuru, Prof. Justice Tseayo, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. TY Danjuma (Rtd), Vice-Admiral Husseini Abdullahi (Rtd), Brig. Gen. John Atom Kpera (Rtd), among others. He told us how they related in school and still bonded after school.
Many times, he told us how as students, the late Emir of Lafia was referred to as “Sarki”. He spoke glowingly too about Gen. Danjuma, who he said he was close to in school. I always thought these people were his brothers.
Also, my dad’s relationship with his mother’s people contributed to his ties with many other people. His mum, Odoka, was Alago from Keana in Nasarawa State. She was the only female from her father.
When her father, Agbo, died, her mum, Oyola, was betrothed to his younger brother, Onyapa, and they gave birth to other children; it was such a very large family.
No wonder I was sent to Government Secondary School, Obi, an Alago-speaking town not far from Keana, while, my twin sisters: Martha and Mary, attended Government Girls College, Keana.
As kids, we also visited Keana regularly and received tremendous goodwill. In fact, in the months preceding dad’s illness leading to his death, his kindred took him to Keana to administer herbs on him before he was taken to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), where he died.
Upon completing secondary school, dad worked briefly in Minna, Niger State, and then moved to Kaduna and took appointment with Kingsway Super Market as stores clerk. He later joined Hamdala Hotel, Kaduna, in the same department when it was established by the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello. With many hotels then under the management of Arewa Hotels, a subsidiary of Northern Nigerian Development Company (NNDC), dad was transferred to Durbar Hotel, Kaduna, in 1978, rising to the position of purchasing manager, then to Durbar Hotel, Lagos, as senior purchasing manager. He retired in 1987.
Another aspect of dad’s life was his love for sports. He told us he played every game available in school and did a lot of athletics and was nicknamed “Field Marshal”. He played hockey for Nigeria in the 1960s and travelled to many countries, winning honours for the country. He also played football for clubs in Minna and Kaduna.
He never missed any major sporting event in Kaduna, especially challenge cup matches played at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, and always prided as being there when Sardauna opened the stadium in 1963.
We console ourselves that he lived a good life as we remember dad 30 years after. Continue to rest in the bosom of the Lord.
Engr. Maliki works at the ECOWAS Commission, Abuja