In Nigeria where the World Health Organization has put male life expectancy at below the age of 60, it is news that a man at the age of 90 is still going strong.
His story is that of a family with a strong DNA for survival against all odds. Born on October 2, 1931 to a man who was a store keeper in the colonial railway, his father had a work history with the missionaries whom he left in 1922 prior to joining the railways. His father lived in abject poverty; so poor he could hardly feed himself let alone raise a family.
Then his father met this Fulani woman from Yola to whom he got married in 1925. By 1928, they got their first child who died unfortunately. That was how Adamu Baikie became the first child of the family. The urge to conquer the suffocating poverty in the family was always there so when he saw an advert in the papers looking for a hand to be employed in the electricity sector of the Kano Province Native Authority, he put pen to paper and applied. Mercifully, he got the job and by 1932, a year after Adamu was born in Zaria, the father Baikie made Kano a place the Baikies call home up till date. He was first posted to a place they used to call Gidan Ruwa and later by dint of honesty and hard work he got posted to many positions in the Emirate Council of Kano.
Poverty was already defeated in this round of the fight.
This determination to defeat was always there in the family blood. Adamu Baikie’s father, a Shuwa Arab was attending to his father’s farm scaring away birds that were destroying the crops when a slave raiding expedition from the Arab world swooped on him. The British soldiers who were out to stop slavery and slave trade then rescued him. But he lost all contacts with his father and all his three brothers. Today, Adamu Baikie looks back with melancholy:
“When you go to North Africa you will see a lot of black people; they are mostly from Nigeria. They were taken there to be enslaved but luckily, my father was freed,” he told the Daily Trust newspaper, recently.
The British intervention brought an end to slavery and the trade in slaves. It also brought a new system of government all over what later became known as Nigeria. This system had its headquarters in what is known as Zungeru today. People who wanted to savor the freedoms which the new system offered trooped there to try their luck. Adamu Baikie’s father joined the train by trekking fom Dikwa to Ibbi, to Lokoja then to Zungeru.
At Zungeru, he was engaged in many odd jobs until sweet mother luck smiled at him. The missionaries in search of young people they wanted to educate came and after a thorough selection process picked six of them. It turned out that he was one of the brightest of the six. There was a Travelling Secretary of The Missions (TSM) and his father became the secretary of the Travelling Secretary. Through this contact with the missionaries, his father was able to get little education which later proved very useful in his career and progress.
He maintained his Christian beliefs but worked mainly among and with Muslims – the Madaki, the Galadima and finally with the Emir of Kano himself, the late Abdullahi Bayero. He never went to office on Fridays but came to work on Sundays. It didn’t bother him that he was a Christian because that was the rule. Thus he became almost indispensable in the Kano Native Authority system until he retired in 1949.
The senior Baikie made his mark as a man to be trusted. He helped illiterate Muslims to fill the forms to go to Makkah for many years and at a time worked with Dantata and Ibrahim Musa Daggash who was a Minister of Lands and Survey under the government of the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. He was very comfortable with his identity as a Kano man except for the strange name Baikie which he got from the Reverend Minister who was his teacher in Bida. When he was to be baptized there as a Christian, his teacher offered his name Bakie which he himself got from the original Bakie, the adventurer who explored Nigeria with the legendry Reverend Ajayi Crowder in 1854.
This contact with the missionaries made it possible for the young Adamu to now have access to western education. While his father was working with the Kano Emirate Council, a Missionary in the city by name Dr Miller started a small church and a school in Fagge when he arrived in 1929 and by 1934, he was able to build a church for the Hausa speaking people and a primary school. That was where Adamu started his educational career in 1939.
And then tragedy struck, well almost. His father took him and his junior brother to Lokoja to visit some old friends they had been to school together with in Bida. It appeared there was an agreement to leave the two young lads with the old friends to go to school together there. Sadly the agreement was broken as soon as their father left and the two children became vagabond hawkers in Lokoja. His junior brother got lost but he was lucky to be found wandering by a Good Samaritan while his junior bother remained lost for 12 years. Adamu on return could not get back his position in the Holy Trinity School in Kano but was lucky to be admitted in the St. Bartholomew Middle School in Wusasa Zaria.
Amazingly, after 12 years, another Good Samaritan found him still hawking in the market. He was brought home and through self-education with encouragement from the father, the lost brother became a successful man and worked at Fagge Dispensary, Beecham and IBBI international Breweries where I personally met him and we became friends in Kaduna in 1982. Typical Bakie style of overcoming odds.
In those days, most upcoming lads from the north went to Barewa or Keffi College. Oddly, as fate would have it, Adamu didn’t go to any of these but to a Missionary Teacher Training College on January 14 1949. By 1951 he had passed out as a grade 3 teacher and posted to Gusau as a teacher. By 1953, he was recalled to the Missionary Teachers College and made to head the primary School attached to the College. By 1954 he already bagged his grade 2 certificate.
When the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) was established in 1962, there was need to accelerate staff development. Through the help of USAID, a graduates-in-training program was developed and Adamu Baikie was one of the early beneficiaries. He was sent to study in the USA, returning to Nigeria in 1964 with a Master’s degree and was eventually appointed a professor in 1971 at the age of 40.
Since becoming a Professor, Adamu Baikie has turned himself into an institution in Nigeria and Africa. He has presided over two universities in Nigeria – Benin and Nassarawa State as Vice Chancellor. He has also presided over the National University of Lesotho in Southern Africa as a Vice Chancellor.
Even as he turned 90 years of age, good old Professor Adamu Baikie is back at the Nassarawa State University which he left almost ten years ago. This time as Pro- Chancellor and Chairman Council of the University. What a great man.