Suleiman Gimba Ahmed (1938-2013): An exceptional gentle soul
By Hassan Gimba Ahmed | Publish Date: Feb 16 2013 Daily Trust 4:00AM
He walked into the hospital that day by himself, but before he left home, as if he foresaw his death, he showed his wives where he kept his shroud (likkafani) and Zamzam water. A week before he bade goodbye to this world, he had distributed some of his possessions to his children, named those he wanted to dig his grave, those who will first pour sand over him and left behind his will (wasiyya) through Imam Alkali Muhammad Ahmed whom he asked that should lead the funeral prayers for the repose of his soul.
My first dream on earth I still vividly recall was with him and the Prophet of Islam, Maulana Muhammad (SAW). It was either in 1968 or ’69. I was barely four to five years old and we were then in Gembu. In that dream, I walk up to the Prophet who stands under a tree, glowing in white attire. His shoes – the Arabian oriental with the toes curved inwards – were the type used by olden day royalties. I come to him on his right side. He turns onto me, smiling and pointed to his left, saying, in Hausa, ka kai wannan wa babanka (take this to your father). In the dream, I understood what he offered to be a bag of millet.
I grew up knowing my father as an upright man who feared God, loved his Prophet (SAW) and did his best to walk the straight but narrow path. He desired to inculcate such in us, his children. That was why we always had Qur’anic teachers coming to our house to teach us. He always wanted the best for us.
Suleiman Ahmed (1938-2013): An exceptional gentle soul
Alhaji Gimba Ahmed was born in Fika, Yobe State on November 6, 1938, where he started Elementary School in 1947. Being a son of the village Imam who taught children of the royals and those of the “subjects” as well as preached in the village and surrounding ones, that he had western education at all, it was such a good luck.
He excelled to the extent that his classmates at the Borno Middle School (which became a Provincial Secondary School before they passed out) nicknamed him “Professor”. That was the school he went to in 1951 from Potiskum Elementary School which absorbed pupils from Fika, Potiskum and other neighbouring divisions. In the words of Alhaji Ajiya Idriss who called that day to condole, Gimba Ahmed was a “Human Encyclopaedia.”
After passing out from the Borno Provincial Secondary School, now Government College, Maiduguri, he started work with the United Africa Company (UAC). His strong desire was not personal wealth, but to help his people through the public service. Thus he joined the Northern Nigeria Civil Service in 1961 as an Assistant Script Writer. He rose to be an acting Permanent Secretary in 1980 when the cutthroat politics of those days forced him to resign and rejoin the UAC as Regional Manager (North) in charge of AJ Seward and Kingsway Chemists.
Alhaji Gimba Ahmed established a flourishing maize farm at Kidandan, in Zaria, for the UAC. It did not stop at that as his 1976 report on Agricultural Staff Training as the then Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) in the Borno State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources led to the setting up of the Borno State College of Agriculture. Another report of his that same year was on Water Resources Administration which also led to the establishment of the Borno State Water Board. He became its first General Manager, in acting capacity, and it was at that time most of the major towns of Borno got boreholes, overhead tanks and pipelines distributing water to households and designated public places.
His responsibility at the Water Board was coupled with his position as DPS (he acted as Permanent Secretary on many occasions) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources where, together with other staff, he inspired the effort to restore Borno’s glory as the number one granary and meat shop of Nigeria. When he was the District Officer (DO), between 1967 and 1969, in charge of Gashaka/Mambila/Gembu (now Sardauna, Gashaka and Kurmi Local Government Areas in Taraba State), he also established a farm and started the process that led to the setting of a tea manufacturing company there, the renowned Highland Tea.
Though he achieved so much in administration and management and people knew him as an astute administrator and consummate manager, he was at a point in his career a journalist. He was Information and Tourism Officer in the Northern Civil Service and was promoted from Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Information, North Eastern State, to Acting Chief Information Officer. That was why among the various courses he attended were those at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (now FRCN) Training School in Lagos, BBC Training School in London and one other in Kenya which was organised by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). He also went to Switzerland for a course in Tourism.
Alhaji Gimba Ahmed was a man in love with the public service; hence despite the financial advantages in the private sector, he resigned from the UAC, despite pleadings and promises by the then Chairman of UAC, former (Interim) President, Chief Earnest Shonekan, and returned to Borno. He was subsequently appointed a Permanent Commissioner in the State Civil Service Commission. He was there from February 1989 till when Yobe State was curved out in 1991. He was made Permanent Commissioner 1 in Yobe and reappointed to the same office for a second and statutorily final tenure. He was there up to 2002. Before the expiry of his tenure, he was at the vanguard of laying a solid and befitting civil service in its true tradition and global best practice. He presented numerous papers at workshops, seminars and training/capacity building programmes for civil servants.
One of his hobbies was scouting. He was Secretary, Boys Scout, North East, Assistant Commissioner, Boys Scout, Borno and later Yobe in 2002. He was at Shere Hills, Jos, for the World Scout Jamboree which took place in 1977. A man who spoke English like a Briton, he was also fluent in Arabic, Hausa, Kanuri, French and his mother tongue, Bolewa.
He loved reading. From him we got the habit of reading vastly. His bookshelves were stacked with all sorts, from children’s books to different Encyclopaedias; from languages to books on Law, Medicine, Administration, Religion, History, Business, Engineering, etc. Growing up as kids, we always looked forward to his return from work because he must return with newspapers, local and international magazines including the Readers Digest. I recall when I went to Zaria in 1982 after my name was, among others, published in the New Nigerian as having successfully passed the entrance examination into the School of Basic Studies (SBS). He proudly told me: “I know you will see your name because you always read newspapers!”
A prolific writer, he had written a lot of articles on wide ranging topics in various newspapers in the 1960s among which are: Ajabul Aja’ib (The Wonder of Wonders), a history of the people of Fika Emirate [Manuscript], The Nigerian Public Services: On the Evaluation and Development of the Public Service, with particular reference to the services rendered to the country which also lies in manuscript. Others are: Urwatul Wuthqa (1991) Vol. 1, on the fundamentals of Islam and another monograph on recruitment in the civil service, 1993.
He always recited the Qur’an and did what Allah enjoins. Even when he died in Potiskum at 2.30pm on Monday, January 7, 2013 at 75, of natural causes, his death came to us as a shock and great loss. I was saddened when I received the text of the news of his death from my brother, Ahmed Gimba (Ba’aba). The weight of the loss crept. Thoughts of what I always wanted to do, but could not do for him overwhelmed me.
Many were equally shocked.
We extend our gratitude for their show of concern and efforts to make us bear the loss. Adamu Maina Waziri, former Minister of Police Affairs, was wonderful and stood by us just as Tijjani Musa Tumsah, the ANPP National Secretary was very concerned. Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State conveyed his sense of loss in a letter to the family. Alhaji Adamu Fika (Wazirin Fika), former Secretary and Head of Service to the Federal Government and Alhaji Ibrahim Talba (Ciroman Tikau), a retired Permanent Secretary who was my father’s neighbour; all commiserated with us. In the words of the Ciroman Tikau, “we have lost one of our most respected elders”. Alhaji Mustapha Sheriff (Mashidimami), who proudly tells everyone that “he was my Staff Officer”, was lost for words.
Alhaji Ahmadu Tijjani Suleman Maina, a Comptroller with the Nigeria Customs Service, prayed for our late father and Alhaji Salisu Adamu, a close friend who commiserated with us also felt the loss. Hassan A. Hassan, Head of Mass Communication, Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, is also one friend whose support cannot be quantified as well as the Yobe State Chapter of the NUJ and its Chairman, Ahmed Mohammed Bedu.
Special thanks to the Special Adviser to the Yobe State Governor on Information, Alhaji Abdullahi Bego. The Emir of Fika, Alhaji Muhammad ibn Abali ibn Muhammad Idrissa, has also been a pillar of support while Dr Mohammed Mamman, Executive Chairman, Yobe State Hospitals Management Board, a cousin of ours, who now is the official head of all our extended families after the death of our father, is doing his best to be a father to all. May Allah (SWT) be with him all the way.
May Allah (SWT) reward, with the best of His rewards, all of those who came, called, texted or sent emissaries.
While hoping and praying that he will continue to be remembered and prayed for by all those whose lives had been touched, one way or the other, by his wisdom and large heart, we beseech Allah (SWT) to forgive him and accept him into His presence and make Aljannatu Firdaus his abode.
Ahmed, writes from Potiskum, Yobe State. firstname.lastname@example.org