Alhaji Abubakar Akanbi Jos is the 11th Balogun Alanamun of Ilorin, Kwara State. He was a member of the committee that designed an operating progamme for the Nigerian Air Force when the colonial masters left. In this interview he spoke on his working experience with Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto; Muhammadu Ribadu, a former minister of defence, and Ali Mungono, who was also a minister. He also spoke on his experience during the Second World War.
How would you describe your early days?
I was born on February 2, 1926. My mother's name is Hauwa'u and my father's is Iliasu, but I used Bello Belko throughout my education career. That is the name on all my documents till now. Bello Belko was my father's elder brother, but nobody knew the difference between them.
I attended elementary school between 1935 and 1936. Although I didn't know my age, one Alhaji Sa'adu Mbe kept record of everything, including that of the date of my birth. That's why I cannot really say I was in the dark concerning the year I was born.
I attended Pakata Elementary School, which was built in 1934. The first pupils of the school were my brothers, such as Olookooba, Adebimpe, Dasuki, Alfa Saliu Sarumi, and one Oba Oshogo (King of Oshogbo). We nicknamed him Oba Oshogbo because he was bearing the same name was the then traditional ruler of Oshogbo. So, as a sign of respect for the monarch, we decided not to call him by his name. Oba Oshogbo was the dispenser who usually took care of us, especially the injured ones. He was in charge of medicine.
I also attended Okesunnah Elementary School, from where I proceeded to Omun-Aran. We were sent to Omun-Aran the year Alalubosa Middle School was stopped because of the Hitler war that broke out. They brought soldiers who took over our dormitories, with all the white education officers.
The government then decided to take all the third and fourth classes to Bida while second and first classes were taken to Omun-Aran. I was among those who were taken to Omun-Aran while my elder brothers went to Bida. We all came back to Ilorin in 1945 when the Hitler war ended. The soldiers that were brought from Congo Kinshasha were almost of the same height.
I also attended the Clerical Training College, Zaria, between 1948 and 1949, after which I proceeded to the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), where I read Public Administration before I had the opportunity to travel abroad.
As a child, what was your experience when the Hitler war broke out?
The war started in September 1939. I can remember the date because one of my late friends known as Adebiyi usually made reference to it. It started before our very eyes, but he was older than me, as well as more educated and experienced. As children we didn't know the implication of the war; we would just sing and say, "The war started today, the soldiers should get ready to conquer it," and so on. The war was fought for good five years.
Can you remember some of your contemporaries who made landmark achievements and are still alive?
Even if I still have some of them alive, I don't know because they are not being announced in the public. I can say I am the only one who is still alive that people still make reference to.
What was your experience at the Clerical Training College in Zaria?
I was in that school between 1948 and 1949 where I met the Emir of Zaria when we were about rounding off our studies. He prayed for us in Hausa language and said, "Allah yabamu lafiya ko ba rai" (may we be healthy, even in death). He asked if anybody had a question concerning the prayer and I raised my hand and asked why he prayed for health even in death and the essence of peace in death. He said he knew somebody would ask such question. He said the essence of prayer for a dead person was the same as the alms we give on behalf of our loved ones who are late. That was how I gained a new knowledge from the monarch that year.
Alhaji Abubakar Akanbi Jos, the 11th Balogun Alanamun of Ilorin left and some old friends
Who were your schoolmates in Zaria?
That was a long time ago. We were just 48 in the school and we were divided into three classes for the capacity of the teachers to go round all the students. I remember one particular person who usually made us laugh. His name was Usman Jalingo. He was embarrassed when he saw us, so he could no longer stay. His wife was scared of us and ran away. We asked what the problem was, but before he answered us, our typewriting teacher wrote what he wanted us to type for him on the board. But instead of typing what we were asked to type, Usman Jalingo started typing, "My wife has run away, my wife has run away." When we saw it we were all laughing, so the teacher told us to go and look for his wife for him. We went out, but unfortunately, even if we saw the woman we would not recognise her because we didn't know her. Her dressing might be different from that of Zaria people. They said we should give him time to go and look for her. He went in search of the woman but he was scared to bring her into our midst because all their lives they had never met more than four or five people. So, when they saw 48 people they were surprised, which was why his wife ran away. There was also one Balarabe who was from Kiru. Many believed he was too pompous because anytime he was fomenting trouble he would not want it to end. And he was my very close friend. He could get angry at any slight provocation.
How would you compare what obtained during your days in Zaria and what is happening now?
There is a big difference. At that time, people were more tolerant, but nowadays many are not patient. Those we met in those days tolerated us a lot. One day, Ilorin indigenes in Zaria, such as one Atanda Ori Oko in Ilorin and another person from Share, named Baba, who liked comedy a lot, got into trouble of sorts. We went out but got back late, about 11pm. When we were going back to Kongo where our dormitory was, one policeman stopped us and my friends started speaking English. All of a sudden, the policeman said, "Uwaka, Seriki England." They got annoyed, carried their bicycles and wanted to leave. The policeman stopped them and said he arrested them because of where they were going. He also said he arrested them because they were speaking English to him and that the then Emir of Zaria knew he was out on duty. I also remember a beggar who usually came out on weekends. He would say, "Give me alms because of God; if you do it, you do it to yourself, if you don't, you didn't do it for yourself." If he passed your side before you called him back, he won't come back to you.
Nigerians are now highly segregated; what do you think are the problems?
People have really changed from what they used to be. People were more tolerant than now. It is incomparable. You cannot compare me with children of nowadays.
You also attended the Obafemi Awolowo University. What was your experience there?
It was a splendid experience. We studied how to settle arguments between people such that it won't escalate.
Some of my mates from Ilorin are late. I got scholarship to Pittsburg University, Pennysylvania in USA from the Federal Government between 1977 and 1979. Many people rejected the offer to study abroad, so a letter was sent to me to go for the training. This time they made it compulsory without any prior notification to me. That was how I went with three other people from Lagos.
You worked with the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello; how would you describe your relationship with him?
While in my office, anytime they needed my assistance in Sardauna's office they would call me and I would provide the help. When they requested for somebody who would go and work in Sardauna's office, they recommended me. That was how I worked with Sir Ahmadu Bello. Alhaji Sheu Okekere, a one- time chairman of Ilorin West Local Government Area was also employed. Okekere was in charge of finance.
Sardauna would call me and say, "Give us money to spend," which may not be more than 50 pounds then. One day, he called the bank manager and said to him, "When you said you didn't have money there again, are there no other people's money there?" The manager would reply, "We must not give other people's money out." And Sardauna would say, "Look for anyone's money and give me." And as soon as he got money he would return it.
At a point, Sardauna told me to go to Lagos because people were saying I did not have a degree. I asked, 'if they demanded for my qualification, what would I tell them?' Sardauna replied, saying I should tell them that my qualification was KMA, meaning, Kadan Mai Albarka, which was more than any other degree.
Another thing I remember about Sardauna was the horn of his car. His car did not have a number, but anytime he entered any town, the horn would announce his arrival thus: "Ga Sir Ahmadu Bello" continuously, meaning, this is Sir Ahmadu Bello coming.
Alhaji Abubakar Akanbi Jos, the 11th Balogun Alanamun of Ilorin while he was still young
Why is Jos added to your name?
My parents have died, otherwise I would have told you to go and ask them. My grandfather lived all his life in Jos, and when he returned to Ilorin, Jos became an honorary name for the family.
When you retired, it was learnt that you did not have a house of your own. Why didn't you amass wealth like civil servants of today?
What would I do with houses? I was even forced to build one later.
What advice do you have for civil servants?
Nigerians should be their brothers' keepers because whatever we do in this life is for our own good. There is nothing in this world without being good.
Is the Balogun Alanamu stool a position you aimed to attain in life?
I had an ambition to become the Balogun of Alanamun of Ilorin and I believed that when it was time, God would appoint me. When the stool was vacant in 1992, I was already holding a position as the district head of Egbejila, comprising of Oshin and Wara. Everything I did then was to make way for other people so that whoever attained the throne after me would not have challenges.
When the colonial masters left, you designed a programme for the Nigerian Air Force; how was the experience?
When they left, they did not teach us anything about the Air Force at all. And they knew it must be part of our programme of defence. All the ministers then put heads together concerning the situation. How would we defend ourselves, especially through the sky if we fought other countries? That was the question. So they decided that we should go and monitor how other countries were doing their own and make recommendations for the development of our own Air Force. We went to 29 countries for the programme. Ali Mungono, General Olayinka, myself, Adamu Attah and one other person were members of the committee.
The whitemen have gone far ahead of us. One of my friends who was abroad in those days wrote a letter to me, stating that Nigeria was still far behind in development. He stated that in 100 years we would not be able to meet up with the whites. There were no mobile phones then; it was the landline that we had.
When I got to the United States, left New York and went to Pensilvennia, if you wanted mint money you had to start running after people to get it, or you would go to the bank and start begging for new notes. Their banks were constructed on the wall with a machine, where you would go and press the denomination of the new notes you wanted and it would be dispensed to you with ease. We don't have such machine here yet, and I doubt if we can get them in 100 years to come. Get me right, it is not the Automated Teller Machine that I am talking about; it is more than that. The machine can also detect counterfeit money. What it does is to accept the money, squeeze it and drop it on the ground.