Before completing my Diploma in Law programme in June 1969, a team from the Federal Civil Service Commission came on a recruitment drive to the university. By chance one of the interviewers found in my file a report that I had once been found suitable to join the police force and had in fact received some training in 1966. This information was brought to the attention of the chairman of the interview panel who promptly ruled:
“O.k., you go to the Department of Customs and Excise”.
That was how I joined the Department of Customs and Excise in June 1969. The invisible hand that has always shaped my life had once again steered me towards my destiny.
After my training at the Police College in Ikeja, Lagos and at the Customs Training School in Ebute Metta in Lagos, I was posted to Idi Iroko border station. My colleagues and I were tasked with collecting duties on imported and exported goods, stopping the entry and exit of banned items, and arresting and prosecuting smugglers. Following the end of the Nigerian Civil War in January 1970, Idi Iroko became a beehive of activities. Those who had fled Nigeria to neighbouring countries began returning in hundreds. It was our task to receive them back.
It was at Idi Iroko in late 1969 that I met and fell in love with the then 19-year-old Titilayo Albert. Though she is Yoruba and I am Fulani, it never crossed my mind that that could be a problem.
Titi’s mother was opposed to the relationship, constantly dredging up ethnic slurs and prejudices to convince Titi to back out. However, Titi’s father did not oppose us. Despite the strong opposition from her mother and sisters, I persevered because I was sure we were meant for each other.
We were married in December 1971 after receiving her father’s blessing. We rented a place in Lagos and began planning for a family. Our first child, Fatima, was born on October 26, 1972.
Titi and I would later have three more children: Adamu, Halima and Aminu.
Culled from the biography titled ‘Atiku: The Story of Atiku Abubakar’ by Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba (Africana Legacy Press, Abuja, 2006)