My name is Atiku Abubakar. I was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa State, Nigeria. I was named after my paternal grandfather, Atiku Abdulkadir. It was the practice among the Fulani people to name their first sons after their paternal grandfathers.
My grandfather, Atiku, came originally from Wurno in Sokoto State. There, he had met and befriended Ardo Usman, a Fulani nobleman from what is now known as Adamawa State. My grandfather decided to accompany his new friend back to his hometown of Adamawa.
They settled in Kojoli, a small village in Jada Local Government Council of Adamawa State.
My grandfather farmed, kept livestock and raised a family. He married a local girl in Kojoli and gave birth to my father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir. He was their only child.
My father was an itinerant trader who traveled from one market to another selling imitation jewelry, caps, needles, potash, kola nuts and other nick-knacks which he ferried around on the back of his donkey. He also kept some livestock and cultivated guinea corn, maize and groundnuts.
When it was time for him to marry, my father chose a young girl from nearby Jada town whose parents had migrated from Dutse, now the capital of Jigawa State. My mother, Aisha Kande, was born in Jada. Her father was also an itinerant trader who was known in Jada as Adamu Dutse, using his town as his last name – a common practice in Northern Nigeria.
My father was not rich, but he was able to build his own house and took care of his immediate family. He was well-known in Kojoli and surrounding villages and towns as a tall, well-built man who was generous to a fault. People remembered him as someone who could part with his last possession.
Both my father and paternal grandfather were learned men. They gave free Islamic classes to adults and young people in Kojoli during their spare time.
As a young boy growing up in Kojoli, my parents doted on me. They tried their best to provide for me and to ensure that I grew up in a wholesome environment of love and spirituality.
My father saw me as a rare gift, a child of destiny. He always prayed to Allah to protect me, guide me and to make me successful in life. I honestly believe that I owe my modest achievements in life to him. There is power in prayer, no doubt about it.
My parents tried unsuccessfully to have more children. My father even took another wife but she too did not have a child.
I was said to have been a quiet, sensitive boy while growing up. I assisted my father on the farm and with the livestock. When I was old enough, I would take the cows and sheep to the fields to graze and bring them back home at sunset. I also fetched firewood for cooking and for night-time illumination. Kojoli, like most Nigerian villages then, had no electricity or running water.
Sometimes, it was my duty to feed the animals with hay or to give them water to drink or potash to lick. I enjoyed these chores and considered them real fun. I learned to ride horses and donkeys which my father used to transport goods to the various markets.
I spent my free time playing soccer on improvised fields with neighbourhood boys. Sometimes we made bows and arrows and went hunting for birds.
My parents were devout Muslims. Every night after dinner, we had Koranic studies around a bonfire. My father or any other learned person in the village would teach us. My parents – just like other parents in Kojoli – tried to build a strong spiritual foundation for their young ones through these nightly Koranic lessons.
People say that I look like my father, but that he was even more generous than me. I took my mother’s dark complexion. I am also quiet and reserved like her.
Culled from the biography titled ‘Atiku: The Story of Atiku Abubakar’ by Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba (Africana Legacy Press, Abuja, 2006).
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