Katagum then and now; Rejuvenating our Eroding Values

By Kabir Nizam Baba

AREWA AGENDA – Dr Bala Muhammad, the prolific Daily Trust Columnist emphasizes time without number the dire need for us to study geography and (our) history. A people oblivious or ignorant of its history is likely to lose focus, susceptible to been a lackey and ultimately miss the road- for in the first place, it didn’t know where to go when it set out. And as the saying logically goes, any road could take it there!

This makes it pertinent to recollect Katagum’s educational stamina few decades ago: “No doubt, the standard has fallen. It has fallen I must say. We used to be second to only Biu Emirate in the old North East educationally and thus number one in the old Bauchi Province. But today, the story is different; Katagum Emirate is playing second fiddle educationally” asserted the aviation guru Captain Bala Jibrin in an interview with the annual KSA Magazine ‘Katagum in Focus’ of 2008.

Alhaji Babaleliya of blessed memory had a penchant for scholarship. His own house was home to many students of knowledge for decades. Malam Haladu, Malam Muhammadu and Malam Mai-tumaki were of scholars accommodated for decades without any affinity or consanguinity whatsoever. They built families and led wonderfully blessed lives.

I’ve equally grown up knowing some of his nephews and of my cousins using his name as their surname; a sufficient insignia that he did enroll them into formal schools. Some of them are from families to whom the formal education we now know as Boko was not a priority. Perhaps these roles, inter alia, influenced the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) of the then Central Science Primary School Azare to make him the chairman for quite a while. And in that capacity, a giant stride was achieved for the school.

This piece isn’t about Babaleliya. It is about the values Katagum held so dearly. He was just an embodiment of some of these values. There were many of our forefathers with similar or more prediliction to these values. Space won’t suffice to tell of their enormous contributions to scholarship in Katagum. For himself and many others were beneficiaries of an established order of dedication to the unity and excellence in scholarship by their predecessors.

Among his contemporaries were those who have impeccably invested in more tangible endeavors by constructing schools to advance knowledge and literacy: Alhaji Aminu Sale’s Sheikh Adam & Gwani Elgoni among others, Alhaji Muhammad Danmadami’s Sarkin Azare Mustapha Islamiyyah, Alhaji Abdu Gwalabe’s Nasril Islam Islamiyyah, Alhaji Ibrahim Bature’s Nurul Huda and many others were gestures that claimed fortunes from these philanthropists whose efforts were not greeted with the mainstream media attention they deserve. Neither do the beneficiaries bother to even acknowledge them on social media today.

Perhaps some may think the paltry sum taken as school fees was reasonable. Alas! It was, and is, often insufficient to offset even the administrative cost of running the ‘charities’. In fact, these pillars of Katagum in their days have discreetly sponsored capable students on scholarships throughout the world. Domestically, their physical presence at students’ gatherings and programs served as an unmatched fillip and morale booster to the pupils to say the least.

Not too long ago in Katagum, the records have it that there was an exercise been observed some decades ago when pupils were switched among the many local government areas in this region to spend some time in a different environment. They were systematically accommodated by the residents of the host locality during an academic break in the form of “Katagum Students Association (KSA) Week” or so.

They were thus afforded the opportunity to connect, widen their horizon and exposure. They would have a glimpse of another angle to life that was until then, a mirage. With the sustainment of such relationships, in-laws, employees, employers, consultants and clients were made for the future. And above all, an unbreakable bridge of brotherhood was solidly constructed.

Having a similar effect, the KSA exhibitions, quiz and debate competitions that used to bring together pupils from the neighbouring towns and local government areas now seem to be a thing of the past. While Covid-19 realities may offer an exemption to 2020, the tempo had been on a drastic decline over the past few years. Wasn’t it to the credit of these structural antecedents of carefully designed activities and interventions that Katagum Emirate was second only to Biu Emirate as revealved earlier?

Without mentioning any name, the distinguished sons and daughters of Katagum we proudly show to the world, those apparently familiar names mentioned whenever we identify ourselves with Katagum anywhere in Nigeria, those that echoed (and are still echoing) Katagum beyond the constraints of a geographical enclave, (including the likes of the philanthropists earlier referred to) ….were they not mentored, groomed and brought up in this spirit of selflessness, unification and sacrifice?

I have faintly met the remnants of a tradition in this land whereby unrelated neighbours sponsor the circumcision of their fellow neighbours’ wards without even the need to ask (for consent). A decade and half ago, medical surgical procedures of circumcision were not so popular here. Thus, a father is likely to return home from his daily work or business only to find his children, or some of them, circumcised by a neighbour. This is an agelong tradition evidencing mutual back-scratching, cooperation and understanding.

A question that begs for an answer is: where are these values in the Guddiri land? Are they unceremoniously thrown into the dustbin of history?

Dear Katagum, as Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right either way.” I opine that we better think we can rejuvenate these aging values for the betterment of ourselves and as the intergenerational equity of environmental law has it, preserve the future while leveraging on the existing human resources. For the way I humbly see it, our social ills and challenges of all ilks are substantially an appendage to the consequences of these (almost) eroded values.

Kabir Nizam Baba writes from Azare via [email protected]

Arewa Agenda is a Publication of young writers from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through Positive narratives.

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