I’M NOW MY CHILDREN’S BABY—104-year-old Taple Lankan
Plateau State is reputed as the cradle of old men and women as the state appears to have an army of people who are well advanced in years. Rightly or wrongly, some people are quick to attribute the trend to the unique temperate weather condition in the area. A visit to villages on the Plateau could reveal the existence of aged men and women, some of whom were born as far back as the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates that became Nigeria in 1914. Our correspondent, YUSUFU AMINU IDEGU, ran into one of them during the week. He is Da Andarawus Taple Lankan, who was said to be born in 1914, and has lived for 104 years.
The Nation had earlier discovered a 107 years old man named Da Garba Dikam in Mangu Local Government Area of the state in Mach 2015. Obviously born before the amalgamation of Nigeria, he attracted global attention when he took his 95-year-old wife, Mama Nafung, to the altar in March 2015. They were married for 70 years before they were joined in holy matrimony in that historic church wedding, and both of them are still alive!
GOOD evening Papa. How are you doing?
Thank you, my son. I am doing fine. And how are you?
I am fine sir.
Who are you? It is like I don’t know you.
I came to visit you and to also know you because I heard your story.
That you are still alive at this age…
Thank you, my son. I’m still alive with the help of my children. In fact, I have become their own children. They are caring for me like a child. They are feeding and clothing me. They are the reason I’m still alive. I’m so grateful to them for not abandoning me to my fate.
How many children have you?
My children? You mean the ones that are alive?
My children are 13 altogether. Eleven of them are alive. They are the ones taking care of me. Two of them died. I have four males and seven females.
What about your wife?
My wife? The first woman I married left me and I had to marry another one. But the second one died more than five years ago at the age of 90.
Since you don’t have a wife any more, can I get you one?
No, I don’t want any wife again. I’m comfortable with my children around me. My children are my wives now.
How old are you now?
It is my children that can tell you my age. They have the records. You know I did not go to school, so I don’t know how to calculate the date. But I was born a long time ago when white people were in charge of government in Nigeria.
I guess you prayed for long life when you were younger. Would you say that God has answered your prayers?
Yes, God has answered my prayers. That is why I give thanks to God every day. God did not only give me long life, he gave me good health. I’m healthy till today, and I can see my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.
What is the secret of your long life? Is it just praying to God to give you long life?
It is not all about prayers, it is about how you live your life. I grew up in the hands of the missionaries. The missionaries were the managers of our affairs in Nigeria as at the time we were growing up. They were the ones that thought me hand work. I learnt Manson from them. While teaching you the job, they would also teach you many things about life generally.
Apart from that, they thought us the Bible. They thought us a lot of things that I can’t remember. But I tried to follow their teachings very well. May be it is the wish of God that I should live long. So I thank God for that. But I don’t think there is any secret about long life, it is all for God to do it.
Now that you have lived this long, what difference do you see between life in those days and life nowadays?
Life was better in the past because there was peace and love. There was so much love among families and in the communities. There was no fear in the past. People used to be so receptive and accommodating to fellow humans. In the past, we loved visitors more than we loved our own children. There was more respect for life. It is surprising to me to see in recent times that a human being will carry a gun or a knife and kill another human being. You could not do that in the past. If you do it, you will be driven out of that community. It was a taboo to kill a fellow human being. But nowadays it is a very common thing to kill, I keep hearing about killing, killing all the time, and I keep wondering whether the world is coming to an end. At times I wonder why I am still alive hearing these bad things; they were not happening before. It makes me hate the world of these days.
In those days, we felt safe anywhere, day or night. But now there is so much fear in the minds of people. The fear alone can cut somebody’s life short. We used to sleep in the night without locking our doors. Now, fear will not allow you to do that. I’m still surprised that people can kidnap people. I don’t know how they do it. It was not possible in our time. It was even unthinkable. In the past, people were afraid to commit crime because the entire family would be put to shame. But nowadays, I’m hearing that criminals are everywhere and the society is comfortable living with criminals.
I remember that in those days, if anyone was caught stealing, he would run and go on exile where no one would know him because of the shame from what he had done. So, nobody wanted to be associated with a criminal.
What was your occupation?
I learn a handiwork; Manson was the trade I learnt from the white missionaries who came to our area. The missionaries were in Gindiri. When they noticed that I could not go to school, they encouraged me to learn a handiwork. It was with the handiwork that I was employed by the Plateau State Government.
You were a civil servant in the state?
Which year were you employed?
I can’t remember. It is a long time.
Were you given an appointment letter?
I don’t know. I only know that I began to work for the state government and they paid monthly salaries.
How much were you paid as salary?
They used to pay us in coins. There was no paper money then. If I remember, I used to collect 5 shillings. I can’t really remember.
Which year did you retire?
I can’t remember the year. But it was one governor called Atukum that came and terminated our appointments. They told us that we had been retired.
Are you a pensioner?
No. I have never received pension since I retired. They said we had no pension. Even our gratuity, somebody cheated us and cut most of our money. They did not give us all our money.
Did you teach any of your children your handiwork?
No. All of them were in school. They all refused to learn my trade. Children of nowadays can’t do the kind of handiwork we did; they don’t have the power or they are so lazy. That is why they prefer to go to school.
You are a Christian?
Do you still go to church?
I’m a member of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN). I go to church occasionally. But mostly, I go on the day of Holy Communion. I still take Holy Communion any day they are doing it.
What is the health challenge you are experiencing at this age?
Not much. I’m still healthy. It’s just that I’m not as strong as I was before. I experienced stroke about two years ago, but I was treated and since then I never experienced it again.
What kind of food do you like eating now?
I can eat any kind of food they give me except meat. My teeth are weak, so I can’t chew meat anymore. Otherwise, I can eat any kind of food.
How long do you still want to live on earth?
It is not my wish to live this long; it is the will of God. If God decides to take me home today, I’m ready. I’ve stayed long enough. God has answered my prayers. So if He decides to take me today, I’m satisfied with the life God gave me.
What will you want God to do for you now?
I want God to give all my children longer life than mine.
It was a rain of tributes yesterday for Nigeria’s first elected Vice President, the late Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode; Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, and Africa’s richest woman, Folorunsho Alakija, all extolled Ekwueme’s integrity and statesmanship.
They and others, including former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Sir Emeka Anyaoku, spoke at the commendation service for Ekwueme at the Cathedral Church of God, Marina and the
‘Evening of Tributes and Music’ at the Muson Centre, Lagos Island.
Other guests at the events included Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun; former Ekiti State Governor and Minister of Solid Minerals Development, John Kayode Fayemi; former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba; former Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor, among others.
Ambode described Ekwueme, who died in London last November 19 aged 85, as “a leader among leaders.”
He said Ekwueme was “a well respected elder statesman who carried himself with dignity and exuded knowledge, experience and maturity.”
Ambode noted the “exemplary patriotic roles” played by Ekwueme.
He said: “Significantly, his answer to the still-problematic National Question grabbed public attention in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country searching for unity, stability and an equitable power-sharing formula.
“Dr. Ekwueme had proposed six geopolitical zones as the federating units that would rotationally produce a five-year single-term presidency. The six geopolitical zones are Northwest, Northeast, North central, Southwest, Southeast and South-south.”
“There is no doubt that Dr. Ekwueme was a creative political thinker. Although his novel proposal during the 1994-1995 National Constitutional Conference (NCC) that produced the 1999 Nigerian Constitution was not formally included in the constitution, it is to his credit that the idea of six geopolitical zones has been informally embraced and today informs aspects of governance in the country. In this respect, his contribution to the country’s political evolution has an enduring quality.”
Fashola, who paid his tributes via a video interview said Ekwueme was “a truly great man.”
He recommended Ekwueme’s credibility and high values as worth emulating.
Obi described Ekwueme as a nationalist and urged other politicians to emulate him.
He told The Nation that Ekwueme was one of Nigeria’s best leaders ever.
Anyaoku said: “He was not a typical leader. He left a legacy of diligence, hardwork.”
Subomi, Ekwueme’s friend and former Lagos neighbour, recalled how their bond of friendship was cemented after Ekwueme returned to his house in Apapa from the east after the civil war. He noted God used Ekwueme to direct opportunities his way.
Alhaji Lateef Okunnu SAN, Ekwueme’s former school mate at King’s College, Lagos, said Ekwueme would have made Nigeria great if he had become President.
Mrs Alakija recalled Ekwueme’s brilliance.
She said: “He was extremely sharp and would always recognise anyone who was sharp. He loved dancing. He would dance and dance.”
Bishop of Lagos and Dean Emeritus, Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Adebola Ademowo, the Bishop of Lagos and Dean Emeritus, Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), described the late former Vice President as a selfless and God fearing Nigerian statesman.
He said: “We cannot compare him to the politicians of today as he single-handedly supervised the construction of Oko Comprehensive Secondary School, among many things he did, he spent his money for the good and benefits of Nigerians.
Ekwueme will be buried in his hometown Oko, Anambra State on February 2
Teacher strike will not stop Education Reform : Kaduna Govt.
By Hussaina Yakubu, Kaduna
Kaduna State Government on Tuesday said the ongoing strike by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in the state would not stop its education reform.
In a statement issued in Kaduna by Samuel Aruwan, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to Gov. Nasiru El-Rufai, the state government said it would not allow unqualified teachers in its schools.
He said the state government was determined to protect the future of the students as more than two million pupils were enrolled in public primary schools.
Aruwan commended teachers who reported to work in spite of efforts by the NUT to unlawfully prevent them from working.
He said the government had begun collation of reports from education administrators on teachers and reiterated that teachers who absented themselves from work would be sanctioned according to the law.
“Appropriate reminder of the potency of these rules (laws) has been issued in previous government statements.
“Across the state, the illegality of the NUT’s strike action is being compounded by physical attempts to frustrate those teachers who wish to work.
“No law permits any worker to tamper with another’s right to work. The attention of the security agencies has been drawn to this dangerous pattern of conduct,” Aruwan said.
He said the state government had concluded marking of scripts of 43,000 applicants who applied for teaching positions, disclosing that 25,000 qualified teachers would be employed.