Remembering Adda Inna, my mother

“Heaven lies beneath the feet of mothers” – Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

A narration by Abu-Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with hin) said: “A man came to the Prophet of Allah (SAW) and asked: who among the people best deserve my company (respect and care)?”

He replied: “your mother.”

The man asked: “who else?”

He replied: “your mother.”

The man asked for the third time: “who else ?”

Prophet Muhammad still replied: “your mother.”

It is when the man asked for the fourth time, that the messenger of Allah said: “your father.”

The position of the mother in Islam is therefore undoubtedly number one in the live of every Muslim.

In three days, precisely 15th Ramadan 1441 will mark 19 years since the demise of my dear mother. I remember a brief eulogy I put up on facebook about two years ago.

She died in Madina, Saudi Arabia, her second home where she spent the last five years of her life as a resident and before then, a regular pilgrim of both Hajj and Umrah, missing only a season or two since 1972.

Her departure to the great beyond was not sudden, as she struggled with her health for seven months, two of which was spent at the hospital.

My last physical conversation with her was just about a month before her death. I was with her in Madina for about three weeks while she was on admission and told her I had to go back to Nigeria to prepare for my eldest sister to come and stay with her.

It was a female only ward, nonetheless, I was graciously given a special pass allowing me to stay with her because she was my biological mother. The Saudis are very strict about segregation of the sexes in all affairs and circumstance.

Just weeks after my return to Nigeria, and in full gear trying to raise funds to sponsor my sister to travel to Madina, I got a phone call from my niece in Kano that to date, I will never forget. The day was Friday, 15th Ramadan 1422, equivalent to 30th November 2001. “The appointed time for Adda Inna has come. She passed away today and was already committed at Baqiyya,” she told me. Baqiyya is the first Muslim cemetery in history and situated just a stone-throw from the Prophet’s mosque.

It was devastating news, though I knew her condition was terminal. The Egyptian doctor handling her case who spoke good english gave me an option a week after my arrival to be with her. He told me it was a terminal case and advised that I could take her back to Nigeria to be with her family for her final days or wait for a miracle.

I chose the latter knowing fully well that Allah has the final determination. Besides, I reasoned that should she not make it, what a better resting place for her to be than the Prophet’s city of Madinatul-Munawwara and to be committed at a dignified place that is no more than a few hundreds meters away from Rawda (the prophet’s resting place).

She was survived by my two elder sisters and myself. Our youngest sister died about a year and half earlier.

To us her children and to her younger siblings, she was known as Adda Inna. To her older siblings and extended family members who could not, out of respect for her namesake, call her proper name, she was Inna Chubado. The name given to her at birth by her father, Jarumai Ribadu, was Aminatu.

A granddaughter to Ardo Ribadu, Lamdo Hamza and born inside the palace as was the tradition for daughters to return to their family home to give birth to their first child, Princess Hafsatu (Goggo Lamdo) put to bed baby Aminatu in 1929.

After her Qur’an education at the age of 9, she was brought to Yola by her uncle, the late Mahmudu Ribadu, Minister of Defence in the first republic, to stay with him. She was his favourite niece, just as her mother was also his favourite sister.

Adda Inna told me that Ribadu also loved her because she was the brightest among the younger children in the larger family. She could recite half the chapters of the Qur’an by heart and therefore became Malama to her younger cousins in the house.

Adda Inna made sure that my siblings and I also completed our Qur’an education by the age of eight, but mine stretched to nine years, because I stubbornly, deliberately missed lessons from Malam Bello in Modibbo Girei’s house where I was enrolled. It is the family house of the grandfather of Dr Ahmed Modibbo, former Executive Secretary of UBEC.

Incidentally, Dr. Modibbo and I went to the same Qur’an school and, several times, Mallam Bello would delegate him to lead a search party, looking for me in town and at the Chochi river or Mbulirga pond, my two favourite places of fun. I loved swimming and was as good as a fish. They would find me, apprehend and hand me over to Malam Bello for punushment.

Looking back, Malam Bello did the right thing. The corporal punishment worked, otherwise it would have taken me longer to graduate. After that, I proudly enrolled for Fiqh knowledge (islamic education) for two years (1966 – 1967) with the late Galadiman Adamawa, Alhaji Aminu, who was a close friend to my father and indeed, named me after him. I started with Qurtabi, then Risala, before I moved from Yola to Fufore.

My father, who was a council member of the Adamawa emirate did not however pay much attention to western education. Of the four older half-brothers that I have, only one, late Ahmadu Guruza was enrolled in primary school, but abandoned classes after just one year. So, I had no one to look up to, though I envied my uncles, cousins and nieces in Ribadu’s house where I mostly spent my early childhood.

To the credit of Adda Inna, she complained to Baba Minister (Ribadu), about my fate and that of my siblings. He promptly directed the late VT Aliyu (Visiting Teaher) to enrol my immediate elder sister and I in school.

We became pioneer pupils of then, newly established Hammawa Primary School in 1963. It operated within the premises of the Yola Senior Boarding School that began a gradual phase out of that education system.

I was withdrawn on my second day in school upon realisation by the headmaster that the enrolment slot for boys was overshot. I returned in January 1964 as a fresh pupil, remained there until 1968 when I transferred to Fufore primary school, the headquarters of Ribadu (Balala) District and home to both my parents.

I joined in class five, my cousin, now Professor (Prince) Abubakar Hamman Tukur of the University of Maiduguri and a good friend, Dr. Hamidu Bobboi who is the current Executive Secretary of UBEC. They were the stars of our class, competing for the first position up to the time we graduated in 1970.

I have only good memories of my school days at Hammawa primary school from Janyary 1964 to December 1967. We had meals shared to us by the Senior boarding school students. Breakfast and lunch. Many of them were generous.

The final Senior set to leave was in December 1965. I was 9 years old and in class two. The students union organised a send-off party and, girls, I assumed, from GGSS Yola were brought in in the back of a Bedford. Sam Cooke’s 1962 solo number “Twisting the Night Away” was still on top of the chart, and boy, did they twist the night away. I enjoyed every bit of it watching from a bench meters away. I also remember falling asleep half way through the party, but not before getting a share of chunks of meat and Masa from a distant “brother,” who was part of the last set. I won’t name him.

I can write a book about my mother and how well she raised me. May be one day, God willing, I will do just that.

May her soul continue to rest in Jannatul-Firdaus.

(First published in 2020)

  • Iyawa is former Nigerian Ambassador to Mexico

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