The palace of the Etsu Nupe in Bida, Niger State recently rolled out its royal drums and other paraphernalia of royalty to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of its own. Alhaji Aliyu Yerima, now the most senior council member, was born on February 11, 1923.
The young Aliyu was in 1933 enrolled into elementary school, Bida and finished in 1937, from where he proceeded to Bida Middle School. In 1942, Yerima got admission into Kaduna College, which was an offshoot of the famous Katsina College, now Barewa College and left in 1944, graduating with a high school certificate.
He later returned to Zaria for his Higher Elementary Teachers' Course and graduated in 1946 with a Grade II Certificate and, after three years of teaching, he went to the London University's Institute of Education for his professional teachers certificate course and graduated in 1950; he had reached the pinnacle of his profession.
The industrious Yerima left Katsina Elementary Teacher Centre to take up appointment as Provincial Adult Education Officer, at the same Katsina, where he worked under Alhaji Ahmadu Coomasie. One thing happened that was to change Aliyu Yerima's carrier as a teacher to administrative officer.
At that time there was the apparent need for the north to have competent administrative officers to take over from colonial masters as the nation at that time was moving towards attaining independence. With this, he went to Zaria for an administrative officer's course at the Institute of Administration.
In 1962, Alhaji Yerima was to be appointed ambassador to Senegal for a while before Ado Bayero's appointment in that capacity. But Ado Bayero was there for a while when his Alhaji name came up as Emir of Kano. When he left, Aliyu Yerima took full control as Nigeria's Ambassador to Senegal, where he became very close to Sheikh Ibrahim Kaolakh (Inyass) and Ado Bayero.
He said there was a time Ado Bayero travelled out of Senegal and Jaja Wachukwu the then Foreign Affairs minister was in Senegal on official visit and insisted on sleeping in Ado Bayero's house while the future emir's wife was around. Yerima tried to convince the minister that it was the tradition in Islam that a visitor is not to be allowed to stay in the same apartment with his host when the host has a wife, more so, as in this case, when the host was absent.
But to his chagrin and greatest dismay, nothing he said could change the minister's mind. At the end, he had to move Hajia Maryam, Bayero's wife to his own house for the rest of the days the minister spent in Senegal. That episode apparently angered Wachukwu; he never forgave Yerima. An opportunity came for Nwachukwu to exact revenge when, in 1966, a railway extension project was to be officially opened at Pallomi, Borno. Yerima wrote to the Foreign Affairs minister, suggesting that the Prime Minister should invite heads of state of neighbouring countries to attend the ceremony.
Jaja Nwachukwu could not find any hole in it to make as an excuse to nail him. Nwachukwu read the letter and found no offence; but he created one. He queried Yerima for writing to him directly, instead of routing the letter through the permanent secretary. The query did not fly; The Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa forwarded Yerima's letter to the President Nnamdi Azikiwe, who then invited the leaders of Cameroun, Chad and Niger.
The initial aim underlining the letter he wrote was to create a chance where the Sardauna and Ahmadu Ahijo of Cameroun would meet because their relationship got rocky after the North won a portion through referendum and Cameroun failed. The Cameroun saw this as a national loss to extent that every first October Cameroun would fly its flag at half mast.
But the most surprising and interesting thing was the fact that while the power intrigue went on regarding the letter he wrote, Sardauna to whom the letter was written to create a rosy relationship with Ahmadu Ahijo never got the wind of the battle going on between him and Nwachukwu.
Aliyu Yerima said he had to personally meet Sardauna in Kaduna to inform him of his moves. Sardauna responded that he was yet to know anything like that was going on, but nevertheless said to him he will be going to Bauchi to see the Prime Minister and would ascertain the information he brought to him.
-Shehu wrote from Bida, Niger State