After 36 years in service, out of which he spent five years and four months as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede recently bowed out of service as one of the longest reigning bosses of the agency.
Humble and unassuming but disciplined, the “digital CGI” as he is fondly called by contemporaries and subordinates in the service, ranked the first of the agency’s CGIs to be honoured with a pull-out parade.
With many signature projects initiated and completed during his tenure, including but not limited to the multi-billion naira technology building, various forward operating bases, introduction of migrant electronic registration centres, model Passport Application Processing Centre (PAPC), and improved merit-based promotions and other welfare packages, for the first time in the history of the organisation, a comptroller general left office with officers having mixed feelings.
But if the honour done to him by his colleagues, friends and well-wishers during the pull-out ceremony could be said to be great, the one that awaited him in his ancient hometown of Hadejia and the neighbouring Ringim community in Jigawa State could only be greater.
Penultimate weekend, when he returned home on a thank you visit, the awaiting arms of his kinsmen was not only wide but also comforting.
From the city of Kano, Nigeria’s Northern region’s commercial centre, to Hadejia and later to Ringim, the reception was befitting of an illustrious son, who was simply described by many as a worthy ambassador.
Regarded by many in public and private lives as a man of the people, the overwhelming turnouts in the two towns speak immensely of his personality and the faith he has in his beloved country and her people as echoed in his valedictory speeches.
It is this spirit of togetherness and team building that made the Emirs of Hadejia and Ringim to throw the gates of their palaces open for him to wine and dine with them.
In the scorching sun of that day, from the expressway to the main road that lead to the palace of the Emir of Hadejia, Alhaji Dr Adamu Abubakar Maje Haruna, a mammoth crowd comprising the old and young who were dressed in different outfits, lined up to receive the former CGI.
To avoid stampede, on a few occasions, Babandede had to halt the movement of the motorcade to honour the people.
Donning various colours, waving their hands and the Nigerian flag, displaying huge banners with congratulatory messages alongside his pictures were associations and groups including Hadejia Youth Volunteers’ Association, Hadejia Ina Mafita Initiative, Saleh Babandede Foundation, Youth Development Association Hadejia, among others.
The multitude, on foot, motorcycles, tricycles and vehicles, travelled all the way singing, dancing and chanting to his entry into the town.
And as a respect for the stool, the first place of call was the Emir’s palace – a monumental building with its high walls and mighty gates, which was packed full of the locals who were eagerly waiting to welcome their own son who they said had made them proud on the national stage.
Filled to the brim, the town became so swamped so much that it affected both human and vehicular movements, and it required the severity of security operatives and, the palace guards in particular, to maintain order as the joyous multitude chanted “Welcome CG.”
The crowd soon thronged his father’s home, Muhammad Babanded Sarkiki, who is also a district head with the chieftaincy title of Magaji Rabi n Hadejia. It was a notable reunion of a proud father and son.
Award and Dinner
Later in the evening, the retired CGI in company of his friends and associates was hosted to a befitting dinner at the palace square by the Emir of Hadejia.
In attendance at this gathering included a former deputy governor of Jigawa State and now a senator representing Jigawa North-east Senatorial District, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia; the state’s Commissioner for lands, Alhaji Sagir Ahmad, among other dignitaries.
It was a noteworthy ceremony with less fanfare, yet no seat was empty and despite the hour of the night, the palace guards were busy with the locals who stood at the gate waiting to catch a glimpse of their illustrious son. The highlight of the night was the presentation of series of awards by various groups and age grades who handed over the many plaques to the monarch for onward delivery to the illustrious son.
Like Hadejia like Ringim
No doubt, since the day before when Babandede’s entourage landed in Hadejia, the bells of celebration had been ringing in Ringim, the headquarters of Ringim Local Government Area of Jigawa State. And the grand reception was an evidence of the massive preparation to welcome someone they all described as an ambassador and benefactor to many.
The two sides of the roads leading to the palace of the Emir, Alhaji Dr Saiyadi Abubakar Ringim, were men and women including little school children who lined up on each side of the road waving the Nigerian flag and chanting “Welcome CG.”
The Emir’s palace entrance was decorated with a huge poster announcing the arrival of Muhammed Babandede under the aegis of Ringim Coalition Movement (RINCOM). The spacious front yard was again packed full of humans and vehicles hailing the man of the hour, a great son of the soil who had come to honour his roots.
The Emir’s palace was filled to the brim with every nook and cranny occupied. Encomiums poured from the compere about the former CGI’s exploits in public service and private life. True to type as a man of the people, the former CGI gave a discerning speech which earned him endless rounds of applause. Then he took it a point further when he requested the history of the Emirates pointing to the frames of past emirs and other heroes resting on the valance in the palace. It earned him another resounding applause followed by a standing ovation with over a thousand flashlights from cameras as the compere stood by his side narrating the legacies of each heroic figure. Again, he was presented with another award by the LGA Chairman, Alhaji Shehu Sule Udi, as a proud ambassador of his people.
Other dignitaries who graced the two-day event included a retired former Deputy Comptroller General of Immigration, Nuradeen Garaham; retired Assistant Comptroller General, Bello; retired Passport Control Officer for the Ikoyi Passport Officer, Mannir Yari; a professor of Mathematics from the Ahmadu Bello University, Garba Goje, among many others.
The honouree thanked the people for the honour and pledged his commitment not only to the development of Jigawa State but Nigeria, and indeed Africa as a whole. He thanked the Emirs and his friends and well-wishers for finding him worthy of the honour.