Oskar Schindler, Ali Bisije and Umaru Shinkafi

When is a parent’s work done? When does a parent get the feeling that all the efforts, struggles and challenges that come with looking after nature’s best gifts have been

worthwhile? Here is the answer: When they see, hear or receive information that former toddlers and once helpless infants are continuing their most prized traditions. Independently.

When parents with traditions of diligence, faith, patience, service, consideration and hard-work know their efforts at modelling these traditions have come good with their children, they move about with their garments of honour hanging pretty; knowing that the

future is truly assured, seeing it has been embraced by capable hands.

For Alhaji Ali Bisije and Hajiya Aishatu, parents of Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, late intelligence chief and politician, the garments did not come any more beautifully. They saw, and heard reports of the convergence of their strengths expressed through their son in admirable ways. Of course, those demonstrations made them feel proud. Whereas Alhaji Ali Bisije was a go-getter and ambitious man who embraced difficult challenges head-on, succeeding most of the time, Hajiya Aishatu was the quiet, gentle, unassuming, patient princess, who influenced those nearby and far away with her dignity, graceful persuasion and faith.

One came from the Northeast and the other from the Northwest; one a very successful trader, the other a royal princess from a distinguished heritage.

Alhaji Ali Bisije got a pleasant kick from placing little Shinkafi on the backs of camels owned by Fulani traders who thronged the bustling Shinkafi market for trade as he attended to his numerous business interests in the market and beyond. He got more of the pleasant feeling when Shinkafi progressed from sitting on the backs of camels to mounting horses and playing the game of kings, becoming president of Nigeria Polo Federation along the way.

Alhaji Ali Bisije was pleased at his ability to communicate easily in English with his trading partners especially the British. He was pleased some more when Shinkafi embraced both Islamic and Western Education at his instant, becoming very proficient in both Arabic

and English Language. The icing on the cake was his scorecard at the famous Barewa College, Kaduna, in 1958, his final year there. He obtained distinction in English, Hausa and Arabic Studies.

Alhaji Ali Bisije was at peace with his conscience when he re-enacted almost to the T, the actions made popular by Oskar Schindler in Adolf Hitler’s Germany, in the 1940s, the only difference being the fact that whereas Schindler hid those he was rescuing from agents of the Third Reich in warehouses, Alhaji Ali Bisije protected his tenants from Eastern Nigeria living in his numerous houses scattered in various parts of the north at the time of the Nigerian Civil War. He made sure no harm came to them.

In terms of the numbers, the people that were saved by Alhaji Ali Bisije were arguably, more

than those saved by Schindler. For whereas Schindler’s rescue efforts stopped when Hitler was overthrown, Alhaji Ali Bisije continued to rescue and rehabilitate many Easterners after the Civil War. Whereas Schindler wished he did more, sold some more items and bought

more persons for rescue, when he was given an award, commending his brave actions, after the terrible season had passed, Alhaji Ali Bisije had the opportunity to do more after the War because he had the cooperation of his son, Umaru Shinkafi, who worked at the Police

Force Headquarters in Lagos at the time.

He was pleased whenever he sent widows and orphanned children from the War to his son in Lagos to assist them begin a new life. The widows he asked to be given reasonable amounts to start petty trading; the orphans he asked Shinkafi to enrol in schools for them to get an education. Though overwhelmed at some point because of the sheer number of these widows and orphans and his limited resources, he did not send any back to his father to say he could not help anymore. That made his father very pleased and proud indeed.

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