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for my father

In my younger days I did not like the type of upbringing I received from my father I thought he was rather too harsh and cruel in the way he dealt with me and the rest of the family. He was a very strict man and only gave us the basic needs and necessities we needed, he offered us not what we wanted but what we needed. He didn't want to raise his children in an ostentatious or extravagant manner and so we had to live a very simple life without all the trappings of wealth.

Although not a very rich man he wasn't poor either, as a judge he could afford to give us the type of life we saw our friends living. When my friends parents were buying them the latest video games and BMX bicycle and even occasionally taking them on trips outside the country I never got the same from my father even when I asked him for the same he would tell me he has no money, sometimes I would get angry at his refusal that I was often forced to steal from him, all in the name of living life like my friends. I can still recollect the tears of pain, anger and frustration I used to let out when I didn't get what I wanted.

It was worst when friends were given keys to their parents cars to drive, when I asked for his car key he only laughed and told me to wait until I had money to buy mine. Once my elder brother stole father's car key and had a duplicate made and then one day when father travelled he took the car out but he never got far. He and the car were thrown into a ditch alongside the road and that was the end of his suicide mission as we used to call that daring adolescence act and a seal on any further attempts by his younger ones, for after that episode father had his car grounded in the garage and forbade mother from giving us her own car. He had his official vehicle as a federal judge which he used and travelled to different parts of the country with in service to his country as a federal judge in places like Benin, Kano, Port Harcourt and Lagos leaving his family behind in Minna and my hometown Bida coming back home during the weekend.

It is from my father that I acquired the trait of going to church, even as a devout Muslim he had no qualms about going to church whenever he was invited on occasions like weddings. Although with regards to his tribe he tried to make us become fluent, among my siblings I was the one who couldn't speak Nupe fluently. I often had to resort to my younger sister whenever I wanted something from him and he was in the mood to talk to us in Nupe only, not Hausa or English.

When it came to education he gave us the best he could afford, my life is replete with the books I read while growing up from novels by Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Chinua Achebe, John Grisham, Jackie Collins ( and the list is endless) to law books some of which I didn't really understand then. While in school, the only way I could get anything from him was if I came out among the top ten students in my class. Father had made it a tradition for his children to have their secondary school education in a boarding school and so without exception when it was time for me to be in secondary school I followed the precedence of those before me. At first I loved boarding school, it was supposed to bring me freedom from my parents after all I would be too far from them to be able to control me, but my love soon turned to hate when I could no longer withstand the bullying from the senior students and when I asked to be transferred, Father refused to let me leave the boarding school for a day school until one day my adolescent rebellion made me sneak out of the school to run back home. I had no money with me and so I had to walk, for four days I trekked sleeping in any mosque I found along the way and eating fruits or any food I was given in one or two of the mosques I slept in. The trek was supposed to show my parents how much I hated boarding school and it worked. I was eventually transfered to a day school.

When I graduated from secondary school father asked me what I wanted to read in the university and I told him English. I wanted to be a writer, but father wanted me to read law to follow in his footsteps. I was determined to study English and so when I was to write the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination for entry into the university I filled out the JAMB form with English as my first choice relegating Law to second place and sure enough I was offered admission to read English at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria it was a short lived victory though as father made me write the JAMB examination again but this time around with law as my first choice. He who pays the piper dictates the tune they say. In the university I had to inflate the price of everything from the tuition fees to the books I had to buy all in the name of an extravagant student life.

Not to seem biased I can proudly say that my father is a man of honor and integrity, courageous and fearless, an incorruptible Judge as a lot of people can attest to. He gave a large part of his life in service to his country. Sometimes I think he dedicated more to the country than he did to his own family. In the course of his career he handled some controversial cases the most prominent been the M.K.O Abiola case, the trial of the winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election, he has been condemned and praised by many on account of that case but anyone who knows him well will agree with me that he did what was best for Abiola and the Country at that time.

Now that I am older I really appreciate the type of childhood he gave me. He taught me to never look down on others, to understand and appreciate other people's views even when I didn't share the same with them, to be good and fair in my dealing with others. Now that I am following in his footsteps I am hoping, praying that I will be able to give my own children the type of life he gave me.

This is for my father, Justice Abdullahi Mustapha, retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigerian. O.F.R, FCI Arb, wazirin alkalai nupe.

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