Sule Baki: Retired interpreter for the United Africa Company Ltd Zaria. 1950

“I don’t know when I was born. It’s a long time ago. About eighty years, I think. But I still remember the days of my childhood at Kontagora.
My father was called Amadu – People only had one name in those days – and he had four wives. But they didn’t see much of him, because he was a trader and used to travel about the country. He bought Ivory and took it to the white traders at Eggan. We had never seen white traders before.
First, I learned to farm and also to read the Koran. But when I was about twenty I went to Lokoja to work for the Royal Niger Company. They had two steamers the “Liberty” and the “Empire” Although I started as a labourer on the “Liberty” I worked up to quartermaster and finally became bosun.
I was on the steamer for many years. Carrying palm products to Akassa and Forcados. I remember when the bush was cleared to make Burutu, and I saw many other new trading stations opened on the river. Sometimes we went up the Benue for Ivory, gum and gutta.
One day both the “Liberty” and “Empire” were sent to Forcados. We found many people waiting for us. Each steamer took eighty four of them on board, and we brought them to Lokoja. They were the first Government people to come to Nigeria.
By now I had a wife and two children. I was going to take them home but the Niger Company asked me to go with my family to Keffi. I used to take the pay from there to the tin miners at Naraguta.
Next I helped to open Jos. We had to cut trees and grass, and build mud and stone houses. After, I worked in a bank in Jos for a long time. In 1919 I was sent to Kano canteen to be a salesman, and a few years later the agent made me his interpreter.
Then 1929 came. This was an important year for me. The United Africa Company was formed, and I began to work for the general manager of the Zaria area, Mr F.G.C. Wallach. I was his interpreter and I told him many things about Africa. He called me his adviser on African Affairs. That was a fine title, wasn’t it?
I was proud that the company found my experience useful. My work was very interesting too. I went on doing it till 1942, then the company gave me my pension.
Now I have plenty of time to look back on those happy years”. Nigeria Magazine 1950

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