Obituary: As Baba George Eliya Bashi Exits The Stage

All men must die but not all men live. For most people, they just pass through life without making any actual impact in the world. Not long after they die, the world forgets about them and their memories remain only in the minds of close family members and friends. Soon even those family and friends forget and it is as if the deceased never lived.

There is another category that the moment they die, it is as if the whole world stops to mark the importance of what has happened. In such instances, even the grief by immediate family members would seem to pale because the impact of the deceased while alive was felt far and wide. For such persons, it would be as if they never died as their legacies will remain a strong evidence of their remarkable lives.

Baba George Eliya Bashi belongs to the latter category. The moment the news of his demise was announced, it was as if the whole world stopped. A father, a teacher, a preacher and a community leader per excellence had just passed on to glory.

At the funeral proceedings, time was not enough to accommodate the number of persons that wanted to speak about the impact the man George Bashi had in their lives during his life time.

For Mama Roseline Liatu Bashi, his wife of almost six decades, she had this to say: “I want to thank God for what He has done for us. The Bible says in every situation, we should give thanks to the Lord so who am I to question why Baba has gone at this time? It is his time. The word of the Lord has already told us that much. That is why I am telling God I am grateful.

“I am also grateful because He has given me the grace to be able to train these children and encourage them so they can also grow to establish their homes also.

“I must also express special thanks to Senator Godiya Akwashiki who has been just like our first born. Only God can reward him for all the good things he has done for us in this house. I am grateful.

“I thank God for the kind of life myself and my late husband have lived since we got married. He was not a person that speaks so much. He was quiet. He was also very loving and patient. He was also ever ready to render help. You will always see him go back to the village whenever something was happening. And he never showed any discrimination when it came to rendering help. No matter who you are, as long as you are in need and he could help, he would help. I was always asking him, is it that you have so much that you want to be doing all these things?

“Since we got married, we have never fought. He has never laid his hands on me save for one time when I was very troublesome and he threatened to lay hands on me. He asked if I knew his elder brother and that he was always beating on his wife. But my husband was not like that. He said I am his body so he cannot beat me. Even at that time, he only threatened to beat me, he did not actually beat me.

“Another thing I am grateful for is the way he always paid our children’s school fees. He was even paying the fees of his late elder brother’s children. He was always helping them.

“He was also very passionate about work in the church. He was very instrumental to the establishment of a church in his village. The church has now been completed and we even do service there.

“He was always willing to render help even when he did not have. He will come and tell me and I will ask him, now that you don’t have whose own do you want to collect to give? He will say I should lend him and he will pay me back when he gets.

“We have been married for almost 60 years and there was hardly any serious disagreement between us in these years. We were always encouraging each other and thinking about ways to serve God faithfully.

“When we got married, I had only done Primary Seven but he encouraged me and trained me to read for a Diploma and even for a Degree. In fact I went for Masters Degree but of some challenges I came back. I said after all, what do I need all these certifications for? I am already old.”

Abigail Bashi, Baba’s only surviving daughter: “I want to thank God for the life of my dad. It was a life well spent. It was obvious from weeks ago that something was about to happen but we did not know what it was. “Some people even sent us messages and some even came to visit. I told Mama and Baba that there was something that we needed to continue to pray about as a family.

“God has been too faithful. He did not fail us. In the life of our dad, God has been faithful and we give Him all the glory.

“I am particularly happy because I had the opportunity to be by his side for his last breadth. I saw how he was struggling, trying to say something but we could not hear him. All the same, we give God the glory. Thank you.”

Senator Godiya Akwashiki: “Each time I came to see Baba, it was always in the night. I always leave it either on Saturday or Sunday. And you will always come and see him with Mama. After exchange of pleasantries, Mama would want to take her leave.

“He was always current. He was even the one telling me what was in the news because he always read The Sun every day. If he sees anything that is not right, he will call me on phone and give his advice on how he thinks we should do it.

“We know that we can never know the exact hour or minute we will die but Baba was prepared for death. He prepared very well. Because he had been battling with this ailment for some time. I remember vividly there was a time they were suggesting surgery but he said no. I even had to ask Baba why he refused. His concern was that all of his age mates have gone so what is he still doing here? The first name he mentioned was Ibi. He said he wants to go and be with them and there is no need to waste money on him.

“There was also a time I was ill. For almost eight weeks I was unconscious on the bed. But two days after I started speaking, and my wife told me Baba has been disturbing her. And that he said I was actually dead and they did not just want to tell him. Although I was instructed not to speak too much, I asked for the phone so I can speak with him. When I was finally able to speak with him, I was able to convince him that I was the one speaking. He now began to lament that why would death come for me when he is here longing for it.

“When I spoke with him again about a week later, I asked him about his own health. His response was that the moment he heard about my ailment, his own disappeared.

“When I returned, I came to see him and he was so excited to see me. That was when I informed me that people have been disturbing me to go to another party but I came to inform him that I am tired of the politics. I don’t want to continue. I told him I won’t be able to campaign so we should just forget about it. He remained quiet for about 10 minutes before rebuking me. He said I should stop speaking like that.

“The following morning, very early he was in my house. He came to tell me that he had prayed about what I told him the previous day and he wants to assure me that we will win the election. He told me that I should not think it will be by my making. He said God did not let me die in the hospital because there was something He wanted me to do that I am yet to do. He assured me that with or without campaign, I was going to win the election. And it happened as he said. People that know the kind of campaign I did in 2019, know that I did not do even up to 20 percent of it. But I won the election even more than I did in 2019.

“After the elections – you know both of us are from Kagbu. Kagbu is my hometown. It’s just that my dad went to farm at Iggah. There are three rivers in Kagbu that during the rainy season, because there is no bridge there, you will have to take a longer route before you can get to Kagbu. The bridge now collapsed and then it was in the heat of campaigns and some politicians were invited to come and see what had happened. All the three bridges collapsed at ones as if it was a set-up. Some of the politicians said they will do it if they are elected into office. The cost estimate for building the bridge was done and it was over 500 million.

“The moment elections were over, Baba called me and said he is giving the message from all the Wana elders. He said now that the elections are over, I must do these bridges. I told him that even I as a person was worried that the bridges had collapsed but I was just wondering where I will get 500 million from. In response, Baba said right from when we were under Plateau State, people have always known that there were a lot of elites that hail from Kagbu. We are known for our brilliance and wisdom. Even at the time that we had not yet accepted the gospel, you can find even witchcraft in Kagbu. He said I should imagine the embarrassment that with our reputation, we would have to be taking another route through another community because we could not fix our bridge. He now said it may be because of the bridges that God gave me victory at the polls. He said even if I will have to take a loan, I should raise resources to fix the bridge. And because I know that my principle in life is to never try to amass wealth for myself but to try to leave a legacy of a good name for my children, I assured him that I will do as he requested.

“On the day we were going to inspect the bridge, he was not feeling strong so we didn’t go together. I asked the members of the community which of the three we should start with, they insisted we should do all at once. They said they don’t mind if I decide to delay to gather resources first but they want all the three done at once. But I want to assure you today that we have completed all those bridges. And if you ask me how I was able to get the resources, I do not even know but I think God listens to the prayers of our parents. And we started the work just about two weeks after the elections. I remember there was a time I offered to take Baba along with me to London for check-up, Baba declined. His only request was about the bridges in Kagbu. That was the kind of passion he had for the community.

“It is their kind that we want; people that are not after their own interests but the collective interest. And if we are going to speak on the works of Baba, I can confidently say he is currently in heaven because he had no problem with anybody. If you offend him, he will tell you to your face no matter who you are.

“When I was coming here today, I informed Senator Al-makura that I was coming for Baba’s funeral and he was shocked because he was not aware. He told me Baba was his teacher in those days and he still has Baba’s signature on some of his documents to this day. He remembered how Baba was strict with his students then because according to him, it was very possible that amongst them will be Local Government Chairmen, Governor or even the President of the country. We all know that God answered his prayers and at least one of those his students was a Governor.

“Baba was truly a man of God. That is my many of us always relied on his counsel. And it is only God that knows why He called him home at this time. My prayer is that the likes of (Anthony) Ibi, Philip Adigidzi and the others whose names he had been mentioning, God will keep them together with Him. Our prayers is that one day, good testimonies will be said about us also.”

Zephaniah Bashi: “I want the Reverend to pray for me because out of the six of us in our family, four have now gone to be with the Lord. Only myself and Mrs. Obadiah (Adigidzi) are left. That means the schedule of responsibility that my senior brother was carrying, is now on my head. It means that I require prayers.

“Our late father died in 1957. At that time, my senior brother was in Primary 7 and was about completing school. Our dad called him because I think he knew his death was coming. Our dad asked our senior brother that whatever happened, he should not allow George to come back home. He said whatever it takes, even if he would have to sell his farm lands, he should do so to ensure George continues with his education. And our senior brother obeyed this our father’s wish

We tried supporting him when he gained admission into Katsina-Ala but we were unable to because life at that time was really difficult. He saw then that we would not be able to support him and because God wanted us to also go to school, he applied to Government College Katsina-Ala. It was there that he was being paid some allowance. When he returned home, he said that myself and late Zechariah my immediate elder brother, he took us to school. That was a very big advantage for us if not there was no way we could have gone to school. It is also because of him that today in this family we have a PhD holder not to talk of the numerous graduates we have. This is all because of the sacrifice he made.

“So I want to thank God because He is truly the God of orphans. And I think our case is the perfect example. If not because of the wisdom God gave George, if we had waited till when he completed Gombe Teachers’ College, maybe we would have been too old to go to school. But because of how he helped us, as he was finishing from there, I was in Primary Five. That was how he even became my teacher in Primary Seven in Dunama Primary School. Governor Al-makura was my classmate.

“His death is a big blow to me. I don’t even know where to start from. How will I sustain his relationship with all these people he knew? How can I fill these shoes he left behind? I know that with God, nothing is impossible that is why I asked for prayers. Please keep praying for us.”

Zhe Migili, Dr. Ayuba Agwadu (JP): “When they were reading the biography of the deceased, I wish I could have added some things to it. From his age on the biography, I can say I was his senior by one month but we have known each other for long. The time he was at Katsina-Ala, I was a Gindiri. It was when he was going to Gombe that we met and ever since, we have been close. Even though he was Eggon and I was Migili, we became as brothers. I want to tell the Eggon and Migili that are here that we are one.

“George was one who had love for the people. After we finished school, both of us got employed to teach at Dunama Primary School. We also worked together at the Ministry of Local Government. He was at the education section while I was at… we were always together; George, myself and Anthony Ibi. There was even one Christmas we spent together.

“George was also very passionate about the progress of our land. When he first discovered he was ill, Anthony Ibi was the one that informed me. Since that time I have been trying my best to visit him.

“Today George is dead and it is now left for us to look at those good characters of his to emulate. We should know that we are all going to die one day. I pray that when it is our turn to return to our maker, He will welcome us with both arms. From his work here on earth, I am sure God has welcomed him with both arms.”

HRH Joseph Sunday Namo (JP), Aren Koron Kuje: “This man that we are gathered because of him today was a forthright man. He would never allow you cheat anyone in his presence. He will confront you immediately.

“Shettiman Koron Kuje was one of my trusted advisers. Just as someone quoted Baba as saying, he was one among the few of my age mates that are still alive and I have also been asking God why He has left me alive. What am I still doing here? All the people that I schooled with, from primary school up to the higher institution, we got employed together and even since retired; most of them have gone now.

“Chief (Anthony) Ibi, Chief (Philip) Adigidzi, Chief (James) Agule, just to mention a few, including him. Whenever I looked at my side and I saw them, I could ask them what the next step is. Today they are all gone.

“On behalf of the Koron Kuje community, I want to bring our unreserved condolence to the message. I assure you, if not because of the hard times we have found ourselves, this premises would not have been big enough to contain the crowd that would have been here to pay their last respect. Baba was truly a great son of the chiefdom and not everyone who would have wished to be here was able to make it.”

Hon. Solomon Akwashiki: “I want to thank God for the life of Baba. He has been a very, very good man. I remember during my campaign, he was one of the elders out of many that stood for me. He took me round. I remember vividly he took me to… who happens to be his very good friend. There we shared ideas on how I will do when I become member of the House of Assembly. He negotiated for them to vote for me so we will vote for their son for House of Reps. And I think to an extent, he got it right.

“I remember when he was in the hospital, he sent a text to me through his driver. I was not able to visit him in the hospital but I remember I visited him at home. And the last call I received from Baba was on Saturday evening. As usual, he sent his driver to me. Only for me to travel to Abuja and in the afternoon I heard that Baba has passed on to glory.

“We can say that he has paid his dues. And I sincerely want to say it from my heart that he is a very good man. Baba has helped a lot of people that I know. I am an example. So I think his death, as his children, we will rather celebrate his legacies. We will continue to pray that God will grant him eternal rest.

“As Christians today, we need to ask ourselves, on that day will somebody stand like this to testify about your good deeds? This question remains for us to answer.”

Dr. John Abimiku, the Chairman of Ashen’ta: “I am grateful for this opportunity to speak about the person Baba was. Even before I grew up to know people I had heard Baba’s name. In fact I have been hearing about him right from Benue-Plateau. Then he was already in Jos and we were still at home in primary school.

“I grew up in life to the point I was elected the Chairman of Ashen’ta Nation. That was when I got to know Baba. Because when we were still coming up, Baba had grey hair very quickly. And whenever I saw his grey hair, I will be scared of coming close to him. But when I became Chairman of Ashen’ta and he was Ombili, whenever we were having our meetings, I would always look at him to know if we are going the right direction or not.

“I am very grateful because I enjoyed working with him. We were always together with him. I know that I studied administration but I have come to realize that administering an Eggon association is a very difficult task. And whenever I met any difficulty, I always came to him because he was my shield. He would now guide me on the path to take. In fact, the last time we met with him, he told me not to worry if I hear that he is dead. That was when he told me about his ailment. He told me it was just God that was sustaining him and we should keep remembering him in our prayers.

“He now said that even if he dies we should appreciate Senator Godiya Akwashiki very well. Baba said Senator Godiya Akwashiki worked with him very closely.”

Very Rev Michael Dogwo, Reverend in-charge of ERCC LCC Sabon Pegi Lafia where Baba fellowshipped: “When I was transferred to ERCC LCC Sabon Pegi Lafia, Baba wrote a very long letter to me. He arranged it like an agreement. When I went through it all, I came and met him. He now told me that if I had agreed with all that was contained in the letter, I can sign it. I now responded to him using a proverb. I asked him if he has ever seen where they tied a goat and a lion left the goat without devouring it? I asked him to take some time to think about what I had said. That letter is still there till today.

“One day when I came back and met him, I told him that work in the church was not one that we will enter into agreement for. The way he is looking at things, it may not be the way we will go. I assured him that whenever he felt there was a problem, he should call my attention.

We were brought here just last year and we have come to understand that Baba is someone who wants to work with you. He doesn’t like laziness at all. When he is asking for something to be done, he is already ahead.

“He has done a lot of things in this church. He had a particular place he loved to sit in the church. He always wanted to contribute to the growth of the church.

“I also came to understand that he was also a very cheerful giver. There was a day he called my attention to inform me of an ailment he had been struggling with. We prayed together and God told us at that time that he was not going to die. When he regained his strength, he came for thanksgiving. And for his thanksgiving, he said he wanted us to complete our chairs in the church so that we can sit in a modernized way.

“When the ailment returned in March this year and we were always going to visit him, Baba asked why we were suffering ourselves. He asked if we did not know that he was old. I told him I was even asking God to give him 15 more years. He said I wanted him to become a burden.

Baba did a lot of things in this church but he has now gone home to be with his maker. We will not question God as to why He took him. Our only question is who will take over from Baba?”

CAN Chairman, Very Rev. Dr. Sunday Emmah: “I have been listening to all the testimonies about Baba and one question has been on my mind. The question is, what will you be remembered for?

“I met Baba physically since 1996 but in 2007 I had the opportunity to be in South Africa for my research and I read about Baba’s work where he gave his house to be a place of prayer, especially for the protestant church and the present ERCC. At the time, Christians who came to Lafia irrespective of their tribe, his house was an open place for prayers.

“Baba had been very open; he has never hidden his Christian identity. Just as we have all been saying, wherever he was, he always wanted to show that he is a Christian. And of course, in many ways, Baba has contributed to the growth of Christianity not just in this local assembly – in which I was a Reverend in 1996 – but other engagements such as supporting church missionaries. So Baba will be remembered for many things. The question is: what will you be remembered for?

“I want to appeal to all Christians that gone are the days that we will try to hide our Christian identity. Some of us are only Christians in the church. In our places of business or work, we are not Christians. When we are playing politics we are not Christians. But we will want to wear a crown at the last day.”

Brief Profile

Late Chief George Eliya Bashi was born on 15th May, 1944, hails from Lafia North Development Area Nasarawa State.

EDUCATION:

Started his early Education at Barkin Abdulliahi (B.A.D) CMS Primary School (1952) and completed same at Agyaragu CMS Primary School in 1957.

He Proceeded to Katsina-Ala Benue Provincial Secondary School in 1958 where he studied for only two years as he was attracted to Gombe Government Teachers College (GTC) in 1960 for a 4-years Teacher’s Training Course where he undertook and completed his Grade II Teachers Course in 1963.

He got admission into prestigious Ahmadu Bello University for his Diploma Certificate course in Educational planning and Administration in 1967 and completed same in 1968.

He proceeded to UK (Cardiff) for his B Ed & M.Ed Degrees in Educational Planning and Development Studies in 1976 and completed same 1979

WORKING EXPERIENCE:

He started his career as a classroom Teacher and Assistant Head Teacher at Dunama Native Authority (NA) Primary School Lafia, in 1964 and rose to the position of Head Teacher at Adogi NA Primary School (1966) before being appointed Assistant Education Officer Lafia Local Education Authority in 1968. He was later deployed in a major Policy Initiative of Government which affected Local Education Authority Education Officers, to the Ministry of Education Absorption into the state service in 1971.

Thereafter, served during the Benue-Plateau State era as Assistant Education Officer and Education i/c in Gboko and Wukari Local Education Authorities respectively between 1971-1975 before his posting back to the Ministry of Education HO Jos in 1976 during a State creation exercise which saw Wukari being part of then Gongola State and Benue and Plateau going apart as separate States.

On the creation of Nasarawa State in 1996, he was deployed to be Director, Planning Research & Statistics and Higher Education Department respectively, before exiting from service in the year 2000.

POST-RETIREMENT ENGAGEMENTS:

Worked after retirement with a foreign based NGO, USAID Sponsored Project. Literacy Enhancement Assistance Program (LEAP) 2002-2004 and served the Nasarawa State Government as the Executive Chairman Teachers Service Commission: 2014-2018

FAMILY:

He was married to Mrs. Roseline Liatu Bashi and their union was blessed with six children but currently four are alive.

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