•If late Northern premier is opportune to wake up and see where Nigeria is today, he’ll quickly die again’
Alhaji Hassan Danbaba, is the Magajin Gari Sokoto and grandson of late Ahmadu Bello, the Northern Premier and Sardauna Sokoto. In this interview with TUNDE OMOLEHIN in Sokoto, he spoke on the life, legacies and death of his late grand father, among other issues. He declared the verdict that recent and current Nigerian leaders have failed woefully.
How would you describe your late grandfather, the Sardauna of Sokoto?
Though I never met him alive because I was born after he was killed but, from people’s testimony about his life and time, he was very honest, sincere, selfless and passionate about Nigeria. Someone who was not materialistic, unlike leaders of today, he left nothing for his family, prior to his untimely death.
How does it feel to be a grandson of such a great man?
I am proud not only to have come from his lineage, but followed his lifestyle of selfless life and keeping the good family name. I have heard so much about him that If I decide to put it in a book form, we would be talking of a compilation of an encyclopedia. He was described as a sincere, honest, and committed to the development of northern Nigeria and the country as a whole.
He was one of those who fought for Nigeria’s independence. Would you know the specific roles he played in its actualization?
It was recorded that though he wanted independence, but was conscious of challenges faced by northern Nigeria, which he represented, was not ready for independence. Reason was that, the region did not have qualified and enough manpower to run its administration. As at independence in 1960, late Ahmadu Bello was extremely happy that the affairs and governance of Nigeria was eventually going to be managed by Nigerians. My mother told me that preparations for the ceremony became a daily affair for about six months before the October 1, 1960 date.
With what you heard about your grandfather, how will you rate his administration as Premier of the northern region?
From a vantage position, I think we have not done well as a nation, in building on the legacies bequeathed to us by our first generation leaders. I want to disclose to you that there was a file I saw at Arewa House in Kaduna, which contains a road map that by now, there was supposed to be Seaports from Lokoja-Barau-Yauri. There would have been railway connectivity all over the north and so many things, but unfortunately, we have not added anything to what we inherited from the old administration. The cement factory built in Sokoto remains the only cement factory around. The NNDC we inherited with a lot of subsidiaries is in comatose, the Bank of the North doesn’t belong to the north anymore. Nothing has been added to Durbar and Hamdala hotels in Kaduna. Instead of improving or adding to Ahmadu Bello legacies, we are rather mismanaging and killing them. This is sad.
You speak passionately about the legacies of your grandfather but you sound bitter about their mismanagement and destruction
Let me put it this way, I am passionate about Nigeria. I love Nigeria and if there is reincarnation, I would love to live again as a Nigerian, only that, I want to see a better Nigeria competing with developed nations. My concern is that Nigeria ought to have moved ahead better than where it is today, 57 years after independence.
Could you share with us how he was killed by military coup plotters?
My late grandmother that witnessed the ugly event of January 15, 1966, narrated that it started on a Friday afternoon, when late Ahmadu Bello went to the airport to receive the Premier of the western region, late Samuel Ladoke Akintola, who told him that he came to evacuate him so that, they can run away because there was plan to kill them. According to my grandmother’s narration, late Ahmadu Bello did not subscribe to the idea of running away. Late Akintola also jettisoned his escape plan and returned home when my grandfather told him that, if they run away, what would they tell the people? Late Ahmadu Bello there and then told Ladoke Akintola, that he would remain and die for his people. My grandmother recalled that, it was during fasting period and it was three or four days after late Sardauna of Sokoto returned from lesser hajj. On his return from Friday Jummat prayers, late Sardauna went to Leventis Stores and did his usual shopping. After the evening prayer and dinner, the next they heard at about midnight was gunshots, then total darkness from disconnection of electricity. There was commotion, guards on duty were killed and all members of the family were together. She narrated that the first gun shot from the Major Nzeogwu-led troops killed Ahmadu Bello’s first wife and the second shot hit Ahmadu Bello on his forehead and thereafter, the house was set ablaze. Sir Ahmadu Bello, to us, his family members, died a hero, a brave man. For the record, his grandparent fought the Jihad and established the Caliphate. He could not have run away because of death. Supposing he ran away, everyone in his lineage would have been covering their heads in shame.
The coup that led to your grandfather’s death was described as sectional, any lesson (s) from it?
It was not Sardauna alone that was killed by coupists of Igbo extraction. Tafawa Balewa was also killed, and after the dastard act, they were never tried nor jailed by the military. Be that as it may, we hold no grudge against the Igbo as a family, we have forgiven them and let bygone be bygone, for the sake of one Nigeria.
You hold no grudge against anyone on the killing of your grandfather, accepting it as a sacrifice for one Nigeria, but the unity of the country was put to test in recent time by agitation for Biafra Republic. What is your take on this?
I would not dissipate my energy on this so-called agitator, whose intent was not the reflection or aggregate desire of the Igbo. I see the leader of proscribed IPOB as a misguided element, whose thinks he can come from abroad and set Nigeria on fire again and take to his heels, as he did now. Honestly, if I were President Buhari, he wouldn’t have the luxury of time he had in generating tension, causing untimely death of his brothers before I descend on him. Where is the coward who was threatening that anyone who comes to arrest him will not leave Igbo land alive? This is a signal for any undesirable element amongst us and I want to advice President Buhari that anyone who wants to plunge the nation into another civil war should be dealt with henceforth decisively.
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the stadium in Kaduna and major roads across Nigeria were named after your grandfather, would you say the Nigerian state has honoured him enough or you think more could be done in his memory?
I don’t think late Ahmadu Bello did all what he did for recognition but rather, rendering selfless service as a leader at that time. So, if he is recognised, fine and if not, fine and good. He was a selfless leader, with honour and integrity.
Do you think he would have been proud of where Nigeria is today?
Certainly, he would not, because if we had continued with the road map he charted for us, honestly, we would have been competing with South Africa, at least, by now. If he is opportune to wake up and see the position where Nigeria is today, Ahmadu Bello will quickly die again, with the destruction of all infrastructure and legacies he left behind, and the kind of dishonest people we have around today.
Is any of his children alive?
My mother, who was married to my late father, Marafa Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Danbaba, will be seventy-three years in October and her younger sister, who was married to immediate late Marafa Sokoto, Alhaji Umaru Ali Shinkafi, are still alive. Ironically, it was after he was killed that my mother’s younger sister was born, in June 1966. She never knew her father. The first of late Sardauna of Sokoto’s three daughters; Hajiya Inno, who was married to late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi, is dead.
How do you mark his remembrance every year?
We do not as a family mark his death because late Ahmadu Bello, was a phenomenon. He was the architect of what we have in northern region. It is the northern Nigeria that found it worthy to celebrate the life and death of Ahmadu Bello. Every year, the north organises programmes, events, symposium, to honour him. The Justice Mammam Nasir-led Ahmadu Bello Foundation, based in Kaduna, now handles this.
President Buhari, on two occasions travelled abroad due to ill health, some attributed this to old age, while others think it is due to pressure of work load, what is your take on this?
I put the question back to you, who cannot be sick in this world? When you talk about age, how old is President Robert Mugabe? President Buhari fell sick, he was treated and had since resumed his office. I wonder what Nigerians want again. I am not his spokesperson. What you cannot take away from him is that, he has managed to wriggle out the country from recession, decimate insurgency and check corrupt practices. The good news for those who don’t like his face is that, 2019 is around the corner, they should muster courage to challenge him and we shall see.