He was naturally a caring and loving soul. He spoilt the children and I. Very generous and a supportive husband. My husband was my demigod.
Can you possibly imagine the gut wrenching shock that Hajia Hansatu Zannah-Mustapha, the young widow of the late former deputy governor of Borno State, got when she stumbled on a Facebook post announcing the death of her husband in Adamawa State? It was a hard blow. Too hard. But the humble, accomplished, and cosmopolitan Hansatu found inner strength that has enabled her carry on and become a bridge between the haves and have-nots. In this interview she shares her pains, grief and relief.
How have you coped in the last three years since the demise of your husband? Did you experience unfriendly and harmful traditional practices?
Praise be to Allah who has given me the strength to be able to stand on my feet after my husband’s demise. It has not been an easy journey for me at all. I was married to my late husband for 20 years and he was my sole provider and all of a sudden, I became the father and mother who had provide and take care of the children. Doing both jobs has not been an easy task because we had different roles while he was alive; but with God as my strength I have been pushing on gradually.
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I did not go through any harmful traditional practice. That is the beauty of Islam. Kullinafsinzaikatulmaut means every living soul shall taste death. Also there is this saying that every soul when it is time shall not be exceeded even by a second. We all believe that when it is someone’s time to go, the person would definitely go. Nobody can take anybody’s life. You can only be a cause but it is the person’s appointed time. So I thank God I did not have any such experience. Allah does not burden a soul more than he is capable of bearing.
Did you have any premonition of your husband’s death; if yes, how? What singular role can you remember him for?
Yes, I had a premonition but never knew it would be my husband. I dreamt about him thrice that week but was unable to put it together until it happened; then I realized the bad dreams was trying to tell me something was about to happen; I prayed about the dreams then called my sister to do sadaqah for me; giving out to charity because I was in America when he died. The following day we spoke and he was okay. The bad dream continued the next day. On Friday, August 14, 2015, he was on air and called me on video; I asked him if he was in a private jet, he said no it was Arik Airline and he was on his way to Yola. I was surprised because people heard us. He asked me why I was looking moody. I returned the question back to him and said, ‘Was I?’ and tried to brighten up. He said they were about to take off. That same day we spoke twice and he later called at night from his hotel room in Yola, when he was about to sleep and we spoke. The next morning, August 15, I read about his death on Facebook. That was the most traumatic feeling of my life. To worsen it all, before we could quickly return from our journey, he was buried according to Muslim rites. It was the saddest day of my life. I was shocked and devastated. I lacked words, feeling and tears to describe my situation that day. There is a lot to remember my husband for. He was naturally a caring and loving soul. He spoilt the children and I. Very generous and a supportive husband. My husband was my demigod.
How did you meet your husband?
(Laughter) It is a long story. I simple think we were destined to be together. We were not introduced by anybody. It was love at first sight for him. My late father was a naval personnel and so also was his uncle. We all became family friends who lived and grew up in Lagos barracks. He visited our family in the company of his friends to say hello sometimes and we fondly called him Uncle Mustapha. So one day he told my mother’s sister that we should stop calling him Uncle because he is not related to us and my aunt asked him why? He told her I will marry Hansatu. My aunt laughed and came to tell me that Uncle Mustapha said he would marry me. I just ignored her as far I could remember because I was in primary six then. He boldly went to my mum and told her he would marry and my mother laughed and gave him that look of who will give you my daughter.
Shortly, my father passed away and my mum relocated us to Jos to be nearer the family and home since her husband was no more. I gained admission into Federal Government Girls College, Kazaure in Jigawa State not knowing he still had me in mind. He sent his friend with a letter and money to me but it didn’t get to me and he thought I got it and never responded. We came to know this after we met again. When another letter from him came to me through the post office, I was in my final year in FGGC, Kazaure. I replied him.
A neighbour from Lagos came to visit us in Jos and he was so happy to hear that someone saw me. When another friend was coming from Bauchi to Jos, he told him to come and get my picture to prove he saw me which his friend did; before I knew it he was in Jos and made his intentions known immediately. Already so many suitors were coming for my hand in marriage, I simply followed my instinct. A man who has been interested in me since my primary school days as a little girl, nobody can beat that and that was how we became one until death separated us after 20 years. We were very close and always together. Wherever he went as a politician, he would surely take me along and we were admired. My husband was a go-getter and that is one of his greatest qualities. Whatever he set his mind on, he went after it and it got it done. Honestly, we were ordained from above honestly.
As a spoilt wife, what have been the challenges since his demise?
I have gone through a lot emotionally, physically and psychologically. It was in this situation that I knew my friends indeed; but I have always known that human beings will always fail us, we only look up to our maker who will never fail us. Another challenge was that I was a full time housewife; so picking the strings of life was not easy but I had to do it. I learnt to be strong for the children and because nobody would do it for us.
What are you doing at present because you were not working when the unfortunate happened?
Yes, I was not working but I have opened my husband’s business that I closed for one year because I didn’t know where to start from.
What are the challenges running the business as a first timer?
I was a novice in the business so I closed it when my husband passed on. It took perseverance and hard work to stay afloat. At times, I am discouraged and feel like quitting but when I remember there are mouths to feed and bills to pay, I will get back on my feet. No one will do all these for me. Though I was not working, I am educated and have also known that success is the result of continuous effort and hard work. Behind every outstanding achievement is an untold story of loneliness, trials, discipline and hard work. I will never allow my dreams to die because of challenges that I am facing. I will keep forging ahead to fulfill my husband’s legacies and I know it shall all end in praise.
Again, when Allah blessed me with such a nice man I did not ask why; now that I am been tried why should I ask, ‘why me?’ Believing in God does not mean we will not be tried. Those are challenges of life. Prophets and believers before us were all tried one way or the other.
What was the biggest sacrifice you made?
The biggest sacrifice I made was not fulfilling my childhood dream as a broadcast journalist (news casting); because my husband caught me young. I got married quiet early but it didn’t stop me from getting my degrees. I studied Mass Communication from the University of Lagos and also got my MSc from the same Department. My compulsory national service was at Channels Television. After all these, my husband said both of us cannot be running in and out at the same time. He explained and pleaded with me to take care of the children while he looks for money for us. When I look back today, I know that was the best decision for me. If I have the opportunity to do it again, I will still do it all over again. My first child has graduated, whenever we are introduced as mother and son, people turn and look at us. So staying at home with my children as my first job and priority was worth the sacrifice. Blessings vary, what other women gained at offices and businesses, I gained in the conduct of all my children. Nothing could be greater and more fulfilling than that. The sacrifice was worth everything.
You are stunningly beautiful and young. How do you handle male admirers now, not talking about marriage, admirers for now?
(Laughing) ‘Insha Allah’ I feel flattered but many thanks for the compliment. There are definitely admirers, but I think they are distractions for now. I have lots of responsibilities. I want to focus on my children and grow my business.
You have professed love between you and your late hubby, what do you miss most about him? Did your in-laws call for his properties? What fond memories do you remember now?
I miss every bit of him. I miss his sense of humour and his jokes. I miss his unending phone calls. My husband could call me 20 times in a day to know if everything was alright. To him, family came first. Family vacations were a must. He spent quality time with his family when at home. He made us all love football. When he was busy and could not watch the game, he call and my youngest child would update him. He was not the cooking type; he could not even boil water (laughing).
On the other question, if you lose any member of the family, sharing of his wealth is already documented in the Quran. Anybody who defies such rulings knows the stand of the Quran on it. In trying to usurp the wealth of an orphan, people would not want to face the wrath of God. Nemesis catches up with such people right here on earth and the punishment is received as well.
Through your journey in life as a wife, mother and a business oriented woman, is there anything you would have loved to do differently if you have the opportunity again?
What I would have done is to put pressure on my husband to be self-reliant, though that would have been difficult because I had everything at my disposal and was comfortable.
I think one should have something doing especially when the children are grown. That is why it took me two years to get back on my feet. I closed my husband’s business for a year because I did not know where and how to start. A woman should be productive even if you are married to a billionaire. You ought to have the knowledge and experience of your husband’s business and carry on as a wife. That would also enable you to have something to fall back on, if not people would take advantage of your zero business knowledge and frustrate you. So for me I think every woman should be enterprising and up and doing.
Now that you are a widow, what advice do you have for other young widows out there?
I want to let them know that nothing good comes easy. I chose not to dwell on the past so much to weaken me but rather have a positive mind towards issues and believe it is doable. It is not easy but we will surely get there. I also want them to know that life will change when they become more committed to their dreams. I want them to learn how to handle criticism, develop a thick skin instead of being discouraged. I do not compare myself with anybody because there’s a distance between the moon and the sun and each shines at its own time. Most of all I focus on my greatest source of confidence which is my God.
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You have been in the corridors of power as the wife of a deputy governor, what would you be remembered for now that you are no longer in that office?
I would be remembered for touching the lives of the poor and needy in my own little way back then. I had an open door policy. I made sure my people had access to me and I listened to them. I never made fake promises to anybody or group or community; do not forget I was wife of a deputy governor, I had my limits. Whatever that was within my reach to do for my people, I made sure I did it. I would again be remembered for my friendliness and honesty.