• How I used mai ruwa business to fund degree programme in ABU
•I’ll fight for the poor, won’t marry more than one wife
By Kemi Yesufu
Nasiru Muazu Mato’s story is inspiring as it is a challenge to those making excuses for not making their dreams come true. After Mato lost his father at three, his grandmother took over his upkeep. A few years after, he suffered the loss of his great uncle, who paid his school fees for a short period. But he did not sit idle and complain, he walked the long road to his goals. And on Thursday July 13, 2017, Mato joined other successful candidates called to the bar in Abuja.
Even with determination, hard work and common sense, sticking out as the outstanding character traits of the young lawyer, his humility and good manners were also easy to notice as the 31-year-old graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, told Abuja Metro his story.
A poor primary school pupil
While thousands of Nigerian children are chauffeured to school, coming from a poor home, Mato drifted between Jigawa and his home state, Katsina, just to get through primary school. He left for Abuja as a young kid after completing primary school in Katsina.
“After my father’s uncle died, there was nobody left to take me as his or her responsibility and life became very difficult for me in the village in Katsina State. I had to look for means of survival, so I came to Abuja because I heard so much about the place. I settled in the Kabayi area of Karu LGA of Nasarawa State and that’s where I met Yinusa Abdullahi and Andrew, two friends who strengthened my desire to go to school,” he said.
It was hard for students to notice that the sweets seller near their school could be in the same class with them, but that was what happened in Mato’s case. Shedding light on how his friends helped keep his dreams alive, he said : “I really wanted to school at that time though I didn’t have the chance. But these two friends didn’t stop encouraging me to return to school. And I kept telling them, that they were asking me do something I couldn’t do at that time as there was nobody to sponsor me. They never stopped encouraging me, they would come to where I operated my cigarettes and sweets business, which was near their school, and, sometimes, they would give me lessons. At a point, Andy told me, it was time I returned to school because my spoken English had really improved and I could read and write. I still asked for enough time to plan and around 2002, I met Andrew and I told him, that finally I was ready to go back to school. He asked me for my primary school certificate, then we went to the secondary school where I registered in JSS I.”
Inspired into secondary school by friends and teacher
Revealing how much he saved to have the courage to tell his friends he was buoyant enough to return to the classroom, Mato told Abuja Metro that he amassed N15,000 from his sweets business and odd jobs before he declared that he was ready for secondary school education.
“As a poor man, who has been through a lot of challenges, I have learnt a lot. Before I left my village, I learned how to eat twice a day. I also learnt how to save. Right from my secondary school days, to when I gained admission, I never stopped saving. In fact, after completing my registration in ABU, Zaria, I had about five thousand naira left, which I managed for up to three months,” he said.
On how he made it through secondary school with classmates much younger than him, he said: “It wasn’t easy being in a school with children, when I was already a young adult. So, I faced a lot of challenges during that period. It was easy passing NECO and JAMB because I considered myself an adult who knew what his target was. I always went to the exam hall prepared. I also met a teacher in secondary school, Mr. Kalu, who I call my motivational consultant because he really motivated me. He told me, ‘Muazu, you can make it. But I will advise that you to write JAMB after you have passed NECO or WAEC.’ He said this because he believed that as a Hausaman, if I returned to the village after completing secondary education, I might get married and that could be the end of my dreams. For me, I wanted to study Mass Communication, but Mr. Kalu told me to apply for Islamic Law. He told me that I wouldn’t find it hard, that he as a Christian studied Islamic Religious Knowledge and passed, so I could go for Islamic Law as a Muslim. I gained admission through the Direct Entry process, having received a Diploma in Civil Law from the same university in 2010.”
Using water vending to pay tuition fees
When it was time to go to ABU, Mato realised that he had to think outside the box to be able to pay for his tuition. And he decided to work in a block-moulding factory, from where he got the funds to start a water vending business.
“As I completed secondary school, I knew that I was in a very difficult situation financially, I knew at that point that my capital for business was so small. So I joined people moulding blocks, sometimes we loaded for buyers. From there, I gathered some money to buy four carts which these mai ruwa (water vendors) use. By the time I was ready to go to university, I had saved about N60,000. It was from that money that I paid for my registration and, during my Diploma, I didn’t find it hard financially because, before coming to Abuja, I would have money kept for me from the (water) business,” he said.
Passing Law School exams on second attempt
Passing the bar exams is no mean feat, with only 1,393 candidates out of 2,125, making it through in 2016/2017, Mato was among those who succeeded. He had to wait for a second try, no thanks to an eye ailment that required surgery. He said: “Actually, I didn’t pass the Law School exams at my first attempt. For you to qualify to apply for Law School, you must have completed the two semesters in 400 level, without any carryover. It was after I met this criterion that my mentor, Alhaji Jafaru Dan-Bauchi, who also housed me in Abuja, paid for my Law School forms. Luckily, the Katsina State government gave scholarship to its indigenes who were candidates for Law School that year. It is the custom of the Katsina State Scholarship Board to pay back students after they paid their fees, but during my time they paid the scholarship before payment of tuition fees. My first time in Law School was very difficult because, I had a problem with my eyes, which resulted in my undergoing surgery on my right eye. I really found it hard reading. So when the results were released, I discovered that I didn’t make it. But I decided to come for my first re-sit in 2017 and I made it. I didn’t find things difficult because I had everything in place, even financially, I was quite comfortable”.
Mato was teary-eyed when his name was mentioned during the roll-call of new lawyers, on the day he was called to the bar: “It was very happy day for me. I almost shed tears of joy when my name was called as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”
Both Andrew and Yinusa were on hand to celebrate with Mato on the day he was called to bar.
I’ll fight for the poor, but won’t marry more than one wife
Getting personal, Mato said he would be the lawyer who fights for the poor. He also admitted that, though he looks forward to starting a family, he isn’t likely to practice polygamy, because it takes a lot to send children to school. He laughed off the idea of up to four wives as allowed in Islam: “I am yet to be married, though in our custom as Hausas it is an abomination for someone above 30 to stay unmarried. But for me, I don’t think I haven’t done right. This is because I spent my youth doing things that are useful, I wasn’t just playing around.
“I cannot predict the kind of woman I will marry, because marriage is really about finding that woman who is compatible. Someone who believes in the same things you do.”
I am not talking about us sharing the exact similarities, but she has to be someone who truly understands me. I don’t think marriage is about marrying a beautiful woman or tall or short woman. It’s about finding the person that understands you. Looking at the economic situation, in fact, if things don’t improve drastically, I don’t see myself marrying more than one wife, despite your reminding me, that Islam permits me to do so. But you know in life, circumstances can make you take actions contrary to before held ideology.
“I love being in the court, so I see myself becoming a well known human rights lawyer. Many poor people suffer injustice in Nigeria. Several times, people who have the gun and authority abuse the fundamental rights of poor people. I am one of those adverse to policemen following the rich around, when there are many places where crimes are being committed and the poor people get no help”.