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Remembering my benefactors(2)

By Ambassador Alhaji SHEHU MALAMI, CON SARKIN SUDAN

The draft speech was a master piece but when the time came for its delivery on the lawn of the State House in Marina, His Eminence just put it in his pocket and very much  improved upon it with his blunt language.

He said that God was the master  of everything, man proposes but God disposes, that no matter the efforts to conceal intentions nobody could fool all the people and that God has His way of exposing ill-will and has severe retribution for misdeeds. He said that Islam encourages acceptance of constituted authority but that authority cannot succeed without consultation, equity and fair play. In his response Ironsi promised solemnly to consult widely on whatever he would do. He did not! His subsequent actions led to the very serious disturbances in the North in May 1966.  Their multiplier effects eventually led to the Civil war.

I was a member of the Governing Council of the University of Nigeria at Nsukka from 1974 to 1980. Under the chairmanship of Chief Rotimi Williams I served on its Tenders Board also, and was chairman of the Endowment Committee when efforts were made to raise money. Endowment Fund was launched on the occasion of the award of Honorary Doctorate Degree to His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto. I often remember with relish what happened at the Council meeting discussing the arrangements for the occasion of the Award.

The normal procession was for the students to move forward into the venue of the ceremony, followed by the lecturers and then distinguished  invitees like visiting Vice Chancellors and finally the Emirs and Chancellors of other universities. The Emirs would therefore go ahead of the Sultan in the procession. I told the council that this was not a normal occasion and that all the arrangements would be disorganized as no Emir would agree to precede the Sultan.

This is what exactly happened. Emir of Kano and other Emirs present went into the procession all right but immediately they saw the Sultan behind them they fell out and went behind His Eminence. From then on the proceedings went according to plans. His Eminence gave me permission to deliver his Acceptance Speech.
The day before the Convocation and the Award Ceremony the weather in Sokoto threatened to disrupt all the arrangements. Harmattan haze enveloped Sokoto and prevented the plane to land and pick up His Eminence.

I reported the matter to General Shehu Yar’Adua at the Supreme Headquarters, who enthusiastically put another plane on  stand by  until the weather cleared and brought the Sultan to Enugu from where he travelled to Nsukka. In his entourage was Alhaji  Ibrahim Dasuki, Baraden Sokoto, who later proceeded to Lagos to represent the Sultan at the turbaning of my very good friend, Abdul  Wahab Folawiyo, as the Baba Adinni of Nigeria.

In the governing Council of the University together with him was General T.Y. Danjuma, the then  GOC  in Port Harcourt. I had heard a lot  about Danjuma the gentleman officer and a man of great courage and so I was glad to meet him for the first time. In no time we became great friends and he was later in 1975 instrumental in my appointment to the Constitution Drafting Committee under Chief Rotimi Williams. He had great admiration for Sir Ahmadu Bello not because of his sterling qualities in so many ways but also the kindness Sir Ahmadu Bello showed to him. He first met the Hon. Premier when he was  ADC to President Nyerere.

He accompanied the Tanzanian President to meet Ahmadu Bello. Danjuma was surprised by the inquisitive nature of the man as he wanted  to know more about Danjuma. What also surprised Danjuma was the fact that when plots  of land were being distributed in Kaduna he directed Danjuma to be given one. Danjuma collected the allocation documents and proceeded later to build a house. It is still in his possession and a reminder of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s munificence.

Shortly after General Murtala Mohammed took over running of the Government he invited the Sultan to visit him in Lagos. I accompanied His Eminence and was present with other advisers in Murtala’s office before we left the two of  them  together. After some time Aihaji Hamzat Ahmadu, the Principal Secretary, was called to join them.

By the time I was summoned by His Eminence they were talking about flight arrangements to take the Sultan back to Sokoto that evening. It was remembered, however, that the Sokoto Airport had no landing facilities after sunset and so Hamzat Ahmadu was asking for permission for General Murtala to allow use of siren for the cars conveying His Eminence to Lagos Airport for him to take off for Sokoto.

General Murtala approved but with the proviso that ‘sirens must be used  sparingly”. In his well publicized  Low   Profile  policy Murtala  had earlier decreed against rampant use of sirens. Sir Abubakar was  just  listening to them. He then suddenly surprised them by expressing surprise that they were all talking about sending him back to Sokoto that day.  He concluded “yon are trying to  drive me away but I am not going to Sokoto today.

I am staying here”. Murtala was terribly surprised but very happy that he could have more time with His Fminence. In no time appropriate accommodation was put in place and we spent the night in Lagos before getting back to Sokoto the  following day. General Murtala  kept telling me later how very simple and accommodating he had found His  Eminence to be. He promised to find more opportunities to get near to His  Eminence in order to learn  more from his fountain of wisdom.

From the distance Ahmadu Bello’s appearance was forbidding but he was a man of both great humanity and humility. He enjoyed laughing and cracking jokes with his friends. Alhaji Yusuf Mailuma Sule was well known for his ability to  contrive good convivial atmosphere to make Sir Ahmadu Bello laugh even when he appeared not ready  for it.  He  also enjoyed the usual banter between the Fulanis and Tivs as Mr. Tilley Gyado, the  successful Tiv contractor, always addressed the Sardauna as “Dan Fulani” to which Sardauna would retort “Saanu Dan Munchi”.

I was with him in Kaduna when news of the death of the Federal Minister of Defence, the formidable Alhaji Muhammadadu Ribabu, reached him. He broke down in tears. He was still in tears when he went to the State House for the  maiden Usmaniya Award ceremony. Usmaniya Award had been created by him to reward people engaged in spreading Islam. Among those honoured that evening was Sarkin Minna Bahago, the father of the present Emir of Minna.


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