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Remembering my benefactors (3)

By Ambassador Alhaji Shehu Malami , CON SARKIN SUDAN

The invited guests were really shaken to see Ahmadu  Bello  so visibly shaken and in tears. After he was able to collect himself he profusely apologized and explained that Alhaji Ribadu was an upright gentleman who would always give him and the Prime Minister of the Federation honest advice no matter how bitter. He said that most people would normally tend to please him either because of some fear, veneration or expectation of  some reward. But what he badly needed was honest advice. He was now much more  poorer without Muhammed Ribadu.

Towards the end of August one gentleman, quite unknown to me, telephoned to seek my participation in a video film they were organizing on the life and times of the Honourable Justice Muhammed Nasir who was Ahmadu Bello’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

The man came to see me in Sokoto when I told him my inability to contribute much and regretted that Alhaji Mu’azu Lamido would have been the right person for him to see. Mu’azu Lamido was the son of the 16th  Sultan of Sokoto, Hassan, who had visited the United Kingdom in 1934 on the invitation of the British Government. Mu’azu Lamido was Ahmadu Bello’s Minister of Animal and Forest Resources. For years Lamido was political associate and cabinet colleague of Justice Mamman Nasir.

Writing this piece reminded me about the revelations made to me by Mu’azu Lamido only a couple of months before he got down with stroke leading to his hospitalization and death on the 13/8/2009. I had been aware of some occasions when His Eminence the Sultan sent to Kaduna for Sir Ahmadu Bello tons of foodstuffs to supplement his own resources. There were extended family responsibilities, responsibilities of enormous number of personal staff and other dependants. Of course the supplies were always distributed away immediately they arrived.

The same thing would happen to any money or dresses etc that came into Ahmadu Beilo’s hands. Mu’azu Lamido told me of the arrival in Kaduna of the Sultan at a time when Ahmadu Bello was totally broke. He told Lamido to go to “our elder brother the Sultan and tell him I have no money now and need some. I hope he is not as broke as I am” Lamido dutifully went to the Sultan and he told me that Sultan’s face looked tensed up as he relayed the message. He did not get any response but studied silence from His Eminence. He left empty handed and reported his sad experience to Ahmadu Bello.

Later in the day Lamido was summoned to see His Eminence when Sultan, looking quite relaxed, confirmed to him that the whole day he had been as totally penniless as the Hon. Premier. He said it was later in the day that some good Samaritan paid him courtesy call and gave him the money which he was now gladly passing on to the Hon. Premier, “the Sardauna needs the money more than in charge of the affairs of the whole Federation.

He did not concern himself with mundane acquisitive tendencies but created so many avenues to enrich the welfare of the people. Northern States Marketing Board was established to build up Northern entrepreneurship through buying produce: Cotton, groundnuts, benniseed etc The NNDC and NNIL were there to advance money for trading and industries. He got Northerners to be textile distributors, transporters etc and big contractors.

This was how he built up Alhaji Audu Bidas, Tilley Gyados, Barau Potiskums, Maideribes, Dantatas, Rabi’us. Danjas, Sulen Jabus, Dan Boyis etc. He was busy building millionaires but was himself often broke. He was proud to build and not to destroy. Would today’s leaders allow opportunity to steal, intimidate or enrich themselves slip bye? Contemporaries of Sultan Sir Abubakar and Sir Ahmadu Bello or, specifically those that we know worked with them, appear to have come from the same breed and creed. They were dedicated Nigerians and nothing would entice them to tarnish their names.

Alhaji Isa Kaita as Minister of Education had given a contract to Alhaji Aminu Dantata and the late Ahmed Maideribe to supply text books and other requirements to educational institutions. The two diligently carried out their contracts through which they made good profit for which  they wanted to show appreciation to the Hon. Minister. They had agreed to give some money to the minister but had found it difficult on how to approach him. After summoning enough courage they went to Isa Kaita’s ministerial house in Kaduna.

They met him, expressed their appreciation for his assistance but how would they deliver the money to him as they were sure he would feel offended by their gesture? As they were finally leaving him they surreptitiously left an envelope on the side table. However, as they were on the verge of leaving the compound Isa Kaita noticed the envelope, hurried out and drew their attention to the envelope they had forgotten on the table. Rather timidly they confessed that the money in the envelope was for him. He reprimanded them by saying “We are here to help you make money but we are not here to make money out of you.”

Quite a number of the then customers of the UTC Motors Company in Kaduna and certainly Ahmadu Belio’s staff should be able to remember Mr. Walter Sannemann who was the manager there. Prior to his posting to UTC Kaduna, on the encouragement of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Mr. Sannemann was a junior manager at the UTC Motors Company in Kano.

Fate made Sannemann meet Ahmadu Bello some years earlier when they met on the road between Funtua and Yashe, Ahmadu Bello was on his way to Kano from Sokoto when his car broke down and young Sannemann was going back to Kano from Kaduna. He stopped and kindly gave Ahmadu Bello a lift to Kano.

On arriving in Kano Sannemann offered to put up Ahmadu Bello in his small company house and also to send a team of mechanics to repair Ahmadu Belio’s car abandoned on the road, but Ahmadu Bello thanked him and requested Sannemann to kindly take him to the Emir’s Palace and leave him there. Sannemann later remembered that Ahmadu Bello was given princely reception at the palace.

Ahmadu Bello later took over the Government in Kaduna and, typical of him, remembered the generosity of one young man working at the UTC Motors in Kano and requested that the man be traced and brought to him. When the two eventually met he told Sannemann to convince his management in Europe to open UTC Motors branch company in Kaduna. They agreed and eventually UTC Motors Company in Kaduna with its bigger clientel became the busiest and the most prosperous branch in Nigeria.

It was in appreciation of this that Mr. Sannemann decided on a promotional gift of a brand new car, to the Hon. Speaker of the Northern House of Assembly, Alhaji Umaru Gwandu. He was shocked when the gift was rejected. Umaru Gwandu said he already  had a personal car which he had acquired through the usual car loan and he had also the availability of an official car. He simply said he had no need for an additional car and told Sannemann in very strong terms “please take it away”. Would gift of a car be rejected in Nigeria today?

Walter Sannemann was a great disciple of Sir Ahmadu Bello. From his position at UTC Motors Company and his good name he became involved with the industrialist, Mr. Chachiming in his Nigerian textile Empire. Late
Alhaji Ali Akilu, later Ambassador Aminu Sanusi, father of the present Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, were advisers to Mr. Chachimins, so also were Alhaji Yahaya Gusau, Ahmed Talib and Mahrnud Atta. After his retirement from Nigeria Mr. Walter Sannemann became an unofficial Nigerian goodwill Ambassador in Switzerland. He lived with his family in Kloten near Zurich, entertaining anybody passing through there.

He was always available to receive me and  my wife and also saw us off  to or from Davos for the World  Economic Forum conferences. The former Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland, Ambassador, Yahaya Kwande, Ambassador Hamzat Ahmadu Ibrahim Damcida and so many other friends paid glowing tribute to Walter on the news of his death a few years ago.


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