By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I FELT deep sadness over the weekend when news broke, that the Emir of Borgu, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro died in Germany, at the age of 77.
His passing shocked so many people in our country especially those who had very close relationships with him.
Bola Tinubu’s tribute was very moving, underscoring the Emir’s contributions to Nigeria’s political history, but especially since about 2011. Even the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, was moved to say, that it’s the writing of recent political history that will bring home, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro’s contributions to our country’s progress.
For me, I feel a personal sense of loss, because we had agreed that I would visit him during the International Gaani Festival that he had elaborately planned for, but was not destined to see.
When I last saw him in Abuja, he had actually summoned me to comment on a piece I had written about Kwara state’s history, for my column here. He insisted that I had to write a sequel, after scolding me, for not going to see him in New Bussa, for so long!
Alhaji Haliru Dantoro was one of the titans of Second Republic politics, 1979-1983, in the old Kwara State. Unlike what operates today, that Kwara state, had many political giants: Haliru Dantoro, Sunday Awoniyi, S.B. Daniyan, Abdul Rahman Okene, Adamu Attah, Ado Ibrahim, etc. Olushola Saraki was Senate Leader and pre-eminent politician, who tried to impose a personal hegemony, resisted by individuals like the late Dantoro.
Haliru Dantoro was a prince, just like Adamu Attah (Ebirra Prince), Speaker Shehu Usman (Fulani Prince from Lafiagi like Senator Sha’abaLafiagi) and his deputy, Israel Moronfoye (a Prince from Irra, the late RasheedYekini’s hometown), and was not willing to become a “political slave” that the Saraki hegemony that had neither royal background nor longstanding historical bona fides, always attempted to impose on Kwara! This hegemony successfully exploited a historical vacuum and need for a rallying point, to impose political control!
That was very much the central basis of disagreement that Alhaji Haliru Dantoro and other political heavyweights of that epoch had with the Saraki hegemony. It led to acrimonious division of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), in Kwara state.
The late Olushola Saraki abandoned the NPN, and entered into an alliance, which brought Cornelius Adebayo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to power in the 1983 elections (just like his son, Bukola Saraki did with the PDP, againstAPC, in 2015). After the elections, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro, was appointed Minister of the Federal Capital by President Shehu Shagari, in recognition of his political and leadership abilities.
That government was however overthrown by Generals Buhari andIdiagbon, in December 1983. General Babangida’s regime eventually “beheaded” the old Kwara State, by removing the Borgu emirate, and joining it to Niger State, a decision that we have remained unhappy about, given historical relationships between the peoples of the old Ilorin Province, including Borgu!
Alhaji Haliru Dantoro was elected a senator during the ill-fated Babangida political transition; and as Bola Tinubu (turbaned Jagaban Borgu) wrote in his tribute, the period brought him into close relationship with Alhaji Haliru Dantoro.
He would play a vital role in building the political relationship between Buhari and Tinubu, which midwifed the change that Nigeria experienced in the 2015 elections that swept away the PDP and brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power.
Nigeria has lost a truly remarkable patriot and bridge builder, with the passing of Alhaji Haliru Dantoro, the late Emir of Borgu. Allah yajikan sarki. Amin.
An evening with Prof. Murray Last: Fish, drinks and all
THE text came last Wednesday evening as usual, from Jibo Ibrahim: “Fish with Prof. Murray Last at 7. 30 pm”, it said tersely. So a few minutes after seven thirty, I arrived at our rendezvous. Seated were Jibo and his wife, Charmaine; Professor Ebere and our august guest, Professor Murray Last. It was our first meeting, but I have read practically everything that he has written, or as much as I have come across.
The most recent being a chapter that he contributed to a very new book, edited by our friend Raufu Mustapha, a professor of Political Science at Oxford University, on Islam in Northern Nigeria. The fish didn’t take too long to arrive and the drinks flowed, but we had started tucking into a multi-directional conversation, soon after Jibo introduced me to Murray Last.
Now, this remarkable intellectual has truly encyclopedic knowledge of Northern Nigeria.
He wrote his famous Ph. D thesis on the Sokoto Calipahate for the University of Ibadan, in 1963. As a matter of fact, Murray Last invented the phrase “SOKOTO CALIPHATE”, because until his doctoral work, and commencing from the British conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate, which started from Ilorin and Bida in 1897, and climaxing in Sokoto in 1903, the British narrative spoke of the “Fulani Empire”, in order to pejoratively reduce it into an ethnic project, rather than what it really was: the most important and most extensive political and religious reformative project in pre-colonial African history!
Murray Last, working within the ambience of the Ibadan History Project, one of the greatest intellectually resourceful historical projects in African history, re-defined and re-interpreted the jihad of 1804, as one of the greatest processes in recent human and African history, in doing his doctorate in history, at the University of Ibadan.
Murray Last would go on to do another doctorate in anthropology. And since 1970, has returned annually to a MAGUZAWA village in Katsina state, to study the community. The Maguzawa are “pagan” Hausa communities, who refused to convert to Islam and have retained a code of existence dating back to pre-Islamic life in Northern Nigeria. He has also become a world authority on “Hausa medicine” and those nuanced issues of everyday life in Northern Nigeria.
An evening like we had, allowed a peek into various aspects of life, not in a structured manner, but in an incredibly elaborate manner of discovery;because so many things were talked about and pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of existence began to fit in.
For instance, Last revealed that the infamous Sambisa Forest was actually started as a reserve, just to allow a colonial Resident in Borno to have a place to hunt! In the same manner, that the famous Gobirau Minaret in Katsina, was actually constructed in the 1920s, by a colonial Resident.
It was Murray Last who made a detailed study of the Muslim Cemetery records in Kano, and came to the remarkable conclusion that far more people die in Kano on Fridays than any other days of the week!
In the Islamic belief system, it is a blessing to die on a Friday and furthermore, it is the day that is believed the world would end! The incredible element of his study was that far more women and children die on Fridays than the men; it was also curious that “pious and religious men” don’t seem to die on Fridays!
There was a lot more! For instance, Murray Last noticed the fact that only 70 Fulbe Jihadists rode into Zaria, while the Habe Emir rode out with over 3000 people as the city was incorporated into the Sokoto Caliphate.
Professor Ebere was surprised about that fact and wondered why. Murray Last also reminded about the civil war that took place inside Kano that obliged Sokoto to send in troops to eventually suppress the revolt.
In an incredible colonial exploitation of the facts of history, the troops that the Brirish used to conquer Sokoto, the capital of the caliphate, were mainly recruited from Kano! He also pointed out that open spaces and parks in British cities and colonies, are seen as part of civilised existence today, but they had a military raison d’etre: they were created as spaces to camp mainly cavalry troops and their horses (that will need to fodder), in order to suppress revolts and uprisings against the ruling classes!
There were other far more revealing, even incredibly “subversive” insights, about individuals and episodes, in the history of the past fifty years in Northern Nigeria, that I am unable to put into this narrative.
It was a most incredible night of eating and drinking but above all, of feeding the mind with one of the most remarkable intellectuals who has dedicated his life to the study of the history of Northern Nigeria, Professor Murray Last. Remarkable evening indeed!
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at INEC: Man and Guinea fowls
SINCE the announcement broke of his appointment as the new Chairman of INEC, I have tried to remember how we became friends with Professor MahmoodYakubu. Walahi, I cannot recall, despite my well-known ability to recall dates and events up to the exact day! But from the time I was the General Manager of KWTV in Ilorin, during the late 1990s, I would regularly drive into Kaduna to see the lady that eventually became my wife.
It became a routine that the first place of call, as I drove into the city, was the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), where MahmoodYakubu was a professor. A very decent, modest and most committed intellectual, he kept in the backyard of his residence a sizeable collection of Guinea fowls, that he was very devoted to.
I would go with him to see his ever-growing collection of birds, and his devotion to them, as much as his devoted service as an intellectual could not have been missed. His example triggered my decision to eventually start a farm that will also keep Guinea fowls too.
The second experience of the man that I never stop recalling was from 2004. There was an international conference to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Sokoto Caliphate. MahmoodYakubu was one of the central figures in the organisational work that made the event an incredible success. I was Editor of DAILY TRUST, and the conference offered an opportunity for interviews, including a very extensive one, with the late Professor Ade Ajayi.
The third phase of his work that I recall was as head of the Education Trust Fund (ETF), which he did with remarkable competence. The final one came last year at the National Conference, where I was also a Delegate. I think Nigeria made a truly appropriate choice, to replace AttahiruJega with MahmoodYakubu, as INEC Chairman!
These are two remarkably decent and principled individuals. AttahiruJega supervised my Masters Degree thesis in Political Science and MahmoodYakubu is a historian and a friend that I know will head INEC with the tenderness and firmness that he tends his Guinea fowls! It is a wise choice by President Muhammadu Buhari. I wish MahmoodYakubu success in a very difficult assignment.