Born in Danmusa in 1942, the village boy who became Nigeria’s Deputy Senate is a study in faith, courage and quest for the change in the status quo. Senator Mamman Danmusa, no doubt, is one of the most controversial figures in the Second Republic. He speaks with ANDY ASEMOTA
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Danmusa village in 1942. Danmusa was in old Dutsinma Local Government Area.
How did you know that was when you were born?
My father was the village head of Danmusa for more than 52 years. Although, there was not much literacy at the time, my father, being the village head, had a system of recording births and deaths. It was through that I got to know the date I was born.
How was it like growing up?
It was fantastic. My family was a large polygamous home. I grew up among other children. In those days feeding or eating whatever you wanted was not something of a big deal. We didn’t suffer want. My father, as I told you, was a village head, which meant he was an influential person within the community.
So, life was not difficult for us but our father was a disciplinarian. Although he was a village head that did not prevent us from working very hard in the farm when we were on holidays. We would go to the farm and we would be allocated a portion each to cultivate.
We, sometimes, went to the farm, if it was during fasting as soon as we took our Sufuru, which was around 4 am. We would leave on foot with our hoes on our shoulders. When we got to the farm before dawn, we would climb trees and wait till dawn. As soon as it was dawn, we would come down, perform abolition and say our prayers. The head of the farm, we called him Gandu, would allocate the ridges we had to dig.
We would work on the assigned number of ridges until around 12 noon even though we were fasting. After we had done that, we would have to cut grass for horses and take it home. We would feed the horses and untie the animals and rear them until about 4 to 5pm when we would return home. At times, we would be asked to go and fetch firewood before attending evening Islamic school. So, we grew up to be disciplined and hard-working; we were not spoilt by our parents.
When did you start schooling?
I started schooling in 1952 at Danmusa Elementary School from 1952 to 1955. Then I went to Dutsinma Senior Primary School, which was a boarding school. We spent three years there and we passed out in 1958. That year, we took common entrance examination and I was offered admission to Government College Kaduna or Katsina Teachers’ College that is KTC. As I was to go to Government College Kaduna, one visiting teacher said the authority wanted more teachers so I should go to Katsina Teachers’ College. I had no option but to go there.
Why did you leave Katsina Teachers’ College for Bida?
Right from childhood, I hated injustice. Even as a child, I protested against injustice that was why even though I am from the royal family, I hated the traditional institution. You know, that was why even from my primary school days, from time to time, I had skirmishes with those in authority.
Even at a tender age, while at Katsina Teachers’ College in 1959, there was one event which changed my life completely. That event was a situation where one of the students went to town at night. You know, it was prohibited. He was caught by the head boy, who insisted that he had to report him to the school authority the next morning. We pleaded with the head boy to forgive the boy but he was adamant.
So, there and then, we threatened him when we saw the arrogance with which the head boy was treating the matter. When he saw we were about to beat him up, he ran away and reported the matter to the teacher on duty. The following day we were reported to the school authority and we were all punished.
After the lashes, when the teacher was going out I told him that he was yet to explain to us, as he promised, why we were flogged.
The students started to boo him and other teachers while some stoned them. Naturally, I was termed the ring leader. I was reported to the school authority with some of the students who participated. A bigger meeting was called, even the then Emir, the grand-father of the present Emir and other important people in Katsina were called. We were presented before the Emir as culprits, who were trouble makers that should be dealt with to serve as a lesson to others.
We received some lashes before they dismissed us from the school. I took my small box and I was leaving the school when my elder brother of the same mother, Eid, with whom we shared the same class wanted to accompany me to the town but the school authority did not allow him. I told him to go and read and assured him that if God said I would be somebody in life nobody could stop me.
I left for my village, I wanted to go to Kano to join NEPU but the father of one the (affected) children was a neighbour to the Minister of Education, Alhaji Isah Kaita. When he told Kaita what happened, the minister said we should not be expelled from the school but the authority including the traditional institution refused to accept that advice as they insisted that at worst they had to send us to schools across the North so that we won’t foment trouble again.
So I was posted to Bida Teachers’ College in 1960. It was like a fairy tale for a bush boy who had never known Kano to be expected to go to Bida. Somehow, that was what happened. There was a train from Kano to Minna with one station near Bida. And, I spent about four years in Bida.
Again, as someone, who believes in what is right and sometimes when it is necessary would not hesitate to challenge constituted authority, even in Bida I got into problem at a point. For that, I was made to fail in teaching practice and I came back to Katsina as a Grade 3 teacher.
How did you discover law?
I was in Zaria when I learnt of the course that was recently introduced by Bayero College now Bayero University Kano (BUK). It was remedial and advanced level programme for those who wanted to go for degree courses. I left NCE course for 18 month course where I read English, Literature and History and Islamic knowledge. After the course in 1972, I was admitted at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Kongo Campus, to read Law.
You know all this while they were not paying me salary but by the grace of God and my sheer determination to be somebody in life I surmounted all problems. When I was in my second year in the University, my first son was admitted into Capital School Kaduna; an elite’s school. By the grace of God and proper planning, nothing is impossible. I was called to the bar on 2 July 1976. I transferred my services to defunct North Central State as a pupil state counsel in the Ministry Justice.
How was life in the ministry?
I found the job too dull, not challenging. I would do so many things for which the lawyers in private practice would have received handsome pay and buy flashy cars, although that was not my concern. I wanted satisfaction from my profession but at the Ministry of Justice there was none. You only deal with mainly murder cases and traffic cases and every day I would come to office by 7am. Sometimes, before the arrival of messengers I had to go and receive the keys to our office and my legal advice could spend days before it was typed; it was so frustrating. In 1978, I decided I had had enough so I tendered my letter of retirement. My elder brother, late Alhaji Iro, was furious over the decision I took without consulting him. I apologized to him and at the same time insisted that I was man enough to take a decision and be ready for all the consequences. At that time, the Ministry of Justice was renting his house for me as I had no house of my own in Kaduna.
I entered into partnership with the late Ajala and we set up a private practice. We opened our own chamber. I got one case on my first day as a private lawyer when somebody was sentenced to 15 years for currency trafficking. Unfortunately, he was sentenced based on a non-existing law. I just took that as the only ground of appeal at the Court of Appeal Kaduna presided over by Justice Muhammad Uwais and the man was discharged and acquitted. Do you know how much he paid me? He paid me N1000 when my salary as a state counsel was about N366 per month.
How and when did you veer into partisan politics?
When they were preparing for the formation of political parties and elections in 1979 in the Second Republic, I was very close to late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I would have been one of the leading members of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) but late Mallam Iro told me that it would not augur well for me to be in UPN and he would be in the National Perty of Nigeria (NPN).
When we got to Katsina, a day before Sallah, we went to late Alhaji Lawal Kaita’s house. Alhaji Iro introduced me to him and disclosed to him what I had in mind. Lawal Kaita boasted that they would crush me if I remained in the UPN. I assured him that I would be man enough to wait and fight him. At last he said okay, Mamman don’t cause trouble for us, please come to the NPN. So, I agreed to join the NPN.
I was elected as legal adviser for Kaduna state for the NPN at the party congress. Then, elections came; I was nominated to contest for the Kaduna State House Assembly Safana South constituency. It was a terrible experience because people were determined to stop this stubborn man from going further, saying it would not be in their own interest. I assured them that they were just wasting their time and I was proved right because I won the election.
As God will have it, as human beings, we were sure the gubernatorial election would favour late Alhaji Lawal Kaita. We believed that there was no way Balarabe Musa could be the governor of Kaduna State, therefore, to me I didn’t even think of becoming a speaker but God had planned it.
To our greatest shock, Lawal Kaita was defeated; Balarabe Musa won. We couldn’t believe it. Then we had to outline new strategies since Lawal Kaita from Katsina did not emerge as the governor. When the position of the speaker became the topic of discussion, I wasn’t interested but people insisted that I should be the speaker. Late Audu Mashi and late Abba Kalli were interested, I didn’t have that ambition, but it turned out I became the speaker and Balarabe Musa was the governor.
Balarabe Musa really did not understand the society in which he lived. He thought he was the only person who cared for the common men. He was wrong. Yes, it is true I come from a royal family but even when I was a young boy I fought the injustice in the institution.
Before then the Emir of Katsina, the grandfather of the current emir, died, a prominent citizen of Katsina, M. T. Usman, told the former District Head of Mashi, Iyan Aminu, that doctor said the emir would not live for more than six months. I knew if that was the case we would be in trouble because I had no doubt that as soon as Sir Usman Nagogo died, Balarabe Musa would appoint Iro Safana as the Emir of Katsina.
Without push from anybody, when I returned to Kaduna, I asked the legal counsel of the House to bring the Chieftaincy Law of Northern Region. When he brought it, I told him we should amend the section which empowered only the governor to appoint an Emir and add that the House also must approve of the appointment.
Nobody really understood what I was trying to do and I didn’t do it in order to gain favour from anybody. I am not a friend to the emirate council and I don’t visit the emir but one thing which I cannot forget is that the father of the emir, Usman Nagogo, Sarkin Katsina Dikko, loved my father; he helped him. So, in return for what Dikko did for my father I thought since it pleased God to put me in that position, I would help the man. When we passed the bill, Balarabe Musa refused to sign it. I mobilized people to pass the bill with two-third majority and it became a law.
Then we started impeachment process. Nobody influenced me, my conscience told me what needed to be done. I did it and we removed Balarabe then Abba Musa Rimi was sworn in as the governor. I advised him to name the new emir of Katsina before Sallah to win our cooperation. I can recall that the father of the present emir sent somebody, Alhaji Chindo, to me with N3, 000 in appreciation of my role in the matter but I did not accept it because I didn’t do it for any monetary reward. So, Alhaji Kabir became the Emir and as they say the rest is history. So, that is how, Mamman moved from a village boy to be one of the controversial figures in Nigeria.
How was your journey to the Senate leadership?
Well, it was a short journey of three months. I was elected as Deputy Senate President for three months. After my tenure as Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, my people said I should go to the senate and I was elected a senator and at the senate, the caucus of the NPN said I should be the deputy president of the senate.
And you were in office until the coup that truncated the Second Republic?
When did you get married?
You know, our system is polygamous. I married my first in January 1964.
How did you meet her?
It was during Sallah celebration. You know, in those days, life was very simple and there were no crime and so on. The Fulani people were playing and she was one of those watching the dance. She was just a simple village girl. She was tall and light in complexion and I just said to myself, this young girl should be my wife. So, I told my parents.
What else endeared her to you?
You know, I said she was very tall and slim and she appeared to be reasonable and the type of wife I would like to have; somebody who would not be so controversial. She was very humble. So, we got married.
How many children do you have?
I have 24 children. Some of my children are engineers, doctors, lawyers and some quite successful in life. And I am grateful to Allah for that.
How is life in retirement?
It pleases Almighty Allah, even when I was a village school teacher I struggled to cultivate the habit of buying farmlands, some for 30 shillings, one pound and so on. So, over the years, I have many farmlands and when I became legal practitioner, especially during election petition cases of 1979, made a lot of money and I invested most of the money in farms in my area.
I am a land owner by right because throughout Danmusa district there is nobody who owns land as much as I do. It is the grace of God. Because of that I have a very, very large Jathropha farm where I spent millions of naira only to be disappointed at the end. But all the same, by the grace of Allah in 1991 that is how many years after the coup, I managed to build six bungalows in Abuja which I put out for rent.
Before my retirement, I engaged in private (legal) practice. As somebody who is not living lavish life; I live a simple life. I had no problem educating my children. I sent many of them overseas for their post graduate studies. So, really, I have to be thankful to Almighty Allah for what He has done for me; He helped me to remain who I am. Everybody knows who Mamman is.
None of the successive governments in Katsina or elsewhere can say Mamman has for once come asking for favour; I have never, I am not a contractor, I am not seeking employment and I don’t visit government houses. I have no business with government officials. I just mind my business.
In the morning, my day starts at 3am; I will perform ablution and pray for one or two hours before morning prayers and go back to bed until around 8am when I have my tea and undertake simple exercise before taking my breakfast around 9am. After that, I read newspapers and now watch Sunnah Television; I enjoy the religious channel. Really, it enriches my understanding of Allah, how He should be worshiped and how mighty He is because all favours should be sought from Him, not from any other person. I am always because of my belief at peace with myself.
How would you compare life when you were growing up, during your working life and what obtains now?
You cannot compare them because you know in those days when I was young, our traditional values and religious values were in agreement with the way we did things. Hence, materialism had no place in those days. People lived a simple life, they liked one another, helped one another, that was why the hatred and the conflicts we are witnessing these days were completely absent from our society in the past. We lived very simple and comfortable lives. You had all you needed and you showed concern for your neighbours; you helped one another. So, this hate or what have you were unknown and we lived a very simple life.
Where were you during the country’s independence in1960?
I was in Bida Teachers College training to be a Grade 3 teacher.
Have your hope at independence been met?
I happened to be one of the pupils who were taken to Lagos from Bida for the independence celebration. You know, it was fantastic. Really, there were high hopes but the military messed up this nation.
What is your favourite food now and then?
Tuwo and mia Kuka; I don’t like rice.
How did you unwind during your younger days?
The unfortunate thing was that because I wanted to be somebody, I didn’t have time to unwind. I said to myself by the grace of Allah, I just cannot come to this world and leave unnoticed. I told myself I have to be somebody; I have to leave a legacy. Really I don’t attend parties, I don’t drink, I don’t womanize, I had no time because I wanted to be somebody despite coming from a remote village without connections. I had to work hard to achieve that I wanted to achieve.
Do you listen to music?
I listen to only Shatta, Dankwayau and other traditional music.
Do you dance to music?
No. I just listen. Sometimes I free great when the musicians are praising people or when they become philosophical. You know, these singers, most especially those who are famous, are also equally philosophers most especially if you listen attentively to what they are saying. There are a lot to learn from Hausa singers -Mamman Shatta, Sarki Sauki and others. They are philosophers.
What were your hobbies then and now?
I told because I want to become somebody I had no hobby. Really, I believed that something out there was waiting for me; I just couldn’t waste my time over useless things. Well, now that I am retired, my hobby is praying frequently. I listen to religious channels, CNN and Aljazeera.
In retirement, are there challenges?
The challenge is that you see the society as heading to disintegration. We are heading towards anarchy and those who could help have also joined. So, you know ultimately something terrible would happen because in a society where people have very little regard for moral value and are more concerned about what they can get to help themselves rather than for the society, such society is heading towards disaster.
None as a person because if I had any regret I wouldn’t have the peace of mind I am having now.
I always believe that working for the people, for the common good of all, is the answer to all human problems. If we love people, if we work for them, if we help them, really there wouldn’t be cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and assassination. In a sane society, what we are having in Nigeria will not happen there, that is my only regret.
Do you have any advice to younger generation?
Will my advice be meaningful to them? My only advice is they should try as much as possible to work for the common good not for their personal gain but for the common good, work for humanity and get a sense of relief or fulfilment that comes from working for humanity rather than self. If you accumulate so much wealth, what are you going to do with it? If you die, even the money will not be recovered but if you use it to help others in whatever way you can, you will have peace of mind.
The only thing I wish to add is I will like to continue to show my appreciation to my creator for the wonderful things He has done for me. I am most grateful, I am most grateful to God. I am contented and fulfilled.
Many political observers and stakeholders lost track of your political lining or affiliation after you left the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). What is your reaction?
When I joined ANPP, I wrote to Gen. Buhari intimating him that I did not join ANPP to be appointed, if he so win, in any position or be give any contract but to make humble contribution to further the course of humanity. I believed we could contribute to uplift our downtrodden, the suffering masses and we should do something about it.
That was why I decided to be with Buhari when it was dangerous to be with him. When we were in the ANPP, many things happened and there were so many betrayals. We asked, why couldn’t we as leaders close to the people float our own political party? That was how the CPC came about. It was a political party formed by Senator Hanga. We were in the process of registration of a political party and he said why couldn’t you use this one and we accepted it.
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