‘I Got Married In Primary School’
Isa Jibrin Gantsa is retired a chief grand khadi of Jigawa State. He started his judicial career from a court clerk and rose through the ranks to become the Grand Khadi. In this Interview with MUH’D ZANGINA KURA, he recounts how the founding fathers of our democracy embraced selflessness and patriotism to build the nation and other snippets from the past
AS one of the elders in the present Jigawa State, where and when were you born?
First of all, let me thank the Almighty God for sparing my life to witness this time that I can be called an elder, the title we used on our elders in the past. My name is Isa Jibrin Gantsa. I was born in January 15, 1950, in Gantsa Village, former Birnin Kudu local government, now the headquarters of Buji local government in Jigawa State.
How was growing up like?
I started my early life in my village Gantsa. I took part in all local social life along with my peers, I enjoyed all the natural beauty of our undiluted local environment. I am the only child of my father but I have a sister from my mother.
I lost my father when I was 12 years old. After his death, I was thrown into total confusion. I was confronted with so many social and economic challenges. When life became very unbearable for me and my mother in the village, I sought her consent to look for greener pastures in Kano State.
She disagreed initially but later on one of her junior brothers convinced her to allow me relocate to Kano. He told her it was very painful to leave me then but she would enjoy her decision at the long run. That was how I started my sojourn to Kano. We commenced on a roughly 22-hour journey on a truck that transported groundnut from our village to Kano. When I arrived Kano, I stayed at the house of my mother’s cousin, the late Alhaji Bello Kurawa.
My mother’s brothers were so kind to me, they gave me all the necessary support and I reciprocated by devoting all my strength to the domestic chores in the house, and I also went out for extra labour to earn income sometimes.
When did you start schooling?
I was washing clothes for one of my brothers when a kinsman threw his own clothes where I was washing and instructed me to wash them too. I felt offended by his manner of approach and pointed it out to him but he retorted that I would continue to be their washman till the end of my life because I did not go to school. I took that up as a challenge and approached one of my maternal cousin’s, Malam Munnir Mustapha, after a while, and told him of my desire to go to school. He gave me a letter to the headmaster of Shahuci Primary School, it was called “Judicial School” at that time. I was admitted into class one after a brief test.
I got enrolled into Shahuci Primary School in 1971, and I then proceeded to School of Advanced Studies (SAS), Kano, in 1974, and I obtained my diploma in Sharia and Civil Law from School of Legal Studies, Kano, between 1978 -1981. I was confronted with various challenges during my years in the school but I was able to overcome all the hurdles through determination and my mother’s persistent prayers.
When did you start work?
After my graduation, I joined Kano State Ministry of Education and was posted to Dutse Commercial College as a classroom teacher, when Yakubu Adamu was the school principal. As at the time I got the offer as classroom teacher I had also sent my application letter to the Kano State Judiciary. After I started teaching, I received an offer from the chief inspector of Area Courts, Mr Davis. A European, specifically from England, Mr Jeffrey Johnson, was the state’s chief Judge then.
When I received the offer, I sought the advice of my brothers in Kano, they advised me to switch to my area of discipline. This was how I started working with judiciary as a clerk in 1981, and rose to the rank of court registrar.
In 1988, I was appointed as an area court judge and posted to Sumaila local government. When Jigawa was created in 1991, I was transferred to Ringim and to Hadejia later on. I was promoted to upper area court judge in 1996, and in 1998 I went back to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where I obtained my LLB degree. I was promoted to the Khadi of Sharia Court of Appeal, Dutse in 2001, and was appointed as Grand Khadi of the state in 2018. I retired from active service in October 2019. I thank Almighty Allah for all the achievement I made and I am proud of the legacy I left in the Jigawa State judiciary.
What happened to your mother after you left the village?
After migrating to Kano to look for greener pastures, I would usually visit my mother in the village every two months. On one of my visits, I met her critically ill and she was taken to Birnin Kudu Hospital in the hospital’s ambulance. I didn’t let her go back to the village after her recovery, I persuaded her to live with me in Kano, and I moved with her and my family anytime I was transferred. I always tried my best to make her happy till the day she took her last breath because of the deep love I had for her.
Who were your friends at childhood and during school time?
During my childhood in the village, in Kano city and my school time, I met and interacted with different people. I mingled with a lot of people including the responsible ones and the rascals, so I learnt from a wide range of friends both the good and bad ones. There are always lessons we learn from everyone we come across. That’s what makes life interesting. Some of my childhood friends include Haruna Adamu Gantsa and Sani Fada Gantsa, they are both late now.
As I have said, I started work as a clerk after I obtained my diploma in Civil Law. I was promoted to a registrar, and I also acquired a lot of experience from the judges I worked with, I understood the complexities and challenges of the judiciary. I tried my best to remain loyal to all my lords. I maintained my loyalty, hard work and perseverance in discharging my duties, these are the secrets of my success up to the time I became a judge.
What challenges did you face while growing up, in your work life and now at retirement?
I got my car loan of N4,800 with which I bought my Peugeot GR 504 in 1982, and I was later transferred from Kachako under Sumaila local government to Fage then under Kano Municipal, in 1985, and when the presiding judge of the court saw me with that car, he became so envious and refused to work with me for no reason.
I complained about my predicament to the chief inspector of area courts, Mr Sabo Tahir, and he transferred me to the city to get both the rural and urban experience in the judiciary.
From there I was transfered to Sabon Gari court in the city, unknown to me the presiding judge there was also a friend to the last one, so he too refused to give me free hand to discharge my duties, I equally reported the matter to the chief inspector who transferred me to Rijyar Kemo Court.
After spending three months at the court the judge was so excited with my performance, he openly commended me for my dedication and commitment to duty, he even confessed how some people warned him not to accept me as a registrar.
Instantly, I replied him that, I know those people who were after me with all thoughts of vilification and smearing campaign. Later on, I met the two judges who wanted to destroy my career in the judiciary, and after expressing my displeasure, we settled our differences and I forgave them. That was my biggest bitter experience in service.
Where were you when Nigeria got her Independence?
I was in my village, Gantsa, because I only left in 1969.
What was your hope during Independence?
As I said, I was in the village, but even then, there was overwhelming jubilation, besides the independence song aired on radio and was being recited everywhere. Even women were singing at their community square or playground, you could hear people singing about the independence everywhere. After Independence, there was so much hope of getting a new lease to life as we became masters of our own destiny.
The first generation of the country leaders led the nation in accordance to the philosophy of the independence struggle. There was mutual respect and trust between the governed and those governing. The leadership worked for the people while the people supported and respected the leadership. But, unfortunately, we gradually lost this moral value.
What is the missing link and how did we get it wrong?
The missing link between the past and present generation is deviating from tradition and moral values, the society has embraced something entirely different today, everyone has become self-centred. In the past, Nigerians loved and respected each other despite our religious, ethnic and regional differences, but now we are living in mutual suspicion, animosity and hatred for each other. After independence, everybody worked for peace, unity and progress of the nation, but today the society is consumed with parochial sentiment. The people and leadership institutions are all in confusion because we have lost focus, we have lost our moral value. This is the missing link. We actually got it wrong after we lost our moral value because the society drifted into a moral decadence, now we lack trust, honesty, love, compassion and patriotism. The lack of trust and patriotism happens in public and private affairs, leaders at all levels of life perform below expectation while citizens are dishonest.
How would you compare life during your time with what obtains now?
Today, the society is getting more educated and enlightened but becoming duller to the realities of life. Everywhere you look you will see schools and centres of learning, graduates of all branches of knowledge are uncountable but no reflection of their value in moral character.
What do you think is the way out?
There is only one way forward, everybody must put national or collective interest above personal interest, drop sentiments and embrace patriotism as done by the country’s founding fathers. We should embrace the tenets of our founding fathers. If men and women, youth and elders, leaders and citizens would abide by these, certainly Nigeria will become a great nation and happy society for all.
How can you compare life during work and after retirement?
Everything keeps changing in the society, when I started work my salary was N100 but after making all expenditures, I used to save N20 to N30 monthly but the salary kept increasing while the value kept decreasing. I started work as youth and I retired as an elderly person. Today, I am between 70 and 71 years old, I thank the Almighty Allah because I am healthy and hearty.
What is your favourite food?
My favourite food is Tuwon Dawa and Miyar Kuka.
Did you listen to music, if yes who is your favourite musician?
Yes, I listen to music and my favourite musician was Mamman Shata. Others were Musa Dankwairo and Adamu Danmaraya Jo’s. All these people talked about the reality and sing according to the norms and culture of the society. They were very talented and this made their art of singing stand the test of time beyond their life time.
When did you get married?
I got married in 1976, I was in Primary 2 then. I went to Gwaram for census exercise, and I started dating the daughter of the village head there, after I returned to Kano, her elder brother contacted one of my uncles for our marriage, but insisted that it was not time for us to get married as I was just a Primary 2 pupil.
In 1978, I married my first wife Hajiya and the ceremony took place in October 1979, when Shagari was sworn in as president of Nigeria in Lagos, I too started my new life with my lovely wife at Kabuga Quartets in Kano city. The marriage was blessed with 10 children. I took my second wife in 2000 and I had 8 children with her, today I have two wives and 17 children.
What is your advice to the youth and society in general?
My advice for elders is to always strive to say, act and stand by the truth, to be honest in handling all that is entrusted to them. For the youth, who are the leaders of tomorrow, I advise them to uphold the spirit of humanity, national patriotism, dedication, perseverance and the fear of God with these they can move the country to a greater height.