Your father is acknowledged to have led a life worthy of emulation. How do you feel about his demise?
I felt sad about his death but as a Muslim, we believe that we are from God and unto him we shall all return. We are comforted by the fact that it is a necessary end for everybody. It is universally acknowledged that it is not how long one lives that matters but how well one lives. I am happy that our father led an exemplary life. People from far and near attested to this and it was well captured by the media in such a manner that his exemplary life will be a reference point for future generations. We took solace in the good words from people about him. Many people came to commiserate with us and that has helped to ease the pain and makes us to feel proud that we are from the lineage of such a great person.
Where were you when you heard of his death and what did you do immediately?
I did not hear about his death; I witnessed it because I was there when he was taken to the hospital. On Friday when he died, I was called around 11am that his condition was becoming critical and I rushed to the hospital. I was with him and couldn’t attend the Jumaat prayers because it was obvious that he was near death and the doctor even told me plainly that his end was near. We prayed with him until he breathed his last. We thank God that we had the opportunity to be by his side till he died.
Can you share his last moment with us?
His last moment, as I said, was that we prayed with him, even though he could not talk to us but we could see his tongue moving while we were reciting the Holy Quran with him. At a time, the doctor told us they would put him on life support. When they were doing that, we knew it was almost a futile effort.
What did he do in retirement before his death?
Before he became the President of Nigeria, most of his activities revolved around teaching. He was a teacher; so, when he retired, he established an Islamic school in Shagari village. He was in Shagari for many years because he was prevented from going to Sokoto by those who overthrew his government. He was there engaging in his scholarly Islamic activities which he loved. Mostly, that was what he was doing and attending mosque.
Another thing that occupied his time was farming, and whenever he returned from the farm, he would have a siesta. And after the evening prayers, he would sit under the tree to chat with the villagers.
Is any of his children a teacher?
None of us embraced teaching because it is not what it used to be. In the past, a teacher was highly respected in the community and at least, what he was doing then could sustain him and his family. But now, you know what is happening in the sector.
How large is his family?
He was happily married and survived by two out of the four wives he married. He had 21 children comprising 10 males and 11 females. That is how large we are.
Who were his friends?
His friends were mostly his contemporaries. I know he was close to the late Sultan Dasuki, the late Abubakar Gumi, a former Grand khadi of Sokoto; Alhaji Haliru Binji, Justice Usman Mohammed and Alhaji Isyaku Ibrahim, among many others.
People have paid tributes to him. How would you describe your late father?
I will describe my father as a very humble, gentle, soft-spoken and extremely loving father. I say these because throughout his life, there was never a time he raised his voice at us. He didn’t also do that to anybody. Whenever any of us did anything wrong, he would sit us down to explain why we shouldn’t do such and why it was wrong to do such. How many people have such attributes?
He was also a thorough democratic person because in most decisions involving the family, he sought the opinions of others before making a decision. He was someone who always sought knowledge and whenever he sat alone, it was either he was reading or writing. Anytime he was alone, he was with a book.
How did his family cope during the 30 months he was placed under house arrest?
I was at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, at the time. He was in detention; so, we couldn’t see him until around two weeks before he was released for the first time. It was really a trying and tortuous period for the entire family. I will not wish anyone to pass through that phase. It was quite tormenting knowing one’s father is alive but one doesn’t have access to him. He was held in captivity and incommunicado and we initially didn’t know if he was dead or not because we did not hear anything about him.
We managed to go to school and tried to concentrate on our studies. Also, some of the lecturers would make some comments in between lectures against my father’s administration that sometimes I would want to walk out of the class because of such derogatory comments. When a government is brought down, everybody will take what the new administration says with little or no reservation.
I remember a time I was returning to school and I got to a military checkpoint. The soldiers stopped me and asked for my particulars which I gave them. When they saw my identity, they said I should park the vehicle, alleging that it was government property. I left the vehicle with them and took public transport home. I reported the matter and after a week or so, the car was found in Kaduna with a military officer. It is one of the harrowing experiences the family endured during the period. We kept our faith in God and He saw us through.
How did he handle disagreements with his wives?
As I said earlier, he never raised his voice at anybody. He never shouted or lost his temper. Sometimes, when we knew he was unhappy, there would be no outburst from him. Even if you offended him, he would neither talk nor take revenge.
That is one of the things he taught us – not to revenge but repay our transgressors with good deeds. Anybody who does bad to one should be repaid with good. He told me that he was taught by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and held on to the philosophy.
How did he make his family comfortable as a teacher and later, the President?
He truly led a modest life because he was God-fearing and firm believer that God would provide for his needs. He never acquired wealth or led ostentatious life. The helps he got came from unexpected quarters.
What life lessons did he teach you?
He taught me that it is better to leave a good name behind than wealth. A good name can get one what wealth cannot buy. He left behind a good name that can open ways for us and make us walk with our heads held high. That is the greatest legacy anybody can gives his child, and we are happy that we have such a legacy.
Your father served in various capacities and later emerged Nigeria’s president. Did he encourage any of his children to go into politics, especially you?
He was someone who would ask what one intended to pursue and encourage one on it. I don’t think he has ever told anybody to do this or that.
I joined politics not on my own freewill. I detest it anytime I recollect the brutalisation and victimisation we endured when our father was placed under house arrest. Actually, it was my late brother (Abdulrahman) who was vying to be a member of the House of Representatives and he died unfortunately.
He died in a plane crash alongside Sultan Muhammadu Maccido and other prominent indigenes of the state 12 years ago. Abdulrahman was a former commissioner for health and agriculture. It was when my constituents came for condolence visit to my house that they asked me to step forward and represent them in the House of Representatives. The family deliberated on the offer and it was decided that I cannot reject because it was an honour to the family.
Another consideration why I joined politics is that in Islam, one doesn’t say I want to be this or that. But if one’s people say “come and lead us,’ then it is not right for one to refuse. God will be angry with one if one refuses such request from one’s people. I joined politics and here I am today.
Does your father’s name open doors for you?
My father’s name has definitely opened doors for me. Anywhere I go and I mention the name, all closed doors begin to open. There was a time I got a contract and I needed a bank bond. To secure a bank bond, one has to deposit money or property which I didn’t have.
As a lawyer, I know I could get an insurance bond in place of a bank bond. As I was walking, I saw an insurance company and walked in. I asked for the manager. I sat down with him and told him my name and showed him my passport. I told him I needed an insurance bond and I didn’t have money but showed him the contract award. He said with my name, no one would refuse me. He gave me the bond and that was what I used to get money and I did the contract.
How did your father feel that the military administration, headed by the current President, Muhammadu Buhari, truncated his rule?
He felt very disappointed because the military should ordinarily protect the civilian administration but it turned against the people and overthrew his government. He felt more disappointed because those involved in that coup were the closest to him. His administration promoted most of them to the positions they occupy today. That is the painful part. But at the end of it all, he forgave them all.
What lessons did you learn from the irony that the beneficiary of that coup that ousted your father’s administration praised him when he paid a condolence visit to his family?
First, let me say that though our father forgave his offenders, one thing as human beings is that, no matter what, one cannot forget. Till he died, our father did not get the kind of attention expected from the person who overthrew his administration. After all investigations, he didn’t find him culpable.
In our own little way, we supported the incumbent President and from the time he became president, I would not say there is any communication between us. I think we should have got more from the person who was close to our father but overthrew his government.
When he came, we expected to hear something from him like some words of comfort. But we didn’t hear such because he didn’t say anything. We gave him the condolence register. He only signed and put the date. Personally, I was very disappointed with that. I expected that at least, as Muslim, he would write, “May Allah forgive him and may Allah forgive us when our time comes.” That makes me extremely disappointed in him.
Did your father at any time share his frustration about the country with you?
There was a time he was discussing with me and he said what baffled him with leaders nowadays was their double standards. I asked him what he meant by that and he said they would say one thing and do another thing.
What was his favourite drink and food?
His favourite drink was fura and nunu, which he drank every day. He couldn’t do without it. He also loved to eat tuwo shinkafa and miya kuka, mostly in the evening. His last meal was tuwo which I brought for him from my house and he ate it on Thursday night. He also drank a bottle of fura in the afternoon before the tuwo in the evening. That was the last meal he took.
What kind of music did he listen to?
As far as I can recall, he didn’t listen to music. What he liked was the recitation from the Holy Qur’an. I remember there was a time a vehicle was passing and the person in it was advertising someone who came first in a Quranic recitation competition. He told me to get the recitation for him. I went to Kaduna to get the recitation by that person for him.
Source: PUNCH SHARE THIS STORY USING ANY OF THE BUTTON BELOW ⬇ PLACE YOUR TEXT ADVERT BELOW ⬇⬇⬇