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Encounter with North’s longest serving traditional ruler

He recalls how he moved a censure motion against the then opposition leader, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and the Foreign Minister, Jaja Wachukwu, and notes…

He recalls how he moved a censure motion against the then opposition leader, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and the Foreign Minister, Jaja Wachukwu, and notes that late Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and not Chief Anthony Enahoro as many believe, moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1960. He also comments on politics today among other issues. Excerpts:

Can you give us a brief background about yourself? Alhaji Mukhtar Adnan?
 I was born in 1926 at Kofar Gabas, Dambatta, where my father was a district scribe. At the age of four I was enlisted in a Quranic school until when I was enrolled into elementary school from 1935 to 1939, and then proceeded to Middle School, now called Rumfa College, from 1939-44. After graduation, my father brought me back to Dambatta to become a Malamin Hakimi for one year. I was then sent to Zaria Training College for one year where I excelled in all subjects; therefore I was posted to Kaduna to work as an auditor at the Northern Regional Secretariat and then subsequently posted to Zaria and Kano.
After that I was posted to the Native Authority (NA) Treasury in Kano to work as assistant accountant in the Treasury Department until the advent of politics in the First Republic in 1954 when I was installed as the Hakimin Dambatta and Sarkinbai of Kano, and also elected as a Federal Representative of the Kiru/Karaye Constituency. I was only 28 then and was the Chief Whip in the House. I was re-elected to the Federal House of Representatives twice and served until 1966, when a coup was staged.
 
Where were you during the 1966 coup?
I was in Lagos. On Saturday January 16, 1966 I came to the House of Representatives and saw the place surrounded by soldiers. Upon enquiry I was told that Tafawa Balewa and Festus Okotie-Eboh had been taken away by soldiers. The Speaker of the House then sat down and other members sat down before R.B.K. Okafor called for a motion to adjourn the sitting because of the prevailing circumstances. After some time I came back to Dambatta, then Governor Audu Bako of blessed memory appointed me as a Commissioner for Education where I served for eight years and we established several schools and recruited many teachers. I was also appointed as Chairman, Kano State Rural Electricity Board from 1974-76.
What was the state of education then compared to what obtains presently?
Things have drastically deteriorated; this is because of population growth and the growing demand for education. In Kano, we introduced what was then called a crash programme where several secondary schools were established but lacking teachers. So we went to places like Enugu, Lagos and Ibadan from where we recruited teachers. This generated a lot of controversy before people later began to see the advantage in improving the educational standard of the state. Thank God.
What of the Second Republic?
I didn’t play any significant role politically during the Second Republic. I continued to function in my traditional ruler’s capacity.
How would you describe the extent of development of Dambatta over the 60-year period that you have been ruling?
Thank God there has been tremendous development. Apart from Kano Municipal there is no community within Kano State with greater number of educated people than Dambatta. This is because of the call we have been making over the years for parents to enroll their children in schools and this has yielded fruit. A large percentage of workers in Kano State, both in local governments, the state and even beyond our shores are from Dambatta. This is something I am very proud of. There is also relative peace in the community. Finally, we have encouraged people to embrace agriculture, and several people have become farmers. I am also a farmer, which is something I inherited from my late father.
Are you satisfied with the developmental projects in Dambatta, like some time ago we heard that the NTA headquarters project had been abandoned?
Yes, we are still working on it. I have spoken to the governor and the delay is from Abuja but we are making all efforts to see to its completion.
What about in the area of health?
There is significant progress. The Dambatta General Hospital was built by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, with German partnership and this hospital has greatly expanded. The Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso administration has brought about tremendous improvement in that regard through the expansion of the hospital and the provision of essential drugs. We thank the governor for this.

Can you recall some of the memorable events of your time as a legislator in the First Republic?
I was a federal legislator for 12 years in Lagos and interacted with a lot of people, being the Chief Whip. I remember I had cause to reprimand the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he made a trip to Britain and made negative comments about Nigeria. I moved a censure motion condemning his action. I also did the same for the then Foreign Minister, Jaja Wachukwu.
What happened was that Chief Awolowo went to London and gave a lecture to the people saying Tafawa Balewa’s government was incompetent and weak. So they did not take it kindly and asked me to put up a censure motion, which I did and the motion went through.

Jaja Wachukwu too did something wrong in the United Nations and I was also told to put up a similar motion against him, which I did. So these are two events I will never forget.
I also interacted with the likes of Mal. Aminu Kano though he was in NEPU (Northern Elements’ Progressive Union) while I was in NPC (Northern People’s Congress). I was a member of the parliamentary delegation to the UK, Canada and the USA and also a member of the Nigerian delegation to the UN General Assembly in 1960.
There is this debate about who called for the motion for independence, was it Chief Anthony Enahoro or Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa?
The motion for independence was moved by the Prime Minister, the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and seconded by the then Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. R.A. Njoku. We spent days debating the motion and several members made contributions, all in favour of the motion. All the proceedings were captured in a document titled “House of Representatives Debates, Official Report, Session 1960-61”, a copy of which I still have.
Why was the North not prepared for independence before 1960?
There was a move around 1956 by the people of the South asking for independence; they wanted to rush us at that time. Our people were not prepared because we had very few people in the public service in both the Northern Region and federal government. So we thought we should be given time for us to bring out our boys into the civil service so that by the time independence came, our people would be there in the various ministries. That was why we said we were not ready and that was our motive.
The NPC’s motto then was One North, One People; One Destiny! We did not want our people to be messengers, clerks or dispatch clerks. We wanted them to be in high positions: permanent secretaries, directors and so on. That was why we did our best to delay the independence until 1960.
When was the independence motion first moved?
It was in January 1960.
How long did it take you to finish the debate?
About three or four days.
What happened after approving and passing the motion?
We forwarded our request formally and officially to the Government of the United Kingdom for necessary and further action which they promised and fulfilled their promise. And by October 1960, they gave us independence.
Are you satisfied with the conduct of present day legislators?
No, I am not satisfied. In our time the work of a legislator was essentially to make laws, but now you hear about money being given to them for constituency projects. No, we never heard of this and I don’t think it is healthy for the system. I also find the huge salaries and allowances being given to them mind boggling.
What of the decamping nature of today’s politicians?
Politicians should have the right to move to whatever party they choose, but this was not common during our time. I can only pray for them and for the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria.
What are your hobbies?
I am a large-scale farmer in Kano, but I also enjoy horse-riding and reading books.

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