Ex-International footballer, Haruna Babangida, who’s a younger brother to former Nigerian Internationals – Tijjani and Ibrahim Babangida, was recently in the news after a Sharia Court Judge Nuhu Falalu shaved his head at the Sharia Court 1 Magajin Gari, Kaduna. Though Falalu declined to comment on the matter when Daily Trust approached him, Babangida in this interview recounts his embarrassing experience.
Daily Trust: How long have you been in Nigeria?
Haruna Babangida: I left Nigeria in 1996 and I have never stayed for as long as I have stayed in the last two years.
DT: Are you retired professionally?
Babangida: Yes, I have retired because you do not play football for the whole of your life when it was time to stop, I stopped. I retired about five years ago.
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DT: What have you been up to, especially here in Nigeria?
Babangida: I still live in Spain, my family is in Spain and I have a daughter, Aisha, who lives there with her mother. I own a Football Academy here in Kaduna which I run with my brothers. At the academy, we bring the best of players from the grassroots, train them and then move them to Europe. Most of them are playing in European clubs.
DT: How many people have you moved outside the country and where is the academy?
Babangida: We have moved up to 15 boys from poor backgrounds to Europe. For now, we train at Kaduna State University (KASU) every morning.
DT: Recently, you had a controversial issue with a Sharia Court judge. Can you tell us what happened?
Babangida: I live in Malali, but I grew up on Wushishi road, Magajin Gari area of Kaduna, where the incident happened. I had an issue with some people because I bought a land some seven years ago. I was in Europe so I sent the money to my brothers and they purchased the land, about four plots.
When I came to Nigeria, I decided to see the location and on getting there, I noticed that the area had not been developed and I wondered why. I then decided to meet the people who sold the land to us and asked them why people were not building in the area, but they assured me that the area was okay and that I could start building anytime I was ready. I believed them and returned to Europe.
When I came back a year later, the area was as I left it and so I got suspicious and asked them to return my money but by brothers persuaded me to hold on till someone indicates interest in buying the plots. So after about eight years, we were told that the state government had allocated the plots to new owners. On hearing that, we went to the people we bought the plots from to get our money back but they had disappeared and stopped answering our calls.
I decided to report the matter to the police and they advised us to go to court. Prior to that, I had never been in court so I went with my brother to the court on Wushishi road Magajin Gari which is close to my family house. We were asked to pay N10, 000 for receipt and they asked me to come back after one week for the case. On that day, while we had just concluded our morning training, my brother reminded me that the case was coming up that morning and so we quickly headed to the court.
I was wearing a football tracksuit from FC Barcelona and even though some cases had commenced at the court, mine had not been called yet, so I was asked to wait outside the courtroom. Some 10 minutes later, I was called and I went into the court and sat on a bench with three other people with my face mask on. I even asked if I should take off my face mask but I was told to leave it on. A few minutes later, I heard a voice ‘Ka tashi,’ (Get up), that was when I noticed he was referring to me and so I got up. He asked me if this was not a court, and I answered that it was a court. He just said, ‘arrest him, lock him and shave his head.’
I thought he was joking, I was surprised and very calm, someone came and dragged me by my trousers like a criminal and while I was led away, I heard the judge insulting me, calling me unprintable names. I was taken to a police cell and after 40 minutes in the cell, I heard the voice of the same judge saying he didn’t care who I was and that nobody will tell him what to do. The judge later came to the cell and confirmed to me that someone told him who I was, but he was not bothered.
I only listened to him without uttering a word and a few minutes later, four people came into the cell and told me that the barber was around on the orders of the judge to cut my hair, I didn’t say anything but it was obvious that they were sceptical about executing the orders.
The judge further instructed them to cut my hair and at that instance, I asked the judge not to allow them to cut my hair, but he swore that my head must be shaved and so I allowed the barber do his job and my head was shaved. As a footballer, I have made several hairstyles but I have never shaved my hair the way they did it.
The judge instructed that when they were through, they were to take me to his office and while at his office, he told me that he shaved my head because he felt it was the right thing to do. When he was done talking, I sought permission to speak and when he granted it, I asked him of my offence to warrant such humiliation but he did not answer me and just said he has dismissed the case. I accepted his dismissal but asked for a refund of the N10,000 I paid at the registry which I am yet to get.
DT: What was going through your mind when he asked you to stand up and said arrest him, lock him up and shave his head?
Babangida: I was very calm. Normally, when things happen to me like that, I am not a calm person, all those who know me were surprised at how calm I was and the fact that I allowed them to shave my head. I think God wanted to use me to expose him.
DT: You wrote a petition to the Grand Khadi after the incident, what was the basis of your petition, that your head was shaved or that you were humiliated?
Babangida: He embarrassed me. I went to court to get justice from people who I believe defrauded me and instead of the judge to listen to my matter, he dismissed it and ordered for my arrest and that my head be shaved in front of the people I took to court. Everybody left and I was the one arrested instead of the real criminals.
DT: What was the outcome of the petition you wrote to the Grand Khadi?
Babangida: They responded that they will look into my case and get back to me. I am still waiting for their response.
DT: But has the judge reached out to you?
Babangida: I do not want him to reach out to me even though he has reached out to my elder brother, claiming he did not know I was the one. But I never wanted him to know who I was in the first place because if I wanted him to know who I was, I would have met him and introduced myself but I went to court as a commoner to seek justice, that’s all.
DT: Coming from someone who has lived abroad for over 20 years, has this experience rattled your faith in the Nigerian justice system?
Babangida: I’ve never had this kind of experience, but in Kaduna State, I believe the governor is trying to change a lot of things. I bought the plots of land eight years ago and I know with the present administration, I would not have been in this dilemma because the El-Rufai-led government is really trying to change a lot of things and they are making things easier.
DT: There are speculations that the governor has reached out to you, how true is this?
Babangida: I received a call from the Kaduna State Government House and they asked me to get two documents, including one to the Chief Justice of the state. I have gotten the documents they requested and have submitted them. They said they will get back to me so I am waiting for them.
DT: You said you want justice, in what form?
Babangida: I do not expect any apology from the judge. Damages is another thing because I will go for that later, but what I want from this same Sharia Court where I went to seek justice but ended up being disgraced is for the justice system to use its own mechanisms to ensure that the judge pays for what he did.