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Isah Kawu: the story we should tell our children

I taught children for many years but in all of those years I didn’t find anyone interested in teaching except one child; I still remember…

I taught children for many years but in all of those years I didn’t find anyone interested in teaching except one child; I still remember her name – Ruqayya Mansur.  But it is not that the children didn’t want to be teachers – as insulting as that may be – it’s what they wanted to be that concerned me. What they wanted after the usual ‘doctor’ chorus are governors and senators.  Now it will concern any good parent if their child chooses to model their life after those of calcified thieves.

So when Mohammed Haruna wrote about Isah Kawu ( a member of Niger State House of Assembly) as a shining example among the cosseted crooks, it gladdened our hearts.   Now our children can be even that which they want because they have a good example to follow.  I once read somewhere that America is great today because her citizens have the habit of retelling the stories of their heroes and look to these heroes whenever they face challenges.  A case in point:  when Kitty Kelly recently wrote an unfavourable biography of Oprah Winfrey, she said, “this too shall pass.”  A phrase Abraham Lincoln repeated whenever he faced a difficult situation and of which even American children are familiar.

Because our children need to read about the Nigerian heroes I once undertook the task of writing a children’s book that will tell them of our heroes but when I realized that the Saad Zungurs I penciled down were all dead people, I decided to give it a rest – sometimes you’ve to show a child a living model for him to believe that it’s doable.

Before Mohammed Haruna’s “A ‘Newbreed’ apart” was published, a friend, M.S Abdulkadir told me about Isah Kawu but while he was doing so, I tuned myself out as I usually do when people try to praise our leaders. Abdulkadir and Isah Kawu grew up together and that’s the more reason why I didn’t listen to him –“what else will you say about your friend?” I asked.

But when Mohammed Haruna writes, one is likely to pay attention so I became more fascinated with this Newbreed and resolved to learn more about him.  Ever since, I’ve tormented every Nigerlite I see with questions about Isah.  The first one I met was Saidu Muhammed, a lecturer at Federal University of Technology Minna, who visited my university in Malaysia.

“Tell me about Isah Kawu,” I requested.

Saidu began: “I went to Nice Travel.” (Nice Travel is a popular bus station in Minna where travelers going to Bida can buy cheap tickets).   “I was there to pay for a traveller’s ticket.  But before I left, I realized that Isah Kawu was also there to do the same thing.  But in his case, it was his wife that he brought.  Much has been made of his refusal to change his lifestyle after becoming a lawmaker.  Well, I was a witness to that one.  You’d think that instead of rejecting the jeep offered to him by the governor, he would have accepted, given it to his wife and save her from the trouble of using the commoners’ bus station.  But Isah Kawu is an honourable man.”

His aversion to inappropriate use of government vehicles was explained to me by one of his childhood friends, “I once visited him when he was the General Manager of Niger State Media Corporation.  During my visit, his wife, Mama, who was going to Kaduna for an errand came to tell him that she was ready for the journey and requested for a car to take her there.  ‘What do you mean?’  Isah Kawu asked his wife.  You should know that there were many government vehicles in the building, which, as the head of the corporation he was free to use as he deemed fit, but Isah Kawu would touch none of them.  Instead, he gave his wife a lengthy lecture on how to use government property until I begged him to stop.

 “At a point,” the friend continues “he reminded the wife – who is still a teacher by the way – of a journey they had together: ‘remember our travel to Kutigi?  I went to Kutigi  in the official car because I was on official assignment.’

To cut a long story short, it was Kawu’s friend who convinced him to charter a car that would take his wife to Kaduna and back.

The reader will agree that this account evokes the glorious picture of Tafawa Balewa and his gang who would park their official vehicles when they had errands other than official duties to perform.  Maybe in Isah Kawu we have the hope of reviving such lovely tradition?

I’ve collected quite a number of stories about this young man: some of them include how he goes out early in the morning to pick up students from different areas of Minna to their respective schools, how he sponsors students in tertiary institutions, how he still sleeps in the bed he had in his university days and so forth.  These stories are going to be put in a book , with the help of Abdulkadir and distributed to children all over Nigeria free of charge.  This will tell the children that an individual can make a difference and will reassure all of us that one can still perform creditably in public service without stealing.

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