Daily Trust: Can you describe the kind of person your father is?
Hajiya Hafsat Bukar Shettima: Baba is a very disciplined man. I remember when I was younger, if any of my friends come visiting, my dad would ask them lots of questions like where they stay, their school, who their parents are and what they do for a living and so on. He knew a lot of people and in the course of his interrogation; he would know a relative of theirs or someone in my friends’ families. At a point, my friends were scared of coming over because of the questions they had to answer. He was a policeman, so he was very observant and cautious and he reads meaning to everything. He would take note of who comes in and goes out, what kind of friend you hang out with and so on, sometimes he would make sure they go to drop my friends off at their houses but in all, he is a very nice person, his hobby is hunting.
DT: Can you share some of your childhood memories growing up with your father?
Hafsat: I remember one time he was going hunting and I said I wanted to tag along. When I went, I remember the way the car was running into bumps and the bushes. I can clearly remember how scared I was. I never went hunting with him again. I also remember when I was growing up, we used to go to Kaduna Club because he was a member, we used to watch movies there and swing, it is not like that now, things have changed. That time, they had children’s and adult’s sections; cartoons and children’s movies were aired from 4 till 6pm and then they’d drop us off at home and the adults began their activities at 8pm.
DT: What roles did your father play growing up?
Hafsat: Baba was a policeman, he retired in 1979 and had worked in many states like Kano and Kaduna since the time of Sardauna. After retirement, he moved back to Maiduguri but because of the recent insecurity in Maiduguri, we had to bring him back to Kaduna. He goes to Maiduguri for checkup once in a while and holidays as he is presently in Maiduguri. He is an utterly disciplined man, he never tolerated indiscipline. He was also very security cautious and passed that on to us.
Because of him, I am very cautious of my environment, things like who is following me, who I am surrounded by and so on. I sort of took after him in that aspect. Even till now, in his old age he is still security cautious. My father is a very honest man. He is never one to gossip with because if you tell him something about somebody, he would call the person and ask you to repeat all you said to the person’s face. If you’re going to tell him anything, make sure you’re ready to face the consequences. He is a very lovely person and an amazing father. He retired as a deputy commissioner of police.
DT: Did your father’s position open doors for you?
Hafsat: Yes it did. Many times, especially if it’s a police related case. Once they hear my father’s name they always remember him because he is a no nonsense person and he’s very strict. If you go wrong or do something wrong, he would make sure you are punished accordingly. So, it made people fear him. He accommodated many people especially because of the Federal Training Centre here, lots of people stayed in our place. There are a lot of prominent people in the society today that stayed with us.
DT: Was there any point where you were forced to live in his shadow?
Hafsat: No, my dad is a very simple man; he lived like an English man, he would take us to Kanji Dam for picnics. We would make sandwiches from home to take along and he would hunt while we are at it. When he’s happy, you would know. He would wear a smile on his face all day and even go as far as buying us whatever we want and when he is upset, everybody would try not to step on his toes so that nobody would be used as a scapegoat.
DT: What was growing up like in the barracks?
Hafsat: We did not live in the barracks. Our first-born was born in Maiduguri, the second, third and fourth were born in Kano, then the fifth, sixth, seventh and eight were born in Kaduna. We lived in different places; Swimming pool Road, Yakubu Avenue etc, but never in the barracks.
DT: Growing up, did you have the sense of pride that you were the child of a famous person, and what were his reactions to that?
Hafsat: Of course, I was proud of him but one thing for sure is that if you do any nonsense he would never take it. My dad would never hide his feelings; he is a very open person and he takes everyone as family even his in-laws. When you are right, he would stand by you, but when you go wrong, he would never hesitate to tell you where you went wrong and he never takes sides. He is very fair in judgment and he does not know how to sugarcoat things because he has always been a very straightforward person.
DT: As a policeman, did he have any disciplinary tactics in handling his children?
Hafsat: Well, he did. Sometimes if we are going on a trip or holiday to Maiduguri he would exclude you if you had been bad and say you should stay behind with the maids and assist them in taking care of the house or when he is buying gifts for everyone he would exclude you or during your birthday there would be no celebration. He was very balanced. He had a way of rewarding you if you have been of good behaviour or if you perform very well in school, he would buy you presents to reward you.
DT: Apart from being a police officer, what other field do you think your father would have gone into?
Hafsat: He would have gone into farming. After his retirement, he went back to Maiduguri and started to farm. He owned a very big farm until the insurgency started. He was a Chairman for Borno Express, most of time, during elders forum he is usually invited. Sometimes, he rejects offers because he believes that he has done his own part when he was younger, and would want the younger generation to participate. Oftentimes, he is consulted on security issues.
DT: What is his favourite food?
Hafsat: He does not eat much these days but he used to love pepper soup, we even had a pond in the house and he reared fish. He loves nature – flowers, birds and so on, our house in Maidugiri used to be covered with flowers. Anytime we go to Maiduguri for holidays he would give the fish to people who came visiting as gifts. He loved fruits too but as he got older, he changed to vegetables, wheat bread and tea, that’s what he eats most of the time.
DT: At what point in your life did you realize your father is famous?
Hafsat: I had always known because of the type of security personnel we had in our house. Even as a police officer visiting, you had to identify yourself before you are granted access into the house. It’s not like these days. These made me realize how prominent my father is. When he retired and returned to Maiduguri, I stayed behind and lived with my sister. So, most of my adulthood I spent it away from home except during holidays and it was compulsory, especially during summer or December holidays, to go back home.
DT: Was there ever a time you were scared for his safety with regards to his job?
Hafsat: Not at all. I was quite young and at the time, there was no threat concerning security. It’s not like now that you’re scared. I was never worried for his safety I knew he would be safe. I was about to go to secondary school when he retired.