The rise, and rise of Daura is affording many of us, students and observers of the growth of cities, an opportunity of historic proportions. For scholars world-wide it would be a chance to distil their observations which might lead to discarding old theories and the emergence of new perspectives. This aside, I see Daura in the nearest future becoming the envy of not only the nearby cities of Kano and Katsina but also Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt that are farther away. No, this is not a far-fetched assumption considering the rush of projects to this border town that had always been thought of as a backwater of sorts.
A backwater may be, but Daura had always been a fixation in the minds of historians as the cradle of Hausa people. The legend of Bayajidda is too well-known to need repetition here. However, even though that legend has for a considerable amount of time been established in many books, it is today being questioned by non-other but the Hausa themselves. The Vice Chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Abdullahi Uba Adamu, a renowned scholar of the Hausa Language itself, has in a recent lecture debunked the Bayajidda legend as a mere bunkum. He was reported to have asserted with professorial authority that: Tatsuniya ce kawai – it is just not more than a tale.
Be that as it may, Daura is now the cynosure of all eyes, ever since their most prominent son became President in 2015.The truth is that all cities began from nothing. Abuja is one city that blossomed under our own very watches. I recall the first time I set my sights on Abuja, sometimes in late 1986. I had just transferred from Chad Basin Development Maiduguri into the Borno State Civil Service and was posted to the Governor’s Office. One of the first assignments handed to me by Gaji Galtimari, the Secretary to the Military Government and my boss, was to find my way to Abuja to follow up on the papers for the land allocated to Borno State Government to build the Governor’s Lodge and liaison office. In those times the best way to get to Abuja from Maiduguri was to take a flight to Lagos, sleep there, and the next day connect to the only flight into Abuja.
I flew into an almost empty federal capital. Fortunately, my classmate and friend (much later to be my amiable boss) was then a Director in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, one of the very few government institutions in Abuja. He contrived to make my stay in Abuja comfortable. After completing my official assignment at the FCT office I took a drive around. There were beautiful roads all over the place but Abuja was then one big bush. There were just a few buildings, all clustered around Garki, and they were almost all government offices. Now here we are today witnessing the burgeoning of Abuja into an incredible mega city.
It is therefore within reasonable bounds to anticipate the rapid growth of Daura to the status of Abuja and Kano. After all, many of what we see as cities today started in the same manner. Jos was a collection of small villages nestling among the hills till when at the turn of the last century the colonialists discovered the tin mineral in the grounds surrounding it. The influx of people from other parts of the country both as traders and labourers rushing to partake in this newfound wealth enabled Jos it to grow to what it is today.
My home town Maiduguri was also a collection of villages dotted along the banks of the river that runs through the town depending on the season. The area attracted the attention of the colonial government when they needed a more central and accessible place as a capital for Borno Province. The colonial administration, then requested the Shehu of Borno at the time, in 1907, Shehu Abubakar Garbai to move his capital from his ancestral capital of Kukawa located at the uppermost part of the province, near Niger Republic, to the area now known as Maiduguri. A hundred years or so later, and with the benefit of overwhelming government presence, Maiduguri is now home to over a million people.
The ground breaking ceremony performed by the President in Daura on Monday last week for building the transport university has put the famous town once more in the spotlight. Building the university is coming hot on the heels of the announcement in August by the same Minister of Transport that a railway line has been approved to run from Kano to Daura to go on to Jibiya. Even before that, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF)had in August commissioned a clinic in Daura. Though reported in most of the media as a clinic, the ultra-modern health facility is actually equipped with the state of the art materials and will serve as a Teaching Hospital for the NAF School of Medical Sciences and Aviation Medicine now domiciled in Kaduna.
At the ground breaking ceremony the President made a speech that was all commendations for the actions of the Minister of Transport, particularly for convincing the China Civil Engineering Company (CECCC) to construct the University of Transportation in Daura. With this open endorsement of the actions of the Minister of Transport I see a deluge of projects of all hues rushed to Daura by stampeding ministers. The few years remaining in this last term of the President should raise the status of Daura to enviable heights. I foresee ministers clogging the federal budget with all manner of projects to be sited in Daura, starting with universities that bear their ministerial names. We could have the University of Works, University of Finance, University of Justice, University of Agriculture among others. Not to be outdone and also be on the crest of the tide, the National Assembly might consider to upgrade its Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (ILDS), now in Abuja, to university status, rename it University of the National Assembly and move it to Daura.
For the Minister of Transport, he could even up the notch by giving the nod to those agencies in his ministry that might want to move to Daura. I guess it would be a good opportunity particularly for those agencies that feel constrained in Lagos, to move out. Where else but Daura? After all, at the ground breaking ceremony the Minister, in anticipation of criticisms, had told the world that he had no regrets putting the Transportation University in Daura. He crowed defiantly, ‘Daura is in Nigeria, it is not in any other part of the world. It is not in Niger Republic, Biafra or Mali, it is in Nigeria.’ This should give a boost to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that had once tried to move its headquarters to Abuja from Lagos and had even built the Ship House (now occupied by the Ministry of Defence) but were stopped by President Obasanjo. The atmosphere is now more convivial for them to initiate the move and finally realize that foiled dream.
Daura is seemingly unstoppable in its trajectory to becoming a mega city.