•Popular LAGOS Businessman, Alhaji YAKUBU GARBA GOBIR
The ancient town of Daura was in the spotlight last week, as Alhaji Yakubu Garba Gobir, one of the sons of prominent Hausa descent and businessman was turbaned as the very firstWaziri of Hausaland, meaning the traditional Prime Minister of the emirate, on Monday, November 19,
Head of the City People Online Editor, SEUN JOSEPH and GM Production, WAHAB BASHIR, witnessed the historic event and took time out to speak with the new Waziri, during which he spoke about his affinity with the Hausa speaking states and his template on the roadmap to economic growth and development of the Hausa nation. Photos by SANI
Congratulations on your Turbaning as the Waziri of Hausaland. We understand that your Waziri title covers about 6 or 7 states in the north. Can you let us into your background and how you have been picked as the Waziri of the Hausa people?
Let me give you
He was Fulani from Mali and to cut the long story short, Fulanis sacked the Gobirempire and took over and the Gobirpeople fled to what is modern day NigerRepublic and in fact, we still have a Sultan of Gobirin Sibiri, in Maladiin Niger. The Gobir people also joined the Jihad that started off in Sokotoand came all the way down to the south.
That Jihad actually sacked the Oyo empire and because the Are Ona Kakanfo, Afonjawished to live in Ilorin and he negotiated a kind of pact with the Fulanis to take over the Oyo empire and make him the king, but it didn’t work out that way. So where current day Oyo is, is not where it was in the ancient time. It moved. And it was actually the British that put a wall. So what we are saying, in a nutshell, is that the Gobir people
Of course, this happened over centuries and what happened is that, just like the Roman empire, the Roman empire tries to control things from Rome, but, when it got to places like Iberia, Spain and Portugal, they changed tactics because the empire was getting too large. So what they now did was to convert Hispanians and made them Romans, so that was how they were able to expand their empire. That is expansion by assimilation.
So that is what happened to the HausaFulani in Ilorin. So, you can imagine tribesmen all the way in Niger and Ilorin, they can’t continue to be liaising with each other. So sooner or later they started to marry Yoruba women having half Yoruba, half Hausa descent. So if you look at Ilorin today, Ilorin west is predominantly indigenous Yoruba people and if you look at the Ilorin East it’s more of northern element; you will find Fulani, you will find Hausa, Nupeand Kanuri people. So, that in a nutshell is my explanation of my ‘Hausaness’, if I can put it that way.
So if I want to go back to answering your question, why is the relationship with the north so close with our family particularly? It goes back to my late grandfather who was the first Waziri of Ilorin. He went to KatsinaTeachers College in Katsinahere, and he was a senior to the late Sardaunaof Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. My own father too went to the same Katsineteachers college and he ended up working as Sardaunaof Soko’s principal secretary.
So even his younger brother after him did the same too. So when the colonial masters left. My father, his brothers ended up becoming district officers. The district office is the first position the colonial masters used to hold in those days. So, the first place my father served as a district officer was Katsina, again deepening roots in Katsina. So a lot of people still remember that time. Actually, my late father was a first governor of Katsinastate if you think about it from governance from the British.
So, he then moved to Kano, he was a district officer in Kano, then district officer in Kafancha, and so on, before he then progressed in his career and retired as a federal permanent secretary. Along the line, all the northern elites, including GeneralMohammaduBuhariand so on; you know the role the Sardauna of Sokotoplayed in terms of bringing up the north to catch up with the south. He actually did a lot in terms of accelerating the development and enhancing empowerment of young northerners at that time. Those young northerners ended up to be very powerful as time went on. A lot of them remember my father from being a principal secretary to the Sardauna of Sokoto.
A lot of them remember him in the civil service as well. Particularly in Daura, this current Emirs brother, late emir Mohammad Bashir, reigned for 32 years. He was a very close friend of my fathers’ because Mohamad Bachirwas also very close to Sardaunaof Sokotoso, we have a family link with the Dauraemirate, going back to Mohammad Bachir. This current emir has ruled for 10 years now; Umar Farouq Umar. And he of course knows about that relationship and he has been like a father to me for a long time. And when we were marking the 20thanniversary of my late father’s death that was when he honoured me with the title of Waziri of Hausaland. So Waziri of Hausaland is not just the 7 northern states. It’s actually where Hausa is spoken, which includes Niger.
Sir, let’s talk about your position of Waziri of Hausaland. Is it the first Waziri or second?
It’s the first. Just like my late grandfather was the firstWaziri of Ilorin, I am the first Waziriof Hausaland, so, it’s the first in both dispensations. There are Wazirisin every town. Let me explain what Wazirimeans. Waziriis Prime Minister. That is what it means. So you will find it in a lot of Islamicallycolonized country such as Turkey, Pakistan and so on. That title of Waziriis very well known, in fact there is a place called Waziristan in Pakistan. It’s usually given to somebody that is very enlightened, very knowledgeable and the person is usually scribe or adviser to the emir and in most countries or empire, the prime minister is very close to the emirs. It’s usually next to the emir. So that is the meaning of Waziri.
So that means we are going to see a more established relationship between you and all the emirs including Sokoto, Kano, Ilorin?
Of course, in fact before the Emir of Dauradecided to give this kind of title, he has to consult with all the northern emirs and they have to give their approval. So, it’s not just Daura, and of course there is an existing relationship with other emirs, especially Kano, Zaria, Katsinaand so on. And of course I want to say that this title is not just given to me as an individual, but the Gobirnation as a whole have seen this as a very big gift to Gobirnation. What I want to also correct you about is that the Emir of Daurais the only place that does not have not have fulanilineage, because that place was not completely conquered.
How do you intend to use this office?
First of all I thank God for the gift and the responsibility that goes with it, and I acknowledge that it is only God that can help one to be successful in any role one is given. What I want to rely on is the fact that I am of the Gobir Heritage, and if you look at it, the Gobirare everywhere, even in Lagos, you will see the mark, I don’t have the mark, but you will find people of Gobirdescent in almost every town or city in Nigeria and as well in Niger, in fact the Gobirare very powerful in Niger.
Unfortunately, the Gobirawacontingent that was supposed to come to the Turbaning were held up in Sokoto, so they had a meeting there. I will, first of all, rely on my Gobirpeople, they have been very supportive and that is a network that I will first of all use, and then of course, reach out to the northern emirs. And more importantly, why the Emir of Daurais in consultaion with the other emirs.
In me, they are looking at a bridge between the north and the South. So they are looking at someone that can lead the next generation. The next phase of Hausa people. So Hausa people will not be seen in that old rural perception that Hausa people are ignorant and are not exposed. That will be one of the first things that I will be working on. I will serve as a good image maker of what we see as a typical Hausa man.
Knowing full well that the Hausa people cannot be compared with the western and southern region in terms of education, what are you going to do to create that civilization balance?
I want to correct you. Education came to Nigeria through 2 folds there is western education, which people from the south had because of their proximity to the sea and initially Christian evangelism; and the influence of the Islamic jihadist. So people from the north are actually very scholarly in Arabic while the south is very scholarly in the western civilization. So just don’t look at the north as being backward in terms of education. There are people that have memorized the Quran, they can recite it from the beginning to end without missing a full stop.
So I won’t say they are not civilized. And you know there is a difference between the northern way of life; the northern philosophy and the western eutherian work ethic and work ethic is very alien to the northern mindset. But now as you can see, Dangotebeing the richest man in Africa, the north have very quickly embraced capitalism and are doing very well in it. So I think one of the things that I will be able to do is to correct a lot of misconceptions that people in the south are more civilized. I understand the culture and history of Yoruba very well, in fact, my mother is from Ilorin west. I understand Yoruba thinking and logic and I understand Hausa thinking and logic. And I can easily tell you where there is imbalance.
Apart from Hausa and Yoruba, what other languages do you speak?
I speak English and French as well
As a pharmacist, how do you want to contribute to help improve the health of Daura indigene?
You see, I would rather like to be called a social entrepreneur now than a pharmacist. If you look at Daura, and how rural it is, and the health issue as you mentioned, the fundamental issue is economic. If you say a place does not have good health facility, it’s not because I’m a pharmacist. It’s better for me to fix the economy of the place and sort other problems as well as health than just talk about getting drugs and immunizing children on polio in that place. So the root cause of what you are thinking is actually economic and that is what has to be fixed.
Can you tell us briefly about your foundation, INVIVO?
Okay, that addresses one of your questions earlier on how I intend to impact in the health sector of the community. In 2014 after several years as n entrepreneur, I begin to think about the problems that make our healthcare delivery in Nigeria inefficient especially looking at it from a pharmacist’s point of view. One of the first things that I know is that people don’t have access to primary healthcare. Most people will just walk across the street to go and buy Panadol; they think they have malaria, and if they think they have running stomach they buy Flaggy and they usually buy fake drugs. Because that is the first thing we have access to and of course because of the cost. So I realized that first of was the issue of self-medication, lack of diagnosis of what is really the problem. Too many fake drugs in circulation and not enough preventive healthcare, so I created a concept of having a clinic in a pharmacy. So you look at the INVIVOs now, there’s a doctor, there’s a nurse and there’s a pharmacist. And when you go into anyInvivooutlet and say I’m not feeling fine, they direct you to a doctor. The doctor will examine you for free. You may pay for the test and the medications, but consultation is completely free. Since 2014 that we have started INVIVO, we have treated 60,000 people for free across Nigeria especially Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja and lots of places. So I’m not partial like what I was saying to you the other time. So that’s what INVIVO is all about. It’s a social enterprise and not a charity or NGO. It’s a business that is not for profit. It’s a business that uses the profits it generates to keep it going and to keep it working.
What will be your priority as the first Waziri of Hausaland?
My first priority will be to create harmony within northerners, within north-south relationship. Look at what happened in Kaduna recently, that has been a perennial problem. But it’s not about religion; most people don’t know. It’s about territory. If you look at the crisis that keeps happening in Jos, it’s not religion but territorial problem. If you look at what’s happening in the north east, the Boko Haram, it’s not religion, its poverty and feeling of exclusion. If you go to some of those areas you will not even know if they are part of Nigeria. When you go to some areas in Sokotostate, you will be travelling several kilometers and you won’t even see one police station. Even in Sabo Ngeri to Sokoto, you will see practically no police station. And you hear what’s happening in Zamfara, and it’s not happening in Sokotostate too. And especially when it’s time for politics, those kind of things start happening. So it has nothing to do with religion. It usually has to do with economy and power. And also in the South, a lot of people don’t understand what the northern agenda is. They will say presidentMohammaduBuhariis pro Islamic, or anti-Christian; it’s not so. If you get close to him, you will find out it’s not so. One of the closest person to President MohammaduBuharithat I knew intimately is General TundeIdiagbon. He’s from Ilorin, Yoruba speaking. So that’s the kind of role I intend to play as new Waziri of Hausa andIwill continue to play in the next 5 years. You know this title is a lifetime title. And I pray that Allah gives me the long life to be able to do it and even over time, In Sha Allah, I will be able to have an impact in Nigeria.
Can you tell us three things that people don’t know about you?
One, the languages I speak; that’s one. Two, I will say people don’t know the extent of my exposure; they don’t know what it’s like being born into the right family as I’m grateful to have experienced in my youth. So I’m very widely travelled. I’m very exposed internationally, and that is another thing that I will be able to do for the Hausa nation; take it international. Look at the well in Daura you saw today; that could be a tourist attraction, if packaged properly. I’m a king horse rider also, I relax. And yes the third thing that people don’t know about me is that I’m a family man to the core. There are times that I just shut off and just keep to myself. You may see me in all of these roles, but in my private time, I take it very private.