By Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa
Kano Court has always been blessed by learned and distinguished Ulama since the reign of Sarkin Kano Yaji Dan Tsamiyya (1349-1385CE). This was when the Wangarawa came and convinced him to adopt Islam as the state religion. They achieved this through the efficacy of prayer that helped him to overcome his animist adversaries. Several other Ulama have over the years influenced the Kano Court even after the Jihad of Shehu Usman Danfodio. One of such Ulama was Liman Zubairu of Galadanci (1854-1932). He studied under famous scholars such as Shaykh Abdulazeez al-Gyanawy, Liman Umaru Zara and Shaykh Suyudi Na Madabo. He was a teacher of the aristocrats including Galadiman Kano Shehu and his father in law Galadiman Kano Isiyaku who made him to move from Yakasai to Galadanci. He became Limamin Galadanci and Member of the Emir’s Court in 1894. Since then his descendants have retained that position. One of his most famous descendants was grandson, Zubairu Mahmud Galadanci who was named after him.
Zubair Mahmud Galadanci was born in 1936. He titled his autobiography as Zubair Mahmoud Imam Galadanci A Humble Beginning because of his humility. It is also the major source of this tribute. His beginning was not ordinary because his father was a Member of the Emir’s Court. Being from the home of knowledge he was encouraged to seek knowledge just like his brothers and cousins. His two elder brothers Alkali Sani and Alkali Namadi were Upper Area Court Judges and the third was Professor MKM Galadanci the first Kano indigene to earn a PhD. He studied the Qur’an like all his peers. He was enrolled at the Shahuchi Judicial School in 1946 along with Imam Galadanci his cousin. They completed this school in 1950. Unfortunately the admission policy into the School for Arabic Studies was changed in favor of the graduates of Kano Middle School and only Imam Galadanci got admission that year.
This failure to secure admission did not discourage Zubairu. He decided to take tailoring vocation because he never wanted to remain idle. In addition his father Mallam Mahmud was an entrepreneur who employed tailors who were sewing Babbar Riga for Hakimai (Titleholders), thus he had an opportunity to make good use of his time. But this vocation did not last long because of his familial connections. One of his father’s acquaintances was the Dagaci (Village Head) of Tokarawa, whose scribe had absconded from duty thus he offered him the job as a temporary employment. The Dagaci was in desperate need of a scribe because of the tax collection season. The records were in Arabic and Zubairu was proficient in the language.
This experience made him to appreciate the predicament of Dagatai (Village Heads). This is significant for understanding the history of British colonial domination of Kano and how they used the Native Authority and in the process adversely affecting the Sarauta (traditional ruling class). He vividly narrated in his autobiography: “The peak period of the tax collection was usually four to five months, starting from mid-November to March every year. Some rich Village Heads finish the exercise earlier”. This was possible through “rigorous collection for two months”. And then “they balanced what remained from their own pockets” by disposing their possessions such as cattle and groundnut harvest to pay the district. “Thereafter, they continued a piece-meal collection from those of their subjects until they recover what they had balanced or loaned” (p.40 of autobiography). These challenges played momentous role in the frosty relationships between Village Heads and District Heads. The official biographer of Sarkin Kano Alhaji described the Village Heads as lower aristocracy whose descendants developed animosity that made them despise the higher aristocracy Hakimai or Emirate Titleholders (Ibrahim 2001: 206-207). This culminated in the several attempts of Balkanizing Kano Emirate and destroying its heritage.
As noted earlier Zubairu was a man of humility, when he described his beginning as humble was being modest. An ordinary person of the 1950s could not have had personal access to Ciroma Muhammadu Sanusi and even make preferential employment requests. Zubairu secured employment as the junior scribe of the District Head of Dawakin Kudu, Galadiman Kano Inuwa the most senior Prince at that time. It was a fruitful experience. He went to Ciroma Muhammadu Sanusi and sought change of job when he saw what happened to a retired junior scribe. Both the Ciroma and Muhammadu Gwarzo the Native Authority Staff Officer were very humorous when he narrated his request. He was offered the job of Bus Conductor. The Kano Native Authority had established the Bus Service. Many educated youth today will never contemplate such a job. But that was Zubair. Even then one of his classmates conspired to prevent him from taking the job. The conspiracy was foiled because Ciroma could not tolerate such lies. He once told me how Ciroma Muhammadu Sanusi was sympathizing with him because of the difficulty of the job and how he was managing to continue with his studies privately.
His experience during the Bus Conductor episode had profound influence in his life as illustrated in his autobiography. This was not only because the conspirator was his classmate at Judicial School but the fact that he claimed that Zubairu does not understand English, even though Zubairu was better than him in English language communication. It was also because of English Language that they were denied admission into School for Arabic Studies. He resisted this segregation and imposition of inferiority complex thus he learnt English with sacrifice and determined effort. This made him to join the Ibo Union Grammar School for English course. He also attended extra lessons of Mallam Bello Gwarzo at the school that later became Shekara in addition to extra tutoring of his cousin Mallam Datti Ahmed. He narrated the ordeals of Alhaji Abubakar Imam and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on how the colonialists used the divide and rule strategy against Nigerians. They made the southerners who had succumbed to Western culture to feel superior to the northerners.
The Native Authority Bus Service was abolished in September 1956. Zubairu received thirty pounds compensation. He completed the Ibo Union Grammar School in November 1956. He had to seek another employment but there was little difficulty, as he could not easily reach his benefactor Ciroma Muhammadu Sanusi who had become the Emir of Kano. But he was still privileged to have Ma’aji Umaru Yola who was married to his elder sister. He secured the job of court scribe for him. He was posted to Waje Court on the request of Alkali Ali Bashir Wali. He left for further studies at School for Arabic Studies from 1958 to 1962 after which he returned to the same court but Alkali Ali Bashir had been transferred. There he could not conform to the high handedness of the new Alkali. His offence was that he offered a chair to Alhaji Yunusa Wakilin Masaka who was waiting as a litigant. The Alkali demanded his transfer. But as someone from a respectable family he had the privilege of networking and Alkali Ibrahim Ahmad (later became Matawallen Kano) who was then Karamin Alkalin requested that he should be posted as his scribe. He gained experience in this court because it was highly esteemed for professional handling of commercial cases.
He described his earlier career trajectory as rolling stone because he changed jobs six times in three years. But the most important lessons from this trail were his determination to overcome office intrigues and educational disadvantage. They were prevented from further education after completing Shahuci Judicial School. He was unequivocal: “It was evidently clear to me that without education there was a limit to the level one can move up to” (page 69). After completing School for Arabic Studies in 1962 he worked for two years and secured scholarship to study at Bakhtar Ruda Institute in Sudan the Alma Mata of Professor Shehu Galadanci, Dr. Hassan Gwarzo and Shaykh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, who were his teachers at the School for Arabic Studies. He returned in 1967 with Diploma in Education and joined Abdullahi Bayero College (Ahmadu Bello University) where he graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree. He also went to South Devon England, United Kingdom for further studies. Thus he overcame the imposed handicap.
Despite his privileged background he had suffered from various forms of negative office politics where some deliberately used machinations to stop the progress of others. He suffered this agony before his employment as a bus conductor, as a court clerk, when he returned from Sudan and even as a Permanent Secretary. He was however always recollecting the goodness of those who came to his aid. For example Alhaji Sule Gaya, Sarkin Fadar Kano, ensured that he was paid his full salary when he was a student at Abdullahi Bayero College (ABC/ABU), as some officials had earlier denied him this right.
After his graduation from ABC/ABU in 1970 he became a senior civil servant as an Administrative Officer Grade VII. This was because the Judicial Department his previous employer in the public service refused to absorb him as they claimed that no vacancy existed for his position. He was posted to the Ministry of Finance as an Assistant Secretary II where he served for only six months. He was transferred to Birnin Kudu as Divisional Officer heading the Administrative Area. He served there for two years. Then he was transferred to Kano Metropolitan but his classmate Alhaji Uba Adamu refused to hand over to him. This is also instructive. He claimed that his colleague had connection in the service because of his Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) antecedents. NEPU was the radical opposition party of the first republic that was terminated in 1966. Its members had influence in the Government of Alhaji Audu Bako the first Governor of Kano State.
Zubairu felt he could not disobey instructions, as he had no godfather in the civil service at that time. So he had to proceed for further training which Alhaji Uba Adamu his colleague allegedly refused to take. He went to South Devon College for Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration. When he returned he was posted to the Ministry of Education where late Alhaji Hussaini Adamu (later Emir of Kazaure) was the Permanent Secretary who informed him that there was no schedule for him but suggested he should make a proposal. Before his proposal was accepted or rejected the Permanent Secretary for Local Government requested that he should be posted again to Local Government to serve as Divisional Officer in Birnin Kudu (for the second time) because they needed a more experienced officer.
Zubairu had a distinguished administrative career with experience in various ministries and most importantly as a Local Administrator during the era of Administrative Areas as Divisional Officer and as the first Sole Administrator of Dawakin Tofa Local Government Area when it was created in 1976 and later of Gaya. He was also the Deputy Chief Inspector of Local Government in the Ministry. He passed through many hurdles in ministries, dealing with staff and contractors where he came across corrupt individuals and vested interests. He reached the pinnacle of his career when he became a Permanent Secretary. He served at the Ministry for Rural and Community Development from 1980 to 1982. It was the major ministry that implemented the programs of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), which was the successor of the NEPU and was the ruling party of Kano State in the second republic. There were several activities and projects in the ministry hence everyone was busy. As an experienced administrator Zubairu, ensured positive results. He had initial good working relationship with the Honorable Commissioner who commended his good efforts by informing the Governor. Later their relationship became sour and the commissioner complained to the Governor who reminded him of his earlier commendation. To avoid further escalation of the frosty relationship Zubairu decided to second his service to the Kano office of the Federal Public Complaints Commission.
Zubairu returned to the Kano State Civil Service in 1983 when Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo was elected Governor of Kano State. He was returned to his familiar turf, the Ministry for Local Government as the Permanent Secretary. He was given the task of coordinating the removal of the deposed Emirs of Auyo, Dutse and Gaya from their positions. The Emir of Rano had died before the election of Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo, whose Administration decided to abolish the Emirates created by Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi’s Administration. Zubairu handled the exercise with distinction as an experienced administrator. He also did an excellent job in reconciling Sarkin Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero with his two younger brothers Dan Buram Abubakar Bayero and Dan Ruwata Yusuf Bayero and also with the deposed Sarkin Dutse Abdullahi Maikano, Sarkin Shanu Umaru Madaki and Baura Maikano Gwarzo.
Zubairu was again confronted with another challenge as he was demoted from Permanent Secretary to Sole Administrator Gaya Local Government Area. He later learnt that it was because he queried a District Head who had connection with a powerful personality in the State Government. His assignment at Gaya was also not easy as the District Head refused to cooperate with him. In addition some individuals were also aggrieved because of his handling of land allocation. They petitioned the Governor who later visited Gaya privately and confirmed Zubairu’s innocence through interrogation of some farmers. He was later reinstated as Permanent Secretary. He reached the mandatory period of retirement, which was thirty-five years of service and he retired in 1986.
There are several lessons in the life of Alhaji Zubairu Galadanci like most other successful public servants. The reading public is lucky to have his life documented in book, which is a rich anthology for public administrators and historians. He faced many challenges. But he never gave up, as he was determined to improve his educational status and attain a more respectable position. He was privileged to be from the aristocratic class but was humble to take any job available including the lowly Bus Conductor. He was certainly inspired by his elder brother Professor MKM Galadanci and his cousin and teacher Professor SAS Galadanci who were pioneers in educational attainment. It was also a transition period and there was opportunity for hardworking and patriotic citizens. This was because the service was in formative stage especially after the creation of Kano State from the defunct Northern Region in 1967. But his career trajectory is an illustration of the tortuous journey in the civil service where some were determined to pull down others. In his own case there were several attempts to finish him up. Two Governors visited his workstations to verify allegations against him and they confirmed his innocence. Some years after one of the visits, at a public function Governor Alhaji Audu appreciated the way Zubairu assimilated into village life when he was Divisional Officer in Birnin Kudu: “Yan iskan mutane da sunce da ni Zubairu da birni ne ba zai zauna a kauye ba, gashi ba ma zama ba har ma yazo da iyalensa ya kuma mayar da kauye garinsu” (page 136). He had strong faith and he persevered. He was demoted from the highest position of Permanent Secretary because of his principles. Many gave up under similar conditions. He never did. His life indeed remains a great inspiration.
One of the major reasons for writing this tribute is because of one of the most important lessons in life that I learnt from this pious public servant. He informed me that an estate agent visited him to convince him to dispose his property in Abuja and get into estate business because of the value of the property. He declined and told that agent he does not want to be a businessman. He was emphatic that the rents from the property and retirement benefits were enough for him. I always remember this. He led a fulfilled and contented life of service to the community as one of the elders of Gwale Local Government Area. He was never pretentious but humble and down to earth unlike most of his contemporaries. How many public servants are contented today? How many have endured similar struggles he underwent and remained dedicated? He passed away on Monday December 26, 2022. May Allah bless his soul and grant him eternal peace.
Editor Nigeria Year Book and Who is Who
Kano December 31, 2022.