I will serve as bridge between North and South – Alhaji Yakubu Garba Gobir
After the turbanning ceremony that made him the first Wazirin Hausa by the Emir of Daura, HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Umar Farouk Umar in Daura, Katsina State last week, Alhaji Yakubu Garba Gobir, a social entrepreneur, philanthropist and MD/CEO of Smart Mark, spoke on his readiness to build bridges connecting the Hausas to other tribes in Nigeria. Eniola Daniel reports.
You are from Ilorin, how come your family is so close with the North?
It dates back to my late grandfather, who was the first Wazirin of Ilorin. He attended Katsina Teachers College, and was senior to the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. My father also went to Katsina Teachers College and ended up working as Sardauna of Sokoto’s principal secretary. His younger brother also did the same.
After the colonial masters left, my father and his brothers became district officers. The district office was the first position the colonial masters held in those days. So, the first place my father served, as a district officer was Katsina, thereby deepening his roots there. A lot of people still remember that time. And really, my late father was the first Katsina State Governor, if viewed from British governance.
He later moved to Kano, where he was also a district officer. From there, he was madethe district officer in Kafancha, and so on, before he progressed in his career and retired as a Federal permanent secretary. Along the line, all the northern elites, including President Muhammadu Buhari got to know him. You know the role the Sardauna of Sokoto played in terms of making the north catch up with the south. He actually did a lot in terms of accelerating the development and empowerment of young northerners then. Those young Northernersbecame 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 also remember him in the civil service, especiallyin Daura. Thecurrent Emir’s brother, the late Emir Mohammad Bashir reigned for 32 years. He was a very close friend of my father’s, andhe was also very close to the Sardauna of Sokoto. So, we have a family link with Daura emirate, going back to Muhammad Bashir. This current emir, Umar Faruq Umar knows about that relationship and has been like a father to me. When we were marking the 20th anniversary of my father’s demise, he decided to honourme with the title of Wazirin of Hausaland. So, Wazirin of Hausaland is not just the seven northern states; it’s actually wherever Hausa is spoken, which include Niger.
Just like my late grandfather was the first Wazirin of Ilorin, I am the first Wazirin of Hausaland. There are Wazirins in every town. Wazirin is a Prime Minister. So, you will find it in a lot of islamically-colonised countries, such as Turkey, Pakistan and so on. Infact, there is a place called Waziristan in Pakistan. It’s usually given to somebody that is very enlightened andknowledgeable. The person is usually a scribe or an adviser to the Emir. In most countries or empires, the prime minister is very close to the emirs.
So, we are going to see more established relationship between you and all the emirs…
Yes. Infact, before the Emir of Daura decided to give me this title, he must have consulted with all the northern emirs and they must have given their approval. So, it’s not just Daura, and there is an existing relationship with other emirs, especially Kano, Zaria, Katsina and so on. I want to say this title is not just given to me as an individual, but to Gobir nation as a whole. I want to also add that Daura Emirate is the only place without Fulani lineage, because it was not completely conquered.
What do you want to achieve in your office?
I thank God for the gift and responsibility that goes with it. I acknowledge that it is only God that can help one be successful in any role. What I want to rely on is the fact that I am of the Gobir lineage. The Gobirs are everywhere, even in Lagos. You see the mark, though I don’t haveit. But you findpeople of Gobir descent in almost every town or city in Nigeria and Niger, where they are very powerful.
Unfortunately, the Gobirawa contingent that was supposed to attend the turbaning ceremony was held up in Sokoto, so they had a meeting there. I will rely on my people, as they have been very supportive. That is a network I intend using first of all, thoughI will also be reaching out to Northern emirs. More importantly, the Emir of Daura and other Emirs must have been thinking of the future, when they decided to confer such a title on me.
They are looking at a bridge between the north and south, which I represent. They are looking at someone that can lead the next generation; the next phase of Hausa people. So, Hausa people will not be perceived as old and rural, as being ignorantand unexposed. That is the one of the first things I will be working on. I will serve as a good image-maker of the typical Hausaman.
My first priority will be to create harmony among northerners, and then build a north-south relationship. Look at what happened in Kaduna recently, which has become a perennial problem. But it’s not about religion. Most people don’t know this. It’s about territory. If you look at the crises that keep occurring in Jos, it’s not religious but territorial problem. The same goes for what’s happening in the Northeast with Boko Haram. It’s not religion, but poverty and feeling of exclusion.
If you go to some of those places, you won’t even know they are part of Nigeria. In some areas in Sokoto State, you will travel several kilometres without seeing one police station. And these crises are more pronounced when it’s time for politics, which goes to show they have more to do with economy and power.
Also in the South, a lot of people don’t understand what the northern agenda is. So, I intend to address some of these issues and misconceptions, as the Wazirin of Hausa. This title is for a lifetime, and I pray that Allah gives me long life to be able to do it.
How do you intend to balance the educational gap between the North and South?
Education came to Nigeria through two channels. There is Western education, which people from the south embraced, because of their proximity to the sea and initial Christian evangelism. People from the North are very scholarly in Arabic, while the Southerners are very scholarly in Western civilization. So, the North shouldn’t be seen as backward in terms of education. There are people that have memorised the Qur’an, and can recite it from the beginning to end without missing a full stop.I wouldn’t say they are not civilized. And you know there is a difference between the northern way of life and that of the South. TheWestern work ethicis very alien to the northern mindset.
But now with Dangote being the richest man in Africa, the North has very quickly embraced capitalism and is doing very well in that regard. So, I think one of the things that I will 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 the Yoruba thinking and logic, just as I understand that of Hausa. And I can easily tell you where there is an imbalance.
As a pharmacist, how do you intend improvingthe health of Daura indigenes?
I rather preferto be called a social entrepreneur than a pharmacist. If you look at Daura and how rural it is, as well asits health needs, 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 to fix the economy of the place and sort out other problems than just talk about getting drugs and immunising children on polio there. So, the root cause of what you are saying is actually economic, which is what has to be fixed first.
As the Wazirin, how do you hope to accommodate the different political stands of your people Vis a Vis 2019?
I have been in the All Progressives Congress (APC) since 2014. When I was in the university, I had the option of claimingeither Sokoto State or Kwara State. Because our family had been in Ilorin for generations and due to our family’s prominence in Ilorin,my father advised me not to pick Sokoto as my state of origin. I was very tempted because Sokoto students receivedbursary, but it was difficult getting admission in Kwara State, asthe people are very educated and Kabba people were scoring very high marks.
In Ilorin, there have been situations where tension of segregation occurs, but we tried to douse such. I’m a Gobir from Kwara.There is Kwara politics and the fact of dominance of certain people and families in Kwara politics. I’m very careful of that. Though I’ve been in the APC since 2014, I have played a background role among my brothers and people that are progressive, who are younger and needed my help financially to collect forms and to mobilise people for campaigns and all of that.
I have learned over the years that you can’t fix things by just donating cash or giving money to people. The way to bring about a radical change is to get involved in governance. If you don’t get involved, there is little you can do. The problem is too big for individuals. Note that a traditional title is not the same as political office. I don’t get involved in politics as a Wazirin. My being the Wazirin has nothing to do with APC or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
What is your foundation INVIVO into?
In 2014, after several years as an entrepreneur, I started thinking about the problems that make our healthcare delivery in Nigeria inefficient, especially from a pharmacist’s point of view. One of the first things that struck me was that people don’t have access to primary healthcare. For instance, most people just walk across the street to buy Panadol. They think they have malaria, and then they end up buying fake drugs, because that is the first thing we have access to and because of the cost.
So, I realised that the first issue was self-medication, followed by lack of diagnosis of what the problem really is, too much fake drugs in circulation and not enough preventive healthcare. So, I created the concept of having a clinic in a pharmacy. At INVIVO, we have doctors, nurses and a pharmacist. When a patient comes,the doctor examineshim/her for free. You may pay for test and medications, but consultation is completely free. INVIVO is a social enterprise and not a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO).
Are there things people don’t know about you generally?
Yes, the fact that I speak Hausa, Yoruba, English and French fluently. I’m very widely travelled, and very exposed internationally. That is another thing I’ll be able to do for the Hausa nation; take it international. The Kusugu Well could be a tourist attraction, if properly packaged. I’m also a king horse rider. I’m a family man to the core. There are times I just shut off and keep to myself. I may be playinga lot of roles, but I take my private time very private.