My Memorable Encounter with Alhaji Maitama Sule

Yusuf Maitama Sule

Sometime in October 2015, i departed to Kano from Abuja for a video interview with Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule Dan Masasanin Kano, an elder-statesman and a veteran politician. It is about a very important project that i have embarked on concerning my grandfather Alhaji Shehu Shagari and the history of Nigeria. I knew that for sure, if i fail to interview him, my documentary will not only be inconclusive but will be deficient of other additives such as his oratory skills which would inevitably keep the viewers of my documentary interested and engaged with my story.

Additionally, He was a student of my grandfather since his days in Barewa college, and in fact he knew him since when they were both students in the same school. Thereafter, they both became senior members of government at a very early age through independence in 1960 where they were both ministers.

After the demise of the first republic, they both served the second republic after contesting in the primary elections of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) for presidency in 1979, which Alhaji Maitama Sule conceded to Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Subsequently, he was made Nigeria Representative to the United Nations and the first and only Minister of National guidance in 1983. He told me that the reason for creating that ministry was to fight corruption and indiscipline, but it lived very short due to the coup which toppled their government.

When I arrived to his house in Kano, he received me with warmth and maximum hospitality. At that point, he has already become blind and he could not see anymore. However, nothing else has changed, he was still charming, elegantly dressed and enjoys the company of friends and servants alike, who are always around him discussing political issues and reminiscing about the past. Anybody in his company could feel his oratory skills even during a casual conversation. It is such that if he repeats after you, his tone and manner of speech would make you feel as if he is saying something different other than what you have said.

In the meantime, he was trying to verify my identity because he couldn’t see with his eyes to visually do that. So he started a conversation about the history of my family to see if I could relate to the stories he was telling. For instance, he was telling me about my grandfather's maternal grandfather, who was the first flag bearer of Shehu Usmanu Danfodio, he then asked me of his name and I told him Moyijo. He further talked about our Fulani clan which is The Alibawa and I also added a little of what I know about our ancestry. From there, he has already confirmed his doubts.

Hence, we began the interview. Well, he was the first among the very important people I interviewed, and as a beginner, I asked him to introduce himself, and he remarked "I will not, in the cause of the interview they will know", from then, I learned never to ask such senior people to introduce themselves, in fact, I my myself began to be introducing people I'm interviewing. I really became intimidated by Alhaji Maitama Sule in the course of my interview. Not because he was harsh or anything, but by his command of the English language and the manner in which he delivers it. Wow! He makes me feel like I'm not speaking English at all.

Alhaji Maitama Sule 1960

As the interview went on, he told things I never could have read in any book! And he went on talking for almost two hours but I kept on asking. At a point, he interrupted me and told me in hausa that "Kai na tsaya nan kaji" meaning he was tired and stopping there! Well, I couldn’t give up the last question I had in mind. Perhaps he knew what I was going to ask next and he didn’t want to talk about it because it was a sensitive period when 2015 general elections were close. Nevertheless, I persuaded and he continued. He answered the question and the interview ended. It is indeed among my best and most memorable interview experiences.

In the end, he joked that he would have a better chance over me if we went for the same girl. It is a norm in our tradition that as a grandfather figure, we would play like that. And I replied that except if he was talking about

the Maitama Sule of that picture, and I described to him a picture of him I saw in his parlor where he was looking young and handsome, dressed in a white suit with a bow tie.

He then remarked in Hausa "Allah?" implying "seriously?" With a charming smile. He then told me about the story behind the picture, which he said he took the day he was privileged to dance with princess Alexandria during the independence celebration.

Indeed, he is a man of great wisdom, knowledge, talent, humility and humor. May Allah forgive him his shortcomings. His contributions to Africa as a whole will always remain relevant in the history of the freedom of struggled against apartheid and white minority rule. In Nigeria, he remains an icon and an agent of peace, unity and stability. I'm glad that despite my grandfather's comment when he cautioned me that Maitama will talk endlessly, I was able to outtalk him with my inquisitiveness. I will forever be grateful for what I have learnt from him and what he has contributed to my project, which I believe when finished will impact the brains that will lead the way to a new Nigeria. Adieu the great Ambassador!


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