I Was Tar­geted For As­sas­si­na­tion as DG Mar­itime Author­ity – Ya­ri­man Zaz­zau

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Al­haji Mu­nir Ja’afaru, the Ya­ri­man Zaz­zau, is the son of the late Emir of Zaz­zau, Al­haji Ja’afaru Dan Isyaku. His fa­ther was also known as Sadaukin Sarki (brave emir). He has served as com­mis­sioner in dif­fer­ent min­istries in Kaduna State. He also served in dif­fer­ent fed­eral paras­tatals. In this in­ter­view, the prince re­called his life in pub­lic ser­vice and how he com­bined that with royal du­ties, among many other is­sues.

Al­haji Mu­nir Ja’afaru, the Ya­ri­man Zaz­zau, is the son of the late Emir of Zaz­zau, Al­haji Ja’afaru Dan Isyaku. His fa­ther was also known as Sadaukin Sarki (brave emir). He has served as com­mis­sioner in dif­fer­ent min­istries in Kaduna State. He also served in dif­fer­ent fed­eral paras­tatals. In this in­ter­view, the prince re­called his life in pub­lic ser­vice and how he com­bined that with royal du­ties, among many other is­sues.

From Isa Sa’idu, Zaria

Can we know your bi­og­ra­phy?

I was born in the 1950s. I am a lawyer by pro­fes­sion. I worked in many places af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the univer­sity. I lec­tured at the univer­sity. I worked at the then Nige­ria Uni­ver­sal Bank. I worked as com­mis­sioner in dif­fer­ent min­istries in Kaduna State, in­clud­ing Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment, Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion, Home Af­fairs and Cul­ture, and fi­nally, Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

I re­signed and took up ap­point­ment with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment. I was the sec­re­tary of the Nige­rian Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion (NRC) in 1990. In 1991, I went to the Nige­rian In­sti­tute of Pol­icy and Strate­gic Stud­ies (NIPPS) for the Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive Course, Num­ber 13. Af­ter the course, I was be­stowed with the mem­ber­ship of the in­sti­tute, MNI.

Af­ter that, I was ap­pointed the Direc­torGen­eral of the Na­tional Mar­itime Author­ity, from 1992 to 1996. While serv­ing as the DG of the Mar­itime Author­ity, I was also the chair­man of the Nige­rian Unity Bank. I was Di­rec­tor of the FSG Bank In­ter­na­tional. I was Di­rec­tor Leas­ing Com­pany of Nige­ria. At the end of my ten­ure in Oc­to­ber 1992, I started pri­vate prac­tice. I opened a cham­ber and a con­sul­tancy com­pany. I be­came the chair­man of AG Al­liance In­sur­ance Com­pany and NEM In­sur­ance Com­pany. I served as di­rec­tor for many or­gan­i­sa­tions.

When Obasanjo be­came pres­i­dent, I was ap­pointed the chair­man of the Nige­rian Ex­port Pro­cess­ing Zone Author­ity (NEPZA). Dur­ing this pe­riod, we started the project in Faniso, Kano State. We com­mis­sioned the Cal­abar Ex­port Pro­cess­ing Zone dur­ing my ten­ure.

I was given the award of the Of­fi­cer of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria (OFR) in 2005. I was ap­pointed the dis­trict head of Hanwa be­cause I was made the ti­tle holder of the Ya­ri­man Zaz­zau by the Emir of Zaz­zau in 1995.

I did my pri­mary school in An­chau Takalafiya Pri­mary School in the present day Kubau Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment area. From there, I moved to Gov­ern­ment Sec­ondary School (GSS), Zaria, which was re­named Al­hu­dahuda Col­lege. From there, I moved to the Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ence, also here in Zaria. Af­ter pass­ing out from the col­lege in 1976, I went to the Ah­madu Bello Univer­sity (ABU) from 1976 to 1979 and ob­tained my LLB de­gree. From 1979 to 1980, I went to the Nige­rian Law School in La­gos, where I qual­i­fied as bar­ris­ter and so­lic­i­tor. I did my Na­tional Youth Ser­vice Corps (NYSC) pro­gramme in the univer­sity, and af­ter that I took up a lec­tur­ing ap­point­ment. Dur­ing that pe­riod, I did my LLM, that is mas­ters in law. Presently, I am the chair­man of PAN in Kaduna.

As some­body with royal back­ground, how did you start your aca­demic pur­suit?

It is the tra­di­tion of most Mus­lim homes to com­bine Qur’anic school with West­ern ed­u­ca­tion. There­fore, in the morn­ing we usu­ally went to pri­mary school, while in the evening we at­tended the Is­lamiyya school, which was known as Makaran­tar Allo. In the Makaran­tar Allo, we also used to have classes in the night. Your fa­ther was one of the prom­i­nent emirs the Zaz­zau Emi­rate had; can you

re­call your time with him?

Well, as des­tiny had it, I spent only three years with my fa­ther. I mean my fa­ther died when I was only three years old. There­fore, I can’t say much about him.

So you can­not ren­der an ac­count of your fa­ther’s lifestyle?

It would amount to self glo­ri­fi­ca­tion to start telling you that my fa­ther was this or that. The ac­count of his life is in the his­tory of the Zaz­zau Emi­rate for any in­ter­ested per­son.

As a prince, did you at­tend a spe­cial school?

Not at all. This is one of the good at­tributes we had. Every child, ir­re­spec­tive of his back­ground, goes to the same school. There­fore, we re­lated with other pupils with­out any feel­ing that I am this or that.

Be­cause of the demise of my fa­ther, I grew up in the house of his el­der brother. The train­ing was that we should re­spect all and sundry. This made us to in­ter­act with our mates freely. We vis­ited them and they vis­ited us.

This con­tin­ued, even at sec­ondary school. Per­haps, one’s mates may tend to give you cer­tain re­spect be­cause of your

back­ground, but largely, there was noth­ing to show that one was dif­fer­ent from oth­ers. I can re­mem­ber that I had friends who were not even Mus­lims and we re­lated very well with them. We still main­tain that friend­ship up till to­day. This was the type of ori­en­ta­tion we had. That was why there were min­i­mal quar­rels then.

How did your teach­ers in pri­mary and sec­ondary schools treat you?

Our teach­ers were mostly not Nige­ri­ans. Some of them were from Asia, Europe and some African coun­tries. Up till now I still get in touch with some of them. I am still in touch with one of our prin­ci­pals who is presently in Canada. He is now very old but still re­mem­bers some of us. This is one of the good at­tributes of our teach­ers. They knew all of us by our names.

Dis­crim­i­na­tion based on one’s back­ground was com­pletely not in the char­ac­ters of our teach­ers. In fact, they dis­cour­aged stu­dents from show­ing up. All of us were seen and treated equally.

What about the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment then, com­pared to what we have now?

There is an adage in Hausa that says, ‘In dambu yayi yawa baya jin mai,’ lit­er­ally trans­lated from Hausa to mean, ‘When chal­lenges are too many, their so­lu­tion is dif­fi­cult to find.’ This is what we have now. Our chal­lenges are too many and our pop­u­la­tion has risen as­tro­nom­i­cally. Dur­ing our time, stu­dents were very few. So, we had a con­ducive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment, and that led to qual­i­ta­tive ed­u­ca­tion. It is not the same thing now. Even the teach­ers’ com­mit­ment is not the same now. Dur­ing our time, teach­ers had zeal for teach­ing. They al­ways wanted to im­pact knowl­edge on their stu­dents. They were al­ways in school at the right time and very com­mit­ted to their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

With­out minc­ing words, most of these at­tributes of our teach­ers then are dif­fi­cult to be found now. This adds to the prob­lem we have now. We have a large num­ber of stu­dents but very few com­mit­ted teach­ers. This af­fects our ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

An­other is­sue is that gov­ern­ment does not have the re­sources to de­velop the in­fra­struc­ture the sec­tor re­quires. Where the re­sources are avail­able, you would find that the will is not there.

How did you feel com­ing out from the palace ev­ery­day to at­tend school with other chil­dren?

We were taught to live like oth­ers. We were taught not to see our­selves as su­pe­ri­ors. There­fore, it was a nor­mal thing for us to mix up with other chil­dren. In fact, I al­ways hap­pily went to school every day be­cause I saw my­self as a pupil.

The train­ing we re­ceived did not al­low us to look down on oth­ers. This was why I have friends that cut across dif­fer­ent classes in the so­ci­ety. Our par­ents taught us to work hard. They al­ways said that work­ing hard was the only route to suc­cess, not fam­ily back­ground. So we com­peted with other stu­dents be­cause we were taught that it’s only when we worked hard that we would be able to main­tain what­ever sta­tus we have.

We tried to be re­spon­si­ble be­cause that was the in­struc­tion we al­ways got from home. We were meant to un­der­stand that fam­ily back­ground doesn’t count if one is not re­spon­si­ble and hard­work­ing.

The im­pres­sion most peo­ple have is that it is al­ways very dif­fi­cult to grad­u­ate from the Nige­rian Law School, but you said you com­pleted yours within a year; how did you do it?

Grad­u­at­ing from Law School wasn’t dif­fi­cult at all dur­ing our time. There were a lot of in­cen­tives for the stu­dents. For ex­am­ple, the Kaduna State Gov­ern­ment took very good care of us. I had a house and a car as a stu­dent, among many other in­cen­tives. These mo­ti­vated us to work hard.

Also, there were good and qual­i­ta­tive teach­ers, whose tar­get and goal were the suc­cess of their stu­dents. This also helped us. There­fore, we found things very easy and we were able to make it within a year.

You worked in many places; what would you say is your most dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence in ac­tive ser­vice?

Work­ing in the Na­tional Mar­itime Author­ity was the most dif­fi­cult as­pect of my ca­reer. It was not easy work­ing there be­cause there were a lot of peo­ple who wanted you to com­pro­mise the stan­dards of your du­ties. We had prob­lems with peo­ple bring­ing fake pa­pers, re­ceipts, and so on and so forth. These peo­ple ex­pected us to com­pro­mise so that they can de­fraud the rev­enue of the gov­ern­ment.

It’s ei­ther you agreed with them or you faced their wrath. An at­tempt was made on my life while I was the DG of the Mar­itime Author­ity, but Al­lah in His in­fi­nite mercy saved me. My or­derly was, how­ever, not lucky be­cause he was killed in the episode. This was in 1996.

This is to tell you that this is­sue of peo­ple want­ing to com­pro­mise stan­dards set by gov­ern­ment did not start to­day. How­ever, the abil­ity of civil ser­vants to stand firm and de­fend the in­tegrity of the ser­vice is usu­ally what mat­ters. When civil ser­vants com­pro­mise the rules and reg­u­la­tions guid­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties, it is usu­ally a big prob­lem.

On the other hand, I had good ex­pe­ri­ences while in ser­vice. One of them was when I served as com­mis­sioner un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (re­tired), the then mil­i­tary gover­nor of Kaduna State. It was an ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause the then mil­i­tary gov­er­nors were more demo­cratic than some of the civil­ian gov­er­nors we have now.

At that time, it was not the gover­nor that de­cided what hap­pened at the coun­cil meet­ing. All com­mis­sion­ers were al­lowed to present what­ever is­sue they had. These is­sues would be openly de­bated. And usu­ally, it was a su­pe­rior ar­gu­ment that ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the gover­nor, would ad­here to. There was never a time the gover­nor im­posed his memo on his cab­i­net. He usu­ally ac­cepted the de­ci­sion of the ma­jor­ity. There was never a time the gover­nor would bring a memo for for­mal­ity sake.

When Dangiwa left, Gen­eral Sarki Mukhtar came in, and the same thing con­tin­ued. It was ex­cit­ing to see a mil­i­tary gover­nor suc­cumb to a su­pe­rior ar­gu­ment of his civil­ian com­mis­sion­ers. This is why I al­ways count this as one of my best ex­pe­ri­ences.

Was there any dif­fi­culty merg­ing roy­alty with pub­lic ser­vice?

There was noth­ing spe­cial about merg­ing the two. If you were in of­fice you knew you were an em­ployee like any other per­son. There­fore, the is­sue of royal display did not arise. But when royal du­ties came up, you dis­charged that sep­a­rately. When I was a com­mis­sioner, I never mixed up my du­ties with royal ac­tiv­i­ties be­cause I knew the two were dis­tinct. What I am say­ing is that dur­ing ser­vice I de­voted all my time to my du­ties; I did the same thing for my royal ac­tiv­i­ties. So there was no con­flict.

Most Zaria res­i­dents know you for your unique display of royal re­galia dur­ing Sal­lah dur­bars. Why do you al­ways want to ap­pear ex­cep­tional?

Well, I don’t know what you mean by ex­cep­tional. All I know is that it is some­thing I like very much. Again, our peo­ple like those dur­bars very much. It re­minds them of their tra­di­tion, val­ues and cus­toms. There­fore, since it is some­thing our peo­ple like, I feel it is a duty for me to serve my peo­ple with what they like. So, any­thing I spend in the ser­vice of my peo­ple is not a waste, as far as I am con­cerned.

This is why I al­ways try my best to give the com­mu­nity what they want. I put in my best and do every­thing to the best of my abil­ity to make our dur­bar colourful be­cause our peo­ple are al­ways proud of that. It is some­thing that pro­motes our val­ues, not only in Nige­ria but in the comity of na­tions.

On many oc­ca­sions, your en­tourage emerged as the best dur­ing Sal­lah dur­bars. Is there any chal­lenge as­so­ci­ated with that?

Well, what­ever I do, I make sure that I do it very well. This is my phi­los­o­phy in life. There is no chal­lenge be­cause it is some­thing I didn’t ask for. I only try to con­trib­ute my own quota. So, if some­body some­where de­cided to recog­nise my ef­forts, I don’t think there should be any prob­lem.

Has the emir ever called you to ap­pre­ci­ate your display dur­ing dur­bars?

Yes, he does and I al­ways feel hon­oured.

What role do you think tra­di­tional lead­ers like you should play in main­tain­ing peace in Nige­ria?

I think we should con­tinue to play ad­vi­sory role. How­ever, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers should al­ways take our pieces of ad­vice se­ri­ously. Tra­di­tional and reli­gious lead­ers are closer to the peo­ple at the grass­roots there­fore we know the prob­lems and the needs of our peo­ple more than those in gov­ern­ment. There­fore, emirs should al­ways be con­sulted in what­ever gov­ern­ment wants to do for the cit­i­zens.

How do you en­joy your re­tire­ment?

Hon­estly, I en­joy it very much. I wake up the time I like and go to my of­fice. I do what­ever I want to do at my con­ve­nience. There­fore, for me, life in re­tire­ment is very peace­ful and re­lax­ing.

You are seen as be­ing very close to Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari. If he calls you out of re­tire­ment to serve, would you ac­cept?

It is true that I have been close to the pres­i­dent. We be­came close when he was re­leased from the prison. But as you can see, I am get­ting old now, so it is very dif­fi­cult to par­tic­i­pate in gov­ern­ment un­less it is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. More­over, I am not a politi­cian.

All I want now is to con­tinue to serve my cre­ator and my com­mu­nity. I want to con­tinue to live in peace, and at the ap­pointed time, re­turn to my cre­ator, Al­lah Sub­hanahu Wata’ala.

Al­haji Mu­nir Ja’afaru, Ya­ri­man Zaz­zau

Al­haji Mu­nir Ja’afaru

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