■ Reveals power of his stick that breaks all things, kills
■ How he is able to live for 130 years
Abdul Hassan, Zaria
Mallam Abubakar Gwadabawa, is a great hunter from Sokoto State, but he has lived in Zaria, Kaduna State for almost 80 years. He is believed to be one of the oldest men in Nigeria at the age of 130 years. The most interesting aspect of Yusuf’s history is his bravery and the role he played during the trial of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first Sarduana of Sokoto, at the Zaria Area Court, over allegations of misappropriation of district funds by the then Sokoto Sultanate Council. In that historic event, Gwadabawa was assigned by the then Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar III, to serve as escort and guard to Ahmadu Bello, during the trial.
Another spectacular thing about him is that he has a special stick that enabled him to arrest criminals. It is also capable of breaking heavy stone or iron. In this interview, Gwadabawa recalls some of the memorable moments in his life over the last 100 years.
So much is being said about you in recent times. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born during the reign of Sultan Dan Hassan, as Sultan of Sokoto, about 130 years ago in Gwadabawa, Sokoto State. My father was a great hunter well known all over Sokoto Province. I was brought up by father in the forest as a hunter and I also became great hunter myself. In fact, I had my Quranic education from him, so I had little experience in other places apart from home. Because of my father’s bravery, the then District Head of Gwadabawa made my father one of his guards. I subsequently took over after his death but on temporary basis.
When did you come to Zaria and why?
I came to Zaria during the reign of Aliyu Dan Sidi as the emir of Zazzau (1904-1931). I came as a merchant. I used to come to Zaria from Sokoto to supply special groundnut and cotton to local weavers. And I became popular to the extent that once in I arrived in Zaria, everybody would know because I used to mobilise hunters around Zaria to conduct a show before going back to Sokoto. Much later I decided to stay back in Zaria.
Although, you can’t walk, you are still look a lot healthier compared to other people who are younger than you. What is the secret?
Honestly, the secret is God. I have been sitting here for many years but I can talk, eat and hear well with little disability. I recalled very well when I used to travel from Sokoto to Zaria on donkeys and eat rama and zogala leaves without mixtures of these chemical food items which give you nothing but diseases. These days, people don’t eat natural food. Our chickens, eggs and even the oil are made from chemical substances. Also people were living in peace in the past, but now violence and crises have put people in distress and psychological trauma. So tell me, how can you live longer under this situation? You can see here, 70 per cent of my food is from natural source and I take my herbal supplement. If you want to live longer, love, peace of mind, contentment and correct diet are necessary.
It is said that you had connection with late premier of the Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto. Please what was the relationship?
The connection was my appointment as his guard. The Sultanate Council in Sokoto accused Sir Ahmadu Bello of misappropriating funds, and he was charged to Sokoto Provincial Court. But the court decided to transfer the case to Zaria for convenient trial. So at that time, my District Head was a member of the Council, so he recommended me to escort the Sardauna to Zaria as a guard from the Council. That was what happened. We spent about two days on the road to Zaria. I brought him to the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Jafaru Dan Isiyaku. Sardauna was remanded in Zaria Prison for some days before he was sentenced to six months in prison. I was asked to remain in Zaria until he was discharged. So that was how I stayed in Zaria.
It is really surprising that many people do not know the premier of Northern Nigeria was s once convicted and sentenced to six months jail term. Please tell us what really happened.
This is a well-known story in Northern Nigeria, it is almost the same story with Awolowo, who was also imprisoned. Although Sardauna’s case was a little different because first, the late premier was a grandson of Sultan Muhammadu Bello and secondly, he was educated. Thirdly, he was the most popular among all the royal princes. At the time, some members of the royal family were looking for an opportunity to indict him, so they decided to put this allegation on him while he was District Head of Raba, in Sokoto state. They connived with some members of the colonial government. The trial started in Sokoto but as I said it was transferred to Zaria for convenience. That time there was one famous Judge called Mallam Lawal Muhammad who eventually became the Wazirin Zazzau (chief counsellor to the emirate). No matter how big you were Mallam Muhammad would not hesitate to pass his judgment. Late Premier was convicted before me and he was taken to the new Zaria Prison in my presence. To be honest, late Sardauna was cheated (framed), insulted and humiliated. But later the White men took him to London and subsequently he became the premier, which was the highest position that anybody could attain in the North.
Baba, you are very old, and you have seen many generations of leaders. How can you compare those leaders in the past with the ones we have now?
Honestly, I don’t even know those that are in power now, but from what I hear on radio, the leadership style is bad. The leaders in the past were so much loved by their people and they loved to meet people. But nowadays leaders only look for people when they want to use them, especially during elections. I used to hear on radio that people are looking for their representative and would say that they have absconded. In the past, if you have any problem you would rush to your emir and lodge your complaint and within a short time it would be attended to. Now the emirs are no longer useful; the politicians cheat and are deceptive. That is why you find violence everywhere today and the killing of innocent people. It is only when leaders behave the same way as the past leaders, otherwise our people would remain in this sorry situation.
It is quite interesting that you turned from a hunter into a business man and a security guard. Why did you abandon hunting?
No, no, my son, I did not abandon it completely. You see, hunting was not a full time profession, it was more of a culture and a traditional occupation. Even in the past most hunters were either nomads or farmers. I told you that my father was brave man, and he became close to my District Head. So also, I was opportune to be recognized in my locality. Whenever there was crisis the District Head would call me to intervene and calm the situation. So in a way I became a peacemaker despite the fact that I was not officially a royal guardsman. When I settled in Zaria, my hunting activities continued. In fact many people in the past especially in Zaria knew me as a hunter and sought for my advice on community security situation from time to time.
I learnt you have special items like a big stick and sword used to arrest criminals no matter how dangerous they were. Do you still have the weapons and can you explain how they work?
It is true that I have a sword and a stick I used before, but the sword is not with me at the moment. The stick is known as ‘gora’ in Hausa language. I use it to destroy any thing I want, once I hit you with it there is tendency to die. In fact even big stone, the gora can break it into pieces. I inherited it from my father and it killed many animals and wounded many criminals. I am showing it to you so that you can see for yourself. It looks ordinary but it is mystical. For the sword, it has also served many purposes almost the same like the gora. All the things I inherited are still with me. I won’t sell them and I don’t advertise myself for people to come. I don’t do that at all. But I there is need, I can assist for free. My ambition is to leave them for my children the same way I got them from my father.
It looks like your family is small, is that correct?
Yes, I have only two children, both are male. I could not have a child for many years, the eldest is above 60 years. I have six grandchildren. The youngest grandchild one is with me now and is more than 40 years. So I thank God for what he gave me, it is a great blessing.
Given your age, popularity and wealth of experience, what is your major source of your livelihood?
It is a good question. We rely on God. My grandson is running a small business, and some prominent individuals who have known me through their parents in Zaria assist me with food and money. I am not frustrated with life despite that I am caged here by age and I can’t walk to anywhere. Even recently, some good people who I gave herbal medicines sent some money to me. So I thank God.