CELEBRATING A FATHER ON FATHERS DAY
This Sunday the 17th, as the world honours fathers and celebrates fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society, I would like to use this forum to honor and recognize all the fathers in Nigeria who work and toil hard to put food on the table irrespective of the harsh economic conditions we find ourselves today. Sometimes our fathers are overlooked for mothers who appear to be more nurturing and involved in our everyday lives. This is a tribute to all those fathers and one in particular that I would simply describe as, “the greatest Dad in the world.”
Alhaji Musa Musawa is not only my father; he is my greatest role model, my inspiration and my rock. Even though every day I communicate to my Dad how grateful and lucky I am to have him as a father, every year I look forward to father’s day because it is a time that I can further express my appreciation to him for everything he has represented in my life.
Often tributes are paid to people in the aftermath of their lives. But I want to tell my dad, while he still has so much life in him, just how much his struggles and hard-work have been appreciated by his “little girl.” I would want the example of how much of a good father he is and the bond that is so strong between him and me to serve as an inspiration this father’s day. And I don't mean to make a tribute to him in any kind of simple, celebratory way. Rather, this is a tribute worthy of him, one that brings together the good and the bad.
In the real world, where domination, bigotry, oppression, dishonesty and corruption intertwine with all aspects of our lives, there are no easy, uncomplicated sources of inspiration. But there are lessons. I have always looked to my dad for those lessons about how to struggle against immorality and dishonesty, as well as for lessons about the structures of prejudice and chauvinism that I was confronted with in a highly dogmatic and sexist atmosphere. In his example and lessons, I have been able to find both inspiration and warning, inseparably tied.
When I think of my Dads story, at first glance, it looks deceptively like a bootstraps tale of hard-won success and class mobility. But I think his resolve, opportunities and identity were shaped by much more than that. My dad was born in Bichi, Kano state on April 1st 1937. His mother was a religious young lady from Musawa, Katsina state, who passed away when my father was just a baby. His father never remarried after the loss of his mother and he was sent to his mother’s village in Musawa to live with his aunty, a true woman of substance who instilled a sense of independence, confidence and focus in him. He grew up in a very hard, rural environment, the youngest of three children in a family constantly struggling to make ends meet. He was sent back to Bichi to attend school and along the way inherited a healthy distrust of the autocratic and feudalistic actions of both the Colonial and the Native Northern Governments. He has always told me that, even as far back as then, he felt a driving and throbbing need to stand up for the downtrodden and poor in the society. It was also then he realized that he had what I like to call, ‘the gift of the gab.’
Though my dad came of age during the transition for independence of Nigeria, he never lost his gut sense of egalitarian ethics. He strongly believed in democratization, women empowerment and freedom of speech. Decades later as I was becoming politicized, he would confess that, he would forever remain a socialist; convinced that the staggering inequalities of our society were fundamentally wrong and we each had a duty to speak out against it and change it. I suspect that this core ethic contributed to his acceptance of so many things, amongst which, surprisingly, is feminism. All my life, I have watched him try to break down the rigid Arewa gender boundaries for his daughters with mixed success, in his relationship with my mother and his relationship with his sons in law. And in the process, I learned a lot about patriarchy, not the least of which is its frustrating resilience.
Struggle and hard work framed my father's young adulthood. Attending Kano Secondary School was never really a priority for a young man of his humble background, but with the encouragement of his aunty/mother forever playing on his psyche, my dad was determined to pull himself and his family out of the dearth in which he had seen his family toil in and he was determined to put himself in a position where he could speak up for the millions whom he felt did not have a voice. He knew that education as the only way he could achieve that. So he put himself through school and fought to remain and excel there and he skimmed through while also working. Around about the same time, Mallam Aminu Kano, the son of a noble Islamic scholar had begun a movement of young radicals eager to fight for change known as the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). It was an incontestably natural progression for my dad to join NEPU. He became Youth Chairman of NEPU in Bichi and together with the likes of Alh Ali Abdallah, Alh. Sobo Bakin Zuwo, Alh. Abubakar Rimi, Alh. Balarabe Musa, Alh. Sule Lamido, Alh Adamu Garkuwa, Alh Wada Abubakar, Alh Sadi Gabari, Alh Abba Musa Rimi and many others, they challenged the ruling elite in the north.
He went to the University of Ife, Ibadan to study Public Administration, after which he got a job with the BBC African Service. He stayed at the BBC for 5 years before proceeding to Cambridge to study Chinese. My dad then joined the Foreign Service and was posted to Uganda and then India.
Apart from when he speaks about his late aunty/mother and his late friend Alhaji Lawal Baloni, the only time I see my father speak in an emotional manner with tears welling up in his eyes is when he speaks about Mallam Aminu Kano. My father adored and looked up to Mallam Aminu Kano and was one of the closest people to the late hero. When Mallam formed the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Dad was elected as the treasurer at the national convention and later contested for the governorship of Kaduna State in 1983 under the party.
I never miss an opportunity to speak of what a great Dad I have and he never misses and opportunity to speak about how his greatest pride and joy are his children. He has always been a supportive Dad in our personal, professional and educational lives. And he has always made himself available to watch television, eat, play games, listen and have regular family picnics with his children. He struggled to make sure he gave us the very best education. And in the late seventies that effort led him to the UK where he enrolled us in the very best schools in England. I will forever be grateful to him for that priceless foundation.
Only those who truly know him realise that my father has the greatest sense of humour. And I can categorically say that I have never met anyone as funny, sarcastic and with a penchant to wittily-exaggerate the funny side of life like Dad. Many of my most inspirational moments with him are during our daily experiences when he uses humour to try to make a point.
My Dad is a great “silent” philanthropist who never publicises the deeds he does for people. Over the decades, I have seen him educate countless of youths to further themselves in school, build houses for people, sponsor the sick for medical treatment at home and abroad, build mosques, build schools, feed families and employ hundreds of people in his ‘beloved’ Manema farm. My father was the first to put the name of Musawa, Katsina on the map and sponsored a number of successful people from that town to better opportunities.
But there is a flipside to my dad. That is, he is far from untouched by tenaciousness, temperament and an over heightened state of self-esteem. In fact, some of the more poignant lessons I take from him have to do with his imperfections. Mostly, they centre on his worst demons, inextricably linked to the workings of our social order and the lack of acknowledgement for his struggles and his potential; the struggles and potential that Mallam Aminu Kano, more than anyone else, recognised in him.
I acknowledge his defects and successes but most of all, the inspirational role he has played in my life and the lives of so many others. Simply put, I would not be the person that I am today without him. He helped equip me with some essential reflective tools for challenging systems of oppression. He embodied a, not entirely, different way for me to look at myself as an independent Hausa/Fulani woman. And he taught me basic things, to confront my own struggles, to always stand up for what I think is right, to never forget how to cry and to never put myself in a position where anyone would undermine my integrity. These are lessons I religiously carry with me every day of my life.
I love my dad very much, even during the times he used to make us watch snooker and horse riding, and the most sincere way I know of expressing my love is never to compromise the ethics he strived so hard to instil in me, to learn from the mistakes he confided in me and to never ignore the privilege he has given me. To forget any of this would be the greatest disrespect to him. In this sense, I will continue to carry him with me and use him as a yard stick for honour and integrity. I pray for Dad’s speedy recovery as he bravely battles diabetes.
As we mark international father’s day 2012, I would like to thank Alhaji Musa Musawa, General T.Y Danjuma, Alh Isiyaku Ibrahim, General Garba Duba, Alh Aminu Dantata, Alh Mamooda Zayyan, Bishop Mathew Kukah, Alhaji Abdullahi Imam, Alhaji Nura Imam, Alh Lamis Dicco, all my fathers in Rafindadi, Unguwan-Alkali, Kaduna and Musawa for their support, guidance and inspiration. I wish them all a very fulfilling father’s day.