Abdussamad Liman’s story in 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE about the travails of some of the late Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa’s family members reminded me to write my memories of the first civilian governor of the old Sokoto State, who died forty years ago on November 17.
I first saw Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa in, I think, 1975. At one morning assembly at Government College Sokoto, now called Nagarta College, the principal introduced a visitor standing next to him as Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa, the Secretary of Kaduna Polytechnic. The visitor spoke about the need for us to study hard and fill Sokoto State’s quota at the Polytechnic; we hardly paid attention because post-secondary school was still far from our minds then.
Not long afterwards, Kangiwa relocated to Sokoto as Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Works. He moved into a house on old Clapperton Road, only a few houses away from my family house. His house became very noticeable because he had lots of polo ponies. Every afternoon, his boys rode them to the Race Course [now called Shehu Kangiwa Square], where he and his friends played polo. Polo was unheard of in Sokoto before Shehu Kangiwa moved in.
In 1977 or so, Shehu Kangiwa took the title of Turakin Kabi at a very elaborate ceremony in Argungu. Many years later, the praise singer Gero Zartu told me that he performed at the event and earned a lot of money, but he did not know it was a dress rehearsal for the upcoming politics. He said some of Kangiwa’s political opponents never forgave him for that performance.
In April 1978, Head of State General Obasanjo replaced state military governors with military administrators as part of the transition to civil rule program. He also reassigned all the military Federal Commissioners who intended to continue in service after the handover to civilians. Vacancies were thus created in the federal cabinet, and Shehu Kangiwa was appointed Federal Commissioner for Mines and Power.
In late 1978 however, we suddenly heard that Kangiwa had resigned as Federal Commissioner after only eight months. He returned to Sokoto and joined the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. He told me two years later that it was Alhaji Shehu Shagari who went to his house in Lagos and urged him to join NPN.
In December 1978, NPN held its first state convention at Sokoto Cinema. There was no open contest; Kangiwa was elected by consensus as its governorship candidate, with Dr. Garba Nadama as his running mate. There was drama at the event because Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, Sarkin Kudu [later Sultan of Sokoto] was elected in absentia as state party chairman even though he was the state chairman of GNPP. We had to wait at least a week to see what will happen; Sarkin Kudu finally turned up at an NPN event.
Shehu Kangiwa was a very popular politician. He was highly charismatic, a well educated lawyer, very smart, very jovial, very worldly, a former Perm Sec and former minister, reportedly very rich, and—what politicians like the most— very generous. He once told an associate of his that to prepare for politics, he sold a house in Kaduna for N600,000. He said on the day he was nominated as NPN’s governorship candidate, he shared out all that money to supporters who escorted him home.
I had several personal encounters with Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa. In 1978, before the start of politics, I was Secretary General of the Federated Organisation of Sokoto State Student Associations, FOSOSSA. We appointed the Emir of Gwandu as FOSOSSA’s Grand Patron with Shehu Kangiwa and the Commissioner for Education as Patrons. When we took the appointment letter to him, Kangiwa instantly recognized me and said, “Zakara!’ That was because I regularly participated in NTA Sokoto’s weekly quiz competition and was regularly crowned as Zakara, i.e. champion. [I won the N30 prize money more than 30 times].
In February 1979 or so, FOSOSSA officials again went to see Shehu Kangiwa to invite him to attend that year’s Students’ Week. He had by then moved into a house on new Clapperton Road, directly opposite the Brigade Commander’s house. Military Administrator Colonel Gado Nasko, who doubled as the Brigade Commander, was living there at the time. We were made to sit in the garden and waited for Kangiwa. After a while, we saw him coming alone, hiding among the flowers. I think he was coming from Nasko’s house. He apologised that he could not attend our event because he was launching his governorship election campaign at Talata Mafara the same day. He sat with us for about an hour that night, was very relaxed and he told us many stories, including about the marabout who brought a charm to him and told him to sever the right leg of a live hen. Kangiwa laughed heartily, used an expletive and said, “Haba Malam! How can I sever the leg of a live hen?”
In June 1979, we again saw Shehu Kangiwa, this time at the state NPN Secretariat. His office was full of people, so he came out, found one empty office and took us inside. Though the office was very dusty, he sat on a dusty desk, despite his immaculate white cloth. He spoke to us at length about his programs for the state if he won the election. He was cheerful for the most part but at one point, he suddenly frowned darkly and said, “We will however not tolerate foolishness and stupidity.”
There were five elections in July-August 1979. NPN won all five Senatorial seats in the first one, most House of Representatives seats in the second one and more than 70% of state House of Assembly seats in the third one. Governorship election was held on Saturday, July 28, 1979 [my birthday]. Rima Radio was announcing the results piecemeal. There were 19 Local Governments in the old Sokoto State; in all the four elections, NPN won all of then except Yauri and Anka [home of GNPP governorship candidate, Alhaji M.Z. Anka].
At 2pm on Monday, FEDECO declared Shehu Kangiwa as Governor-elect. A drama ensued at his house. There was a cantankerous woman in Sokoto called Yar Kyadawa Bindin Zakara. She came charging through the crowd at Kangiwa’s house, threw away her wrapper from the gate [she had underwears], charged into the house where a large crowd of women was converging, grabbed a kettle, poured water on the ground and drank it! In Hausa culture, pouring water on the ground and drinking it is the highest expression of happiness. We later heard that Kangiwa rewarded her theatrics with a 3-bedroom house.
Other people also gambled on Shehu Kangiwa’s famed generousity. At the Argungu Fishing Festival in 1980, a praise singer asked anyone who loved the governor to give him a car. The former Chairman of Birnin Kebbi Local Government Bello Marshall stood up and threw in the key of his Peugeot 504 car. It was said that Kangiwa gave him a brand new one two days later.
In February 1980, as President of the University of Sokoto Students Union, I led a delegation to visit Kangiwa at Government House. As soon as he saw me, he said, “Zakara! Are you not the leader of FOSOSSA?” I told him that I had finished that one, this is a new role. He sat on the edge of a chair, but the Chief of Protocol pleaded with the governor to sit properly on a hair, and he reluctantly obliged.
A month later, I was at Sokoto Government House again, this time at a head of a demonstration of thousands of students from all the four tertiary institutions in Sokoto. It was to protest what we called British perfidy in the Zimbabwean transition to independence. We were stopped at the gate and Kangiwa came out to receive us. I delivered a fiery anti-imperialist speech and then handed to him two letters, addressed to President Shagari and the British High Commissioner in Lagos. Kangiwa gave a speech of his own praising our African patriotism, to which students shouted, “Comrade Kangiwa!”
Another month later, Mainasara Illo and I were at Government House to confirm if the governor had accepted our invitation to be the Guest of Honour at the Students Union week. We made it clear to the secretary that we were not there to see the governor, only to get an answer to our invitation. As we sat, at 4pm we heard the blast of a burgle and saw Kangiwa walking out of the office to the residence. When we returned to the campus, I heard that the Vice Chancellor was looking for me. Prof Galadanci told me that Government House phoned and said the Commissioner for Education, Ibrahim Birnin Tsaba, will represent the governor at the event. But they didn’t tell us that while we waited! Most likely, it was because PRP leader Malam Aminu Kano was the guest speaker at the event. In the end Birnin Tsaba too did not attend the event. He later called me to his house and explained why; the printed program of events that we circulated around town with the invitations inexplicably omitted any mention of Kangiwa as the Guest of Honour. It was a terrible slip; the Commissioner received a personal invitation to the event and showed it to the governor, who said he should stay away.
Over the next two years, Shehu Kangiwa’s motorcade drove out of Government House almost daily along Forces Avenue, which was right behind my family house. He always rolled down the glass on his official Peugeot 505 car and waved to everyone he saw. His motorcade was always led by a Landrover that played Sani Dandawo’s classic song, “Shehu Kangiwa mai niyyar rikon gaskiya!” On many evenings, we also saw him zoom past Forces Avenue, alone, in his one-in-town blue Toyota sports car, going to this house on Kagara Road that is now in disrepair.
I read a long article recently about Shehu Kangiwa’s achievements in office, so I will skip that part of the story.
I saw Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa for the last time a week before his death, at Sokoto Airport where he went to receive the last batch of pilgrims from the hajj, mostly officials, including my father. He shook everyone’s hand and said, “Allah shi karba.”
The following Friday, a presidential plane arrived Sokoto from Lagos conveying the remains of Minister of State Ahmadu Nahuche, who just passed away. After receiving it, Kangiwa later left for Kaduna to participate in a polo tournament. At about 8pm the following day, my brothers and I were listening to Halilu Ahmed Getso’s Alkawari Kayane program on Radio Kaduna when he broke the news of Kangiwa’s death in a polo accident.
It was a most traumatic event for the people of Sokoto. I was at Sokoto Airport the following morning. President Shehu Shagari arrived, shortly followed by a small plane that conveyed Kangiwa’s remains from Kaduna. They then drove out to Argungu in a long motorcade, an ambulance conveying Kangiwa’s remains while Shagari and Deputy Governor Dr. Garba Nadama followed in the president’s limousine. Nadama did not take the oath of office as new governor until ten days later, after the official mourning period. Unlike what happens these days, when deputies rush to take oaths of office.
May Allah grant Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa his rahama and gafara.