• I Bought My First Mercedes Benz Car for N6, 000 from Saraki
• Why I battled Babangida over June 12
• Why I Made Bola Tinubu the Jagaban
• The Day I Ran Into a Lion
Deep in the sockets, his eyes are glistening mists that keep his pupils illuminating. Regal, resplendent and retrospective, he sits on the throne of his ancestors. His dress flows gracefully, filling where he sits. He takes retrospective glances once that harbours all bygone stories he will soon share. He sighs. He heaves a sign of relief of a gloomy past. He motions respectfully, royally. His lips for the first time begin to part. His story is a very long one…but the episodes of it keep the heart racing. A palatial childhood did not shield him from the pains and persecutions that lay in wait. A die-hard man of integrity, he came, he saw and he conquered. In this pulsating narrative, the Emir of Borgu Dr Halliru Dantoro shares what seems like a larger-than-life story . A man with 37 children, and a heart large enough to care for all, tells of his personal relationship with Buhari, Babangida, Tinubu and the late Saraki
Childhood and lessons
One important lesson I learnt was the way I was brought up –in a disciplined manner and we learnt to respect elders, truthful, honest and sincere in whatever we do. And my mother, even though she was not educated, took it upon herself to ensure that her children were educated. On our return to school after holidays, my mother would give us something from the little money she had made selling akamu and other things. Uneducated though, she loved education and sold akamu to send us to school.
I grew up in old Bussa, an area that used to be in the Old Ilorin Province and later, Kwara State. I was born in 1938 into the family of Alhaji Mohammed Sani, the late Emir of Borgu of blessed memory. It was in Old Bussa which is now completely submerged as a result of the construction of Kainji Dam. That Old Bussa is now a tourist site. I attended Bussa Elementary School. I started in 1946. I ended up being transferred to Ilorin. In Ilorin, I was admitted at Pakata Elementary School. From Pakata I went to Baboku senior Primary School. From Baboku I went to Ilorin Secondary School, being a middle school then. When I finished from there, being born into a royal family, my father wanted me to stay in the palace with him. Father loved me so much and that love ironically resulted in my being denied a lot of things. It was the day a white man, the Divisional Officer came to the Emir (my father) and advised the Emir that, “Look, you better send this young man to school. Keeping him with you will not help you, especially his own future.”
Heeding the white man’s advice, father allowed me to be transferred to Ilorin where I went to do my elementary school. When I finished from Ilorin Middle School, then I went back home. My father did not allow me to go any further. At that time, I sat for Entrance Examination into Kings College, Lagos and I was successful. I was admitted to that school but when I went to see my father and showed him my letter of admission, he said, “Why should you go to Lagos while other northerners are looking towards North? Why should you be looking towards south? Barewa College is there, you should go there instead of Kings College, Lagos, and after all I have no money to pay for your education.”
That was how I became a victim of circumstance. My father then instructed me to start working with him. He employed me as his own Personal Secretary. Wherever he went I was all along with him and I was keeping records. In most cases when he had visitors especially those who cannot speak Hausa, I was the interpreter. So all along, I grew in his hands and tutelage. And in 1955, there was an administrative officer; I still remember his name, R.W. Simmonds. He was a Divisional Officer. He saw me and invited me and asked me where I attended school and other things. Later he decided that instead of the Emir keeping me as his own secretary, I should work with the Native Authority. Without much ado, I was employed as a Scribe in the Treasury in Borgu Native Authority. Immediately, he decided to send me to Zaria, in 1956 to attend the Institute of Administration. I was there between 1956 and 1957. Afterwards, I was employed as a Secretary to the Native Authority Council which is now Emirate Council. I was there but later sent back to Zaria to study for three years. I studied Public Administration. It was an in-service training. Upon completion of the course, I was appointed full clerk to the Native Authority Council.
I remember one or two things: one was when I was appointed Secretary to the Emirate Council. My uncle was the Chairman of the Establishment Committee. I think he had a dislike for me. As the Chairman of the Emirate Establishment Committee, he saw no reason why I should be employed. He put his foot down and said it was either I went to work with the Emir or I went somewhere else. I was disengaged. I went back to the palace to work for my father. The second one was my encounter with a lion. Then, I was the tax registrar. I planned my trip to western part of Borgu to go on tax drive. On that day, when I finished Council meeting, it was around 4pm and I started out with the hope of sleeping over at Warwa. I rode on my motorbike, AJS Blue. Suddenly, a lion appeared, crossing the road and because I was riding so fast I didn’t see it on time. I rammed into it. The lion survived and just walked away. As for me and my bike, we were flung in separate directions. With bruises all over my body I began shivering, running into a lion and still alive. The journey could not be continued. I had to turn back. There was another incident in my elementary school. I had a fight with one of my classmates. He pushed me and I had a cut on my head (shows deep scar on his scalp). When he saw that I was down and out with blood gushing, he ran away. Then the news went round to the Emir and the boy disappeared. Interestingly, up till today, I never saw the boy again.
Well, honestly I had no inclination to a particular profession because of the way I was brought up in the administration; because when one is in the palace, one thinks only in terms of the palace always. Seeing that one is close to one’s father and the father is the Emir, one aspires to be an Emir. The nature of things is for a prince to aspire to be an Emir. So, one will be working towards that way in administration. I have been in the system for a very long time, since my childhood.
First Job, First Salary
For my first job, I collected three pounds, 11 shillings and eight pence. I was just a scribe then working in the Treasury. In those days, immediately we collected our salary the first thing we did was to go straight to our parents and present the money to them. They would decide what to take –we wanted their blessings. My father took a pound out of it and my mother –a kind woman –she did not take more than two shillings. The remaining money I did not spend alone; a lot of people got out of it. It was very interesting collecting that amount. It was like having millions today. I was very happy because I never had any personal money like that while I was going to school. It was money, good money for that matter.
Challenges in Life
I faced a lot of challenges. You know when one is rising among your peers he’s bound to have a lot of challenges because his peers will not want to see him rise. They will put all kinds of obstacles in his way. But I believe in one thing: that is the will of the creator. All along, it had been a battlefield. I always put God first in whatever I do. My battle is absolute faith in God. That I think, has kept me alive because I met a lot of challenges. A lot of things have been put in my way as obstacles. This is particularly so when I was a councillor. Then, I had older brothers with whom I had some problems –because I was rising above them. Later, from the Native Authority Service, I moved to the State Government Service. When I was Chairman of Kwara State Scholarship Board, which was my first assignment at the state level, I discovered that I was presiding over funds of which my people were not beneficiaries because scholarship was being offered in two areas: first, on merit and second, on divisional basis. I discovered that my people from Borgu were not benefitting from the scheme.
I raised an objection to the state government. I requested that it was either the government converted our own share to money so that we can continue to build secondary schools and fund secondary education so that our people can enjoy the fund. But the government was not prepared to do that and I insisted they either did it or I resigned. Fortunately, later on, it was a military regime. It was Col. T. Bamigboye who appointed me as the chairman, but it was that upheld my objection by George Innih when he became the governor of Kwara State. For that, he decided to convert the money to funds for secondary education. That really helped us a lot. From the scholarship board, I went to State Services. I was appointed commissioner, first for Agriculture and Natural Resources, from there again I was moved me to Finance but because of my uncompromising stance, I did not stay long in the state’s ministry of finance. You know what that meant? One either went against the governor’s interest or got moved to another ministry, or dropped. I was in the finance ministry for only six months. There was cabinet reshuffle and I was moved to Trade and Industry in 1975.
In 1975, there was this General Muritala Mohammed coup; all of us were thrown out of government. Late Ibrahim Taiwo took over as the Military Governor. I remember Col. Taiwo set up a probe panel on virtually all the ministries and parastatals. At that time, we built Kwara Hotels –most of the industrial projects were done under my leadership. There was this case of Kwara Hotels. The present Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, was a businessman. He was the point man in connecting us with various investors abroad. We built the hotel and what happened was that during the probe, I was called to testify to certain things and asked to give details about my relationship with the governor as far as transactions of Kwara Hotels were concerned. I told them that as far as I was concerned, my relationship with the governor was official. I had no interest in what he did. We were very close and did a lot of things but these things were official. At the probe panel, one of the members asked me when we were in Germany there was an allegation that Mercedes Benz cars were given to us as tips.
When they said I was given a Mercedes Benz car, one of the members of the panel knew how I was able to buy my own Mercedes Benz car. It was true that Mercedes Benz cars were offered to us but I rejected that offer. I had a Volkswagen Beetle back home which I was using as a commissioner until I was given an official car so I knew nothing about it. But I knew what happened, the car they thought I got, I got it through late Dr. Olusola Saraki. We were very good friends so when I told him I wanted a car, he said he was going to arrange a car for me. What I did was to go and lease my plot of land in New Bussa; I sold it to one Wole Oye and company; it was one of the companies that constructed some of the houses in New Bussa. I gave them that land on lease and that was the money I used to pay as deposit to Dr. Olusola Saraki. Fortunately, one of the members of the panel was there, so he raised an objection to put records straight that he was a witness to the transaction. I think I bought the Mercedes Benz car for N6, 000. I deposited N4, 000 and later completed the payment for about a few months. The panel now said they were satisfied that I should go. They wanted to find out if there was an inducement or bribe between me and the governor but I told them there was no other relationship between me and the governor other than the official one. I didn’t go to him to gossip. At the end of the day we took our case to the National Assembly. I led the pressure group. We got there and asked for his removal as the Leader of the Senate. That was why he was removed. Saraki was so powerful at that time. He was replaced by Senator Waziri Jalo. During the second coming of President Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1983 the issue of who became the minister again cropped up; when he nominated me as one of the ministers. Of course, no sooner had the news got round in Kwara than most of the supporters of Saraki asked how he could allow such thing to happen. After all, Saraki was a member of the screening committee. Once a Leader of the Senate they questioned how he could be in that committee and yet screen Dantoro as a minister.
Interestingly, the late Alhaji Umaru Dikko invited me to the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos State and told me that I had better reconcile with Saraki because he opposed my nomination as a minister. I told Dikko to forget it because I was not going to meet Saraki. If God said I would be minister nobody, not even Saraki, could stop it. I told him to watch and see what would happen. Fortunately, there were some senators like Agunbiade of the UPN the opposition party, Ajuji Waziri, the husband of the immediate past EFCC Chairman, Farida Waziri and one Fagboye. They told me not to worry that they were going to support me throughout the screening. My name was listed as those who were going to be screened first but when Saraki came they withdrew my name from the list and put it last. The day I was being screened the entire gallery was bursting its seams because they had come to see what kind of drama that was going to take place. I came in and was asked some questions. But I think the opposition was already behind me. They did not pose any problem to me. When it got to the turn of Saraki, Senator Okpanachi asked Oloye Saraki if he had any questions, he looked at me and said he had no questions. They asked again but he replied that he had no questions. Then the game was over.
Later, the Deputy Senate President invited me to his office with Saraki and reconciled the two of us. In that meeting we agreed to work together and ensure peace, stability and progress of Kwara State and the nation. That was how we ended up as best of friends. I was then appointed as the minister for the Federal Capital Territory. There used to be two ministers, senior and junior, but in my own case Shagari decided it was going to be only one minister and I was in charge as the third FCT minister after Adija and Dan Musa. But Saraki was not happy because he knew that my new position had endeared me to the party thus changing the status quo in the state. He even confessed to that.
Jailed by Buhari Regime
But for the military intervention it was going to be that way. Unfortunately, on the December 31, 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari struck and we were all sent out of office and I became a victim of military intervention. I was called to report to the Ilorin Headquarters of the Nigerian Army. They were to take us to our respective homes where they would search our houses. I was being taken to New Bussa just to disgrace me along with others. Unfortunately, as God would have it we were waiting for a vehicle to convey us when they said the military truck was bad. Suddenly, there was a signal that all ex-ministers should report to Lagos. With that I escaped being disgraced in my village. We were taken to Bonny Camp in Lagos.
Fortunately, the Director of Military Intelligence, Haliru Akilu, who was in charge of operations; we knew each other very well. He was wondering why I should be there since I had only spent three months in office. I had not even taken any salary and allowance. The military asked me to give details of my appointments. They also asked if I had any foreign bank account. You know that Buhari was very strict with anybody operating foreign accounts because a special investigation panel was set up and made up of the military and senior legal persons. I had a foreign account but what happened was that when I received my letter of appointment as minister, one of the conditions was that no minister should operate a foreign account. But I had a foreign account because until then, I was a private person. So I said on the basis of that letter of appointment and on that condition I wrote a letter to the President asking him to grant me casual leave to go and close the account.
The tribunal requested for the letter which I made available. They took me to Ilorin Prison. They requested for the address of where they could locate it. I gave them the address of my Personal Secretary. They found the letter. But there was no reply before they struck. They saw the later but could not believe it. They scrutinised it, yet I could not believe not knowing that there was somebody very close to me called Akanmode from the present Kogi State. He was my Personal Secretary. When he married I took him to London. I did not know that he took my personal documents in which my bank statement was included. When we came back I searched for it but did not see it. Eventually, that same man was the one who took that file to General Tunde Idiagbon because when I was a minister I had confidence in him. He contacted one contractor in Ibadan and used my letter-headed paper without my consent. The man gave him some money. When later there was change of government, the man knew he was not going to get the job so he demanded a refund of the money. By the time he demanded the money, I was under house arrest. I asked Akanmode if he disclosed the transaction to me and he said no. Then, the man said he was going to impound all his belongings, sell it and get his money back. Akanmode thought that I would come to his rescue. His brother was working with the governor as permanent secretary and they thought they had found a cage to hold me.
That letter I wrote saved me. They took the same letter to Lagos and I confessed and they discovered I never operated a single business. They could not find anything. I did not use my position to enrich myself. They still took me to Ilorin Prison. I was released but I was again asked to face another panel. When my case was mentioned members of the panel were shaking their heads and so again based on that I was released, discharged and acquitted. I suffered. I was in military intelligence headquarters for almost one month alone. Even if I wanted to eat I had to bang the iron gate and doors before soldiers would come up and give me water and food. From there they took me to No. 10 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi in Lagos for another month. I suffered and my family equally felt the suffering. When I came out after the change of government I was doing petty business, repairing fridges and small contracts.
I went to Ajaokuta and did other small jobs to keep my life and family going. Paying the school fees of my children was very difficult. When I was even in prison, my chairmanship of the Nigerian Paper Mill was also under probe because there were allegations that I did many things but as God would have it, we did a very wonderful job in that place. At the end of the day General Idiagbon commended me for a job well done. As he was commending me, I was in prison. There was one man again I helped who wrote a petition to Idiagbon to come and investigate the activities of the mill. The Administrative Secretary of the Board of Directors was contacted (an Igbo man) when he was contacted he told the panel that of all the chairmen he had worked with, he had never met a decent chairman like Dantoro. (I had not met him since then. May God bless him). I even asked the chairman of the Tenders Board that since I was not interested in contracts, we should appoint the chairman of the finance committee to handle anything contract. I did well there. I reorganised the whole place for efficiency and everybody was happy about it. The man said it. This was an Igbo man, a Christian for that matter. I was screened from head to toe but I came out unblemished.
Throne and Troubles
When my brother died in 2000, Niger State Government wrote a letter to the kingmakers through the chairman of the local council that they knew through records and traditions that there were seven king-makers in the Kingdom. About three were then dead. The state government’s letter also specified that since the three were dead they had formed a quorum. Therefore, the government advised that the king-makers should go ahead and select a new Emir; also, that they should equally ensure that the decision was binding on them. Not knowing that they (government of Y.Y. Kure) had a plan. But the kingmakers did their job. Man proposes but God disposes. When the meeting was convened, about 10 of us vied for the position. When the king-makers screened us, only three of us were left. The selectors now asked who they wanted to succeed the late Emir. It was unanimous that I should ascend the throne as the new Emir.
The government was not happy with the decision. They opposed that decision. So the minutes of the meeting and everybody in attendance was sent to Governor Kure. When he got to know that it was Dantoro that was selected by the king-makers, he was upset. Kure said they should go back and hold another meeting. I was smarter; immediately I knew they were not going to support me I quickly got the minutes of the meeting and the letter written by the state government. I went to the State High Court in Minna and filed a case. They never knew it was going to be so. I engaged the services of Chief Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. We got an injunction from the court that the government should not go ahead to hold another meeting as directed by the governor. The government still went ahead and it became a legal battle. The judge had to withdraw from the case because he said he was an interested party and was not going to sit in judgement. The court then pushed the case to Suleija. There were all kinds of drama during the proceedings. The government was all out not to see me ascend the throne of our forefathers. I spent so much money pursuing the case. They even gave out money to woo a lot of people but I never bulged because they were not God. At the end of the day, the judgment was in my favour. My lawyer now advised that I should go home and get the normal ritual of the Emirship completed.
I did. People came up to Mokwa on motorbikes and bicycles to congratulate me. Some even came to New Bussa. I went to my palace for the normal ritual. Immediately I was done and given the regalia of office by my people, the government now said they should chase me out. They sent policemen to arrest me, that I installed myself as the Emir without the consent of the government. I was brought to Minna to meet the Police Commissioner, the State Director of State Security Services and others. When they asked me why I installed myself, I told them that I did not install myself but went through the right thing according to our customs and traditions. I equally told them that they were a Federal Police and not a State Police and therefore should uphold the judgment of the competent court of law which declared me as the Emir-elect. They asked me for the court Judgment which I produced.
The Director of SSS, Commissioner of Police now spoke to the Inspector-General of Police who told them the truth that I won the case and should be protected. The commissioner now apologised but advised that I should not go back to my palace. They knew what would happen if the government was seriously interested. They could organise anything to eliminate me. That was how I landed in Kaduna State under the escort of the police. But there was news in the print and broadcast media that Dantoro had been declared wanted by the police. When I got to Kaduna people were surprised that the same Dantoro declared wanted was being escorted by the police. The government filed an appeal against the judgment. I also came out victorious at the appeal court. They were not happy. Trust the leaders; I am not trying to mention names. I know what they did. Even to the extent of going to Abuja to do what they did.
At that time I was close to Maj. Gen. Buhari. They wanted to see how they could separate the two of us. I surmounted all the obstacles. At the end of the day I got another judgment in my favour. They now went to the Supreme Court. It was a difficult journey. I had to sell some of my property and borrowed money to pay for my legal fees. A lot of people can testify to this. Nobody was behind me but God. At the Supreme Court, a number of things happened but the judgment did not take up to 10 minutes for the judges to pass judgment in my favour. The court declared that they should hand over the Emir’s stool to me. For four years and four months, I battled them. Can you imagine that after the ruling, the governor was the first to phone and congratulate me. He further said they were welcoming me to Minna to collect my staff of office. I turned back and went to the Government House in Minna where a lot of people were waiting for me. Kure now questioned some people, “You said Dantoro is not so popular. So, who are these people?”
You see, people went round telling lies against me to curry favour which is the problem of our leadership and the third world countries. It is all lies and sycophancy. Once you are no more there, nobody cares if you exist. That is how I survived what I call my holocaust. I am happy; I love my people and when I came, I thought of what I could do for them. God has brought me to this position and has been with me all along. He put me here because He wants to use me to better the lives of my people..
Playing Politics with Tinubu
I knew Bola Ahmed Tinubu when we were at the National Assembly as senators. He belonged to a different party (SDP) while I was in NRC. But we had a common interest when it came to telling the truth. We said it as it was then. He knew my vision even when the June 12 issue was in the front burner. I could see the injustices and I stood by fairness because I detest injustice. You can see that I identified myself with the aspiration of Nigerians. At one time he said he wanted me to go and see Late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola but I told him I never had any need from Abiola. If I went there, that meant I was going there for money. But what we were doing was right and posterity will judge us. So we had a lot of things in common and we had been friends since then. He saw me as being straightforward, honest and sincere in all my dealings with him. Not for any material gain. In fact, when I began my legal sojourn in the Emirship tussle he also supported me in terms of advice because it was a tough battle for me. It was tough taking on the government and we had to employ the services of a senior advocate of Nigeria in the person of Wole Olanipekun. When God made me the Emir I said this man was there when I was in dire need of help so why can’t I use my position to make him what I feel will help him in future politically. That was why I honoured him with the title of ‘Jagaban.’ Jagaban means ‘Leader of Warriors.’
Reconciling Babangida and Buhari
I made sure I brought the two (Ibrahim Babangida and Muhammadu Buhari) of them together. Firstly, when Babangida visited me in New Bussa we discussed a lot and the issue of their relationship came up. I then told Babangida that I would confer him with a title as ‘Maiyakin Borgu’ and also give him another title to give Buhari as ‘Majen Borgu’ (Iroko tree) and he politely accepted. Buhari agreed to the offer and said he was not going to give him ‘Tokuce.’ In the traditional institution, if you give somebody something very significant, he will give you something in return. But Buhari accepted the offer and the date was fixed for the turbaning of the two together with Chief Sunday Awoniyi. It took place in New Bussa. It was an historic occasion where they embraced and actually reconciled.
A word for Buhari
All I can tell the ruling class is that Nigerians want change. Nigerians cried for change and God has brought change. They (the All Progressives Congress) should understand that they have been brought there for the change. They should be very sincere and honest to Nigerians. What I want this time is that a Nigerian no matter where he is, whether here or in the Diaspora, should see himself as Nigerian first regardless of whether you are Igbo, Hausa, Kanuri or you are Christian or Muslim. Therefore, the leadership must provide that much needed service and show by example how things could be done better. Any Nigerian wherever he is can walk up to the President and say, ‘Look Sir, this is what I want. You are my President’. The President has a big role to play to ensure that Nigerians will have confidence in him and his leadership because people may think he will only listen to Hausa people or people around him. That is not true after all he is an experienced administrator now. As a former Head of State, he knows Nigeria now better than before. He should use experience that Nigeria will become renewed.
Life is all mystery. It will end one day. How will our lives end? We are alive today but we do not know how and when it will end. The fear of the unknown is there but all we need to do is to pray to Allah that God in His infinite mercy will make us end well so that people can remember us when we are gone for good. That is it. What I desire is, of course, my state. We want Borgu State. That is my desire in life. That is one of the best things that can happen. Once we get Borgu State during my time, my dream is fulfilled.
My family and religion
I am happy with my children and entire family. The way I was brought up is the same way I am bringing up my children: disciplined and obedient to elders. I have given them all the opportunities to get educated. Both male and female are mostly graduates. I have 37 children. There are those who were not fortunate when I was incarcerated and suffering. I could not make it up to them. Like I said, at a time even to pay the schools fees was a problem. I also make sure I send them to private schools, not public schools; that is the reason why they got first-class education. It is not religion that matters, it is the knowledge that you acquire at the end of the day that is important to me. Religion to me is a matter of conscience. If you want you can be anything you want.
• I Bought My First Mercedes Benz Car for N6, 000 from Saraki