Penultimate Wednesday, I received an SMS (not to be confused with save my soul) from Malam Isha’q Modibbo Kawu. He requested that I obliged him a space in this paper to flow a tribute to Malam Mamman Daura on his 80th birthday anniversary coming up 72 hours later… precisely on November 9, 2019.
Incidentally, Malam Modibbo Kawu and I got closer when the Blueprint came into being in May 2011, first as a weekly and then as a daily four months after. He was the pioneer chairman of our Editorial Board of which I was a member as the paper’s editor-at-large. We have been good friends ever since, besides being products of Kwara state.
I agreed with him that a man of Malam Mamman Daura’s calibre deserved to be given a back page treatment even though I had planned to do a piece on the celebrant on the same day here.
I have read a handful of write-ups on the man which can best be described as the proverbial elephant that encountered the five blind men. The first blind man felt the elephant’s trunk and passed it as an anaconda. The second blind man touched the tiny tail and contradicted the first blind man, saying the biggest animal in the forest was like a viper. The third unsighted man took his turn and exclaimed that the elephant was like a rock when he touched the massive body. The fourth sightless man felt one of the legs and screamed his lungs out, describing the mammal as an iroko tree. The fifth blind man encountered the ear and dismissed the other descriptions, saying the elephant was like a banana leaf.
It is in this context that Malam Mamman Daura can be situated. He is seen by many Nigerians, who have eyes to see, as the power behind the throne in the Aso Rock Villa… the seat of government of President Muhammadu Buhari. They see him as the invisible or unseen hands behind whatever decisions Buhari takes. In cabalising the Buhari administration, they position Malam Mamman Daura as the arrowhead!
I knew Malam Mamman Daura way back in the early 70s when I cut my journalism teeth with the New Nigerian Newspapers Ltd., based in Kaduna. Malam Daura was just a couple of years into his editorship when I joined the paper, having taken over from Malam Adamu Ciroma, the second but first indigenous editor of the paper. Malam Mamman Daura also succeeded Malam Adamu Ciroma as the managing director of the paper. When I went to start the teeth-cutting process, it was Malam Rasak Aremu, a fellow Kwaran, that played the dentist. He signed my identity card in his capacity as the associate editor. I was a toothless greenhorn and among my senior colleagues were Israel Ojo, Pius Oshadiya, Abidina Commasie, Simon Shango and Shehu Abui. Further up the ladder were Mr. Clement Isaiah, Malam Ibrahim Madaki and Adeleye Fagbemi. Mr. Isaiah, father of Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah, the publisher of LEADERSHIP Group of Newspapers, Abuja, was my immediate boss. He headed the sports desk at the time and mentored me to also become a sports meister later in life. Mr. Fagbemi, an Okun man from the old Kwara state, was the chief sub-editor and he took me like his son. Malam Ibrahim Madaki was the news editor and he was very fond of me.
One day during my visit to the head office in Kaduna, Malam Ibrahim found me a seat close to his desk. And as my colleagues were breezing in from their beats, he would introduce me to them thus: “Meet Clem, whose stories I do not edit.” It was a sort of confidence building compliments for me. At a point, I became uncomfortable with the (flattering) introduction. So, I cooked up a story which he could not edit and vamoosed back to my Zaria base.
What could have been my (first) close encounter with Malam Mamman Daura was aborted by my colleague on the sports desk, Mr. Ndanusa Alao. I was at the head office during one of my numerous visits. As soon as the presence of Malam Mamman Daura was announced, he advised me to disappear from the newsroom. While I was performing the disappearing act, he told me the editor would crucify any reporters found in the office at the time I was around when they were supposed to be on the field ferreting for stories.
I admired Malam Mamman Daura from a close distance. He was so young, fair-skinned and handsome… always looking clean and well-dressed in suits or flowing gowns. Many ladies would die to have him. He was every inch a ladies’ man and I was surprised to hear that he never amassed women or mistresses. More surprising is the fact that he has remained a monogamist till date. Even in his old age, ladies would be tempted to turn if he passes by them!
I never met Malam Mamman Daura as a reporter so as to exchange pleasantries with him. He was like a demigod, revered by rookies like me despite his humane nature and humility. The way he carried himself about, he made the office of the editor so dignifying that you would not wish for anything higher in this journalism profession. He was so well-known and respected that you would think Daura was named after him and not the other way round!
When I left the New Nigerian to join the services of the newly established Nigeria Standard of Jos, one lesson I took away from Malam Mamman Daura was his antidote for gossips. A story was told about how a colleague went to Malam Mamman Daura’s office to backbite a fellow colleague. He was such a good listener. After hearing the full gist, Malam Mamman Daura picked his intercom and invited the colleague whose back had been bitten to the bones to come over. Then, he asked the backbiter to rewind the gossip. He was too shocked to do so; he could only stutter. After that encounter, gossip-mongers began to avoid him like a plague!
When I rose to become the editor of The Nigeria Standard in Jos, first as the head of the Sunday title, I tried to infest the office with the Mamman Daura aura. But when I realised that if it was not Mamman Daura, it could not be the same as Mamman Daura, I dropped the mimicry.
Back to the encounter between the sightless men and the fabled elephant! Regardless of their descriptions, the mammal remained a colossus in the Animal Kingdom. The descriptions did not add or diminish its status. So it is with Malam Mamman Daura. Many who do not know the self-effacing, brand-new octogenarian would expect him to be shooting rejoinders from his pen over the tirades from the hordes of blind men around. He would not dignify them with a spill of his pen… as if to say the best answer for a fool is (disturbing) silence. Malam Mamman Daura is a gentleman to the core who cannot hurt a fly. But his traducers would go after the insect with AK 47 rifles!
The question now is: “Is Mamman Daura an anaconda, a viper, a rock, an iroko tree or a banana leaf?” The answer is blowing in the wind!
Happy 80th birthday anniversary, Oga Mamman Daura. I wish you many more years of good health and selfless service to your fatherland.