Nigeria: Remembering Murtala Ramat Muhammed - a Fulani, Nigerian

16 February 2020
opinion

Murtala Ramat Muhammed's ancestry can be traced to two of the five prominent clans of the Fulani that led the 19th century jihad in Kano.

On his paternal side he belongs to the Gyanawa clan, who are mostly found in Wudil, Gaya, Warawa and parts of Sumaila. His paternal grandfather was Alkali Suleiman, son of Dattuwa, grandson of Muhammadu Zangi.

On his maternal side he was of Kanuri and of the Jobawa clan of the Fulani, found in Gezawa. His maternal grandfather, Yakubu Soja, was a World War I veteran, and from Dawakin Tofa in Kano. His maternal grandmother was Hajiya Hauwau (Aya), who was from Gezawa.

Murtala's father was Malam Muhammadu Riskuwa, son of Alkali Suleiman of Kano. He worked in the Kano Native Authority Veterinary Department as inspector in Kano Abattoir and Garko in the 1940s. He resigned his position with the Kano Native Authority after slapping a colonial supervisor. He died in Kano in 1953.

His mother, Hajiya Uwani Ramatu, was an industrious woman who engaged in small domestic business. She was from Gezawa in Kano.

Murtala Muhammed was born in 1938 in Kurawa Quarters of Kano. He attended the Gidan Makama Primary School and Kano Middle School, now Rumfa College. One of his teachers was the late Dr Maitama Sule, who described Murtala as "a bright student, intelligent, with a stubborn will to do the right."

He proceeded to Barewa College in Zaria and joined the Nigerian Army. He rose through the ranks up to Brigadier and was promoted General when he became head of state. Murtala has six children: Aisha Muhammed, the late Zakari Muhammed, Fatima Muhammed, Abba Risqua Muhammed, Jummai Muhammed and Zeliha Muhammed.

To claim that the late General Murtala was from Bendel, Edo, Plateau states, is a first class lie. To claim so is to say that personalities like Amb Aminu Wali, CP Mahe Bashir Wali, the late Alhaji Inuwa Wada, First Republic's last defense minister, the writer, Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Alhaji Kabiru Muhammed, and Alhaji Ibrahim Ramat, who are General Murtala's cousins and siblings, respectively, are also from these states.

The reason certain sections claim General Murtala is because he was Nigeria's only true national hero. The fact that all Nigerians mourned his death supports this. If the people of Edo State claim him, it is because he liberated them during the civil war.

Secondly, Murtala was a detribalised Nigerian who carried everybody along. Many among his contemporaries and those that worked with him have attested to this.

Finally and most importantly, General Murtala Muhammed married his love, Mrs Hafsatu Ajoke Muhammed, a Fulani/Yoruba woman, whose father is also a Kano Fulani. She came from Murtala's ideal Nigerian mix and supported him through the difficult task of building a modern Nigeria he loved dearly.

Whoever claims that the late military head of state was from Edo or any other part of Nigeria, apart from Kano, should show us his ancestral home and come up with his family lineage.

May Allah forgive this rare germ and preserve the Nigeria he built, according to Muhammadu Buhari in "Seven Short Months of Political Electricity." May Allah endow Nigeria with many of the kinds of General Murtala and preserve their lives and sense of purpose and responsibility when they get to leadership positions.

Suleiman is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

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