Date Published: 11/15/09
Three years remembrance of Alhaji Sani Marshal By Saka Raji Audu
Death is inevitable. It is a necessary visitor that every one, no matter one’s status in the society must receive. The visitor can also call knocking our doors at any time, anywhere and any place. Three years ago, Alhaji Sani Marshal, a pioneer industrialist was with us in Kano. But on 19 th December 2006, the inevitable visitor called at his Hotoro GRA residence, Kano and went away with him at the age of 88years.
Born in 1928 in Arzai ward of Kano city, the late Sani Marshal was the oldest of the five children of his father, Malam Usman Kago. He received his early religious education from his parents. While receiving lessons on the Quran, Sani Marshal was able to devote some time to learn trade and skill by doing some small odd jobs, which earned him some pocket money.
Marshal’s father, Usman Kago, was the son of Abdulhamid and also a son of Kaura Kura Akilu, the 19 th century great man of Kura and after whom the late Sani Marshal named his company, Kaura Biscuit and Macaroni factory. Usman Kago, a cola-nut seller in what is today known as Kura local government area in Kano State, was a religious non-materialistic man and a reputable Islamic scholar. Marshal’s own paternal great grandfather, Kaura Akilu was a widely known rich man, not only in Nigeria but also all over African countries. Usman Kago has five children, among who include the late Sani Marshal, Late Ibrahim, Dela, Late Rabiu and Ismaila, and many grand children.
Usman Kago, a native of Kura was married to Aishatu Sheriff Abdu, from Arzai quarters in Kano city. It was in this famous city that the late Sani Marshal was delivered by his mother, Aishatu in 1928. The late mother of Sani Marshal was a Sharifiyya. Shariff Abdu, the father of Aishatu, is a son of Shariff Ma’adu who is the son of Shariff Sharu Kai-Kai from Maiduguri who came to Kano during the reign of emir Sulaiman.
For those who do not know what Sharifai means, they are those who have blood relations with Prophet Muhammad (S. A. W.) through his daughter, Fatima. All the Prophet’s children except Fatima died before the death of the Prophet. As Muslims, we are asked by the Prophet to respect Sharifai because of the relationship but we are not asked to follow Sharifai bad tracks.
In 1942 when Sani Marshal’s father died, things began to prove difficult for him. In 1943, he wanted to be recruited into the Kano Native Authority police Force. Because at the age of fifteen, he was too young to be a policeman, Sani’s application was then rejected. With greater vigor and ambition for self-determination, the young energetic Sani marshal turned into a bicycle hiring business. He was in this trade up till 1949 when he had cause to migrate to Nguru.
He continued with the trade of a bicycle hiring and repairing at Nguru and in this place, things were not all that bad for him as he was able to save some money and made friends. One of Sani Marshal’s friends at Nguru was Isyaku Rabiu who was there to study the Holy Qur’an. At the end of 1943, Sani Marshal left the bicycle hiring business and became a bus ‘conductor.’ This commitment offered him great opportunity to know many places in Nigeria such as Sokoto, Gusau, Katsina, Maiduguri, Gombe, Yola, Jos, Benue, Abeokuta, etc. Countries Sani Marshal had also visited are Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Cote D’ivoir. This also became the greatest pillar of his future endeavours.
As a result of his hard work, dedication and confidence, the young Sani Marshal was able to save some money within six years, which enabled him to purchase his first vehicle (a second hand dodge lorry) in 1955. He restricted his services to the remote parts of rural community where no man at that time dared venture. While he was making his mark in the world of business transportation, Sani Marshal was also pursuing his interest in the political and social development of Nigeria. He was an ardent supporter of democratic parties and had also participated and been consulted by many governments to make an input or give advice on matters of importance.
Sani Marshal was an ardent supporter of Malam Aminu Kano’s Democratic Humanism. He was very close to Malam Aminu Kano, especially during the most important period of Aminu Kano life, which fall between 1950, the year NEPU was founded (after a major split in the Jam’iyyar Mutane Arewa) and 1959 when Aminu Kano was elected into the federal house and became a member of parliament.
Politic, to Sani Marshal, should be used to help and encourage the people, to train, educate and promote the interest of the people. These were Marshal’s concern for politics. This was why since the NEPU days, Marshal followed Malam Aminu way in politics. It may not be out of place to state here that politics according to Aminu Kano must be able to teach and tell how happiness can be attained and should be able to associate and make people live together. That is, how people relate together for the uplift of their socio-economic and cultural co-existence. It is this cardinal principle of democracy (the supremacy of the will of the people) that Sani Marshal also believes in.
In Marshal's thought, when politics becomes purely ‘money business’, democracy has been thrown over board. Therefore, to a true democratic humanist, the commercialization and privatization of politics would undoubtedly hit the rocks. Unfortunately for Nigeria, this is not the way politics is being practiced by the people. Marshal therefore condemns politics where people are relegated to the background and politics of looting, and settling of scores.
One of Sani Marshal’s big and significant achievements to humanity was his contribution to Nigeria’s struggles during the civil war. He did not allow the civil war to cripple the Nigerian economy. During this period, trains could not move from one place or region to another. The trains could also not reach the Ports and neither could goods reach the hinterland. This difficult situation explained why goods from the North had to be exported through the Beninoise seaport of Cotonou. It was Sani Marshal alone that could put up this risk and dangerous challenge through out the period of civil war. It was on account of Sani’s courage, ambition, display of equity and fair dealing that he earned his nickname “Marshal”. Indeed, Sani Marshal’s father, Malam Usman Kago respected Marshal as a well-behaved boy. Usman had prophesized that his son, Marshal would be a successful person in his life. This prophesy was made 57 years ahead when Sani Marshal was just 12 years old.
The history of manufacturing industry in Kano would not be complete without mentioning Sani Marshal. He went into manufacturing plants so that he could assist the needy members of the society by creating job opportunities for them in these plants. As early as 1949, Sani Marshal who started as a truck driver was able to accumulate some capital to start his own transport. By the early 1950, he had a fleet of Lorries running between Lagos, Kano and other parts of Northern Nigeria
Until his death, Sani Marshal exclusively owns and controls the largest and most successful indigenous middle scale industries in Kano, the Kaura Biscuit and Macaroni Limited, the sole proprietor of the famous Kano residential hotel and some other estate management such as packaging where cartons are produced for all factories. These have provided job opportunities, skills, manpower development and improved the livelihood of many citizens of Kano state. He began his Estate management (building and renting of houses) between 1967 and 1972. He later went into Hotel business and factories for biscuit and macaroni. His biscuit factories, which were established between 1976 and 1978, are located at club road, Kano while Macaroni factory established in 1980 is located at Hadeja road.
The late Sani Marshal has many notable and benevolent contributions to mankind as well as several generous assistance and donations to religious and social organizations. He built many mosques and Islamiyya schools in Kano city located at Gwammaja (Masaka); Adakwa (Malam Barau); Sabuwar Kofar (Malam Gwani dan Zarga); Koki (Malam Gwani na Dudu and Sheikh Malam Manzon Arzai). Other schools of Sani Marshal are located at Fagge (Mutaliya), Kurna Asabe, Gezawa local government area (Dadin Duniya) Hotoro (Marshal’s residence), Kura Primary School and Kura Secondary school. Mosques also built by Sani Marshal for religious worship are situated at Malam Manzo School, Gwammaja Masaka, Kurna Asabe juma’at Mosque and Dadin Duniya.
It is said that the most impressive mosque and school complexes he built at Kura (his home town), was to be converted into International Islamic University. In 1982, Sani Marshal handed over the Government Arabic Secondary School, Kura” to the Kano State government in boosting the educational morale of youth in Kura and other neighboring local governments in the state. Before the take over of the school, the then Commissioner of education, Alhaji Imam Wali, pleaded with Sani Marshal to hand over the school to government and in return receive compensation from the state government but instead, the philanthropist, Sani Marshal donated the school free to the government. A conservative estimate of the amount needed to build a school of its kind now will cost nothing less than one hundred million naira.
Happily enough, the late Sani Marshal took over from Malam Aminu Kano as regards the welfare of Almajirais by contributing in the building of many primary and secondary schools for the promotion of Islamic and western education. Thousands of Almajirais are therefore given the opportunity to acquire both Islamic and western education. Of equal importance is the fact that the welfare of Almajirais has always been of great concern to Sani Marshal. This is a great contribution from the part of Marshal, which if other people emulate, the pathetic situation of Almajirais in Northern Nigeria would be reduced, at least, if not totally arrested.
He had sponsored and provided scholarship to many natives of Kano state. He had donated generously to hospitals, the needy and the Kano State foundation. He is forthcoming in the regular payment of his Zakkat during the fasting, at least 25,000 needy, both men and women benefit from his yearly Zakkat. He was one of the leading sponsors of a seminar book on the history of Kano otherwise known as Kano Studies edited by Professor Barkindo of History Department, Bayero University, Kano in 1983.
The self-made philanthropist, Sani Marshal spends large part of his wealth in contributing to economic, social, religious and political developments in the country. He is one of the few Nigerians who live to their words. He does not promise to fail unlike many thieving Nigerians who thrive on fake public donations and promises that do not go beyond ordinary statements. At public or fund raising, the honourable Sani Marshal is always in the forefronts of men who honour their pledge. This is because; he fears Allah (S.W.T.) and believes in transparency, honesty and sincerity of purpose. He always tries to bring together his business associates under one peaceful umbrella.
It is in the recognition of Alhaji Sani Marshal’s tremendous role in people’s socio-economic life that earned him the Kano State merit award in April 1996 and the National honour of M.O.N. in 2004. But, whatever honour bestowed on this illustrious son of Kano, the mother-of-all rewards (Aljannah Firdausi) await him as he departed this world to eternity. This will, inshallahu, be the reward to be paid to Sani Marshal for being good to mankind.
It is three years now when Marshal left this world to eternity. It is our fervent prayer that the family, friends, business associates and well wishers you left behind take after your humble gesture and fairness when dealing with people. These people and my humble self shall continue to remember and pray for Allah's forgives and mercy. Adieu Sani Marshal.
Saka Raji Audu writes from Kano and can be reached on his email: firstname.lastname@example.org