Who Is Mallam Sa'adu Zungur And Why He Should Be Immortalized
Elder Adamu Bello Karofi, MPSN.
I first heard about Mallam Sa'adu Zungur through my Islamic teacher when I was barely 8 years old. My teacher Sheikh Abdullahi Gwabba who's a disciple of Sarkin Zungur Hamid used to give us histories of past Islamic heroes and legends in our Orthodox Islamiyya School every Wednesdays. Sarkin Zungur Hamid was a contemporary of Mallam Sa'adu Zungur, equally well learned and highly versed in the fields of Islamic Jurisprudence, Theology and Arabic Literature. He's not only a contemporary of Mallam Sa'adu Zungur but a blood brother and intellectual fellow. It's believed that Sarkin Zungur was the only person capable of making sense of Sa'adu's esoteric intellectual discourses. Though Sa'adu was by far more intelligent and scholarly than the Sarkin Zungur. While Sarkin Zungur Hamid was only versed in Islamic Studies, Sa'adu was an intellectual behemoth in both Islamic and Western Studies.
Bauchi State has produced a number of geniuses whose level of intellect could only be translated as 'mystery'. The likes of Late Talba of Bauchi, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir and Late Special Adviser to Governor Rimi of Kano State, Dr. Bala Muhammed were among the rare creation of God in terms of intellect not only Bauchi State, but the north and Nigeria has ever witnessed. So many tributes and eulogies have been written in honor of these great men of extraordinary intellectual bandwidth. But the case of mallam Sa'adu Zungur is a rare of the rare. And Mallam will forever be regarded as the King of Intellectuals of the Northern Region.
Now who was Mallam Sa'adu Zungur? Mallam Sa'adu was born in 1915 in Bauchi Emirate. His father Mallam Bello was the great grandfather of the current Chief Imam of Bauchi Central Mosque, Mallam Bala Baban Inna. Mallam Sa'adu memorized Qur'an at a very tender age and mastered the intricacies of Mandiq (Logic), Usul (Fundamentals), Furu'a (Subdivisions) and the rudiments of Jurisprudence and Theology. Having graduated from Katsina Higher College, he was the first Northerner to cross over to the South to study at the Prestigious Yaba Technical College in Lagos. Mallam Sa'adu Zungur distinguished himself as the best student in all the schools he attended. He earned a certificate of Pharmacy Technicians from the Yaba College and went on to School of Hygiene Kano to teach.
This great man because of his burning desire to help the downtrodden and to emancipate his people from the clutches of corrupt Traditional Emirates and exploitative Colonialists initiated many Sociopolitical Movements. Few among them were Bauchi Discussion Circle, Bauchi General Improvement Association etc which some among them culminated in becoming Political Parties like the NEPU. He was also the General Secretary of Zik's National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. Throughout the life of mallam, most of his days were spent writing poetries and articles, delivering speeches to his people and stimulating them and rewakening their minds about the exploitations of the colonialists and the autocrats, and deep reflection and meditation.
Mallam Sa'adu engaged in a fiery and fierce political, religious and socioeconomic debates with the Emirs, Scholars and Colonial Masters of his time. Because of his strong Balaqa(Eloquence) and Mandiq(Logic) and people-centred disposition, he always won against the establishment. It's believed that Mallam Sa'adu was the first Nigerian to organize a protest against the wicked exploitative policies of the white man. He led the peaceful protest of over a 10 thousand people in the defunct Bauchi Province. There's a story being told of mallam and one Mr. Orgle, a white man who was fond of courting the Muslim Hausa natives of Bauchi that time, the man had the habit of bringing out his penis to show the poor girls in an attempt of luring them to sleep with him. When mallam was told about it, he confronted the man and bitterly rebuked him with worst of names. He was described by mallam as 'Chilakowa'(a rare type of very ulgy bird), Vulture among others. The man became highly infuriated and started stalking mallam with his gun, mallam had to write a letter to the Governor-General and filed a law suit against the man before the man was completely redeployed to another province.
These among others made mallam Sa'adu very unpopular and infamous among the Native establishment and the colonial masters. Typical of every disrupter of status quo and dissenter, mallam was bitterly criticized and rejected by particularly the ruling elites. He was mischievously posted to a very remote village in Southern Kaduna called Anchau where the living condition then was very poor. As a result of that he became infected with a Mycobacterium and was diagnosed with a Tuberculosis. All the doctors of his time were warned against treating him and he was made to wallow in pain and disease until his premature death.
Pain from his disease, emotional pain of being rejected by even his closest relatives(because to most of them he was a heretic) and psychological trauma didn't stop mallam from writing and persistent reawakening of the minds of the public. It's reported that one of his Books 'Gwagwarmayar Neman Sawaba' was banned by the establishment and anyone found with the book would be imprisoned and sanctioned. Mallam Sa'adu was a reputed 'seer', like Nostradamus most of the predictions he made 70 years ago have come to pass. For example how northerners would be displaced from their communities, killed and even be enslaved if they allow their children to be begging on streets instead of empowering them with education and jobs.
Mallam was an ascetic, a misfit, a "troublemaker", a "square peg in a round hole" and a revolutionary. He's the Einsten of northern Nigeria and the Ibn Arab of his contemporary. In terms of activism he was like Mahatma Gandhi of India. Some of his poetries were 'Arewa Jumhuriyya ko Mulukiyya', 'Wakar Bidi'a', 'Wakar Maraba da Soja', 'Wakar Yan baka' etc. In his memoir of mallam Sa'adu Zungur, mallam Aminu Kano described him as "the most intelligent person" he's ever come across. He said mallam Sa'adu inculcated in him the spirit of tenacity and resilience and taught him how to always stand with the oppressed.
These people whom are mostly political jobbers opposing the recent immortalization of mallam Sa'adu by the Executive Council of Bauchi state should have a rethink. That a State University in Bauchi is named after Mallam Sa'adu is even not enough to dignify a hero of Mallam's standing. More and more need to be done. And the argument as raised by my senior brother Adamu Bello, (though very political) that why not a Katagum Hero like mallam Zaki or Gwani Mukhtar is also frail and faulty. That's not how to debate the mallam's immortalization. Gwani Mukhtar or Mallam Zaki both carriers of Sheikh Usmanu Danfodiyo's flags in Misau and Katagum Emirates respectively should only be politically equated with either Yakubun Bauchi or any of the descendants of Ningi or Jama'are Emirates. Because mallam Sa'adu is in another category entirely different. A category that only him belongs and not even Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa would fall in.
May Allah(SWT) grant the soul of mallam Sa'adu Zungur eternal rest in Paradise. And may Allah join him with other pious servants of His in Akhira.
Adamu Bello Karofi writes from Bauchi