The Maishanus of Sokoto: Family of intellectuals

The Maishanu family from Yabo local government area of Sokoto state stands out as one of great erudition. With three professors, two medical doctors, two senior lecturers, eight holders of master’s degrees, seven degree-holders, and five diploma-holders, many of whom are pioneers in their respective fields, the family is strikingly intellectual. The family’s distinctive disposition to education transcends the divide of gender, making the family truly remarkable. 


Today, 70 grandchildren of Sarkin Kabi Maishanu are noted to be graduates, including two medical doctors, among others. The Maishanu story of scholarship traces back to their sagacious progenitor – the 11th Sarkin Kabin Yabo, late Alhaji Muhammadu Maishanu, son of Dangara Abubakar and grandchild of Muhammadu Molino, renowned and trusted supporter of Shehu Usman Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate. Maishanu was also   cousin of ex-president Shehu Shagari. 

Muhammadu Maishanu was noted to have been talk of the town, even perceived to have   become an ‘infidel’ for sending all his children to western school. His first daughter was noted to be among the pioneers of western education in Sokoto State, the first girl to study abroad, and the first female nurse from Sokoto State. She was trained as a nurse in England after her secondary education at Queen Elizabeth School in Ilorin, in the 60s.


At a period when western education was very unpopular, Maishanu was committed to the education of all his children. He insisted his second daughter, Hajia Aishatu Dan Mahe, who is physically challenged, also pursue her education up to university level. He employed a female teacher to tutor his four wives. He also took his wives on tours to enlighten them on the various aspects of society. One of such places of interest was the present Old Airport, where the women were shown an airplane at night.  

Considering what he did, and the time he did it, it is obvious that the late Sarkin  Kabi Yabo, Alhaji Muhammad Maishanu, as described by many, was a visionary and progressive individual. Though a royal personality who lived in time when modernity was considered a taboo, he was noted to have been far ahead of his peers in many respects.

“He wasn’t that rich, but we were comfortable. The legacy he left is education, we went through it, and now our children,” said Dr Abubakar Maishanu, who is now the eldest son. He describes his late father as a ‘very religious, kind and tolerant person’.  

Dr Maishanu also recalls that he was a hardworking father. “I worked in his office after my secondary school, when he was Chief Accountant of the Sokoto Native Authority Works Department. I was employed as a clerk in that office. He was always on his seat, and people were very satisfied with the meticulous way he worked.”

He added: “If  he is at home and there are repairs  being done, he would be there, whatever they are doing in his house, he would participate. He was very hands-on, and I took after him on that.” 

A retired director at a federal ministry, Hajiya Aishatu Dan Mahe, now most senior daughter, spoke: “My dad was a complete gentleman, and a great supporter of education, especially that of the girl child. I am sure you’ve noticed I’m a bit physically-challenged, but he insisted I have to go to school. Even when I got admission to the university, people were questioning that with my condition why should he allow me. He told them that I need the education. All my sisters went to school. Whenever he returned from work, he would call us, especially when we return from Islamiyya, and ask us to recite what we had learnt.”

Hajiya Aishatu recalls that even as District Head, their father still maintained his closeness with his children. “I could remember when somebody visited us from Kano, he called me to what I think should be given to the person and very childishly, I said you can give them a bag of millet but he smiled and  said what will they do with a bag of millet, he then  brought eggs and chickens for them.”

She also notes that a trait of his which most of her family members took from him are honesty, and selflessness. “You can ask people who worked with my father and members of my family, each place we work, we try to dedicate ourselves, do things honestly. Most of us were able to become heads of certain departments, and we left something that everybody going to that place will know we have done something.” 

Hajiya Aishatu said she would always remember late Maishanu for his unwavering support for her to acquire education, in spite of her leg problem. “He made it possible for me through Allah’s help, to go up to university and then when I started work, I even became a Director in the Federal Ministry of Education. I have been principal for many schools, state schools, and even a federal unity college. When I remember all these things, I pray for him so that Allah will reward him.”

A young Muhammadu was noted to have got his nickname Maishanu from his maternal grandfather in whose farm, 30 cows were reportedly given birth to, on the same day that Muhammadu was born, making his grandfather pick the pet name that would become the name of a dynasty. Some years after he was born, his father was redeployed to Torankawa, where he grew up. 

Maishanu attended elementary school on Yabo, where he was said to have met his cousin, former President Shagari, both reported to be the two best students of the class. He later moved to Central Elementary School in Sokoto, and Sokoto Middle School. However, Maishanu was later to enrol two of his younger brothers, Abubakar Namallam and Yusuf Yabo into elementary school. 

While Namallam eventually became Education Officer, Alhaji Yusuf Yabo studied up to postgraduate level and became Local Government Secretary.  

Alhaji Yusuf Yabo told Daily Trust that Maishanu was generous, and kind. “He brought me up, he sent me to primary school and secondary school. At the time he became District Head, I was working under the state government. I am his younger brother, but he helped me, like I’m his son.”

On politics, he reveals that his late brother only helped others but  had no political  ambition. “He assisted Shehu Shagari, who is a younger brother to him, in gaining political position. He was a man of the people, who did well in rousing interest in politics at that time. So he helped a lot, but not with any ambition.” 

Alhaji Yusuf Yabo adds that his brother was fulfilled having become Sarkin Kabi Yabo. 

Muhammadu Maishanu rose through the ranks to become the Chief Accountant of Sokoto Native Authority Works Department before resigning in 1972 when he was appointed the District Head (Sarkin Kabi) of Yabo. He passed away on the 1st of May, 1975.

As at time Maishahu died, only his first daughter – Kulu Aliyu Maisango was said to have graduated and was working as a nurse while two others were working as a Clerical Officer and a Customs officer. But the family said the death of their patriarch did not deter them, but only strengthened the resolve of his wives to ensure that every child attended school.

Hajiya Aisha Maishanu, 85, is one of the surviving three of the four wives of the late Sarkin Kabi. Now the most senior wife, she married him in her teens. She reveals that even for the wives, the Sarkin Kabi ensured they went through some form of education by employing the services of an education officer who organized adult lessons for them at home.

Hajiya Aisha also reminisced about the sightseeing tours their husband took them to. “He was easy -going and gentle. Anytime we had a misunderstanding, he would sneak out of the house to allow one space for sober reflection. He would later come back and advise you to take life easy,” she said. She also disclosed that the late Sarkin Kabi ensured cordiality among the wives and children. “When I gave birth to the first daughter of the family, he took the baby to his first wife for care, and she grew up not knowing who her biological mother was, and this applies to all his children. Till date, the children have this close relationship despite their polygamous background.” 

Maishanu took time to read religious books and prayed extensively, especially late in the night, Hajiya Aisha said. “He was a very religious person, he ensured sound Islamic education for his children, and he encouraged them to read Islamic books.”

 An endearing leader, late Maishanu who was hitherto living in Sokoto, faced stiff opposition in his country home Yabo  when he was appointed the Sarkin Kabi, with other interested  parties in contention in Yabo. However, he gradually won the  heart of the people when they started realizing his qualities as a leader, described as “Accessible, humble and kind.”  

On the relationship between her husband and former president Shagari, she explains: “Sarkin Kabi Maishanu and former President Shagari’s mother come from Sarkin Kabi Riskuwa Ahijo’s family. Every Thursday, Shagari’s mother would come to Sokoto and would visit our family. She is the elder sister to Dangara ,the father of late Maishanu.” 

This huge family has continued to reinforce its bonds. Dr Abubakar Maishanu expounds: “We meet three to four times in the year. We meet in our family house in Sokoto and discuss issues affecting us all. Later, the grandchildren started meeting on their own. During Sallah holidays, the grandchildren visit us at our houses in Sokoto and they also  go to Yabo and Toranakwa  to greet our uncles. They also go to the palace to greet the Sarkin Kabi.”

According to him, the grandchildren went in large groups in the past, but two years ago, they stopped. This is because their number intimidated many. “About 40 of them would go, with 15-20 vehicles, but they stopped, now going in smaller groups.” 

For the children of Muhammadu Maishanu, they can look back with gratitude to Almighty Allah for giving them a father with foresight and mothers with understanding who resolved to continue what their husbands started, against all odds.

Impressively, some of the Maishanus are also following the footsteps of their father, assisting others to acquire education. Hajiya Aishatu, who owns an NGO called Royal Initiative for Women and Children Development in Nigeria, is planning to establish a science and technology college: “We have been taught to know the value of education, we have seen how our father used to help people, almost all the people from our town Yabo, even before he became the traditional leader. When they come to Sokoto, they used to stay in our house and he used to assist them, he put many of his relatives in school.”

The children include late Hauwa Kulu Maisango, the first female indigene of Sokoto State to study abroad and to qualify as a nurse/midwife. There is also Dr Abubakar Maishanu, the first medical doctor from Yabo local government and presently, the chairman, Governing Board of the Sokoto State Primary Healthcare Agency; Alhaji Umaru Maishanu, the first and present District Head of Torankawa;  Hajiya A’ishatu Danmahe, first female graduate from Yabo local government, the first indigenous female to attain the position of Director at the federal level; Late Aliyu Maishanu, who died as Local Government Secretary in Gwadabawa, Sokoto State, and Amina Yeldu, retired Director of Finance with the Sokoto Rima Basin Development Authority.

There are also late Aishatu Abubakar, a retired Director of finance with the state government; Late Ibrahim Maishanu, an Assistant Inspector General of Police before his death; Late Hamisu Maishanu, Comptroller of Immigration; Dr. Saidu Maishanu, a former lecturer at the International Islamic University Mbalein Uganda, and presently research fellow at the Energy Research Center Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, UDUS; Professor Hamza Maishanu, former Provost Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, first professor of History from Sokoto State, and co-author of a book on Sultan Abubakar III. 

Some more are Dahiru Maishanu, a former Commissioner of Information in Sokoto State, and later Commissioner for Mineral Resources; Abubakar Chika Maishanu, Lecturer, Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto; Professor Isa Maishnu, a former lecturer at the International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan for over 10 years and presently a professor of Comparative Religion in Sokoto and Visiting Lecturer to ABU, Zaria and Kaduna State University; Halima Maishanu Lecturer, Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto; Asmau Maishanu Lecturer, Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto; Abdullahi Maishanu, a Director with the Ministry of Education; Professor Malami Maishanu, Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences (UDUS), and the first professor in Management Sciences from the state; Rabi Maishanu, Chief Nursing Officer, Specialist Hospital, Sokoto; Hafsat Maishanu, Chief Nursing Officer, King Abdul-Azeez Women and Children Hospital, Gusau, Zamfara State; Dr Nuhu Maishanu, Chief Medical Director of the Sokoto Specialist Hospital; Dr Hassan Maishanu,  Senior Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences, UDUS; Sulaiman Maishanu, a Principal Superintendent, ICPC, Kano, as well as Bashar Maishanu, lecturer at Umar Aliyu Shinkafi Polytechnic, Sokoto, among others. After all, the Maishanus of Sokoto are part of a sprawling, accomplished dynasty that continues to grow.  

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