“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him – James Mills (1773-1836)”
The above title and quote by President Muhammadu Buhari (who knew him close up) and Scottish philosopher James Mills is quite fitting of the great jurist, elder statesman and 10th Galadiman Katsina who departed this world about a year ago. Justice Mamma Nasir was a shining example of a leader who gave so much of his life and times for the betterment of others and the society. He was one leader who never rested from national service and remained active until he took a final bow.
Taking a cue from the British historian, Sir Walter Scott’s quote “And come he slow, or come he fast, it is but death who comes at last,” Justice Nasir’s death, which occurred at the ripe age of 90, came rather ‘fast’ to particularly us members of Gamji Association. Even with the popular saying, ‘an old man must die, a young man may die’, we weren’t just prepared for his exit and his passage has definitely created a howling gap in the affairs of the Association.
The late Galadima was the cynosure of the organisation whose primary objectives is immortalisation of the exemplary leadership attributes of the Late Sir Ahmadu Bello and other past national leaders. He was the Association’s major source of public recognition and members never shy away from that vantage position. The understanding maxim is; ‘Galadima was ours, we are his’. Even the family, the Katsina Emirate Council, and associates appear to have come to terms with our intrusions and trespass of him at their expense. It is uncommon to invite the elder statesman to a public function without seeing at least a member of the Association with him or lurking around him.
He was a well-known ideologue of late Sir Ahmadu Bello who strongly believed on the need to inculcate in youths the exemplary leadership qualities of the late Premier and other past national leaders. Aside participating actively in the programmes of the Association which mainly comprises of public lectures, symposia, and national assignments, he is always at hand to direct and counsel the leadership on how to go about it successfully. As the longest serving chairman of the Association’s Seminar and Colloquium Committee, I had the privileged of coordinating most of the public lectures and had to take counselling directly from him.
We watched him over the years from ‘moving briskly’ during Gamji lectures, supervising and ensuring that programmes went on successfully, to gradually ‘walking with aids’ slowly in the later years. The last Gamji lecture the elder statesman attended and chaired was the memorial lecture in honour of late HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammadu Chindo Yamusa, the 14th Emir of Keffi, held on 3rd April, 2018.
In his characteristic manner, he called on the general public to support the activities of the Association particularly in its pursuit to improve the needed unity in the country. Galadima ensured that the association is shielded from being hijacked by politicians and bad influences and provided the required guidance. We were overwhelmed with his forthrightness, openness and being ever ready to listen and counsel. We could not have asked for a better leader; the memories are precious and well placed in our lives.
We will always remember him in our prayers and in all we do, whatever, challenges we encounter in life, we will always be grateful to Allah for being so generous to have given us a leader as he was. We thank Allah for the love he was able to show us and others who knew him, the discipline and ‘always remember to act right attitude’ he sought to imbibe in us.
When the Niger State Chapter of the Association was established with me as the pioneer state chairman, he was what the then young chapter required as a guide to make a good debut. Based on his counselling, Gamji Memorial Clubs were established (and were it was moribund, resuscitated) in most of the tertiary institutions in the state. He encouraged the state Association’s activities by attending most of its events.
Born on July 2, 1929 in Katsina, he attended Faskari Elementary School and Malumfashi Primary School for his primary school education which he completed in 1939. He had his post primary education at Katsina Middle School (1943) and Barewa College (1946). He afterwards attended the Public Works School and graduated as an Engineering Assistant in 1948. He worked as an Engineering Assistant for three years (1948 to 1951) before being selected as one of the three northerners to go to England to study law. The other two were late Justice Buba Ardo (former Chief Judge of Adamawa State) and late Justice Muhammad Bello (former Chief Justice of the Federation). He initially attended the mandatory Latin language course at the University College, Ibadan (1952-53) and on completion proceeds to the Inns Court, London and graduated in 1955. Upon graduation, he was called to the English Bar in the same year.
In 1956, he joined the services of the Northern Legal Department as Pupil Crown Counsel and rose through the rank to the position of Senior Crown Counsel. He also attended a six-month law course in London. In November 1961, he was appointed the first indigenous Minister of Justice in the defunct Northern Nigeria. He held this position until the senseless coup of January 1966 which aborted the legitimate and inspiring First Republic.
Shortly after, he went into private practice and opened a chamber in Kaduna and afterwards in Kano. He was the second northerner to start private practice in law (after Alhaji AGF Razak SAN, a one-time Attorney General of the Federation and also the first Northerner to study Law). In view of the dearth of professionals in the public service occasioned by the coup, he was in 1967 appointed the pioneer Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice for the newly created North Central State. In 1975, he was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. A year later, he opted and was transferred to the newly created Federal Court of Appeal. He was subsequently appointed President of the Court of Appeal on April 4, 1978 following the passing away of Justice Dan Ibekwe. He was in this position until August 1992 when he retired after a meritorious public service (he is the longest serving President of the Court of Appeal).
He held several adhoc responsibilities while in the service and after retirement. In 1994, he was appointed the Vice Chairman of the 1994 Constitutional Conference. Among the other notable positions he held were Chairman, Boundary Adjustment Commission; Chairman, Federal Character Commission; Chairman Ministry of Defence Investigation Committee, amongst others.
He not only nurtures the idea of the establishment of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, but tirelessly pursues its realisation. This noticeable role earned him the position of the Chairman, Advisory Committee, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, a position he held till his demise. As our leader, he tells us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear. Whenever he gets to speak, he gives you a sense of what is fair and not fair. He believes strongly that productivity should be made a function of the country’s ideological posturing. He was also until his death the Chairman, Gidauniyar Katsina.
Listening to him at different fora, one could easily conclude that he is like a library whose life and experiences needs to be documented for the younger ones to emulate. He is succeeded after 27 years as the 10th Galadiman Katsina by Justice Sadiq Mahuta, a former Chief Judge of Katsina State.
May all the blessings, mercies, forgiveness promised by Allah to His dedicated worshippers be granted to him.
Dr. Abdullahi Bala Isa, the national president of Gamji Members’ Association, sent in this tribute.