Monday, 14 September 2009
The following "hot" interview was published by LEADERSHIP newspaper last Friday. It gives an insight into the establishment of one of the most interesting radio stations in Nigeria - Freedom Radio, Islamic activism in Kano City, the murder of the respected Sheikh Ja'afar and the recriminations that followed. Enjoy.
Kano Govt Should Produce Killer Of Sheikh Ja’afar – Ado Mohammed
For the first time since his arrest and subsequent release for an alleged complicity in the murder of a famous Kano-based cleric, Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmoud Adam, Alhaji Ado Mohammed, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Kano-based independent radio station, Freedom Radio, opens up on his ordeals. He tells LEADERSHIP correspondent ABDULAZIZ A. ABDULAZIZ his own side of the story as he responds to questions on criticism of the programmes of the radio station and his hitherto cordial relationship with Governor Ibrahim Shekarau.
Can you tell us what prompted the idea of establishing Freedom Radio?
A friend of mine who was, and still is, working with the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission drew my attention to the fact that private licenses were being granted. But even before then, I had been buying second-hand equipments and I have been working with Engineer Dahiru Ibrahim, as my adviser, in my aspiration to establish a television station. Then came this employee of NBC, who guided me on how to apply for the private broadcasting license.
We applied for the radio broadcasting license and, six months later, we applied for a television broadcasting license. And it took us six and a half years pursuing it before we were granted the radio broadcasting license. This was how we came to be the first indigenous private broadcasting organisation up in the northern states.
Of course, even before we established, Ray Power had been here but this (Freedom) is the first radio station by somebody from the north of the River Niger other than probably the Elwa, belonging to the Christian Association of Nigeria broadcasting from somewhere.
What of the TV license which you also applied for?
We are still pursuing the TV license. Any day the NBC gives us, we will accept it. It is like extending our coverage to Abuja. We are still pursuing the license to go to Abuja, being the nation's capital, and we have seen so many other stations, especially those operating from the south. From the north we are not many, so little wonder if none of the others has been trying; but we have been pursuing this Abuja license for almost four years now but it's still not with us. But we hope we will get it soon, so (that) we will extend our presence to Abuja.
To what extent did you record success for the past five years that the station has been in existence?
Oh, Alhamdu lillah! With all sense of humility, being the first we made it such that we would be able to hit as many locations as possible. We bought a 10-kilowatt transmitter and a 400-feet mast that could cover about 200 kilometers. This made it possible to reach up to Damagaram and Maradi in Niger Republic, as well as Katsina. I travelled to Sokoto and monitored it up to Talatar Mafara. In fact, through Niger I was monitoring from Maradi until we got near Konni, which is like overhead Sokoto, we were monitoring it in a car, which is different from the normal small radio set people use.
Also, we were reaching somewhere around Potiskum, Yobe State. Our signals reach up to Hadejia in Jigawa State but because Hadejia is in a depression, about 130m below the altitude of Kano, the signals reach Hadejia but because they are FM signals that do not bend, you may not get it until you use an aerial.
We reached Zaria. In fact, up till now during the rainy season or Harmattan when the signals travel very far, we are monitored in Kaduna. and there was time I was monitoring, I heard some people participating in a phone-in programme from Minna in Niger State and another person, though not audibly clear, calling in from Abuja.
Beside that, we broadcast in about eleven languages, English, French, Arabic being the foreign languages. The rest are local Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Kanuri, Fulfulde, Ebra, Igala, et cetera.
We have touched the lives of so many people. We were projected to start with about 40 people when we were on the drawing board; now we have over 260 employees.
About 60 per cent of our airtime is dedicated to Hausa language, that is because our listeners are predominantly in the Hausa territory. For the private outfits that monitor our transmission for advert agencies, we were told that we command 80 per cent of the listenership in our area of coverage. We must have been doing reasonably well to the expectation of our listeners for them to keep listening to our station. We thank God for that, it is not our making, it's the help of Almighty Allah and we thanked Him for that.
Your station has often come under criticism for what some people see as its anti-government policies. Why is it so?
There is nothing anti-government. We carry out programmes for anybody. By our licensing we are supposed to give fair hearing to everybody, we have to balance. We are not like the state government stations where they can decide to go one way and nobody can bring them back. We are a private station, subjected to various kinds of sanctions if we default and the condition of our license is that we have to abide by fair hearing, a fair view and fair representation of all parties. Therefore, if you have to talk about this one, you have to talk about the other. It is there on record we carry programmes and jingles of all the tiers of government: federal, state and local governments who are from different parties.
We carry so many of Kano State government activities, which is ANPP, and we carry several programmes and jingles for Federal Government and its agencies here. Bauchi State patronises us. And if you have been monitoring our Ramadan programmes, the governor of Sokoto State and that of Zamfara are sponsoring programmes here. Kano State government officials are sponsoring programmes. So there is nothing like being anti-government. But, of course, if somebody hears us talking he would say we are anti-Federal Government and when we come to play Federal Government programmes it is like we are anti-Kano State Government, which is in the opposite camp of the Federal Government. There is nothing like (being) anti-government in our policies.
Can we have a glimpse into your relationship with late Sheikh Ja’afar Adam?
Sheikh Ja’afar was a friend and my malam. I drew inspiration from him. We were involved in the Shari’a advocacy deeply. The team of the malams was our guide. I was the leader of the independent Hisbah group, so I interacted with almost all the malams there. I was at home with all of them.
We fought for Shekarau to become the governor of Kano State. I am sure I will be in the upper 20 people who painstakingly put whatever we had to fight and, alhamdu lillah, Allah gave us success, he became the governor because we wanted him to implement the Sharia.
You explained how through the pro-Sharia group you sponsored the candidacy of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, but people would wonder how your relationship deteriorated to a sour one.
Well, really, there is only one issue. First of all, I am older than Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. We were not born in the same location. We did not go to the same school. We did not live in the same area. Therefore, whatever kind of relationship that can emanate between two people never connected me with him. In fact, it was only when the Sharia movement started that I came to know Shekarau personally.
I had been hearing his name but there was nothing that brought us together; he was a teacher, while I had been a banker and a businessman, so even in the business world, we were far apart. Therefore, there was nothing that could bring me and him.
It was only the issue of the Sharia. When we found out he was not really keen on implementing the Sharia, this was what made us to withdraw from the government. But I was in the Sharia Implementation Advisory Committee, which the government appointed in the first place. However, when we realised that he wasn’t really keen on implementing the Sharia as he promised in his campaigns, we decided to withdraw. This was the only reason.
But some from inside the government say you drew a line between you and the governor when he kicked against your choice to be the leader of the government-constituted Hisbah Board.
No, there was nothing like that. In fact, one evening my deputy in the independent Hisbah called me. I had even retired to bed. He said there was an emergency meeting at Malam Umar Sani Fagge’s house. I asked what the meeting was about. He said he (Fagge), being the chairman of the Sharia movement, said there was need for us to meet that night and he said I should inform three other people with whom we were in the board of independent Hisbah. We had just parted about an hour so, I tried their telephones but I could not reach them, so I just went to Malam Umar Sani Fagge’s house.
When we gathered -- Umar Sani Fagge, Rabo was there, then Malam Yahaya Faruk came. The four of us waited but nobody came, so we started the meeting. Malam Umar Sani said the governor wanted us to advise him on who and who would be members of the Sharia Commission, the Zakat Commission and the Hisbah Board.
He gave us the criteria for the position of the secretary to the Hisbah Board; he must be a lawyer with at least five years post-call experience and he must have some knowledge of the Sharia law and Arabic. Unanimously, we agreed that that should be Mahboub.
Then it came to the commander of the Hisbah. I said, no, if he wanted to be fair to us, like he gave us this criteria, then we should also get criteria for the commander'; I didn’t want to look stupid to name somebody and they would later say he was not qualified. If the committee was really taken serious, we should have some criteria also so that from the rank and file we would be able to determine who became what in the Hisbah because Rabo and myself operated the Hisbah more than anybody else in the Sharia movement so we knew who should go where. They insisted, and a number of names were juggled, but at the end of the day they decided who they wanted to appoint.
At the meeting, Malam Umar Sani particularly said, "If we should be realistic, you should be the commander." I declined. He said, "Why?" I told him, "Look, I have not organised my office to appoint a successor, I cannot do it." Simple as that. Then they brought in one person. I said, "No, let's not look ridiculous. If there is anybody after me, if I want to be selfish, see Rabo here, he should be the commandant-general. Don’t bring selfish interest that will destroy all the good work we have done so far."
At the end of the day, they conveyed the information. I don’t know what they took to him (the governor), but some days later it was announced that I was going to be the second in command in the Hisbah. By then the Freedom Radio had been established and I had the first meeting with the editorial board that same day. I did not know they were going to swear in any other person. They kept calling me. I said, "Look, I told them I don’t want, so there is no point calling me to say come. I am not coming because I have some other serious business, too." Eventually, they decided to appoint Rabo as the second in command in the Hisbah. This was how it all went.
Sir, recently, out of the blues there emerged a petition that led to your arrest and detention by the police in connection with an alleged forgery which was linked to the assassination of Sheikh Ja’afar Adam. May we have your own side of the story?
It was one Friday morning, around the hours of 7:30, some police officers came to my house with their car parked outside and my house is the dead-end of a street; it is a close. My son, who was leaving next door, saw this car. He was a bit security-conscious, and he came to find out because he saw somebody entering my house and the car was parked outside. He asked the man. I was then having a shave. The man said he was not with the car people, so he went out and started making trouble.
By then they had finished shaving me. The man came to say he was a police man and they were together with his boss. I questioned him on why he concealed his identity, knowing well the security implication. I said, "If these guys shout and people out there came and started attacking you, are you going to shoot them?" Anyway, the matter was settled, then. They said they came to invite me to the police station, there was a complaint. I doubted them. I said, "Are you sure it is me?" They said, "Yes."
I said, "All right. Are you here to arrest me or are you here to invite me?" They said, "We are here to invite you." I said, "Are you going with me or am I going alone?" They said, "We are going with you." I said, "Then this is an arrest. Where is your arrest warrant?" They said there was none.
I agreed to go with them nonetheless. Then I asked, "Are you allowing me to change my cloth?" They said, "Yes, go and change." I went in and changed my gown and told my family that I had been invited to the police station, (that) there was some complaint against me. Nobody thought it was that magnitude of a complaint. So I went.
When we reached their office they brought a letter, handed it to me, and said, "This is the compliant, read." There was a covering letter and there was an attachment of a photocopy of a cheque. In the letter, which was bearing the office of the Secretary to the Kano State Government and signed by an officer, Permanent Secretary, REPA (Research, Evaluation and Political Affairs), the letter started: "I am directed…" There were two issues to inform the police, this letter was addressed to the police. "I am directed to report that some unknown persons went into the office of the Permanent Secretary, REPA, and stole a letterhead and forged a letter addressed to the commissioner that N100 million be released on the instruction of the governor to be paid to MESSRS NAIS BK. (copy attached)." This was one complain.
The second issue was also: "Here attached is a photocopy of a cheque of N100 million". The two had no relationship. This was paid to AK BAT; the last letter I could not fill it even in my statement to the police because it was blunt whether it is BATA, or BATO or BATI or whatever, but BAT was definitely there and eligible. They said, "You are expected to answer this." I said, "What is it about?" They said, "The cheque is from your company".
So I called my office manager, Nasiru, and directed him to go to the office and cross-check the cheque book of the FILAPS account on which the complaint was based. I said, "I want you to confirm, here is a photocopy of a cheque, with this account number and cheque number, can you confirm whether it is from our stock and it is our account?" He confirmed in the positive.
The cheque had N100 million on it, so I asked when was the last cheque we issued. He said, "It is ending with 7 and it was issued on April 6, 2007". So I said, "Do you know of any deposit of N100 million into our account?" He said, "No". I then directed him to go to the bank to request for our statement and bring it to me at the police station.
The two of us, Nasiru and myself, sign on our cheques. This cheque had only one signature and it did not correspond to either mine or Nasiru’s, so even from there the police knew all this was a ruse. The total credit turnover was below N4 million and we had stopped using this account two years earlier.
This particular cheque was issued one year after we had stopped using the account; it was dated April 3, 2008. Even from then the police knew it was all a ruse, but probably because this was a government and the government wanted me punished, that was why the police decided to go ahead pressing they were charging us.
I inferred in my statement that the BK NAIS had nothing to do with me, I didn’t know what was it. So the forgery of N100 million had nothing to do with me. This cheque might have been stolen from our chequebook and I didn’t know anything about it. The signatures did not correspond to that of any of us. We operate on a dual signature so since this was a forged cheque, under the banking laws, a forged cheque is not the mandate of a customer, as such, it will not be debited to his account. Besides, we stopped using this account one year ago, so it could not have been there and this cheque had still not gone to the bank until that day, that cheque had never been presented to the bank.
I made my statement and called my lawyer, who went through it and okayed it. The police here in Kano started going from one office to another without telling me what was the next action. The next thing, they called my lawyer and said, "This is more than just a forgery issue. The payee of this cheque is the man who killed Malam Ja’afar and because the case of Malam Ja’afar has been transferred to Abuja, that is why we are taking him to Abuja now."
There was nothing in my statement relating me to the issue of Malam Ja’afar. This was just a verbal information from the police and before I was given any chance to defend myself, I was conveyed to Abuja. Before we even left this town, according to the information I got later, the Kano State Radio had started airing that the killer of Sheikh Ja’afar had been caught, in my person. This was put on air intermittently, trying to incite the public to come and destroy Freedom Radio and our family members. Alhamdu lillah, none of these happened. People didn’t even believe them. In fact, there was a counter-effect on the government. Nothing has happened. I thank God for putting me on trial and making it easy.
What is the status of the case now?
The police say they are still investigating, that’s all.
Are you ready to take any action in order to clear your name and claim damages?
It was reported that your company actually lost three cheque leaves of the same account, one of which was used in the said petition. How come you missed those cheque leaves?
We later traced that three of our cheque leaves were torn. We did not know because we are no longer using the account. Until that day the police arrested me, we did not know that they had been stolen because we had stopped using the account. We are not using the cheque.
But a government official later came out to say that they got all those documents from somebody in Kaduna.
As far as I am concerned, our cheque leaves were stolen and the government took the cheque to the police. And since the police told me that this cheque was paid to the killer of Malam Ja’afar, this cheque can only be available from one of three sources: the issuer of the cheque, the person to whom it was issued or the bank in the event the cheque had been cashed; the bank became the custodian of the cheque. Obviously, the cheque never went to the bank, so it couldn’t have been from the bank, neither was it from us. Since the government brought the issue of this cheque, they know where the killer is. They should produce the killer because the government official on behalf of the Kano State government, and, I insist, on behalf of the Kano State government - because the letterhead of the office of the Secretary to the State Government was used to say "I am directed" and signed by Permanent Secretary, REPA.
So, it must have been an official compliant. Whoever says it is unofficial is deceiving himself; maybe he does not know the content but the letter is there with the police; if you can, go and check it out. If they wish, they can even give you a photocopy to publish.
What they are saying is that it was a kind of a move to blackmail the government that later bounced back…
(cuts in…) It bounced back to the government! The government should produce the killer of Malam Ja’afar. All these, like I narrated the story, the two things do not even tally. N100 million was forged from the government, made payable to BK NAIS, our cheque was stolen and N100 million payable to AK BATU or BATA was written. Where is the conformity? None! Only at the last minute, the police came to say, "Oh, this BATA man is the one who killed Malam Ja’afar, so we are taking you to Abuja."
So, if I am being accused, like Radio Kano and some dailies they invited to connive with them confirmed that I was the killer even before I was tried reported, then they should bring out the killer because the cheque was from the government. If the police will do justice to me, those people - the person who signed the letter and the person who directed him - should have been arrested because they should have been the first suspects.