Shamsuddeen Bala Mohammed is the eldest son of Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed. He was recently turbaned as the new Dangaladiman Duguri by the District Head of Duguri Alhaji Ibrahim Y. M. Baba.
In this interview, he shares his feelings about the new title and some exceptional qualities people don’t know about his father.
Congratulations and thank you for giving us this opportunity to have a conversation with you. You were recently turbaned as the new Dangaladiman Duguri, how did you feel?
Well, to say am elated is an understatement. This is actually a title that was prestigiously handed over to my father whom I look up to as a mentor. For him to give me this title as an exalted seat as it is at my 35th birthday means a lot to me. He thinks am actually a responsible man and a responsible son to give this traditional title to, with leadership responsibility. Am highly elated and felt honored and flattered.
Is this new elevation a call for more service and responsibilities in your opinion?
In my opinion, I believe that traditional institution is the bedrock of every society and even my father started the mantle of leadership there, and for him to actually see it in me to actually start from there is also a sign for me to be responsible. Yes, it is actually a huge achievement, and Insha Allah, I’m going to see how I can add value to the community be it through our foundation, Al-Muhibba Foundation, to which among the board of trustees or through my personal pocket. Insha Allah I will work for it and whatever leadership Allah gives you, He will give you the capacity to succeed.
In practical terms how do you intend to use that title to impact your community?
You know Dangaladima is actually a big title and seat in the emirate council. I am still studying the ways of the emirate council and chores attached with the title to see how I can actually help the community at large.
Usually, people that are young and agile may say traditional titles will tie them down and box them out of their social life; is that a concern to you?
For me, the Dugurawa heads and community has been in existence for more than 500 years, and for me to be the next Dangaladiman Duguri after my father; it is basically a family and communal responsibility. We know that either I or one of my siblings will have taken on those shoes and take the mantle and responsibility for the family. So we don’t see it as a bin on our back that will hinder us from doing something because it is something we have been seeing our uncles do. So as children from a traditional family, and sitting down with our late grandfather, late Sarki Muhammadu has already impacted on us and imbibed it on us that it shall be one of us one day and we should be ready for it. I don’t see it as any hindrance.
Let’s quickly talk about your father, this is someone who won election amid many expectations; are you optimistic that he will fulfill all his promises and will you be worried if in the process you realized that something is posing a blockade for him in his quest to deliver as expected?
Well, to cut the long story short, I don’t involve myself so much in his political career. I watch and observed and take notes, learn in the process at a personal level. I learn from his leadership style. I don’t like interfering in such things because, at a very early age, he has already trained us not to interfere in his political affairs. He is the one who took an oath of office, so it is his responsibility. But I know I am optimistic, even in the midst of scarce resources; the people of Bauchi will get the dividends of democracy that they deserve from His Excellency.
Do you personally feel your father has a bigger vision for Bauchi State that probably he has not shared with the public, but he is planning to get it executed or get it done?
I know this policy document that was developed even before he became Governor. He actually has a lot of consultants, professors, and doctors just a think tank who came up with the policy document of how to actually economically and socially drive the development of Bauchi State entirely.
The whole idea is that even if he had lost the election, he will pass down that document to somebody else to actually implement and the head of that think tank is Dr. Bugaje, I think Nigerians know his pedigree and intellectualism and the likes of Dr. Sadiq Gombe to name just a few. That policy document will see Bauchi become the economic hub of the region and become in some sort like Kano. This is the vision Kaura has. He understood that without infrastructure, you cannot drive a lot of foreign direct investment like the Chines and Indians the way they are and like Lebanese in Kano, you cannot drive such kind of people to come to our dear state for business. Without a proper international airport with proper routes you cannot. This is the wisdom why you can see there is a lot of infrastructural enhancement based on the policy document that I have read. The way he wanted to approach it is actually agro-business, that is why you can see him sending about 200 indigenes of the state to go to CSS Farm, a reputable Nigerian farm found in Nasarawa state to train them in various forms of agriculture and that is why you can see him freeing about 3 million hectares of land so as to welcome foreign direct investors who are directly interested in farming. That is why he is changing some of the laws in Bauchi State House of Assembly to actually standardize grains based on international best practices. These are some of the things that I know are in the policy document, that is being implemented gradually. People like Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna because of their infrastructures. So if at least these things can make Bauchi great. In fact, Bauchi has something that other states don’t have. We have potentials in tourism because we have Sumo and Yankari. But if sure we are a serious government and have a serious infrastructure, we can attract direct foreign investment. I’m talking to you not that I spoke with my father. I am talking to you based on the policy document I read and I can see it playing out correctly.
Will you mind talking to us about Bala Mohammed as a father; Can you share with us some of his qualities as a father that people out there don’t know?
Well let me see (smiles). What is it that people don’t know about him? What I know is that he hardly sleeps particularly when he is serving people. He is always reading his Qur’an or doing Zikir (supplications). He barely sleeps at night since I grew up and started comprehending what is going on in life. I never see him sleeping. In a month, he recites and finished the Qur’an from page one to the last page at least three to four times. He has been doing this since when I knew him. Doing zikir and offering a lot of sadaqa. And maybe people don’t know this about him. This is his quality. I think these are some of the qualities that elevated him to where he is because he has a special covenant with his maker right from the onset. And he told me that his grandfather instilled this in him, he hoped that all his children will copy this from him.
Some months back, I had an exclusive interview with your mother, the first lady where she told me that she wants her children to be doing more on entrepreneurial activities; is that what you do currently?
Yes, like my mother used to say, by the time that I finished my education and came back in Nigeria, I thought I will be working somewhere in the aviation sector. My father looked at me and say look Shamsu, you need to be a man and start doing something you are passionate about. Since then I never looked back, I and a couple of my friends started doing something in general contracting, mostly in the ministry of housing and FERMA and the company started doing well. Eventually, we moved it into real estate, building houses to rent and we started buying old dilapidated buildings renovate them, and sell them. We make a profit. We then moved into building estates. We built one in Jabi and one close to Dawaki we sold everything. Now I ventured into it on my own. Now I am the MD CEO my own company called Green Bricks and Tech.
But your father is influential and rich, one will expect that you just relax and enjoy the bounties?
I give thanks to Allah and especially my mother for impacting this in us at a very early age that we should be entrepreneurial. She always used to ask me who is your mentor in business? I used to tell her Al-Hassan Dantata because I was an ardent follower of his travails and how he was able to create a whole route for himself all the way to Ghana. Then she used to tell me that, I should be proactive if I really wanted to be like my mentor. You know people don’t really know: we came from a very humble background. We never knew that our father is going to be this big. Our father was a humble civil servant and that civil servant mentality is still in us and we never relented because we think that all of us have something to prove to our father that we can actually make it with or without him. Maybe those are qualities that drive me and my brothers because on many occasions my father always tends to be surprised where we are getting money from. This is something that people don’t know about. We are a new set of generations and all the kids of elites people always portray us to be. They are hardworking, they strive and they don’t go for their fathers’ wealth or mothers’. And our parents have trained us because they have seen how much kids of wealthy become wayward sometimes. They trained us and impacted the knowledge and skills of entrepreneurship in us and also to surround ourselves with people we want to be like for instance if you want to be a billionaire you should surround yourself with like five billionaires hopefully you will be the sixth one.
If in the near future people started mulling that you join politics and probably represent them politically, will you accept such calls if your people insist you do that?
I believe that one of the wealth Bauchi state has to offer to the rest of Nigeria is human resources. Bauchi has always been known as a hub for think tanks. The likes of Aminu Saleh, the late Sule Katagum and Yayalle and other people like Bello Kirfi and highly intellectual public administrators. We are a state of civil servants and public servants. I don’t think that we lack those types of people.
However, in a scenario where they think that those kinds of people are lacking; will come back to the drawing board collectively as youths and decide who should actually represent us. I’m not saying I will go, but I am one of the key young persons who will sit down and think and decide. But I don’t know yet. I have more knack for business than I do for politics right now. So, it has not crossed my mind yet, although there are some agitations on social media I don’t have such an opinion right now. But if the need is, and the timing is right, who knows? Only God knows. It is possible.
Your mum shares a lot of inspiration to women, she goes out to local villages and communities to inspire women and all of that; do you usually have time to sit down and converse with her and probably support her reach out to more women in the communities as the first son?
I am usually the first point of call when the need for financing comes. That is why I am among the board of trustees. I finance most of the activities of her foundation, but to go personally and physically to the places, I don’t because I don’t want to be seen as though I have other interests like politics. I do what I do fisabil-llah. It is a non-governmental organization. And she is the first lady, she has always been in that corridor since when her husband was a senator, she always embarked on charity. For me now to be going around with her, some people might think that I am not doing it because of God. I am doing it because of an ulterior motive. That is why I don’t visibly go out with her.
Let me ask you a very crazy question; you know it is normal when kids are growing up they misbehaved and sometimes get lashes from their parents, have you ever been beaten by your mother or father?
(Laughs) Severally! He was a disciplinarian. His style of training and discipline is, whenever you nip the bud from the eldest, all the rest will follow. He has always been hard on me particularly so that I don’t go astray and trust me I wouldn’t have wanted it any better. I am actually thanking him every day and I am grateful.
Can you recall a moment when he gave you some lashes and the kind of offense?
I always get lash because of my brother, Hamza. Sometimes he does some things because he was four years older than me he will pin down on me and say it is me. Me, being one of the stubborn boys, people believe it is me that actually committed the atrocity and I get the lash instead of Hamza.
At a personal level, what do you do at your leisure?
I love jugging. I do a lot of jugging. I don’t do it here in Bauchi because I come to Bauchi once a month or once in two months maximum. But at my leisure time at the weekend or after a lone day, I love to go and jug, this is something I really like or goes to the gym or at my leisure I also play with my kids.
What is your favorite food?
It is funny, but I like Tuwo miyan kukah. Aside from that, I love yam. Anything yam I love it.
What is your hope for Bauchi State?
My hope is for Bauchi State to be the next Dubai insha Allah. In Nigeria, if you have a dream, you should shoot for the stars and aimed for the moon. Yes I want Bauchi to be the next Dubai insha Allah and I hope my family actually govern Bauchi people to the best of their abilities and we don’t want the people of Bauchi to regret voting us. We want to keep a lot of legacies like the likes of Tatari Ali, Ahmad Adamu Mu’azu, and Isah Yuguda, who actually built legacy projects in this state. We all know how Tatari Ali revolutionized infrastructure and his counterparts Ahmed Mu’azu and we all know how Isah Yuguda did about four or three legacy projects. We also want to leave a legacy that the people of Bauchi State will be proud of and say that this is an indigene of the state and when he came, he did this and that. I don’t want them to regret ever voting our family into power and my hope is that Bauchi will be transformed into the next Dubai!