The Reporter’s Diary With M.D.Lawal (I): When The Legendary Magajiya Danbatta Stunned Young Journalists with Her Golden Voice

Magajiya wowed the young Journalists with a recollection of her songs

The Reporter’s Diary With M.D.Lawal (I): When The Legendary Magajiya Danbatta Stunned Young Journalists with Her Golden Voice

By Mohammed Dahiru Lawal

Magajiya Danbatta and MD Lawal

When our vehicles sped through the hinterlands towards Danbatta 49 miles north of Kano city at the Northern border of Kano state with Jigawa state, for me it was a mixed feeling, first because I had always looked forward to an encounter with the legendary Magajiya Danbatta whose advocacy songs in the 70s and 80s traversed the entire hausaland and beyond contributing to increase in school enrolment, societal morality and even climate action. Secondly, I have always had a thing for Danbatta in particular and this is more because one of my Islamic teacher, Mallam Dauda Mohammad Danbatta – of blessed memory – who was the first to start teaching me and my elder sister the Holy Quran while growing up in Ajaokuta, was from Danbatta. 

Growing up at Ajaokuta steel city, where it is a convergence of Nigerians from all across all Nigeria’s geopolitical zones, in the mix of Russians, Germans and some other cross nationals who are staffs of Dumez, Juluis Berger and even the Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASCL) itself, which was the my reason why all our parents were in Ajaokuta in the first place, religion isn’t really a force to reckon with in a society like that but we learnt from our parents that in the 80s people like Mallam Danbatta had always been religiously inclined. And then we were born, witnessing how Christainity and Islam starteds flourishing in the 90s when more Nigerians came in and the Russian Hegemony in Ajaokuta was weakened by the then Abacha regime. As kids we witnessed how religion in the steell city grew from weakness to strength and people like Mallam Dauda Danbatta were very instrumental in achieving this from the Islamic side. A no nonsense disciplinarian, i miss Mallam Danbatta dearly each time he and his family crosses my mind especially when i recall how he always teases me with the refrain “guntun doya” which literally translates into the term “thick/short yam” because i was short and excessively plum as a baby boy who disturbed the neighbourhood with my three legged bicycle. 

It was with all these thoughts racing through my mind as I planted my eyes on the astonishing array of rice farms sprawling the large expanses of land along the coast and banks of our route as I kept taking in the greenish aesthetics, countryside serenity and molecular freshness that rented the air of our travel path. 

With all this coming at me, we entered Danbatta and veered off to Makoda now a Local Government Area of its own curved out of Danbatta where the Legendary songstress Magajiya Danbatta now domiciles. 

Three years ago, social media was agog when frontline Journalist and publisher of Daily Nigerian Jaafar Jaafar uncovered Magajiya Danbatta on his Facebook page which led to a chain of events that eventually took him on a discovery mission to her hometown and he found her aged, blind and had taken to begging for survival at her country home where she had fizzled into oblivion, even though there was misconceptions that she was already dead. 

Following the discovery, a renowned Kano based development worker with over two decades experience, Dr. Musa Abdullahi Sufi, promised to rehabilitate and lift her out of her ‘wretched’ living condition.

Dr. Sufi in a chit chat with Magajiya Danbatta during the visit

He, along with Mr. Jaafar and other trustees like Ibrahim Sanyi-Sanyi and Dr Ibrahim Musa, launched an appeal fund to support the now about 87-year-old singing diva. 

After the arrangement, renowned philanthropist and young professor who is founder of the Maryam Abacha line of Universities (MAUN) Professor Adamu Abubakar Gwarzo a.k.a Sarkin Yaki da Jahilci na Africa, hit the account with a sizzling N1million. Eventually, over five million was raised for her; with a newly built home and monthly upkeep, the rest they say is now history. 

The Arewa Agenda Team had just previously been invited by the development expert Dr. Musa Abdullahi Sufi to join him on the trip for his routine monthly check up of the legendary singer. 

The day before the trip, we had worked all day on the table of the new executive director of Youths Society for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases and Social Vices (YOSPIS), Zainab Nasir Ahmad at the Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) office seated on Alu Avenu. Zainab had just inaugurated an 11-man youth reference group that will champion the implementation of YOSPIS one year work plan and yours truly was pleasantly surprised with an appointment for a seat on that table. 

Instead of heading out to my PRNigeria office along Kofar Famfo I had felt the long drive was quality time enough for me to cancel my ToDos so I stayed back and somehow somehow, so did Dr. Sufi and some other members of the team. Our discussions on the table that day cut across societal vices and what young people can do to make a difference. 

“I’ll be visiting Magajiya Danbatta tomorrow, i think its good if Arewa Agenda team can come along so you can see her and get updates,” Sufi said in an open invitation which we unanimously jumped at and that was how our trip to Danbatta and then Makoda was arranged the following day.

Upon getting into Makoda, a restive town with relics of mud architecture we observed the rich culture and bond of unity among the inhabitants. It was also obvious upon entering the town that cow rearing is one of their mainstay, besides farming of course. 

We took the route that will connect us to “Gidan Magajiya Dambatta” the location of her newly built home from the intervention fund but before we arrived, we had a first stop over for a condolence visit. 

We were greeted by the sad news that Magijiya Dambatta’s younger sister Hauwa had just passed on. 

Ya hakuri, Allah ya jikanta da gafara (condolences over your loss, may Allah have mercy on her),” we all greeted the bereaved in the traditional Hausa culture, then we headed out straight to Magajiya Danbatta’s. 

“Muhammad na Jaafar, ya gajiya, ya kwana biyu, kanwata ta rasu (Jaafar’s Muhammad, how have you been, i just lost my younger sister),” she expressed in a mixed feeling of excitement of Dr. Sufi’s arrival and the sadness of her loss. 

We all paid our condolences to her over the loss, but she did not allow the sadness of her loss cloud the excitement of our visit. In her late 80’s Magajiya Dambatta exuded the aura of an energetic old woman with fresh memories and fun to be with. 

“Yan Jaridu daga Kanon mu,” she quipped rhetorically after Dr. Sufi had told her he was together with some young Journalists from Kano. 

 “Dakata, Goron Dutse, Mariri,” Magajia began to recall names of popular areas in Kano, she then transitioned into naming radio stations and then went down memory lanes of her escapades as a songstress in the 80s. 

Magajiya who started singing at the age of 12 recalled how she met Alhaji (Dr) Mamman Shata Katsina, another legendary singer who thrilled his northern audience and even non hausas for more than half a century with vocals often accompanied by talking drums known as Kalangu.  

“It was during my live performance at radio nigeria Kaduna during its 30yrs anniversary, where I sang my popular song soriyal,” Magajiya reminisced. She then recalled that afterwards, Shata was in 1988 awarded a honorary doctorate degree by Ahmadu Bello University Zaria where she again performed and won the cup. 

She recalled names like Garba Super, Audu Waziri, especially fellow competitor Barmana Shoge and her drummer, Nakoki. She also recalled Musa Makaman Nupe who arranged for her to ride to the Niger State government house. 

She recalled all the places she had been to and performed at with vivid clarity. 

”Are all the Journalists here female?” she inquired after returning from her recollections, but Dr. Sufi clarified that there are four female and three male journalists in the company.

Magajiya with the female crew

“Are you sure nothing has come in between?” she teased, crossing her finger to suggest a conjugal bond between members of the Arewa Agenda team, we all broke into uncontrolled laughter. 

“Probably,” Sufi quipped, still laughing at Magajiya’s joke. 

“So, I hope you are completely off the streets and no longer soliciting for alms again,” Sufi inquired momentarily after the hilarious moment that accompanied Magajiya’s joke eased. 

“It was you guys that laid the rules yourself. You said no more begging, no more unnecessary wanderings and I am adhering strictly to the terms. I get everything I need now, water, household chores, upkeeps and all those, if not that some of the children had spoiled the tap, even the water runs normally but I now have to order from the mai ruwa’s,” She explained patiently in Hausa. 

“But you never told me the tap is spoiled,” Sufi queried but Magajiya offered no explanation. 

“It would be fixed In Sha Allah,” he then concluded. 

A very dramatic and energetic old woman, Magajiya gave us the option to choose from her line of songs which we preferred her to sing for us, we settled for the one she enjoys most. 

Right there, we witnessed first hand how Magajiya transformed to her old self, starting with the song praising Allah and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), her ability to recallect her old lyrics and synchronize them with new words was amazing. She took all the names starting from Jaafar, to Sufi, Yours truly, Zainab, Hannatu, Hajara, Summayya, Manager and sang a praise song for each. 

Magajiya and the crew

There was a mild drama when she came down to Hajara, as she insisted in her song that Hajara will not return to Kano today but will stay in Makoda with her, we all bursted into another round of hilarious laughter. 

“Hajara is our grandmother’s name, that’s why,” her younger brother with over 15years of teaching experience clarified. 

Magajiya was not done with her drama when she insisted that we must play all the recordings for her to listen to, “ai testing, ai testing,” she said, drenched in her excitement and feeling of satisfaction that she was able to entertain us. 

Just before our departure, we were served some plates of white rice and pasta with a relishing stew and sprinkled pieces of Sallah ram meat which she obviously still had preserved to our astonishment. 

Halima Malam Lasan popularly known as Magajiya Danbatta started singing at age 12, she had gone on to thrill her audience with superb advocacy songs such as soriyal, a kai yara makaranta, kishiya among others. 

Today her song a kai yara makaranta is estimated to be about six decades old and contributed massively to the enrolment of children in school back in the days. 

Dahiru, a media strategist and development Journalist is staff writer at PRNigeria, Reporting Fellow ICIR,OCRP, Research and Fact-Checking Fellow Dubawa PTCIJ. He is also the Convener of Arewa Agenda for Sustainable Development, Coordinator of the Network of Advocates for Digital Reporting (NADIR) and Secretary Nigerian Journalists for Climate Action Network (NIJOCAN). 

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