With a graceful gait, the politician dressed in a checked white-and-black embroidered agbada with a patterned cap to match, finds himself surrounded by a group of little children – they are bemused by the ‘stranger’. “My kids, especially the smaller ones, will come around even when I am in a group of friends, asking: ‘Is that our dad?’ They ask that question because they are not used to seeing me often.” Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, tells Adedayo Adejobi in this interview. The versalite federal lawmaker, a first-class graduate of Mass Commnication, talks about his large family of four wives and 22 children, the business of lawmaking and his plan to go back to school
Were there occasions you had to whip into line a member on the floor of the House?
Yes, I have had several causes to whip a member into line. But while whipping, I have had to be diplomatic because the position of Chief Whip is defined by the concept of first among equals as they collectively have the right to whip me out of office.
If elections were to be held today, would APC return to power?
I would want to say yes. As a politician and loyal party member, I will never hope for any failure of my party. I want to say without mincing words that APC will obviously return to power.
People say the fight against corruption is one-sided. What’s your view?
One needs to know that there’s still a mechanism in place to fight corruption. And this is done through established agencies, like the EFCC, ICPC, Nigeria Police Force and the DSS. These agencies have the statutory and institutional rights to fight corruption. Any APC governor that is found guilty or culpable of any charge is also brought to book. I can tell of some governors who have been found culpable. The Senate President, number three citizen of the federation, is also an APC card-carrying member, occupying an APC legislative position and chairman of the National Assembly, is now facing serious charges. Whoever is found culpable will face the wrath of the law and if there is any APC governor found guilty, I believe certainly, he will be brought to book.
According to people, the Senate is supposed to be for mature minds. The Senate seems to be embroiled in all sorts of controversies. What do you think?
I disagree with you. The concept that Senate is for mature minds while the House is for younger ones, is basically not true. A young man of 35 is qualified to contest election and be a senator. Being in the Senate or House of Representatives has nothing to do with your age.
Being a vibrant lawmaker, do you see yourself someday as a senator?
As it is today, there could be other people who may be older than me by their biological age, but I’m the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives because I started as far back as 1992. The likes of Adolphus Wabara, Uzor Orji Kalu, and Bola Tinubu were my colleagues in the National Assembly. I’d rather repeat being a member of the House of Representatives than just pass to the Senate or to be a governor.
Away from politics, what was your childhood expeience?
One obvious thing I know is that I’ was a very controversial boy. I was troublesome. I never allowed anybody to cross my way for unjust reasons. And I identified myself with a cause that would be justifiable. Even when you found me quarrelling with my peers, you would hardly find me guilty. I’ve always found myself in the position of leadership among my peers. From day one, it’s like I was preparing myself as a leader. I’ve not been used to reading. I don’t read, and I’ve never read. If there’s anything that has given me an advantage, it’s that I was trained as a communicator. I studied mass communication. In mass communication, I got a first class degree from Bayero University, Kano, and I have never practised journalism.
Would you have loved to practise?
I would have loved to. I’m still interested in practising. No matter how old I may be, my dream is that at the end of my service as a politician, I will certainly return to the newsroom.
With a very busy schedule, how do you find time to spend with your wives and kids?
If I should be honest with you, I’m a very scarce commodity to my family because of the nature of my engagement as an active grass-roots politician. This role I play has denied me the chance to have a very free relationship with my wives and my kids. That does not mean I deny them their basic entitlements or their basic requirements as my spouses. Without being economical with the truth, my wives are only being patient with me because sometimes I get home very late, sometimes very rarely. My kids, especially the smaller ones, will come round and be asking, even when I’m in a group with some other friends, who is their dad. My own kid, at the age of three or four, will be contemplating: is that my dad? He will be trying to confirm if I’m his dad because he’s not used to me.
How do you find the balance?
The balance is that I make it 50/50. I have been able now to give to my members primarily what they deserve of me. Then at late hours now, my wife joins to come and stay with me and between midnight and seven o’clock when she’s done with me, she goes back to her house and I will go back to my office. Sometimes they can even concede to remain at home to allow me continue my work. Even when I’m staying here in Transcorp, I still eat my local food. They provide my food from the house. I find it necessary to sustain an accessible place where my colleagues can meet me.
You have a very sensitive job because you are faced with the challenge of making decisions. How do you make them?
Most of the decisions I take have to do with our own operations. It’s participatory leadership. While doing that, I gain opinions and ideas from my colleagues.
As a busy man, what keeps you going?
I have been a very busy man but I don’t joke with food. I eat every time, every minute, every hour and as long as I eat, sleep is never my problem. The earliest time I sleep is 3 a.m. And I bet you by seven in the morning, I am awake. It’s the zeal and commitment to serve my people with utmost commitment and sincerity.
What’s that one thing that scares you the most?
Everyone has fears. I think it’s only when I have issues with my parents. That is when I become confused and demoralised.
You must value them so much.
Yes, I do. If I observe a missed call from my dad, my heart will beat more than normal. I will call back to hear from him and hope there is no trouble.
What’s your relationship with your dad like?
It’s a very fine one. I’m the 11th son of my dad. With 10 other seniors, my dad finds me so worthy of what I’m doing. He’s so proud of me. The only thing that scares me is when I have issues with my parents, either my dad or my mum. They are all alive. My grandfather and my grandmother are also still alive and I knew my father’s grandfather and also my mother’s grandfather. Even though two of them are now late, but my grandfather is alive. The grandfather to my mother is also alive. For the purpose of clarification, I’ve never had an issue that went beyond 48 hours with any of them unresolved.
Every time you say someone is sick in my immediate family, I become very worried. And the reason is that I lost my second wife to a headache. This was a lady that I slept in her room and was hale and hearty. By 6 a.m we rose to pray and she told me she had a headache. I went to get her some drugs but before I came from the pharmacy she was dead.
How did you handle it?
It was a very shocking thing. So, any time I hear someone is sick; I will rush until I see him or her alive because I keep on remembering the way and manner I lost my second wife of blessed memory. She gave me one child and died. The child is now in the university.
What values are important to you?
The number one is impacting on the lives of other people, especially those who are impoverished. I value service to humanity. I don’t have much value for money. My only value for money is to have the pleasure of getting it and giving it out.
Who is your hero?
People I can call my heroes are politicians. For instance, the late Mallam Aminu Kano of blessed memory. Even though I knew him while I was young, his genuine stories about the struggle for the common man have endeared me to him and inspired me. Then there is also the former governor of Kano State, the late Abubakar Rimi. These two persons are my heroes.
Can anything stand in your way?
I think fate and the predestination of God are the only things I think that can stand in my way.
From all perspectives, do you feel fulfilled and accomplished?
I think I do. Should I stop everything in life now for whatever reason? I look at myself as an accomplished person and I have every sense of gratitude and appreciation to God Almighty. I have also all sense of gratitude and respect and appreciation to my people. I have done so much for my people. Go to my village. I don’t think there’s anything somebody that served as governor could show me in his village that I’ve not provided to my people. I have done everything for my people.
Could there be anything you feel that you could have done better, generally, not just in politics?
I think I could have done better in my academics.
Even with a first class?
Of course, I had only first degree. I would have furthered my education. But I don’t look at it as late. I’m still contemplating going back to school to earn my second or even doctoral degree.
If you have 24 hours to live, what would you do?
If I have 24 hours, that would be total submission to the cause of God so that at the end of my life, I will have the blessings and go into paradise.
You are no doubt a fashionable man.
Being a member of the House of Representatives, I am conscious of my dressing. If you come from a background like mine, we are always very conscious of our mode of dressing. I consciously dress in line with my tradition. Most times I wear traditional attire. I always want to be clean and neat.
How do you see politics?
Politics in the Nigerian context is a very difficult one. The kind of politics we play is never the kind we should play, especially when you look at the way and manner it is being operated. A situation whereby the political culture is always tagged against material values, as being the factor of attraction, then there will always be a problem.
On a final note, can you share with us how you met your wives?
I think this may be too confidential for me to discuss. For me, it’s immoral by my faith (to discuss that). All I can tell you is that I have four wives and I have 22 kids.