ENDSARS: I SUPPORT THE CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY FOUGHT: An Interview with Ibraheem Dooba
By Hussaina Shabafu (Literature Voices)
Dr. Ibraheem Dooba studied Journalism, Psychology, Media Law, Business Management, Business and Administration. He has a PhD in Information Technology. He is the author of ‘The Social Science of Muhammad’, ‘Rhymes from Africa’, ‘Again, does God Exist’, ‘Manipulating the Manipulators’, ‘Why Rats Lick their Babies and How to Lick Yours’, ‘Master Multiplication Tables in Three Days’, and a number of other titles.
Hussaina: Thank you for granting this interview.
Dooba: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed.
Hussaina: I read you are a dabbler into many fields across four continents. This is very impressive and inspirational. You must be passionate about learning. How did you manage to dabble across these fields of study and how many years did it take you to acquire the certificates from these continents? What has been your greatest achievement in life as a dabbler in various fields?
Dooba: I love learning. As a boy, even though I did well in school, I never wanted to go for even the first degree. I learned very early that my people were poor and hungry. So, I wanted to become a merchant, make a lot of money and feed my entire town. My friend, with whom I made the pact, wanted a simple office job. Surprisingly, he is the one who is the international businessman today and I am the one with many degrees and an office job. Which is okay. Alhamdulillah, I have academic qualifications in at least seven areas: Journalism, Psychology, Media Law, Business Management, Business and Administration, Information Technology, Data Science, etc.
Hussaina: You mentioned in your book that you hate writing. Although you have been a columnist for about two decades, and as a columnist, a weekly column is expected to be written. It’s strange to come across a writer that hates writing. What is the meaning of that statement?
Dooba: I got my first master’s degree at the age of 22 at the same time I started writing for national publications. I’ve been writing for 20 years – at least I’ve been maintaining a column for that long. I’ve authored many books too.
I don’t know of my biggest achievement. It’s certainly not the PhD because, I didn’t get to do a PhD in a field that I wanted. But I won a scholarship and didn’t want to wait.
But my latest book, The Social Science of Muhammad (SAW) comes close to my biggest achievement. The book has been accepted internationally and it has changed many people’s lives in at least five areas.
I don’t like writing. Period! For example, I like reading. I can go out of my way to get a book or anything to read. But that is also my curse. Because when you read, you learn something new. And whatever I learn; I want to share. That was why I became a teacher. But as a teacher, you have a limited audience; however, with writing, thousands or even millions can learn from you.
And that is what happened in my case. Many people, for example, have done their Ph.Ds because of something I wrote. Broken families have been mended because I inspired them. It is very scary. I always remind myself that I know nothing and even my children sometimes don’t follow my advice, so to hear a stranger saying “you changed my life” is humbling.
So that is one reason why I write: to teach. The second reason is to put food on the table. Sometimes you have to do what you don’t like so that you can be independent and not a liability to society.
Hussaina: How did you become a newspaper columnist? Which papers do you write for? What are the motives?
Dooba: I’ve written for the Tribune. I’ve written for Success Digest. I was a columnist with the Leadership and I have remained consistent with the Daily Trust. I’ve been writing my column (Prof. Brainy) in Trust for 20 years.
The first motivation was to get one’s name in print. It was exciting. I started writing opinions for magazines and newspapers in my teenage years. Then, I wrote for free. But now I no longer write for free. Like I said, it is not something I enjoy. So, if I have to suffer through it, I should be paid for my time. However, I can teach for free, read for free or plant trees for free. These are the things I enjoy doing. And writing can be lucrative. As a foreign student, I made quite some money writing and editing academic papers for other students. Another motivation like I said before is that writing is a platform through which one can reach many people, to teach many and earn lots of reward from God.
Hussaina: You were booted out as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Niger State after a row with members of the Niger state House of Assembly. Why do writers find it difficult to work with politicians?
Dooba: No one ‘booted me out’ but I resigned. I don’t know about writers not being able to work with politicians. But I felt I wouldn’t compromise my integrity by continuing the work in that environment. While working with Niger State Government, I had job offers abroad that would pay me ten times what the government was paying. You know Amazon.com? I was being headhunted by Amazon. Convert $200,000 to $300,000 per year to naira and see how much that is. I also had an academic job in the United States. So, I wasn’t desperate for a job to the extent that someone would fire me. Indeed, the State Assembly in their ignorance, said I should be fired, but Governor Abubakar Sani Bello isn’t the sacking type. How many people has he sacked?
I left because it wasn’t only the state assembly that had problems with me – even journalists, especially the correspondents chapel in the Government House had problems with me. There were also people in the Government House who didn’t care about my principles. So, it became a gang up. And I became the news. I shouldn’t be the news, my principal, the Governor should be the news. I told my wife that it wasn’t worth it and i sent a resignation letter to the Governor through a text message and copied his wife and the Chief of Staff. I then switched off my phone. You can ask any of the three for confirmation.
But people keep saying that I was fired without any evidence. Even the SSG sent me an acceptance of my resignation. But they didn’t send it immediately because they wanted me to come back. When the Governor’s friends asked him of my whereabouts, he would say he didn’t know. He didn’t tell them I texted him of my resignation because everyone expected me to come back.
My main problem with the chapel was that of payment and I told them I’m not your employer so I’m not going to pay you for doing your job. You can report whatever you want. I told them. I also have a pen and can write better than most of them.
First, they came to me that the former governor paid them one million per month, so if I wasn’t going to increase it, I shouldn’t reduce it. Then, the government didn’t have any money. But I told them that even if we did, I wouldn’t pay; I would rather use the money for our people. I was a foreign correspondent and never encountered that nonsense before. But I didn’t have problems with the NUJ. Indeed, I was the one who started paying NUJ N200,000 per month from my own overhead to maintain their secretariat. Go and ask them. As for the State Assembly, journalists reported from me that the commissioners list had been sent to the speaker. Obviously, the list had not reached them or was withdrawn. So, they invited me to come and tell them of my source. I told them I couldn’t reveal my source but that I took full responsibility. So, they asked me to leave. Here is why I’ve never been afraid of losing a job: I will get a better one.
Immediately I left Minna and relocated to Abuja, I started consulting for some state governments and other entities. El Rufai’s government invited me and paid for my accommodation. Same thing with Sokoto and Adamawa.
Meanwhile, my parents were overjoyed that I left the government. Even when the Governor asked me to take another appointment, my parents said no. My wife also balked at my going back. “I don’t want you to be associated with failure,” she said.
But the Governor kept telling me privately that I was one of those he trusted. So, my parents grudgingly allowed me to go back with a couple of conditions.
Even then, it took four months before I got the appointment letter because there were people in government who didn’t want me back. One day, I was at the editorial board meeting at Daily Trust when I received a call that the Governor wanted to meet me and my colleagues. Before then, I politely dodged those meetings. But this time, I was pissed, so I told them to tell the Governor that I didn’t have an appointment letter so I couldn’t come. He said I should resume even without appointment letter. So, I don’t have any problem with the Governor whom I think means well for the people.
Hussaina: You look like an introvert at a glance but your writings betray your simple appearance. What life philosophies are resident in you that propels your relationship with people and community? Do they inform your writings and public speaking?
Dooba: I’m an introvert. One simple way to determine whether you are an extrovert or introvert is how you recharge. When you are spent, do you recharge by joining a group of friends or you prefer to be alone? I prefer to be alone. But people can mistake that for timidity. I’m rather outspoken, even in meetings with my superiors and bosses. Some people misconstrue that as arrogance.
My philosophy in life is to make any place better than you met it; to make everyone better than you met them. Never be afraid of standing up for the truth and justice. Also, I don’t count a day complete without learning something new. I’ve read over 100 books in 2020 already.
Hussaina: You said somewhere that you were passionate about tree planting. How has that helped in shaping your life and the society?
Dooba: We have three trillion trees in the world today. The Amazon forest alone has over 200 billion trees. But that is not enough. My new project is to plant 200 million trees in Nigeria. One for every citizen. I plant trees for many reasons. As a Muslim, if you plant a tree, you benefit from it even when you’re gone. People take shade, make medicine and eat of it. Animals eat and take shelter in it. My friend who is a sheikh told me that the benefits of planting a tree are more than having a child. You don’t know what the child will become but you can never lose with a tree. I love planting fruit trees especially. I love teaching youth how they can become millionaires by planting trees and how they can turn one tree to 100 trees.
Hussaina: You recently organized a mentoring programme for students in Minna which I participated in. Could you talk about it, briefly? Why such intervention and from where? Have you considered adding a writing class to the boot camp?
Dooba: Northern Nigeria is not where it should be in education. I think the only way to leapfrog in education is through mentoring. A mentor in a field knows all the challenges and the mistakes to avoid. They also know the shortcuts. So mentoring is the best and fastest way to achieve professionalism. That is why we created Mentor10 which is an initiative to get professionals in Arewa to mentor at least 10 people who will eventually also train 10 people. In Minna, we started with Mentor10 Software Engineering which was a success because some of our graduates were able to secure jobs immediately.
I’ve already done a boot camp on writing before. It was called “How to Write Your Book in Seven Days.” It was a success in the sense that even though not many participants finished their books in seven days, many started writing the book ideas that they were keeping off for many years. They also learned valuable skills that would help them for life. I may organise the writing boot camp again in the future.
Hussaina: The Social Science of Muhammad is a wonderful read. It touches everyday life as taught by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) centuries ago which the Sciences are getting to validate in recent times. Why did you write the book? Who is the target? What is the reach of your audience, so far?
Dooba: Many scholars and professors have written about hard sciences and how Islam foretold the discoveries in those fields such as biology. But there is scant attention on the social sciences and what the new studies are preaching about happiness and success. They fit snugly into what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) practised a thousand and a half years ago.
For example, let’s take positive psychology or the science of happiness, what Martin Seligman has discovered about optimism, what Robert Emmons now understands about gratitude or what a Professor teaches about the importance of patience are all in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Muhammad, may peace be upon him. So, I saw a gap and filled it. Therefore, I wrote the book for myself and other Muslims so they can rediscover their religion from the perspective of social sciences – especially psychology. Fortunately for me, even non-Muslims appreciate the book and I received wonderful reviews from North America, Southeast Asia and even in Africa, readers as far as Tanzania have commended the book. But most importantly, readers said that the book has changed their lives in many areas such as parenting, waking early and so forth.
Hussaina: You are someone whose writings seek for the appropriation of society. In fact, you come to me as Abubakar Gimba. Recently, the Nigerian youth went on the street to ENDSARS. Thereafter, youths in some states began agitating for good governance and care. Do you think the Nigerian leadership of today; the Nigerian society, has been fair to the young people?
Dooba: Thank you for comparing my writing to that of the great Abubakar Gimba. Even as a child, I wanted to be like him.
Regarding the #EndSARS protest, I didn’t join the protest and discouraged the people I know from joining. However, I support the cause for which they fought. Police abuses are terrible in this country. It is simply appalling. Not only the police, other men in uniform abuse civilians all the time. But I didn’t join the protest because it had the potential to be hijacked and it was.
About leaders not being fair to the youth is also a misnomer. Nigeria has always been ruled by youth. So, if they have not been fair to the youth, it means they have not been fair to themselves. Since the First Republic, the time of Balewa, to time of the military, all those who governed Nigeria have been youth. Of course, Obasanjo as a civilian President was old, but what about the people who worked with him? At what age was El Rufai made a minister? At what age did Tinubu become governor?The person who encouraged me to join politics was 35 when he became a governor in the Northwest during Obasanjo’s time as a civilian president. So, we should request for the right leadership not a youthful leadership. For example, in the First Republic we had a Senate President, Dr Orizu, who was only 34, but an ex-convict. He was a criminal. So, criminals have been ruling us for years.
Hussaina: As a writer, assess the state of Nigerian public primary and secondary schools in meeting the challenges of a modern-day development needs of Nigeria?
Dooba: I’m also a teacher having taught both at nursery, primary, secondary and the university levels. So, I should assess the current situation as a teacher instead of a writer. Everything is wrong with our education. Research has shown that education reduces poverty. Research traced the power of poverty reduction to a good teacher. Yes, the best thing in the school is the teacher. Still, the quality of our teachers is poor. But it is not too late. If you can give tablets to our kids in schools many problems would be solved, even that of poor teachers. Because the best instructions and content can be uploaded to the tablet and multiplied. Technology has solved many problems. It can solve this one too.
Hussaina: In your book, you said “beating children may breed violence in the society”. What are you driving at?
Dooba: Yes, I observed in my book that beating children could lead to violence in society. That was based on the data collected by countries which collect such data. Also, IslamQA.info advised a certain woman who beat her child not to do so because beating children can lead to violence in society.
For example, in America, many parents smack their children and we have a lot of violence there. American Psychological Association advised parents: “Teach your children that it is better to settle arguments with calm words, not fists, threats or weapons. And most importantly, don’t hit your children. “Researchers examined 50 years of research in this area involving 160,000 children and concluded that smacking children leads to higher aggression and mental health issues in them.
Hussaina: You have a foundation called Dooba Foundation. What is it about? Why are there many foundations these days? Is it due to the failure of society at government and home level? What is the reach of your foundation, it looks quiet?
Dooba: It is about empowering youth and women. We do basically four things:
- We give monthly grant of N2,500 to 60 women, many of them old, some of them widows. But we have stopped that now because I was paying from my pocket and I can’t afford it now.
- Revolving loans to women for small businesses by partnering with Edumana Microfinance Bank Bida.
- Giving youth cooperatives 1,000 seedlings of trees to plant in each local government.
- Skills acquisition training for our target group of youth and women.
The foundation is quiet because we don’t advertise what we do. We do what we do for Allah.
Hussaina: I have noticed you don’t belong to any writer’s organisation. You look a lonely fellow even while working in an intense environment. Why?
Dooba: I don’t belong to many organisations. Like I told you, I’m an introvert. If not because my religion mandates socialisation, and psychology says mingling with people is the key to success and happiness, I would have preferred to stay at home to read, sleep and write.
Hussaina: The administration before yours was all out for writers. They even established a book agency among numerous other things. The book agency under the administration you serve is dead. And with all the agitations to revive it, you are nowhere to be found. What should be done to return the place to its former glory?
Dooba: Every government has its areas of priority. For example, this government didn’t prioritize the Book Agency but it has prioritized the whole school renovation programme which the previous government did not.
I was nowhere to be found? I didn’t know about any agitation. Whenever I am asked to help literary organisations or causes with the government, I always do my best. There was a time I got a donation of N500,000 from the state for a literary cause here in Minna not long ago and that was not the only time. I also have charitable causes and this government has never given me anything to support them. This is because I feel more comfortable asking for others than asking for myself.
Hussaina: What is next on the stable of your pen?
Dooba: Right now, I’m working on “The Secret of Straight-A Students” with the subtitle “Study Less, Have Fun, remember 400% More and Be Better than Your professor.”
Hussaina: Thank you, sir.
Hussaina Gimba Shabafu is a graduate of Biochemistry from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She is a poet and a member of the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation. She writes from Minna, Niger State, Nigeria. Emailfirstname.lastname@example.org, Instagram-Hussna_g, Facebook-Hussaina Gimba Shabafu, Twitter;HGS