There is time for everything in life. There is a time to be born and a time to die but, in between the two times, one has the opportunity to choose the type of life he wants to live. Some have passion to acquire wealth, some houses, some exotic cars, some clothes, some, especially women, jewelry, some shoes. On the marital side, some men have chosen to remain with one wife, some with more than one, while few others abstain from getting married either on religious grounds or on personal basis. However, for the late Malam Muhammad Abubakar Bello Masaba, he chose to marry dozens of wives and subsequently gave birth to scores of children. Masaba, as he was popularly called, came into limelight in 2008 when his romantic lifestyle was exposed. As of that time, he was 88 years and had 113 wives out of which seven died and 20 divorced, leaving him with 86 wives and 190 children.
LIFE BEFORE 1980
Our correspondent reliably gathered Masaba was a traditional healer and thus exposed to all kinds of people who trooped to his three-storey building located in Kota Woro Area of Bida, Niger State, seeking for one spiritual help or the other. Meanwhile, before relocating to Bida, Masaba, who was a Grade Two Teacher Certificate holder, had worked with the UAC and Bacita Sugar Company for several years. He lived in Lagos for about 39 years from where he married some of his wives.
LIFESTYLE AND TRAVAILS
More than ten years on arrival in Bida after his relocation from Lagos, nobody seemed to know him until 2008 when he he narrated his lifestyle including marriage and the number of children he had to journalists. He also claimed to be very versed in Islam thus drawing attention from the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, and many other Islamic clerics within and outside Niger State who dissociated themselves from him. The Bida Emirate Council saw his limelight and lifestyle as a threat and, therefore, summoned him for a meeting held at the Wadata palace of the Etsu Nupe where he was rebuked and scolded for allegedly tarnishing the image of Islam and directed him to divorce 82 of the wives then and be left with only four, which is the highest by Islamic standard, and promised that the 82 divorced will be taken care of by the state Shariah Commission while the children will be taken care by the state Social Welfare Department. He rejected the overture. The state government, under Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu, after studying the development, saw the action as a threat to peace in the state and, therefore, ordered his arrest on the 15th of September 2008 and was also arraigned before an Upper Shariah Court in Minna same day. He was charged with insulting or exciting to contempt of religious creed, deceitfully inducing belief of lawful marriage and marriage ceremony without lawful marriage as well as keeping 86 women illegally against Islamic laws contrary to Sections 210, 383 and 386 of the Penal Code respectively. He pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge and it took over one month to secure his bail as he was detained at the Minna prisons but later discharged and remained in Bida with his wives children and numerous followers, despite the banishment order placed on him by the Bida Emirate Council. While still in detention and struggling for his bail, some of his wives and children, led by Hajiya Hafusat Bello, who is the daughter of First Republic Minister from Ilorin, Kwara State, stormed Minna and headed for Niger State House of Assembly and Secretariat to protest the detention of their benefactor. Hafusat, in an interview with our correspondent then, queried the arrest and detention. “Nobody in the family of baba is complaining; I have been married to baba for over 20 years with four children and without any problem and I can also tell you that none of us the wives or children is complaining or lacking anything,” she said. “If we the wives are not complaining, if our children and parents are not complaining, why is the state government, the Shariah Commission or the Etsu Nupe is complaining. Some of the people complaining have only two wives and they have settled homes but here we are about 86 wives and over 100 children and we are not complaining; they should leave baba, we the wives and children alone”. One of the children involved in the protest then, Moroof Bello, described their father as a God-fearing man, saying, “As a God-fearing man and who has been keeping all of us under the same roof peacefully for many years, I don’t see any reason anybody, including government, should be worried about our family. They should leave us alone because nobody is capable of taking good care of us except baba”. The protesters stormed Minna in a 32-seater bus, another Mazda bus and a Pony car. That protest happened about seven years ago with Masaba wearing a larger than life stature. With his demise, last week, the expectation from many people was that the wives and followers would have started deserting the house in search of a better life. But the wives, children and followers have remained in Masaba’s three-storey building with the belief that their husband, father and leader is not dead and will continue to provide for them.
LIFE AFTER MASABA
At the last count, Masaba had 130 surviving wives and 203 children. The youngest of the children is about one year old while seven of the wives are pregnant. Besides the nucleus family members, Masaba headed a religious sect called HALIHUMOT NABIYI ISLAMIC ORGANIZATION OF NIGERIA. However, it is very difficult to draw the line between the nucleus family members of the deceased and the followers. They are all working and presenting themselves as one, from the same family, but, beyond that, the question is, who takes over the leadership of the family and the sect? Who will now fend for the family? Will the dozens of wives especially remain in Masaba’s house as widows for the rest of their lives? Our correspondent reliably gathered that the house hold is temporarily under the control of Masaba’s Personal Assistant, P.A., Alhaji Mutairu Abubakar Bello. In an interview, the P.A., said, “Since the demise of Masaba, Allah has been sustaining and strengthening the wives and children, and He will continue to provide for their needs. Baba prepared for us ahead of his death, so no member of his family will suffer. “Baba prepared us for a time like this before he died. We believe that though he is late, he is still with us. He has only changed position. “On who succeeds him, that question does not arise now. Baba was Allah sent and so, at the appropriate time, Allah will choose who succeeds him”. On the possibility of the widows remarrying, Bello said, “That is a no-go area. Let us leave that aspect as it is because it is beyond anybody.” Some of the widows of Masaba were seen in their apartments in the large three-storey building looking robust, radiating and unperturbed. They were barred from speaking to Sunday Vanguard. They simply acknowledged greetings from all those who came on a condolence visit. The first son of the mystery polygamist, Mahmud Bello, in a brief interview, described his father as a man who gave all he had to Islam and mankind. “Our father was loving, God-fearing and was never a trouble maker despite several attempts to provoke him and he imbibed this idea into us, especially on how to live in peace with one another despite differences in religion, culture and tribe and we have been doing that,” he said. The first daughter of Masaba, a graduate of business administration from Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Fatima Bello, also spoke, saying their father had been talking to them in parable on his demise “but we never knew that it would be as sudden as it came”. “Even when I heard that he was dead, something continued to tell me that he was still with us and not dead. He dedicated his life to Islam and with the work he has done, the stars he left behind are still shining and the good works he did cannot perish”, she stated “On feeding the entire household after our father, I can tell you that we cannot starve. We believe in God. The God that helped our father to sustain us this far will never leave us”. One of the numerous followers and an in-law to Masaba, Malam Jibrin Musa Bello, said he was very proud to be related to the late Islamic cleric, adding that he came in contact with Masaba through his teaching before he developed interest in her daughter- Zainab. Another follower,Ojulari, who came with no fewer than eighteen people from Lagos to attend the Fidau prayers for Masaba, said he missed the Janizar prayers due to late information, saying, “I have lost a father, a mentor and a spiritual leader”.