He said the decision became necessary in order to save his son from embarrassment, humiliation and attacks by people who thought he was named after Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), whose regime he said had become unpopular because of his “poor performance and unfavourable policies”.
Matagwa, who delights in naming his children after his role models, including Dino Melaye, tells CHIMA AZUBUIKE about his habit of naming his children after popular persons
What do you do?
I’m a businessman. I sell domestic gas for a living. I’m a one-time Special Assistant to the immediate former Governor of Gombe State, Hassan Dankwambo. I’m doing fine as a person. My business is going on well. I have four wives and 18 children – nine boys and nine girls.
You recently changed the name of one of your sons from Buhari to Kwankwaso, so what is his name now?
Rabiu Kwankwaso Salisu.
What does Islam say about changing of names?
Islam supports it. In the Holy Quran, there was an instance when Prophet Muhammad told someone to change his name because the name was not good for him. The name at that time was not the name of a good person. Such a name is capable of affecting the bearer.
Why did you name your son Buhari in the first place?
Well, I named him Buhari about nine years ago. He was born on January 1, 2011. At the time, Buhari was not the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I named him after Salisu Buhari (a former Speaker of the House of Representatives) because of my love and respect for him. My name is Salisu so I simply called my son Buhari; that was how I had to blend the name.
Are you related to Salisu Buhari?
No, we are not related. I always admired him when he was in the House of Representatives (Salisu Buhari), so when my wife had our son, I named him after the honourable gentleman. If I see him now, I won’t be able to recognise him as it has been a while since I saw him. The same goes for Kwankwaso; he doesn’t know me.
What impressed you about Salisu Buhari at the time?
He was vocal; he was a ‘guy man’. He was a good dresser. The way he wore caps was unique; he could be said to be a very brilliant person. He had unique way of doing things.
But Salisu Buhari was convicted of forging the certificate of the University of Toronto and impeached, why didn’t you change the name of your son then?
The bad record which you just pointed out didn’t affect my admiration for the man. His removal from office really hurt me. I still appreciate his kind of politics. In fact, my last son was named Dino Melaye.
You said you changed your son’s name because Buhari’s popularity had dwindled, what was the experience when Buhari was still popular?
Buhari’s popularity has not only dwindled, it is as low as 20 per cent. Nobody admires him or his style of politics in my area. When Buhari was popular, my son was loved, and everyone played with him. But despite the admiration he enjoyed, I was still not pleased because deep down, I knew the President would disgrace his admirers and supporters, and it might bounce back on my son. Then when people saw my son, they would hold him. They would call him President Buhari; he really enjoyed the warmth.
Did the name bring your son any benefits when Buhari was popular?
As you know, there were people who could not afford to see the President but when they saw my son, they were really pleased. Some would buy him gifts, show him love and honour him. When people saw me and my son, they would simply say, ‘Mugode’ (Thank you), although I didn’t vote for him. No one gave me anything. What we enjoyed was the love and salute people gave us, but I didn’t really like it because my son’s namesake was Salisu Buhari and not Muhammadu Buhari.
Now that Buhari is no longer popular, according to you, how did your child’s experience change?
They kept calling the young boy ‘General Buhari’ everywhere he went. Once they heard his name, they would shout ‘General President’, thinking he was named after the President. I didn’t like the boy then, even as the father because I was not pleased with the person people thought the he was named after. I didn’t show the boy adequate love; I regretted naming him Buhari because of the negative perceptions attached to the name.
You spoke about embarrassment, harassment and attacks, how has your son been experiencing that?
Yes, many times, when people saw him outside, they would start beating him. Some went to the extent of insulting him, telling him how they were suffering. And I cannot go everywhere with him.
Even when he (now Rabiu, formerly Buhari) visited his maternal grandmother, it was worse. It got to a point when she called me to complain about the incessant cases of harassment my son was going through, even in her house. She pleaded with me to do something about the name; that was in 2019. I had to promise her that on Rabiu’s forthcoming birthday; I would formally change his name, which I did on January 1, 2020.
There was an instance when someone went to my mother-in-law, Rabiu’s grandmother, to accuse him of being a bad person and making the masses suffer. The old woman simply corrected them, telling them the boy was not President Buhari. Since most of them couldn’t see President Buhari to beat, what many people in my neighbourhood did was to beat the only Buhari they could see. They beat him as if they were beating President Buhari.
You said Buhari’s performance has made him unpopular, how would you describe his regime?
It can simply be described as ‘poor performance’. People are suffering. If you sample the views of 1,000 people, before you see one person to attest to good things about this regime, you would have suffered. In one of my houses, there was a time we lost a neighbour; the person died of hunger. Sometimes, I see housewives who fetch ‘Tapasa leaves’, add some salt and boil them to eat. There is no form of achievement that can be credited to this regime. As I’m talking to you, there has been no electricity in my house for some time. We don’t have electricity, thanks to Jos Electricity Distribution Company.
President Buhari promised that we would buy fuel at cheap rate per litre but fuel is N145 per litre. He said rice would be cheap, where are the cheap bags of rice now? He also directed that our borders should be closed so that foreign rice would stop coming in. If he is truly sincere, he should show us the type of rice he consumes. I’m almost certain he eats foreign rice.
But there are many people who believe he is doing well, why are you so convinced that he has not done well?
God is testing us, that is why He gave us Buhari. He wants to test Nigeria and Nigerians; if not, we couldn’t have had President Buhari. People are suffering; it is not easy to maintain 18 children and four wives. Talk to people in Gombe, they will tell you it is not easy.
I’ve yet to see any achievement that can be credited to this regime. Those that can tell you that are people in the Government House because they benefit from government. If you meet with the downtrodden people, they will tell you the true situation. If you go to Gombe Main Market, no one will be able to tell you anything positive about this regime.
Even if you go to Aso Rock, there are those who will agree with me. He didn’t even win in Abuja in the last election. If you attempt to display your love for this government, if you are not lucky, people will beat you up. I want to advise those whose children bear Buhari to quickly change the name to avoid objects of unnecessary hatred.
When he was being called General Buhari, what did you think about it?
I will answer you by citing examples: when the court ruled that Ibrahim El-Zakzaky (Islamic Movement in Nigeria leader), Omoyele Sowore (SaharaReporters publisher), and Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), should be released on bail, what did he do, until recently? If there is no court, there is no democracy, and no government.
If not because of rule of law, you would have seen people going to Aso Rock to beat Buhari up. He has been using force as if he is in a military regime, but this a democracy. That is why he is being called General Buhari. He should change his ways and obey court judgments. If he does that, no one will call him General Buhari.
Are you a Shiite Muslim?
I’m not a Shiite and I’m not Sunni. I’m a Muslim. I follow Dahiru Bauchi and so many others. Is Sowore a Muslim but when he was unlawfully detained, I protested. I love (Goodluck) Jonathan and I voted him in 2015.
What if Buhari and his policies somehow become popular again or he does well in your view, will you change your son’s name again?
No, I’m telling you that even before Buhari became the President, I was not pleased with his method of doing things. If I knew Buhari would become the President, I would not have named my son Buhari. He can’t become popular again because he won’t change his mind. So don’t deceive yourself. I knew Buhari as a military head of state and I have known him since 2015, he can’t change.
Apart from Rabiu Kwankwaso’s popularity, what else made you name your child Kwankwaso? Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is humane. Integrity is his watchword and he is very fearless. The only fear he has is the fear of God. He is a lover of the masses. He sponsored the education of thousands of poor people abroad. He doesn’t know me and has never seen me.
How are you sure that money he is spending on philanthropy did not come from public funds?
No, he is doing it with his money. He once said he could sell where he was sleeping because of the poor people that he sponsored their education abroad.
But are you aware that there are people in Kano who also believe that Kwankwaso did not do well and don’t like him?
I know if such people exist at all, they are just 10 per cent of the population. If you go to Kano today, you will still feel his impact as a former governor of the state. He is a human being; that is why I gave him 90 per cent and not 100 per cent.
Buhari is human being too?
You can’t compare the two. Buhari can’t get 90 per cent; the maximum score he may get is 10 -20 per cent for his achievement.
Did you seek your child’s opinion before you changed his name?
Yes, I did. The young boy was already fed up with the insults and harassment he was getting. I told him I would change his name to Rabiu Kwankwaso. I asked if he liked Kwankwaso and he said yes. I showed him the picture of Kwankwaso and he said, ‘Yes, I love the name’. Even his siblings were happy with the name change.
How did you inform him that you wanted to change his name?
I simply took a stroll with him and informed him about my promise to his grandmother that I would change his name. I showed him Kwankwaso’s picture so that he would have a mental picture of his namesake.
His mother was very pleased; she bought a fowl to celebrate alongside the ram I had slaughtered.
How about his records in school which bears Salisu Buhari, have you also changed his name there too?
I have changed his name in all his records and in their register and he was pleased.
You said many people had commended you for the decision, what kind of commendations have you received?
People have been talking about it whilst many have been commending me. There was a man that visited me recently. I didn’t know him. He said he was told about my son’s naming ceremony. He came with cartons of soft drinks. He asked me to give my guests. Someone gave me a ram after the one I bought had already been slaughtered. Someone also gave me N3,000.
You said your decision would go down well in the annals of history, why do you think so?
Kwankwaso is a man of integrity. Even after I leave this world, my son will rejoice that his father did what was good enough for his future. Even when Kwankwaso passes on, many people will say there is one that is from Gombe. If I have additional children, because I’m not stopping at 18 children yet, I will name them Rabiu Kwankwaso II and so on.