By Gambo Dori
TO truly understand the current imbroglio in Kano and why the political elite there have largely been at loggerheads with the royalty, we must take some steps to some years back.GOVERNOR Abdullahi Ganduje and Emir, Muhammadu Sanusi 11.
We might have to go down to the 1950s to view those times when political parties were beginning to evolve in the Northern Region. Two major political parties emerged. The first and what became the dominant party was the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, which was nurtured and supported by all the Emirs who were then at the helm of affairs in the Native Authorities, NA.
The second party that emerged which became the opposition from the 1950s up till the end of the First Republic was the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, and it had most of its adherents in Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Bauchi, Gusau, Funtua and Jos. The NEPU was a very radical and ideology-driven party, largely populated by what Bryn Sharwood Smith in his book,But Always as Friends, called,‘the market rabble, the young unemployables and those with a grudge against the society whose laws they had broken’.
But their leadership was something else. Aminu Kano, as the name clearly implied was a son of Kano city. He became the dominant personality in the party. He was well educated, a scion of the famous Katsina College and had a good paying job as a teacher. He was well-connected to the aristocracy having come from the Genawa clan, one of the four Fulani clans that ousted the Hausa aristocracy during the Jihad of early 19th Century. His father was even a mufti in the Alkali Court in Kano. Yet by some quirk of personality Aminu Kano decided on a lifelong crusade against the establishment.
Even in 1950, Bryan Sharwood Smith, then Kano Resident (equivalent to governor now) had described Aminu Kano as ‘a compelling conversationalist with an original mind and considerable organising ability; he was possessed of great charm when he elected to exercise it. But from his school days onwards he had been constantly at odds with authority, a tendency that brought him into early conflict with the emir’.
Emir Sanusi absent as Ganduje takes oath of office(Opens in a new browser tab)
The NPC on the other hand was a party of the establishment largely dominated by the NA employees and those closely related or sympathetic to the aristocracies. Sardaunan Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello; Shettima Kashim Ibrahim, Aliyu Makaman Bida, Mohammadu Ribadu, and other notables of the NPC were either aristocrats or title holders in one of the emirates or the other. The emirs, like the British administrative officers, were expected to be non-partisan but in reality they could not be apolitical as their very survival was at stake. The emirs were particularly hostile to NEPU who were committed to making them irrelevant in the scheme of things. This was particularly so in Kano which was considered the birthplace of NEPU. The Emir, then, was the revered Abdullahi Bayero, but in the early 1950s he was an old man in the last days of his 27-year reign.
REVEALED: How Dangote saved Sanusi from being dethroned (Opens in a new browser tab)
He had then left much of the running of the affairs of the emirate in the hands of his very able son, the charismatic prince, Chiroma, Muhammadu Sanusi. The Chiroma was an effective enforcer as a prince and became even more so when he became emir in 1953, making sure that despite NEPU’s initial upsurge in Kano, the party was routed in election after election. Besides that, the NA, headed by the emir, which had control of both the police and judiciary, made staying in Kano impossible for many prominent NEPU stalwarts. They could be arrested and jailed on the flimsiest offences.
Many of them relocated complete with their families to more amenable places. I knew many of them who lived in Maiduguri in the late 1950s and 1960s. In Maiduguri they found a convivial atmosphere and were welcomed by a flourishing NEPU local group made up of stalwarts such as Umaru Orante, Adamu Sawaba, Garba Kano and Boyina Bala and of course their allies in Borno Youth Movement, Ibrahim Imam, Basharu and the like.
One of the most prominent NEPU stalwarts, Aliyu Akilu, then a traditional tailor lived in the alley way behind our family home in Fezzan ward in a rented quarters close to Bukar Mulima’s. Whenever I was going to or returning from primary school, I used to walk past the house and I would see him sitting on a mat, his head bent busily sewing embroidery patterns on gowns. It was much later in life when he had moved back to Kano that I realised that he was one of the greatest Hausa poets in print – very much in the class of Saadu Zungur, Mua’azu Hadejia and Mudi Spikin. No wonder Aliyu Akilu was recognised with a national honour of MFR during the Second Republic and Bayero University also bestowed on him an honorary Degree in 1999, the year he died.
Malam Lawan Dambazau, an ideologue of NEPU, also lived in Maiduguri for many years. He was a renowned Islamic scholar, established and superintended over one of the first Islamiyya schools in Maiduguri, there at Duriyan Tanda, off Babban line. He would later return to Kano, stand for election in 1979 and become a leading figure in the House of Assembly. It was this group and others scattered in Jos, Zaria and other towns, traumatised for years by the Native Authority in Kano, that headed home after the 1966 coup when all political activities were outlawed by the new military regime. By then Kano NA itself had changed a lot. Emir Sanusi himself had fallen foul of the political juggernauts in Kaduna and had to abdicate in March 1963. The emir that succeeded him, Muhammadu Inuwa Abbas, had a brief tenure of barely six months before he died. Ado Bayero, who succeeded him was a more cosmopolitan figure and accommodated the returnees with open arms.
In the new military regime NEPU as a group had a golden opportunity to regroup. While the NPC had lost its leading lights Sardauna Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa who were killed by mutinous soldiers, the NEPU leader, Aminu Kano, became a stabilising figure in those days when the country was in danger of breaking up. The new military administration of General Gowon courted him and named him a minister, representing Kano State. Aminu Kano even had input into the cabinet of Governor Audu Bako in his home state of Kano where NEPU stalwarts like Tanko Yakasai and Inuwa Dutse were named commissioners.
Many others in the NEPU group in Kano assumed relevance and greater responsibilities and were able to secure and empower their political structures. It was therefore no surprise that when the chips were down in the 1979 election they had a runaway victory at all levels in Kano under the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, which was an outcrop of the NEPU. Whether in the PRP or any of the parties that came after, I find Kano political elite always wanting to see themselves as heirs to the heritage of Malam Aminu Kano. They imitate the way he talked and the manner he dressed right down to the red fez.
For those of us who view the happenings in Kano from a distance, we might be tempted to conclude that there is a certain inevitability in the recurrence of conflicts between the aristocracy and the political leadership there today as it happened in the 1980s between Governor Abubakar Rimi and Emir Ado Bayero. The palaver between the Governor, Umar Ganduje and Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II is not over yet as there are court papers flying here and there. We return to the subject when the dust settles.Related