In the last half-century or so, northern Nigeria paraded some notable politicians who, no doubt, have made the region proud. Some of them can be traced to the First Republic whose grassroots democratic ideals have made tremendous impact not only on the political structures of the region, but also the citizenry in general.
Among such political juggernauts, were the first Premier of the region, Alhaji Ahmad Bello (the Sardauna of Sokoto), the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa and the first leader of the opposition, Mallam Aminu Kano, whose party, the Northern Elements Progressive Union, gave the conservatives sleepless nights during its numerous campaigns where it proved to be the party to beat.
Other top notchers from the old North were Chief Joseph Tarka; Alhaji Maitama Sule; Alhaji Tanko Yakasai; Chief Paul Unongo; Alhaji Yahaya Kwande; Alahji Abubakar Rimi and many others.
Many of these politicians (some of them have passed on) contributed immensely to the political, economic and social development of northern Nigeria. But one of them, who stood out like a Colossus and would not be forgotten in a hurry because of his dogged fight for the rights of the poor masses (the talakawas), was Malam Aminu Kano.
Amino Kano’s fearless disposition and defiance against the authorities of his time had always set him on the war path with the establishment, which he regarded as a mere appendage of imperialists notorious for exploiting the downtrodden. Today makes it exactly 38 years since this great patriot departed to the great beyond. Unfortunately, the vacuum created by his exit remains unfilled. The North is yet to witness his equal, in terms of political acumen, dexterity and response to the oppressive tendencies of the powers that be in his time.
Although the likes of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Joseph Tarka, Paul Unungo and Tanko Yakasai, etc, have contributed to the development of northern Nigeria and made considerable impact in the region’s body politics, they pale significantly, when compared to the Champion of the Talakawa.
Aminu Kano virtually came, saw and indeed, stooped to conquer. He fought the Sarakunas (Emirs) tackled the dreadful feudal lords head on, just to free his people from the bondage of poverty and oppressive rule in his early political days. The fact that, in spite of being intimidated, harassed and subjected to psychological trauma, he and his teeming followers never looked back or allowed themselves to be distracted from their chosen paths, should serve as food for thought to today’s politicians.
Aminu Kano was born on August 8, 1920 in the Sudawa quarters of Kano City. He was the first son of Malam Yusuf and Malama Rukaiyatu (alias Mambayya). His father was a renowned Islamic scholar and a one-time Mufti in the Qadis
s court in Kano. He was from the Gyanawa Fulani clan, which is noted for Islamic scholarship. He received early education from his mother, who taught him the Quran, before moving on to the Shahuci Elementary School in 1930 for his primary education.
Aminu attended the Kano Middle School, the Katsina College and later, the Kaduna College between1933 and 1942. After teaching for about five years at the Bauchi Middle School, he proceeded in 1947 to the Institute of Education at the University of London to undertake a diploma course in Education. Upon his return, he was posted to Maru Teachers` College in Sokoto, Sokoto Province, where he taught until 1950.
Aminu Kano resigned his teaching career in 1950 and joined active politics. He was elected President-General of the Northern Elements Progressive Union at its first congress held in Kano in April 1953, a position he held up to the demise of the First Republic in 1966.
During the Yakubu Gowon Military Administration, Aminu Kano was Federal Commissioner for Communication between 1967 and 1971 and also Federal Commissioner for Health between 1971 and 1974. He also served as a member of the Constituent Assembly between 1977 and 1978. From 1979 to 1983, when he died, he was the leader of the People`s Redemption Party and its presidential candidate in the 1979 general elections.
Throughout his public life, Aminu Kano proved to be a great leader who practised what he preached. As Yusuf Maitama Sule, former Nigerian ambassador to the United Nations, once said, he led by example. He had no bank account anywhere in the world. He had no boxes full of clothes. He only had two or three sets of white clothes and a red cap. That was all he had.
The Director of Mambayya House, Prof Ismaila Zango described Malam Aminu Kano as a man who was concerned with the exposition of social ills and problems prevalent in the society in his days. He was committed to fighting corruption and eradicating poverty, ignorance, prostitution, injustice, diseases, mal-administration and the exploitation of women and children, as well as a host of other societal vices and problems.
The direct and indirect impact of Aminu Kano on the history of this country, Zango noted, is considerable. According to him, the politician could best be remembered as a strong believer in and dogged fighter for the upliftment of humanity and the dignity of women.
Zango added that Aminu Kanos struggle had historical roots and an ideological basis that cannot be ignored. He wrote so many pamphlets, which were directed against the aristocracy, and became more radical while at Bauchi where in 1942, he met Saad Zungur whose radical thoughts broadened his socio-political mode of thinking.
Aminu Kano was well versed in Islamic ideology. He was never a believer in the Marxist school of thought because he considered Islam to be the vehicle for a system of social justice. And this is embodied in his party`s (NEPU) slogan: “To glorify God, association and service to the community”.
Throughout his political life, his preoccupation was the democratisation of local authority structures. But were he to be alive today, would he have welcomed the creation of over 700 local government areas, the creation of states, the open ballot system and ward as the unit of political organisation? Perhaps, yes.
It is no secret, however, that Malam Aminu Kano was against the prevalent mode of political activity at the local level when it was under the Sarauta system, which alienated the talakawa from any form of political participation.