By Dr Nuruddeen Muhammad
Eight young men met somewhere in the sabongari area of Kano on the eighth day of August in 1950 to start what till today remains the most impactful political action in the history of Northern Nigeria; The Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU). It’s radical politics, progresssive ideas and pristine values were to later find expression in it’s precusor platform, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) of the second republic that produced the governors in the old Kano and Kaduna States. The late Mallam Aminu Kano was the leader of both movements.
Sunday, the 8th of August, 2021, was the day set aside by the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Studies, Bayero University Kano (Mambayya House) for a symposium to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the founding of the NEPU movement, with the theme; ‘Politics of Principles and the Phenomenon of Political Party Defections in Nigeria’ with His Excellency Dr Sule Lamido (CON) as the speaker. I was part of the modest team that accompanied him to the event.
The programme which held under the distinguished chairmanship of the cerebral Dr Tijjani Muhammad Naniya, also had the ebullient Dr Auwalu Anwar as the sole discussant. While Professor Attahiru Jega, Prof Dandatti Abdulkadir, Dr Hakilu Sani Indabawa, Prof Hafiz Abubakar, Prof Sule Bello, Dr Nasir Fagge, former NEPU/PRP regional, federal and state parliamentarians, civil society representatives, journalists, women and youth organizations from across the country, notably Kano, Jigawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Katsina and Kaduna States etc all ran incisive commentaries.
The cacophony of voices were as fierce as they were sharply different in tone, content and delivery. But by far, that which stood out and generated most responses was Dr Lamido’s lead assertion that the raison d’etre for the NEPU/PRP ideological and political initiatives was to liberate the common folks (the Talakawas), first from the clutches of the combined reppression of the colonial overloads and their willing surrogates in the Native Authority establishments in Northern Nigeria, and then the restrictions placed on them in political participation, aspirations and freedoms.
He forcefully argued that the movements have achieved on both counts as the children of yesterday’s Talakawas are today the new overloads and oppressors, who as presidents, governors, parliamentarians, ministers, local council chairmen and their councils etc deny the Talakawas quality leadership. He concluded that the movements (atleast as organised political actions) should rest and cease to exist. And that today’s progressives should instead leverage around available political opportunities/platforms to confront the existing selfish order using present day political sentiments and realities as mobilization tools.
Moving forward, the lead speaker canvassed for an ideological graft transplant from the NEPU/PRP days in ways that the moral and ethical characters of both politics and governance of today can benefit from the sound value systems of the old oder. He recounted from memory how he first resigned as a member of the House of Representatives in Lagos in 1983 purely on moral grounds, and then flew to Kano to convince the then Governor Alhaji Abubakar Rimi (of blessed memory) to do same as the governor of the old Kano State when the duo defected from the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) that gave them the mandates in the first place to Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party ( NPP) when the former got enmeshed in a protracted crisis that led to their expulsion among many others. He then described the present phenomenon of political party defections in Nigeria as the worst form of corruption.
This profound submission drew a symphony of responses from today’s PRP practitioners who are mostly academics. Leading the park was Prof Attahiru Jega who argued that without justice in leadership and the level of impunity as is the case today, the NEPU/PRP cause has just begun and asked Sule Lamido to come lead the national onslaught. Many other PhDs and Professors joined in the call that Lamido would later say lacked sufficient local and broader national political insight. It is significant to note that I was to totally align myself with the Sule Lamido’s perspective of the argument only on that day having engaged with him for over a decade on the same exact topic as the Jegas had done at Mambayya.
I am now fully convinced that the NEPU/PRP politics exclusively represented yesterday’s political sentiments and realities in the North with no much utility for either our present political and social circumstances or broader national appeal.
The Mambayya rendezvous is prehaps the only remaining theatre in Nigeria where political practitioners, activists and ideologues meet political researchers, theorists and even wannabees in a real time intellectual brawl. Bayero University Kano is both creative and thoughful in this annual ritual. Mallam Aminu Kano and his comrades had lived a very politically active, intellectually robust, and ideologically/philosophically sound lives to deserve this honour.
When academic excellence and classroom sense meet self taught philosophers and the practical hands on the streets, a cetain unique flavour emerges. The flavor that day has unfortunately left a distinctively sour test in my mouth. The fact that the Talaka is today his very own oppressor is a very bitter pill for some of us to swallow. And even more bitter is the second fact that the on coming liberation of the Talakawas (from themselves this time around) will have to invent it’s own devices with no NEPU/PRP emotional relics to rely on.
Dr. Nuruddeen was the Nigerian’s former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs & Federal Minister of Information.