The Maitama Sule Story

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The legacy left behind by Yusuf Maitama Sule in his lifetime will certainly outlive him, writes Shola Oyeyipo 

In his novel published in 1991, Reaper Man, renowned novelist, Terry Pratchett stated that “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.” These are exactly the words that will best describe the life and death of Alhaji Maitama Sule because in the annals of the Nigerian political history, his name will linger a long time, especially for those who are interested in the constitutional history of the country. 

Sule, the Dan Masanin Kano  has been variously described as a reputable Nigerian politician-businessman, a consummate diplomat, an elder statesman, a nationalist who strongly opposed military dictatorship and all forms mis-governance, detribalized Nigerian who  perpetually stood for peace and unity of the country and an orator. He was announced dead in a Cairo,  hospital by his family on Monday, July 3, 2017. He was born on October 1, 1929.

Not only have well-meaning Nigerians continued to pour encomiums on the late elder statesman, the multitude that made their ways to the Kano burial of the national hero attested to the fact that he occupies a pride of place in the minds of many people, irrespective of tribe or religion affiliation. 

History books are replete with the role he played to stabilize the country during the independence struggle. No doubt, he played significant roles in colonial Nigeria, during the struggle for independence  and even long after independence. 

Between 1955 and 1956 he was the Chief Whip, Federal House of Representatives. Before that, in 1954, he was the Minister of Mines and Power. In 1960 he led a Nigerian delegation to the Conference of Independent African States. In 1976, he became the Federal Commissioner of Public Complaints. With that he became Nigeria’s pioneer ombudsman. In early 1979, he was the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria but lost to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who later emerged president.

He was appointed Nigeria’s representative to the United Nations after the coming of civilian rule in September 1979. While there, he was chairman of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid. After the re-election of  Shagari in 1983, Sule was appointed Minister for National Guidance, a portfolio designed for him to assist the president fight corruption back then. 

Most of those who have eulogized him since he died testified to the fact that; he was a strong believer in national unity, a man who stood for justice, a man with a vast knowledge of contemporary history of Nigeria who enjoyed friendship and solidarity across the Niger. As if he knew his time would come very soon, Maitama Sule did not waste any opportunity in sharing his Nigerian experience with anyone who would listen to him, especially the young generations. He wished the young generation would avoid some of the mistakes of his generation. 

It is the more reason why some people have particularly bemoaned his death, coming at a time when agitation for restructuring and secession is getting louder.

He has been called all sorts of good names by his admirers after his death. For instance, Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, said the late Sule was “a nationalist to the core.” He noted that he consistently spoke on and fought for the unity, peace and progress of the country, stressing that his demise was a “huge loss” to the emirate council, the people and government of Kano State and Nigeria as a whole.

For former Lagos State governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, the death his was both a national and personal loss to him because to him, Sule’s death has depleted the rank of true nationalists.

According to him, he was a detribalised Nigerian. Tinubu said: “His death has reduced the ranks of true nationalists at this time when the nation is in dire need of wise counsel on how to navigate through potential landmines. Danmasanin Kano was a rare statesman and an orator who can move mountains with words. I related with him closely and drank from his vast knowledge. I will personally miss him. May Almighty Allah grant him Aljanna Fridaus.”

Also reaffirming the roles he played in building a stronger Nigeria, Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo underscored the fact that despite the fact that he had advanced in age, Sule was always prepared to reach out to other leaders in other parts of the country in the quest for unity, tolerance and national cohesion.

 “He did not waver in lending his voice to the promotion of moderation in national discourse, and his graceful conduct thereto would be sorely missed. Alhaji Sule never relented  in applying his wealth of experience to advance the cause of unity, peace and progress of Nigeria. His fatherly counsel to those in authority had always been bold, sincere and untainted,’’ Osinbajo stated.

Also acknowledging him as an iconic nationalist, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki said: “He would remain an inspiration to both present and forthcoming generations on the lessons of tolerance, unity, and peaceful coexistence. He left at a time his wise counsel is in dire need to navigate our way out of current challenges confronting the country. I pray the Almighty Allah to grant his soul aljannah firdaus and his family the fortitude to bear the loss.”

Immediate  past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, described Sule as a bridge builder, a committed patriot, celebrated African statesman and advocate of peaceful co-existence. “He was an accomplished leader, diplomat and elder statesman who served Nigeria and Africa in different capacities to the best of his abilities. I remember him as a great leader who worked relentlessly for Nigeria’s development. 

“He functioned as a reliable navigator in difficult times both at home and abroad, especially with the commitment he showed towards dismantling the last vestiges of apartheid. The canon he preached and lived as a committed patriot was genuine love for our nation which manifested in his sincerity, hard work and deep embrace of people and politicians from all parts of the country,” Jonathan noted.

It has been a long list of commentators with good things to say about the late Maitama. Former Speaker and the Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the governor of Kano State, Abdullai Ganduje; Jigawa State governor, Badaru Abubakar, the Imo State governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar, the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State, Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, former Anambra State governor and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, former Ogun State governor, Chief Gbenga Daniel, the Nigeria Political Summit Group (NPSG), Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) were among those that have paid tributes to the elder statesman.