The last days of the Dan Masani Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, were quite eventful and solely dedicated to the Nigerian project. But he failed to realise one particular project he held dear to his heart before quitting the world’s stage and that was reconciling the Igbo and the Arewa youths. In this tribute, Ibrahim Shuaibu writes about this very desire and the many efforts of his last days…
It was not by accident that the late icon, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule dedicated his last days to championing the success of the Nigerian project and his decision to travel that road was not misplaced. The period preceding his demise has been tumultuous for the nation as everything seemed to be falling apart. And as an elder statesman, Alhaji Sule had taken the initiative to lead the call for a return to the dreams of the founding fathers.
And despite his aging physique and waning strength, he spent his last days delivering lectures; holding talks on the way forward for one indivisible Nigeria and consciously taking part in every effort genuinely geared towards sustaining the unity and beauty of the nation’s diversity.
But his last days also witnessed yet a major challenge, which he badly wanted to address or at least seen to have been addressed before death drew curtains on his sojourn on the planet earth. He wanted to reconcile the Biafra agitators and members of Northern youth forum, at a meeting they were slated to meet with him before his demise.
He was seen as the only viable reconciliator that could not only bridge and cement the sour relationship between the agitators and the government but also one that could prevail on the Arewa youth to see their hard line position differently.
According to a source, Sule had already been slated to speak with Igbo groups residing in the North after he returned from medical check-up. But he could not make before passing on. Curiously, many a people had thought that his intervention would go a long way in dousing tension that was rather surreal.
A member of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, jerry Alfred said the Igbo in the north lost a father, who treated them like his sons and daughters by way of giving them fatherly advice. He described the late Dan Masani Kano as a man, who spent his entire life preaching peace and unity among Nigerians. And almost ceaselessly, his death has continued to receive tributes from all walks of life.
Dan Masanin Kano died at the wee hours of Monday at an international hospital in Cairo, Egypt at the age of 88 and left behind 10 children. His death came as a shock to many people, including President Muhammadu Buhari, his deputy, Professor Yomi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki and former president Olusegun Obasanjo, all of whom had since paid glowing tributes to him.
A well-respected personality both home and away, Sule was a major northern force to reckon with in terms of ideology and was seen as a key factor linking tradition and modernity. Born in Kano on October 1, 1929, in Yola Quarters, his father was Dan Mori of Madakin Kano Mahmud, who also led the young Maitama to school.
Sule attended Shahuchi Elementary School before proceeding to the Kano Middle School, where his teachers included the earliest generation of Kano western educated elite. He graduated from the college in 1946 but went for further training as a professional teacher and was employed as a teacher in the Kano Middle School in 1946, where he remained till 1954.
He taught many prominent Nigerians at the school including Murtala Muhammed, who later became the Head of State. Sule joined partisan politics and resigned from the Native Authority Service. He later moved to the NPC and became a member of the Federal House of Representatives.
Sule defeated Mallam Aminu Kano in the City Constituency in the 1954 elections. In 1959, he was moved to a rural constituency and was later appointed the Minister of Mines and Power in the First Republic. When Kano State was created, he was in the first cabinet, as a commissioner. He was later appointed the Chairman of the National Council for Arts and Culture.
During the Murtala administration, he was appointed the Chief Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission. During the Second Republic, he was one of the founding members of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He contested the presidential primaries, which Alhaji Shehu Shagari won. He was appointed Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and during President Shehu Shagari’s second term, he was the Minister of National Guidance. But after the end of the Second Republic, he disengaged from partisan politics and retired to a private life as a statesman.
President Goodluck Jonathan honored him along with fifty other distinguished Nigerians on the fiftieth anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. Sule died as the longest serving Minister of Petroleum from 1959 to 1966, yet he never acquired any oil block or even a filling station. He continued serving in various capacities but still lived in his mud house till he left public service in the late 1980s and it took almost a decade to build his house, when one of the state governors gave him a plot.
Former Deputy Senate President in the Second Republic, Alhaji Mamman Abubakar Danmusa described his death as “shocking and an irreparable loss.
In a statement personally signed, Buhari said he knew the late Maitama Sule was sick but he was devastated by his death.
“I have heard this morning, the death of the venerable Alhaji Maitama Sule, Dan Masanin Kano, and one of Nigeria’s famous sons. Although I knew he was in poor health for some time, his death nonetheless, came as a profound shock.
“As a minister in the First Republic, he was one of those who assisted our Founding Fathers, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to fashion Nigeria politically and lay the grounds of national co-existence.
“Maitama Sule was blessed by God with a wonderful voice and outstanding eloquence. He served with distinction in the First Republic, the Second Military regime, as well as the Second Republic, without being tainted with the remotest hint of scandal.
“As a person, I found him personable with unceasing good humour. Nothing personified his faith more than the fact that on losing his sight, he did not retreat himself sulking on account of his ill-fortune. Quite to the contrary, he honoured virtually all invitations extended to him and spoke as usual with singular eloquence and unparalleled wit,”
“In my discussions with him, I greatly valued his counsel, and I never ceased to be amazed by his concern for the well-being of his country rather than his personal interests. Let me extend my sincere condolences to Your Excellency, family and friends, the Government and people of Kano, and Nigerians as a whole, for this most heavy loss. We shall not soon see the like of him. May God forgive his sins and admit him to Paradise, Amin,”
Senate President Bukola Saraki too expressed his grief over the death of Sule. Saraki, in a statement by his media aide, Yusuph Olaniyonu described the deceased as a detribalised Nigerian, who spoke truth to power at all times during his lifetime. He therefore called on both the federal and the Kano State Governments to immortalise the great icon of peace and unity.
“The news of the demise of Alhaji Maitama Sule came to me with shock. This is one man that has become a permanent feature in the politics of the country, beginning from first republic, when he was appointed a minister at his youthful age. Through sheer oratory, the name Maitama Sule had become synonymous with wit and wisdom. He never minced words when speaking against ills in society and how to curb them.
“He would remain an inspiration to both the 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,” he said
Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr. Yakubu Dogara also mourned Sule, saying Africa had lost a patriot, icon of peace. Dogara, in statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, said although the late Dan Masanin Kano was of age, the sad news of his death came to him as a shock, adding that he was a colossus, patriot, father to all, and a distinguished elder statesman, who wrote his name in gold in the annals of Nigeria’s history.
“From the struggle for independence, to his stewardship as a Federal MP, Federal Commissioner of public complaints, to his service as Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Alhaji Maitama Sule’s record of public service was excellent, exemplary and worthy of emulation. Even at old age, and faced with health challenges, the late elder statesman never relented in building bridges of friendship, peace and preaching love amongst Nigerians.
“Undoubtedly, he was an icon of peace, transparency, a born orator, patriot and a distinguished statesman, who gave his all for the unity and prosperity of Nigeria as one indivisible nation. His death is a monumental loss to Nigeria and indeed the African continent in view of his contributions to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
“Unfortunately, Maitama Sule died at a time when his elderly wisdom, experience, and deep sense of patriotism is much needed in our country given the fact that we are passing through a challenging phase in our history as a nation. Our special and heartfelt condolences go to his immediate family, the people and government of Kano State even as we join all Nigerians and people of goodwill in mourning this monumental loss.”
Wife of President Buhari, Aisha Buhari also joined the rank of prominent people, who sent in their tributes to the late Sule. Mrs. Buhari, in a statement, expressed shock over the death of the elder statesman and described him as an epitome of humility, tolerance and love, adding that the late nationalist would be remembered for his stabilising role as a politician. She also extended her condolences to the deceased’s family and the entire people of Kano.
In his tribute, former president Olusegun Obasanjo extolled the virtues of Dan Masanin and said Nigerians needed to learn from his experience, wisdom and what he believed and preached, which he said would continue to be passed on to the next generation.
Obasanjo described Sule as a patriotic Nigerian, whose shoes would be difficult to fill, as majority of his contemporaries are no more, adding that the likes of Sule were rare as those existing, among people of his mind set are few.
“Few honest and exceptional statesmen, who were revered in the class of the late Maitama Sule, are the likes of Shehu Shagari, Sule Gaya and Richard Akinjide, who are still alive. The death of Dan Masanin is a loss to Nigerians”, he said, noting that everyone should be condoned over the loss”.
Former Sokoto State governor, Dr. Dalhatu Bafarawa said Sule had during his lifetime taught them to continue from where he stopped, especially in building the Nation. Bafarawa described him as a great hero, who died at a time the country and politicians needed his advice and support towards moving the country to a greater level.
He said the late Sule was a leader and a father to all Nigerians irrespective of their tribe, Culture and religion, noting that there was the need for Nigerians to always include him in their prayers, because it’s the only way they could pay him back for the good efforts and interest he exhibited to keep the country United.
During a condolence visit, former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido said Sule, during his lifetime, carried everyone along.
“His death is a great lost to the entire country, because it will cause a very big vacuum in the country that will be difficult to fill”, Lamido said, describing him as a teacher, father and a hero towards ensuring that Nigeria remained United as one country. He also pledged to continue to emulate his way of life.