Maitama Sule, Tinubu and the Kano Visit

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By Tunde Rahman

Late Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule’s spirit was literally awakened last weekend when the All Progressives Congress (APC) national stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, visited the Kano residence of the late statesman to commiserate with his family. Danmasanin Kano (his traditional title), foremost politician, acclaimed orator, astute diplomat, political leader and elder statesman died on July 2, 2017 in a hospital in Cairo, Egypt at almost 88.

Asiwaju’s visit to Kano is remarkable in more than one way. One, for a topmost politician from the South-west to fly to the other end of the Niger, to the cosmopolitan Kano city, to condole the family of the late diplomat exemplifies the importance of the late Maitama-Sule in national politics and the extra-ordinary life he lived. Two, the visit also underscored the close relationship that existed between Asiwaju and Danmasanin. I will expatiate on this relationship shortly.

Maitama-Sule was a great man. No one with the benefit of hindsight would deny his eminent place in Nigeria’s political history. At a tender age of 26, Danmasanin had already emerged a principal officer in national parliament, as the Chief Whip of the Federal House of Representatives between 1955 and 1956. He was to lead the Nigerian delegation to the Conference of Independent African States four years later. In 1976, he was the Federal Commissioner for Public Complaints, which meant he was the nation’s pioneer ombudsman. Three years later and with the return of civilian rule in the country, he narrowly lost the presidential ticket of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Such was his fine credentials and nationalistic zeal that the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was reputed to have said he would not have bothered to contest the results of that election if Maitama Sule was the NPN candidate he lost to. But many remember the late Kano top politician as that Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations who enthralled that assemblage with his oratory during his time there.

The thing about the late Maitama Sule, in my view, is that his life seemed to be somehow intertwined with that of the country. I don’t think it was an accident of birth and history that Maitama Sule was born on October 1 (1929), the same month and day in 1960 when Nigeria gained independence. Perhaps, that shared birthday birthed his undying love for his country. For the late Sule was an unrepentant believer in Nigeria and the immense potential in its diversity. To underline his conviction about this diversity, he let out a powerful statement at one point, a statement that has continued to resonate with many Nigerians, though some have also denounced it as lending credence to Northern political domination. He had said: “Everyone has a gift from God. The Northerners are endowed by God with leadership qualities. The Yoruba man knows how to earn a living and has diplomatic qualities. The Igbo man is gifted in trade, commerce, and technological innovation. God so created us equally with purpose and different gifts.”

Incidentally, Kano State Governor Umar Ganduje who led the APC leader to Maitama Sule’s residence believe both the late politician and Asiwaju are two of a kind in their belief in Nigeria’s diversity as a springboard for her greatness. ”Maitama Sule believed in diversity, unity in diversity. When some people were making ethnic agitation, Maitama Sule was advocating for unity in diversity. You too (Tinubu), your belief and outlook is for Nigeria’s diversity to enhance her progress,” the governor said.

He added: “Maitama Sule believed that every part of this country, every tribe in this country, every religion in this country has a comparative advantage and the convergence of the comparative advantages is the real nucleus of greatness; that is why America is great. People come from all over the world, with their wisdom, initiative, skills and boldness and a great country is created. So, if Nigerian leaders come together; if our leaders fashion out ways, synchronise our differences through our various comparative advantages, Nigeria is on the way to becoming like the United States of America.”

Talking about his relationship with Maitama Sule, the former Lagos governor recounted a bit of this when he said the late politician knew of his childhood. Speaking at the residence of the late politician, he said: “Danmasani was a father to me. He knew of my childhood. He was a great man who meant well for Nigeria. He was an elder statesman who believed that Nigeria’s diversity should help propel her to greatness.

“I grew up in the hands of two people, who know me to my home. One of them is Danmasanin Kano, who has just passed on. The other is living; he is a living legend, Mallam Yusuf Ali”. And indeed, apart from commiserating with the family of the late Danmasanin, Asiwaju also used the opportunity to condole with Mallam Ali who lost a son and a brother, and Governor Ganduje who lost a younger sister. But the condolence visit turned political when the Asiwaju train got to the Government House. After commiserating with the governor over the death of his sister, the APC leader commended Ganduje for the good job he had been doing in Kano. He endorsed him for a second term.

Governor Ganduje thanked Asiwaju for the visit. He described the APC leader as the prime mover of politics. ”We are highly honoured that you came to Kano to condole, with the family members of Maitama Yusuf Sule, Danmasanin Kano, whose death occurred recently and myself, over the death of my sister. We were not surprised that you did not come when Danmasanin Kano died. You were outside the country but you phoned me and condoled me.”

The governor described Asiwaju as a great man, just like the late Danmasanin Kano, adding “that we have lost a great man, who possesses similar qualities like Tinubu”. He said further:”You a political giant across the Niger, you are a political giant across the other side of River Niger. In fact, in particular, you are the political pendulum of Nigerian politics. You are the mover. When you touch the pendulum, it starts swinging from one side to another. By the time you decide to stop it, wherever it stops, that side becomes heavier. You are the mover of the political pendulum of Nigeria, that is your new name.”