ERIC TENIOLA throws spotlight on the Kanuris of northeastern Nigeria

The pick on Senator Kashim Shettima, a Kanuri, as APC’s Presidential running mate has put spotlight on the Kanuris again. We know the Kanuris as dogged fighters.

In the first Republic, six prominent Kanuris were identified as standard bearers. They are Sir Kashim Ibrahim, Alhaji Zaana Bukar Suloma Dipcharima, Alhaji  Waziri Kolo Ibrahim, Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno and Alhaji Ibrahim Imam.

Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim rose to become the governor of Northern Region in 1962. Although he was not as powerful as late Minister of Defence, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu or Alhaji Aliyu Makama Bida or even Alhaji Isa Keita, but he was loyal to the end to the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto.

Shettima Kashim, as he was always known then, naturally became one of the most prominent Northern Region politicians. Among the founders of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), he was elected to the Northern Region House of Assembly in 1951 and from there to the Federal House of Representatives, where he served from 1952 to 1955; later he was in the Federal Senate. He was Federal Minister of Social Services 1952-1953, and Federal Minister of Education 1953-1955. In 1955 he joined Sir Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Region Government in Kaduna as Minister of Social Welfare, Cooperatives, and Surveys.

In 1956, however, he returned to Maiduguri to assume the traditional office of Waziri (prime minister) under the Shehu. He carried out very necessary reforms in the traditional local government. He was chairman of the Provisional Council of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for the two years before the new university opened in 1962.

In 1962, he was appointed the first Governor of the Northern Region. He was knighted by the Queen of England the same year. Though greatly respected, he had no real power in that post in the last years of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s rule over the Northern Region. When that rule was ended with the killing of the Premier in the first coup of January 15, 1966, Sir Kashim was briefly arrested. On his release he was appointed Adviser to the Military Governor of the Region, Lt-Colonel Hassan Usman Katsina which however was soon afterwards abolished with the creation of states in 1967-1968.

Sir Kashim Ibrahim served as Chancellor of the University of Ibadan from 1966 to 1977, and then as Chancellor of the University of Lagos from 1977 to 1984. He did not return to politics. He acquired little material wealth and had to sue for his pension as former Governor of the Northern Region. When he died on 25 July, 1990 his reputation was shown by the great gathering at his funeral in Maiduguri, and by the appointment of his son, an architect, as Shettima of Borno soon afterwards. He is remembered as an ardent educationist who in spite of his strong traditional upbringing clearly perceived and promoted the values and virtues of modern education.

Alhaji Ibrahim Imam was the secretary of the Northern People’s Congress and later became a patron of the Borno Youth Movement. He was elected into the Northern House of Assembly in 1961, representing a Tiv district. Prior to his election in 1961, he had represented his district of Yerwa in 1951 after supporting a strike of Native Administration workers. He was born in 1916 into an aristocratic family and his half-brother was the district head of Yerwa. He attended Katsina College and after completing his studies joined the Borno Native Administration as an assistant and later became the supervisor of works in 1950.

While working as an engineering assistant for the Borno Native Authority, he entered the political arena as the founder of the Borno Youth Improvement Association in 1949. In 1951, he contested and won a seat to the House of Assembly defeating Waziri Mohammed. A year later at the inception of the Northern People’s Congress, which later became the dominant party in the region, he was nominated as the party’s secretary-general; he joined a large number of his colleagues from the regional house who enlisted on the political platform of the new NPC. As the general secretary of NPC, he became one of the party’s prominent campaigners and was involved in political tours, traveling for thousands of miles while providing support for the extension of the party through the establishment of branches in various towns and cities in the region.

After leaving the Native Authority, he became a building contractor to supplement his income as an honourable member of the House.

In 1954, however, Imam resigned his position from NPC and left the party, citing the lack of a revolutionary platform for political reform of the local government in the north and also NPC’s movement towards a reactionary and imperialistic political union. A year later, he joined Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union and in 1956, he became the patron of the Borno Youth Movement, a young organization that had grown out of its member’s disappointment with the native authority in Borno and the scandal of Waziri, Mohammed. In 1956, he encouraged a fruitful alliance of the movement with NEPU particularly in Borno where the alliance later won two regional seats. But in a few years, Imam an ambitious politician, was in need of resources to organize the alliance in Bornu and the Northern region left the merger due to the inability of NEPU to contribute enough resources to strengthen the party in the region. He left NEPU and established an alliance with the Action Group of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and later became the leader of opposition in the regional House of Assembly.

Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno, was Member of Parliarment. in 1959, education secretary and councilor for education, works and social welfare Borno, local Government 1959-65. Federal minister for Air Force and internal affair 1965-66, federal commissioner for trade and industries 1967-71 minister mines and power, petroleum and energy, 1972-75. Shettima Ali Monguno was also President, OPEC, 1972/1973; he was Presidential Candidate during the Option A4 Elections in the early 1990s in Nigeria.

In politics, Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri was initially a member of NEPU; he organized the Damaturu branch of the association in 1950 and was the branch chairman in 1951. However, towards the end of the 1950s, Waziri joined NPC and was appointed the Federal Minister of Health in 1958. In 1960, he was part of the Nigerian delegation to the United Nations when the country was accepted as the 99th member of the organization. In 1962, as minister for Economic Development, he presented to the Nigerian Parliament an ambitious capital expenditure budget over a six-year span based on a projected 4% annual growth in GDP and investment of resources in productive projects to foster development. Among the major planks of the budget, was the development of the Kainji Dam. However, close to half of the capital expenditure resource was to be obtained through foreign aid.

In 1962, Nigeria conducted a controversial census that was rejected by political leaders from the Eastern and Western region; the office of the census officer was under Waziri’s ministry. Accusations of over counting were made on all sides, with Waziri accusing the Eastern region of inflating population figures while the southern leaders labelled the Northern head count as over-inflated. The controversy generated by the head count led the cancellation of the census results and official figures were never publicly acknowledged.

After the military coup of 1966, Waziri went into private business. During the Nigerian Civil War, he was involved in arms dealing and consultancy and afterwards, he established a defence consultancy firm. Waziri established a group of companies under the corporate name Herwa which included a tin mining venture in Jos and a soap and flour mill in Maiduguri. He opened a N5 million Herwa clinic in Kano. He was the father to Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim. In 2016, she was made the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs by President Muhammadu Buhari. In October 2018 she defeated her step son to clinch the ticket of her party to run for Federal House of Representatives.

Alhaji Dipcharima Zanna Bukar Suloma was born in 1917 in Dipcharima village in the Borno Province of northern Nigeria. Dipcharima attended the Maiduguri Middle School and later trained as a teacher at the Katsina Higher Training College, the former Northern Nigeria’s highest institution of learning at the time. He began his teaching in 1938, working at various schools until 1946 when he embarked on a political career. He first joined the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) being led by Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe,  and was in the party’s delegation to Britain in 1947. He left the NCNC to become a manager for John Holt. Dipcharima reentered politics in 1954, this time as a member of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) on whose platform he was elected to the Borno Native Authority. An extremely popular politician, Dipcharima soon rose to become president of the Borno Province branch of the NPC and head of the Yerwa District in 1956, taking the traditional title of Zana.

He won a seat in the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos in 1954 and was Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Transport. In 1957, he became Minister of State without Portfolio and later Minister of Commerce and Industry, before taking the portfolio of Transport in 1964. Dipcharima was holding this office when the federal civilian government was overthrown in the military coup of 15 January 1966; he made the headlines when, in the absence of the abducted Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, he presided over the Cabinet that handed power to General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi. Dipcharima died in an air accident in 1969.

There are other prominent people who equally flew the flag for the Kanuris. They include Air Marshall Al-Amin Daggash, Alhaji Kam Salem, Engineer Bunu Sheriff, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, Major General Abba Kyari (rtd.), Alhaji Abba Habeeb, Alhaji Mohammed Goni, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Lt-Colonel Abogo Largema, Hajiya Ammuna Ali, Alhaji Goni Aji, Dr. Baba-kura Kaigama, Dr. Buka Shaib, Professor Nuhu Alkali, General Sani Abacha. Even in Niger Republic, the former Prime Minister of that country Mamane Oumarou and the former President of Niger, Tandja Mamadou are both Kanuris.

We also have Major General Mohammed Shuwa, Professor Mujammed Mala Daura, Professor Babagana Umaru Zulum, Amina Dawaram (Singer), Alhaji Modu Gobama, Alhaji Yusuf Saida (Chemist) Alhaji Garba Daya, Alhaji Umar Ali Adamkolo, Alhaji Ahmadu Ngariya, Alhaji Bukar Koo Muhammad, Alhaji Zannah Ali Yirima, Alhaji Baba Shehu Abubakar Garbai, Galadima Mai Duboma, Alhaji Shuwa Mamman, Dr. Gona Abdullahi, Ambassador Baba Ahmad Jidah, Alhaji Muhammad Aliyu, Sheikh Abubakar El Miskin, Professor Muhammad Waziri, Mohammed Shettima Kubari, Alhaji Imam Ahmad, Shehu Umar Ibn Muhammad, late Shehu Sunda Kyanmi, Alhaji Ibrahim Maina Damcida, Abba Ali Monguno, Bunu Ngamdu, Buba Ahmad Talib, Bukar Bolori, Ambassador Abba Ahmed Zoro, Mustapha P. Jango, Alhaji Bukarr Kuya Monguno, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, Sheihk Awad, Alhaji Modu Tela, Asheik Jarma, Maina Maaji Lawan, Alhaji Mala Kachalla, Alhaji Abba Kyari, late Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Ibrahim Talba, Alhaji Buba Galadima, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Liman Ciroma, General Alkali Idris, Garuba Talba Adamu, Adamu Waziri,  and many too numerous to mention.

The Kanuris are mostly found in Chad, Cameroun, Niger Republic and in Yobe and Borno States.

After the Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos and Fulanis, the Kanuris, in terms of population are in the same bracket with the Ibibios, Tivs, Ijaws and Igalas. The greatest gift God gave to the Kanuris is Lake Chad. Their wish and prayers over the years is that oil be found in Lake Chad. Unfortunately, Lake Chad, once a source of livelihood for over 30 millions, has shrunk by 90 percent since the 1960s.

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