In Osogbo, Maitama Sule comes alive again
•Oyinlola, Dambazau, Oloyede, Adesina, Lakemfa speak on Dan Masani Kano
IT has been three years since the passage of Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule. The Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, Osun State, held a colloquium on August 22 to dissect the life and times of the elder statesman, as well as his contributions to the development of Nigeria.
Scholars who spoke at the webinar included Professor Is-haq Oloyede; General Abdulrahman Dambazzau, Professor Olutayo Adesina, Prof. Chike Okolocha of the Department of Sociology, University of Benin and Dr. Tanko Ayuba Abubakar of ABU, Zaria. The last two are Maitama Sule’s biographers.
This year alone, the CBCIU has organised several of such programmes channeled towards celebrating the country’s heroes.
The coronavirus pandemic, which began around March in the country, has however, changed the colloquium from one that attracted huge physical presence of scholars and culture lovers to one that is majorly done online, just as the Centre’s Executive Director, Professor Siyan Oyeweso, said, “through this, the Centre has been able to ensure that it continues as much as possible in fulfilling its objectives and goals.
“The Centre made its first experiment of a webinar colloquium with the national colloquium in memory of Oba John Adetoyese Laoye I, the Timi of Edeland (1946-1975), tagged, ‘The life and legacies of Oba John Adetoyese Laoye (Time of Ede): 45 Years After,’ held on July 25.
“This programme recorded tremendous participation and wide acclamation from accomplished scholars, traditional leaders and other important personalities, some of whom interacted with the Oba during his lifetime.”
On the choice of Alhaji Sule for the second edition of the webinar, Professor Oyeweso said: “This is predicated on the Centre’s entrenched efforts at extending its frontiers to other parts of Nigeria where outstanding individuals with sterling qualities and invaluable legacies are singled out for celebration.
“Without gainsaying, Alhaji Sule eminently qualifies for such an honour. It is for this reason that I celebrate with all Nigerians, the people of Kano and the family of the great Nigerian we are celebrating today whose impact on the unity and progress of our dear country remains indelible.
“The late Maitama Sule was a widely known figure across the length and breadth of the country and cast a very respectable personality within the international community. He was at different times a politician, diplomat and elder statesman who used his rich experience to stir national development for our great country.”
In his speech on the occasion, a former governor of Osun State and chairman of CBCIU, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, said the theme of the colloquium best described the position occupied by Alhaji Maitama Sule in Nigeria’s history.
Prince Oyinlola said: “A foremost statesman, nationalist, politician, intellectual, orator, a consummate diplomat and the Dan Masanin of Kano, the late Maitama Sule became an emblem of hope and aspiration when the country was faced with myriads of national challenges.
“Alhaji Maitama Sule stood against military dictatorship and all forms of mis-governance and ultimately stood for peace and unity of Nigeria. No wonder he is fondly called the genius orator and the golden voice by reason of his oratory prowess where he laid emphasis on his greatest dream for Nigeria in the league of nations.
“This nationalist’s understanding of Nigeria’s political landscape draws from his years of experience in public service. In 1954, he served as First Republic parliamentarian and Minister of Mines and Power. Between 1955 and 1956, he was the Chief Whip, Federal House of Representatives. In 1960, he led a Nigerian delegation to the Conference of Independent African States and became the Head, Public Complaints Commission as pioneer ombudsman in 1976. In early 1979, he was the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria but lost to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who later emerged president.
“Alhaji Maitama Sule also served as a United Nations ambassador, where he chaired the United Nations Standing Committee Against Apartheid. In 1983, he was appointed Minister for National Guidance, a portfolio designed for him to assist the president fight corruption back then.
“Alhaji Maitama Sule was a strong advocate of national unity, and stood for justice at home and abroad. He was a man whose vast knowledge of contemporary Nigerian history pulled lifelong friendship and solidarity to him across the Atlantic.
“He was a man of family value and culture who held local traditions in high esteem. His concept of family institution, respect for elders, respect for constituted authority which he considered the cardinal principles of our society and bane of our challenges, are incomparable. No wonder Alhaji Maitama Sule reiterated these principles at several public fora where issues regarding the country are discussed.
“Maitama Sule was also a strong believer in traditional values. His respect for the institutions of monarchy is without comparison. His strong advisory roles in the Kano Emirate and Nigeria did not go unnoticed. It explains why he was conferred with the traditional title of ‘Dan Masanin Kano’ by the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. Maitama Sule used his position to protect the poor and the downtrodden and advocated an all-time peaceful co-existence among the vast majority of our people.
“The Dan Masani, since his demise in 2017, has been missed. He was a true Nigerian nationalist whose genuine interest and passion for the future of Nigeria cannot be measured. He was never tired of expressing his displeasure about the rulership and not the leadership of the country. Without doubt, he served Nigeria and its people selflessly.”
Labour unionist, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, in his presentation, focused on the political activities of the late Maitama Sule.
Lakemfa said in 1978, “after 12 years of military dictatorship, the military made preparations to hand over power. The main challenge was the registration of political parties. Over 50 political associations sprang up. Eventually, only five were registered – the UPN, NPN, PRP, NPP and the GNPP. The NPN did not have a dominant figure like the four other registered parties. However, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule became the aspirant to beat.
“Everything seemed right about him; he was urbane, educated, brilliant, humble, untainted by corruption scandals and had a long record of service, including being a minister in the First Republic. In 1976, he was Federal Commissioner for Public Complaints; an ombudsman whom the oppressed and the repressed could cry to and get a listening ear. He seemed well suited for this job as he was the son of a servant who rose up to become a leading nationalist and political figure in the country. When Maitama Sule spoke, sincerity rang out like chiming church bells and many Nigerians could identify with him as a champion that would lead them towards a great Nigeria.
“His chances of picking the NPN presidential ticket were further enhanced when the party zoned the position to the then 10 northern states. It seemed the ticket was already zoned to him.
“But there was panic in some elite circles, possibly also among the ranks of the departing generals; Sule seemed too independent-minded and they might be unable to control him. However, the dilemma was how to stop him. A vicious campaign started; not against his impeccable credentials or record of service, but his origins. Since this was not having the desired effect, they went out shopping for an aspirant they could successfully pitch against him.
“They zeroed in on Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who shared some characteristics with Sule in terms of being humble, simple, with long years of untainted public service. But he hadn’t the empathy for the poor like Sule and was not assertive. Also, unlike Sule, he had no oratorical skills or the liberal attitude on issues like religion. In fact, Shagari carried the baggage of being one of the leaders of Muslims at the Constitutional Conference who wanted Sharia placed at par with the Supreme Court. When this failed, they staged a walkout which threatened the entire transition process.
“The main problem of the people who went shopping for Shagari was that all he wanted was to be a Senator. He did not want to be President, so he declined to run. The North was asked to pick three aspirants and present them to the scheduled NPN National Convention, and the Zonal meeting for that was called for Kaduna. Since he was not interested, Shagari travelled to Paris as Chairman of the Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria (PAN) returning only on the eve of the meeting. “He said when he arrived at the Kaduna Airport, Alhaji Umaru Dikko was waiting for him with a message that Alhaji Makama Bida wanted to see him. He said he rejected Bida’s pleas to contest. However, on meeting a delegation from his Sokoto State base which apparently had been primed to pin him down, Shagari, while still refusing to run, agreed to a compromise; that they could put his name up for nomination.
“Next day, the NPN Northern Caucus picked Shagari, Sule and Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, former journalist and ex-governor of the Central Bank who was regarded as the Chairman of the shadowy ‘Kaduna Mafia.’ There was concern that only aspirants from the North-West and North-East were picked, leaving out the large North-Central, which has since colonial times complained of being marginalised in the region. So two North-Central aspirants, Mr Joseph Tarka (Benue) and Dr Olusola Saraki (Kwara) were added, along with Professor Iya Abubakar from Gongola State, who was added because he scored more votes than Tarka and Saraki.
“At the NPN national convention held at the Casino Cinema, Yaba, Lagos, there was no clear winner in the first ballot, forcing a run-off between Sule and Shagari. Immediately, another powerful lobby was put in place with some powerful delegates from Sule’s Kano group, decamping and putting pressure on him to save the party a second ballot and a possible split. He eventually caved in, Shagari was declared the candidate and the party went on, as predicted, to win the Presidential elections.
“Sule was sent to the United Nations (UN) as the country’s Permanent Representative where he made waves as the chairman of the UN Anti-Apartheid Committee.”
“He was also Minister for National Guidance in the short-lived second term of the Shagari administration. He continued to inspire the country until he passed away on Monday, July 3, 2017 in Cairo, Egypt. It is a matter of conjecture if Nigeria would have been a better country under a Sule administration; whether the country would have had a better course than the Shagari one that led to renewed military dictatorship which lasted 15 years. Whatever be the case, Maitama Sule was a unique Nigerian politician and committed patriot; a President we never had,” Lakenfa said.
Others who spoke at the webinar were Professor Is-haq Oloyede; General Abdulrahman Dambazzau and Professor Olutayo Adesina.
Just recently, the CBCIU, in the first edition of its national webinar, focused on the late Timi of Ede, Oba John Adetoyese Laoye, an event that brought together several scholars and lovers of the traditional institution from across the world through virtual conference.
In his welcome address, the executive director of CBCIU, Professor Siyan Oyeweso, said the second edition of the national webinar colloquium tagged, “Maitama Sule: A National Hero and Nigerian Nationalist for All Seasons (1929-2017),” was to celebrate the late elder statesman’s contributions to the development of the country.
Professor Oyeweso said the idea behind the colloquium “is to celebrate eminent Nigerians who have impacted positively on Nigerian history, culture and national development.”
He said since his assumption of office as visiting professor and executive director of the organisation, “we have taken the initiative of honouring eminent Nigerians who have made great marks and giant strides in their life time. Whether young or old, our intention to chart this new course is hinged on the need to re-orientate our people and instill in them a culture and mentality of hard work, truth and dedication through this initiative.
“I think Nigerians will all agree that this noble effort is needed at a time some of our youths are more dedicated to amoral behaviours, which put a negative dent on the image of the country. The same way we honour the living, so we have for the departed.”
He said “beginning in February, with the celebration of Oba Moses Oyewole Oyinlola, the Olokuku of Okuku (1934-1960), a distinguished Yoruba monarch and quintessential ‘philosopher-king’ whose legacies traversed not only his subject town of Okuku, but also Yoruba and Nigerian society at large.
“Oba Oyinlola would be remembered for his unwavering interest in the development of education, which culminated in his spectacular roles in the establishment of the Osogbo United Grammar School (now Osogbo Grammar School) in 1951.
“In March, the Centre also organised, in partnership with the Duro-Ladipo family, the annual Duro-Ladipo colloquium, a yearly celebration of the legacies of Duro-Ladipo, a renowned thespian and African cultural maestro whose impact on the globalisation of black culture remain evergreen.”
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