- Post 15 April 2012
- Last Updated on 15 April 2012
- By Salihu Moh. Lukman
Re-Inventing the Radical Politics of the North: A Tribute to Mallam Aminu Kano
By: Salihu M. Lukman
On April 17, 1983, twenty-nine (29) years ago, Mallam Aminu Kano passed away at a time when his party the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) was moving towards reconciliation. The party, which was in control of old Kano and Kaduna States (presently Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina) was split in two factions with the PRP Governors, Alh. Balarabe Musa, late Alh. Abubakar Rimi, spearheading the radical faction under the leadership of late Chief Michael Imoudu. The main cause of disagreement leading to the split was issues bordering on party management and control. This resulted in leadership crisis culminating in the emergence of the two factions - Tabo faction led by Mallam Aminu and Tsantsi led by Chief Michael Imoudu.
At the time of his death, the Tsantsi faction has further split into two with late Alh. Abubakar Rimi leading one faction and Alh. Balarabe Musa and Chief Michael Imoudu leading the second faction. The cause of the second disagreement was the question of whether the party should merge or not with other opposition parties in the country, notably, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) led by Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe. The Abubakar Rimi faction was for merger with the Zik-led NPP while the Balarabe/Imoudu faction favours the retention of the identity and ideological orientation of the party and forging an electoral alliance for the purpose of the 1983 elections.
It is important to note that, at the time of Mallam Aminu Kano's death, reconciliation talks with the Balarabe/Imoudu faction were in advanced stages preparatory to the 1983 general elections. This was consistent with Mallam Aminu Kano's strategy of spearhead a radical political challenge to the electoral hegemony of the dominant Northern establishment. It was to his (Mallam Aminu Kano) credit that most elections in the North, from 1950s to 1983, witnessed internal opposition to Northern establishment. On account of that he was able to mobilize the ordinary people in the North to challenge the politics of Northern establishment, which distinguishes politics in the North with what obtains in other regions, especially during the Second Republic.
The practice of challenging Northern establishment in the North was a prominent feature and almost in every section of the North, there was manifest and strong opposition to the ruling NPC. In the North East, there was the Borno Youth Movement (BYM), in the North Central, there was the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) and in the North West, there was the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU). These opposition parties, BYM, UMBC and NEPU were able to collaborate and form strong electoral alliances in order to defeat the NPC in the North.
Opposition politics in the North had led to remarkable historical decisions such as the case of late Alh. Ibrahim Imam who on account of was denied the opportunity to contest for legislative seat in Borno, was brought to Benue and given a constituency to contest elections into the Northern House of Assembly and won. Alh. Ibrahim Imam was a founding member and former Secretary General of NPC. He was also a co-founder of BYM and on account of his opposition to the NPC government, it was made impossible for him to contest the election in Borno, hence the decision by UMBC to invite him to Benue and offered a constituency to contest.
The point being made is that politics in the North, historically, has always presented ideologically choices, at least in the first and second Republics. These choices influenced our national politics in many respect. The role and leadership of Mallam Aminu Kano, is to say the least considerable. This is not to dismiss criticisms that have been made over the years regarding the leadership of Mallam Aminu Kano. But it is to his credit that while the dominant Northern establishment engages national politics based on a strategy to assert its hegemonic control, Mallam Aminu Kano approaches it with a strategy to engage all nationalists in the country and negotiate for a better deal for the common person (talaka) in the North.
It is important to also recognize that the BYM and UMBC in the first Republic represented were the opposition in the North. Both the BYM and UMBC had alliances during the first Republic with AG and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) to challenge the electoral hegemony of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC). In the second Republic, both the PRP and Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) were the opposition parties in the North and had alliances with the UPN and NPP to challenge the electoral hegemony of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Partly on account of these alliances, the PRP was to control old Kaduna and Kano States governments (now Kaduna, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa). The GNPP was to control Old Borno and Gongola States (now Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba). It is also significant to note that also partly on account of these alliances, the NPP controlled old Plateau Benue State (now Plateau and part of Nasarawa). The NPN was only in control of old Sokoto, Niger, Bauchi, Benue and Kwara (today's Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Niger, Kogi, Kwara, Bauchi, Gombe, Benue and parts of Nasarawa states).
Twenty-nine years after Mallam Aminu Kano, the politics of the North has lost its capacity to engage effectively with other interests and tendencies to project alternative nationalist politics both within the North and outside, no thanks partly to the reckless and self-serving political engineering of the Babangida and Abacha military regimes. In fact, it could be argued that the whole project of creating new breed politicians under the Babangida administration was targetted at decimating the radical political establishments, which included the PRP disciples.
In many respects, the old political contours in the North have been seriously impaired. Today's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) is in control of all the states ruled by the old PRP and NPP, with the exception of Nasarawa State. Again, with the exception of Borno and Yobe, it (PDP) is also in control of the states ruled by the old GNPP. Borno, Yobe and Zamfara states are today controlled by All-Nigeria People's Party (ANPP). Nasarawa is controlled by Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
The big gap however is that even states controlled by parties other than the PDP, hardly presented any defining difference in the orientation of the governments. Many would today recall the progressive radical politics of the North with nostalgia – politics associated with nationalism, value and knowledge. This is the legacy of the late Mallam Aminu Kano. He used his nationalism and commitment to the common person (talaka) to fight against feudal and capitalist domination, which manifested itself by way of the policy of abolishing Jangali (cattle tax) in Kano and Kaduna States during the Second Republic. In addition, the two governments were known for implementation of populist radical policies such as mass literacy programmes, industrialization, etc. This markedly distinguished the PRP governments of the second Republic. The two governments had a popular support base among radical intellectuals and trade unions in the country. The origin of May 1 as Public Holiday to celebrate the International Workers' Day in Nigeria was the initiative of the two PRP governments in 1980.
This was what makes politics very stimulating and attractive in the North. Unfortunately, today, politics is reduced to self-serving vocation and political parties are at best electoral platforms. The consequence is high levels of injustice and anger in the land with no political leadership to inspire confidence and hope. We today live in a situation whereby on account of all indices, the North is backward and citizens from the North are being perceived as parasites by their peers from other parts of the country. Unlike the times of Mallam Aminu Kano, we currently have political parties without meaning, politicians without value and governments without programmes. This reduced our political parties to assemblies of the rowdy, politicians, crowd of the un-godly and our governments, limited liability companies owned by so-called Chief Executives.
On account of this reality, our politics is highly unpredictable and prone to abuse by opportunists. A clear case in point is how opposition politics in the North is high jacked by sections of the establishment, in this case the PDP. This has aided a situation where even the old tradition of historical alliances during elections is made almost impossible. One of the reasons for this is narrow interests which limit the aspirations of opposition political drivers to static considerations. Static considerations because they do not envision even post-election scenarios.
A practical case of opportunism is the recent case in Kebbi where opposition politicians after winning a major legal battle of getting a court verdict, which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organize a re-run election for the Governorship, the two leading opposition candidates under the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) decamped to the ruling PDP. This led to virtually a no contest situation.
A second reason is the absence of distinctive ideology. The drivers of opposition politics in the North today share the same governance philosophy as the drivers of the ruling party. On account of that, it is difficult to differentiate PDP government in Kano from the opposition ANPP government in the same state. Similarly, it is difficult to distinguish the opposition CPC government in Nasarawa with the PDP government it took over from. Or, can we in anyway distinguish the position of opposition legislators from ANPP, CPC, ACN, etc. with those of the legislators from the ruling PDP?
The point is, for our democracy to have a meaning and command the respect of citizens, our politics must change. To what extent can the political teachings of Mallam Aminu Kano inspire us into doing the right things? Are we in anyway interested in going beyond our lamentations of today? The dominant approach of citizens is to complain that things are not right and do next to nothing or even do exactly what they complained about when given the opportunity. Can we change this attitude and move forward by simply taking practical steps to do the right things no matter how little. For instance, as opposed to waiting for 2015 to throw up a Presidential candidate and we all queue behind him, can we organize a group that can start working on some minimum political agenda covering issues of defining value which should regulate conducts and practices of political actor whether in or out of office? These values must necessarily address issues of well-being of citizens.
In terms of addressing issues of well-being of citizens, a critical element is the issue of high levels of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy rates. With respect to poverty and unemployment, one of the tragic realities is that all our state governments, be they PDP, ANPP or CPC have poor response. How can we in the first place elevate discussion of the realities facing the North to translate into policy actions by our state governments? This is a matter of urgent concern by all citizens of the region and we must set aside our partisan differences and work for the survival of the North based on a determination to address problems of poverty, unemployment and high level of illiteracy.
Against the background of the fact that the source of high levels of poverty and unemployment is high levels of dependence on civil services as, perhaps, the only source of income and employment opportunities, can we develop income earning and employment programme that would not be limited to civil service initiatives? This may lead us to considerations focusing on the agricultural sector. This is the sector where majority of our citizens in the North are earning a living. And this is a sector that requires initiative towards putting in place stronger regulations that would guarantee access to inputs including high-yield seedlings, fertilizer, credits and markets. Market access should also focus on issues of price stability which was lost since around 1985 with abolishing of the marketing boards.
If we must tell ourselves the truth, unless we address problems of the agricultural sector, our industrial base in the North will continue to diminish and the revenue base of our state governments will remain low. It is no secret that today, without revenue from the federation account, mainly from oil, our state governments will not be able to pay salaries. While it is true that there are issues with respect to our national revenue sharing formula, which granted the federal government 52% of the shares of federally collectible revenue, we must, as Northerners, also acknowledge the need to develop the productive potentials of the region. A situation where we are a poor region on account of poor management of resources and lack of initiative is unacceptable.
The task therefore is for us to develop a clear political roadmap. Such a political roadmap should take us back to our old radical Northern politics driven with clear values and programmes. As politicians, we have the responsibility of first organising ourselves and mobilizing our people. Organising ourselves may take the form of intra-party action or multi-party collaborative initiatives including alliances. The challenge however is to ensure that whatever line we choose is not driven by our selfish agenda of seeking for office.
The question, at this stage, would be how many of our politicians are willing to submit themselves both to intra-party actions or multi-party collaborative initiatives towards addressing the political problems of the North and restoring its radical political orientation? An answer to this will be a great tribute to Mallam Aminu Kano.