Three decades ago, 33 years precisely, in 1979, Mallam Aminu Kano led the Peoples Redemption Party – PRP to overthrow the parasitic control the Northern Conservatives had over the core North. PRP defeated the conservative National Party of Nigeria –NPN and won governorship elections in Kano and Kaduna States, which comprise the present Kano, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna states, it also won seats in the Senate, the House of representatives and in the state houses of assembly.
The people of most of what comprise the present North West Zone, the most populous zone in the federation had in a free and fair election answered the call by Mallam Aminu Kano which he made in his statement at the launch of PRP in Lagos in November 1978 calling on the masses to choose the PRP whose programme will lead to “ a straight but uphill road, leading to greatness, through totally new value system of unwavering courage ,crystal clear vision, foolproof planning, high sense of humanity, full appreciation of the problems of the disadvantaged masses and commitment to principles “.
It was the dawn of a new day for the peasants of those states. Alh Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa,the first democratically elected Governor of Kaduna State in his policy statement at his inauguration on the 2nd October 1979 made it clear that the PRP is firmly committed to the creation of a new social order , he stated that “ our policies and programmes are of two main types. There are those which are intended to correct directly and effectively obvious oppressive and unjust practices. There are those, of a more long-term nature, intended to build the foundations of the new social order”.
In Kaduna state the PRP government immediately abolished poll tax (Jangali) , and commenced investigation into land allocation and disputes, major issues used in the oppression of the masses. They began the process to lay the foundation for the industrialisation of the state by setting up an industry in every local government, rural development, democratisation of Local Governments, literacy campaigns while ensuring accountability and transparency in all transactions. In Kano State, the PRP Government led by Alh Mohammadu Abubakar Rimi was making giant strides in education, rural development, agricultural development and mass literacy.
The policies and programmes of PRP, described by Alh Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa as ‘non-negotiable ‘ and the close collaboration with colleagues in the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) ,Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to form the Progressive Governors Group to challenge the ruling NPN shook the foundations of the parasitic conservative Northern establishment .
They swung into action. on 7th May 1981; the Kaduna state NPN controlled house of assembly served an impeachment notice , set up a kangaroo panel and with the support of ruling NPN federal government impeached Alh Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa as governor of Kaduna state on the 23rd June 1981.
On the 10th of July 1981 in the ancient city of Kano armed NPN thugs protected by the Nigerian Police killed and burnt the remains of Dr Bala Mohammed, the Special Adviser (Political) to the PRP Government of Kano State whom along with other intellectuals like Dr Bala Usman, Dr Mahmud Tukur, Dr Yahaya Abdullahi, Dr Haroun Adamu, Dr AD Yahaya and others were the ideologues of the Socialist PRP whose lucid leftist theories helped galvanise and organise the push for a new and more equitable social order. As part this political oppression by the ruling NPN, Dr Bala Usman then Secretary to the Kaduna State PRP government was arrested and detained by the Nigerian Police for designing, printing and circulating a political propaganda poster titled , Ka Biya Haraji? (have you paid your poll tax?) .This was an anti-poll tax poster which showed a dogari ( native authority police) dressed in his colourful attire, threatening to whip a peasant . This poster which became instantly popular with the people, was seen as a threat by the ruling conservative NPN.
Notwithstanding the violent political repression and the internal crises within the PRP, the struggle continued to find a way forward and bring about positive change through free and fair elections but the massive rigging of the 1983 general elections by the ruling NPN provided the political climate for the overthrow of the whole democratic system by an ambitious military junta announced by Brigadier Sani Abacha and led by General Mohammadu Buhari, thereby aborting the dream.
The setting up of industries in all local governments was never completed, the mass literacy campaign was abandoned, the report of the land investigation committee was never fully implemented, but many millionaires and billionaires had been created among the parasitic conservative Northern establishment through corruption and abuse of office by the time the military exited in May 1999.
After several months of Buhari’s illegal detention of some of its leaders, years of Babangida’s transition programme which involved ,the imposed political parties, the ban on certain politicians , creation of the new breed, the June 12 crises and Abacha’s brutal attempt to perpetuate himself in power, the polity had become muddled by new breed money politics which thrives on corruption, rented crowds and electoral fraud.
These developments weakened the leftist political establishment and they could not effectively challenge the PDP in the third republic , even though the struggle continued in the Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ) led by MD Yusufu and the PRP led by Alh Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa.
Today after 13 years of misrule, during which the new breed Northern Governors received huge unprecedented amounts in federal allocations but failed to improve the living standards of the people, the North is in crisis; the hopes of our people have been dashed; hunger, poverty and illiteracy have led to a breakdown of the social fabric where law and order cannot be maintained and life and property protected.
As we search for a way out this crisis and remember Mallam Aminu Kano today, 29 years after his death, we should remember the call he made 34 years ago at the PRP National Convention in Kaduna in October 1978 urging the masses to “get up from our slumber, come up with new ways through which we can fight injustice, persecution, misrule, humiliation and other forms of maltreatment. We need to get better organised so that we can achieve our objectives against the conspiracy of our adversaries. We need peace in this country: we need cooperation and development: we need freedom, without which no nation can prosper and attain great heights.”
This statement is more relevant now for Northern Nigeria than when it was made, and it should inspire all those concerned about the current crisis to work towards the uphill road leading to greatness , to organise , engage and enlighten our people through the most effective mediums. We need to expose the corruption of our Governors, we have to revive or start new journals like The Triumph, Fitila, Analyst that will expose the theft of our common wealth. We need to give legal assistance to encourage our people to use available legal means to fight for accountability at the local government level, We need to educate our people!
We have to educate them on who stole what? Who illegally allocated what? Who smuggled what? Who failed to pay UBE counterpart funds? And who did?Who used funds meant for water supply for 1 million people to pay for Umrah for 20 people? Who leads a hungry people but flies around in a private jet hired with their money? Which Judge subverted the rule of law? Who monetized what? Who subsidized what?. We need to educate them on the electoral process and internal democracy. We also need to educate them on their potential; what we can do with millions of able-bodied men/women and thousands of hectares of arable land if our resources are not controlled by thieves that cannot see beyond the depths of their pockets. We have to engage in serious discourse within the parties to define ideology and clear positions.
For as long as opposition political activity in Northern Nigeria is restricted to rented crowds, occupy Nigeria picnics, and intrigue in posh offices/homes it will remain what it is now, an electoral platform for self promotion available every four years for people that the ruling clique kicked out; and the recent Kebbi state scenario in which the opposition leadership sold out and left the masses without a platform to push for change will be replicated everywhere.
May Allah (swt) reward Mallam Aminu Kano for his service to his people and give us the will to fulfill the mission of our generation; which is to continue the struggle to liberate our people guided by the example of the heroes of the struggle for a new and more equitable social order.
*Attahiru Bala Usman, firstname.lastname@example.org, a technical consulting executive and environmental analyst, writes from Lagos