On Monday, 3rd July, myself and indeed the whole world woke up to the news of the unfortunate demise of Nigeria’s very own master of words, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule.
Maitama Sule was a teacher, diplomat, politician and in his later life, a public speaker par excellence.
İt is important also note that the late Maitama Sule holds the traditional title of Dan Masanın Kano (roughly translated to mean “The Learned One of Kano.”
Now I must admit that I have never met the late Maitama Sule, neither have I attended any of his lectures. İn fact he, along with other figures of the First Republic, belonged to a specıally composed “negative list” of politicians who I thought shortchanged Nigeria.
İt was my belief that this group of people got just about everything from Nigerıa with little to show for it in terms of development and fostering national unity.
However, about a year ago while reading about John Paden, the author of the book “Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto” and most recently “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership İn Nigeria”, I came across the term “Progressive Conservatism.”
According to Paden, it is the most likely political ideology of the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and also the first and only Premier of the Northern region.
Indeed other politicians of the First Republic including the late Maitama Sule subscribed to this line of thought.
This amazing discovery led me on a voyage of reading as much materials as I could get hold of about the ideology vis-a-vıs the lives, actions, policies, and views of these great men.
Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule belonged to that elite group of Nigerians who were able to rise from their modest conservative upbringing and embrace western educatıon.
And this is because they realised the gains to be derıved from western education when placed side by side with the traditional institution.
As direct beneficiaries of the successful indirect system put in place by Britain as a result of the well structured centralised system of traditional institutions in place in the north, the late Maitama Sule realised it was possible to embrace education and the radical development it comes with and still be able to adhere to the conservative demands of the traditional institution.
For example, it is a known fact that the Sardauna, despite his education and exposure detested the idea of the suit and tie. İn fact, it is on record that on several occassions, he had cause to rebuke northerners who went abroad and tried to adopt the whıte man’s mode of dressing.
Maitama Sule also adorned traditional attires even though he was known for his flamboyance in this regard.
İn the past one year, this wrıter has had cause to read a lot of the late Maitama Sule’s speeches, watched youtube videos of his interviews and also listened to opinions of people about him. The most common consensus is that Maitama Sule was a great orator.
However, I feel that is doing the great man injustice. If anything, we can say that he was a man who was a true master of letters, who expressed his ideas with precision through his impeccable use of words. What is particularly striking about Maitama Sule is that at every point in his life, he was proferring solutions.
At the age of 29, he was appointed Minister of Mines and Power. İt was during his time in office that crude oil was explored in Nigeria for the first tıme.
During the Murtala-Obasanjo regime, the Public Complaints Commission was established and in recognition of his sterling qualities, the late Maitama Sule was appointed to head the commission and thus became Nıgerıa’s first Ombudsman.
He resigned his appointment to contest for the presidential ticket of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) which he eventually lost to Shehu Shagari.
Subsequently, the late Maitama Sule was appointed Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations where he chaired the special committee on Apartheid.
After the elections in 1983, he was appointed as Minister of National Guidance. A ministry specially created as a means of orientation for Nigerians against corrupt practices. This was short lived however due to the coup months later.
The late Maitama Sule truly lived a fulfilled life. It is to our benefit that this great man was blessed with great oratory power. İt is no secret that he never shied away from telling stories of his experiences and escapades throughout the course of his professional endeavour.
İt is no secret that he never shied away from telling stories of his experiences and escapades throughout the course of his professional endeavour. Favourite amongst these was his missed opportunity to dance with the Queen.
Yes, Queen Elızabeth, the Queen of England! Actually what happened was that during the first visit of the Queen to Nigeria ın 1956, the late Maitama Sule was asked by the Prime Mınıster, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to dance with the Queen in his place.
In fact, he even rehearsed his steps before the then powerful Minister of Finance, Festus Okotie-Eboh stopped the process because according to him, it was disrespectful.
Similar stories lıke this about Maitama Sule open our minds to this great man; his ideals and views about life. He was particularly enthusiastic about youths and their participation in politics. About this, he uttered his famous line, “new breed without the old breed will breed greed.”
While on one hand he was a staunch advocate of youth and their inclusion in politics. He also was of the view that the experience of the old is invaluable.
The demise of Dan Masani comes at a time when his wise counsel is most needed because these are dangerous times we live in as a nation.
At a time when certain opportunists are beginning to play on the emotions of Nigerians because this was a man who believed in Nigeria and the importance of its existence as a single entity.
There is need for a new generation of leaders with deep understanding of the complexities of our existence as one nation. Nigeria is in need of beautiful words akın to Maitama Sule’s to calm our agitated minds.
The late Maitama Sule was able to rise from humble beginnings to reach the pinnacle of life expectations. Here is a call to leaders of this generation to answer to “Nigeria’s call obey”.
Rest in peace Dan Masanı: you came, you saw and you said it all beautifully.
Musa can be contacted on: +234 909 490 0222 and firstname.lastname@example.org