Umar Lawan Kareto: Adieu the face of Kareto dynasty, by Dr Aminu Salihu Yakudima
There is no time enough, but there is much to say about late Alhaji Umar Lawan Kareto’s characteristics, achievements and political antecedence. Umar Lawan and his cousin brother, late Alhaji Muhammadu Goni, have carved out a successful career in politics and made a name for their family, village and state. Goni was elected the first Executive Governor of old Borno State (Borno & Yobe States) from 1979-1983. He was the most performing and incorruptible governor in Nigeria in the history of that dispensation. Both of them were vibrant politicians, but Umar was more visibly active and emerged as the face of Kareto dynasty for obvious reasons.
When his contemporaries in Northern Nigeria particularly indigenes of Borno and Yobe States were struggling to get started in politics and earn recognition as local politicians at grassroots, Umar Kareto had already consolidated and was visible at national politics. He was the first and only Northener, who had worked casually for Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a pan Africanist and respected leader of the Yoruba nation and the Yorubas in diaspora.
Umar was a consummate politician of the second Republic, he belonged to the defunct Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP). Another mark was his contribution to the presidential campaign of late Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the defunct Natioanal Republican Convention (NRC) during the collapsed third Republic. He also contested for governorship of old Borno State under the same party and lost to late Alhaji Abba Gana Terab at the primary election. Subsequently, Umar was elected the Party Chairman for the state.
National politics had became a familiar terrain for Umar Kareto because he was part of decisions making process on crucial issues concerning Northern Nigeria and Nigeria herself. For instance, during the military administration, when late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, formed 5 political parties in 1996 as part of the transition programme for civilian government, Umar’s younger brother, Alhaji Gambo Lawan, a tested and trusted politician was drafted in as National Chairman of the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM), one of the parties created by the Federal Military Government to commence membership drive, political meetings and razzmatazz.
In order to strengthen GDM and ensure its consolidation ahead of other political parties, Umar Kareto, who was a founding member served in two capacities; as member of Board Of Trustees (BOT) and adviser to the party after its inauguration. He contested and won election as senator under GDM’s platform, but the National Assembly where Umar and other senators-elect were to operate could not be inaugurated for reasons enumerated below.
In November 1996, the National Chairman of the party appointed me as Special Assistant, a position that gave me the leverage to operate at high frequency and provided the opportunity for liaising with members of National Working Committee (NWC), BOT and states chairmen. Also, interfacing with officials of other political parties and Institutions of government including presidential villa.
As a journalist, I was covering media activities of the former National Chairman as well. These circumstances informed my position of facts and insightful about both Gambo Lawan’s and late Umar Lawan Kareto’s political anticidence and their profile.
Hitherto, I had no social or political relationships with the duo. I stumbled upon them via their brother who is my immediate neighbour and a reliable friend, Alhaji Ali Kagu Lawan. He is a technocrat whose advice on political and other matters to Kareto dynasty had always been result oriented. Ali Kagu recommended me for that position and facilitates my participation in their political activities and management of GDM national secretariat in Abuja.
Unfortunately, the demise of General Sani Abacha had halted the transition programme completely. In a renewed effort to return Nigeria to democratic government in 1999, under the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, gave birth to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP); Action Congress (AC), and All people Grand Alliance (APGA).
Each party was big, full of membership and democratically structured. Umar Lawan Kareto was in ANPP and later PDP following his defection. He was a member of NWC as the third National Treasurer of the party, after Dr Shettima Mustafa and Alhaji Ali Bukar Wurge. He decamped from PDP and went back to his former party after changing its name to All Progressives Congress (APC) for political engineering.
Umar Kareto’s socialization and humility gave him an age over other politicians in Borno State. With these characteristics, he had earned the confidence of many politicians from other parts of the country as well. Umar had been a bridge builder and a popular associate of southern politicians particularly the Igbos. He was given many Igbo traditional titles, he was detribalised and a civilised Nigerian. Kanuri by tribe, but he had been overwhelmed by Hausa traditional heritage because of assimilation. He understood and spoke Hausa language like any Hausa native speaker. He married outside Kanuri ethnic group.
As a senior citizen, Umar’s influence had assisted and paved the way for some people to greater heights both in politics and business. He had a hand in the appointment and election of many people to key positions at various levels of government.
Aged 70, born in Kareto, Damasak Local Government Area of Borno State. Umar Kareto’s educational career started from the hinterlands and Maiduguri metropolitan for secondry education. He was in North-West Nigeria for cosmopolitan activities and proceeded to London for higher education. He was well educated and had a good exposure of this life. He passed away on the 10th of July 2022 at Maiduguri Teaching Hospital after a brief illness and left behind a wife, children and grandchildren.
Honestly, this tribute was triggered by apathy. One should imagine seventh week after Alhaji Umar Lawan Kareto’s demise without any credible comment; verbally or in writing from anyone about his good lifestyle and contributions to nation building, which can be documented and go down in the annals of history. Use as invaluable sources of inspiration to the youths and upcoming generations towards a better society. Other inspiring parts not reflected here were his philanthropic activities and business enterprises.
May Allah SWA forgive Kaa Umar’s shortcomings and have mercy on the departed. May his soul rest in peace and Aljanna Firdausi be his final abode.