Aminu Kano: Once Upon a Radical

When he was writing his letter of resignation from the services of the colonial government to go into full time politics, Mallam Aminu wrote: ‘’I have seen light in the far horizon. I intend to match into its full circle, either alone or with anyone who cares to come with me”. From then, he never looked back; he plunged into politics till he died in 1983. Unlike many typical politicians, Mallam Aminu did not join politics to acquire power by all means. He entered politics with a clear vision and well-articulated mission.

EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION

Aminu Kano was born to the family of an Islamic scholar, Mallam Yusuf of the scholarly Gyanawa Fulani clan, who was a mufti at the Alkali court in Kano, around 1920.

He attended Katsina College and later went to the University of London’s, Institute of Education, alongside Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He earned his teaching certificate after completing his studies at Katsina College and subsequently became a teacher; he started teaching at the Bauchi training College.

Aminu Kano co-founded the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) as a political platform to challenge what he felt was the autocratic and feudalistic actions of the Native Northern Government. He geared his attack on the ruling elite including the emirs , who were mostly Fulanis. The potency of his platform was strengthened partly because of his background. His father was an acting Alkali in Kano who came from a lineage of Islamic clerics, Aminu Kano also brought up Islamic ideas on equity in his campaign trails during the First Republic. Many talakawas (commoners) in Kano lined up behind his message and his political stature grew from the support of the Kano commoners and migratory petty traders in the north.

Image of Aminu Kano
Mallam Bello Ijumu, Secretary-General of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) in a chat with Mallam Aminu Kano, Leader of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), 1956.

One emir in the north said that the main problem Mallam Aminu created for the traditional institution was that “he taught the common people how to say no”. He mobilized the people to know their rights and to stand up for these rights.

POLITICAL CAREER, LEGACY AND DEATH

Together with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Yahaya Gusau and Chief JS Tarka, Mallam Aminu was in Gowon’s cabinet during the civil war, (1967-70). He was, in fact, in charge of war procurement, in addition to being federal commissioner (minister) of health and communications at different times in that government.

When he went to Sudan and saw how they integrated Islamic schools with modern education, he came and set up the first Islamiyya school model in Kano. His main concern throughout his life was how to get everyone educated and productive. Mallam Aminu was really a visionary who was ahead of his time.

At the time of his death, he left behind only one house, which is now a research centre of Bayero University, Kano; one wife, Hajia Aishatu, one daughter, Hajiya Maryam; one radio, one television and one farm land.

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Ayomide Akinbode

Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.

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