I do hope this meets you and the family in good state of health and wellbeing. I have in the past, had a great intuition to reach you and a few other elders from the North of your liking to share thoughts on some of our very troubled national issues. However, I was unable to do so until the present melodrama regarding the dethronement of Muhammadu Sanusi II, as the Emir of Kano, which occurred on March 9, 2020, and your letter to him entitled “Letter to my son, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.”
As you rightly alluded, he had been raised in a diplomatic service of Nigeria where his father, Aminu Sanusi, served as a career Ambassador in different countries around the world and was indeed a cherished friend and colleague of my younger brother, Ambassador B.A Clark. I do not hold brief for Sanusi, but it is not unexpected that his outlook on issues which to my mind are well-intended would slightly be at variance with those of some others, both civil and traditional authorities. This has also not been made easier by the fact that having spent his professional life in the banking sector of the country, including becoming Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), where innovation is the hallmark.
Having said that, let me say a few things about other aspects of your letter, particularly, dealing with our common concern to be able to leave behind a country that is totally at peace with itself and provides the best of living conditions for our children and grandchildren in this modern age.
Your generation and few after your time have been able to uphold that ethos of placing the interest of the country above any other consideration. Unfortunately, I cannot say exactly the same for many other people both technocrats and political class of whom the baton of leadership now rests.
At this juncture, let me crave your indulgence to recollect the close relationship which we the people of the Niger Delta have maintained with the North, and which has retained our peaceful co-existence with all the regions in Nigeria, particularly the North since 1953 where our political fortunes seemed to be tied to the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC), headed by Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. As a result of this relationship the Niger Delta Congress (NDC) in 1959 won one seat to the House of Representatives with Chief Melford Okilo. Equally, in 1963 Chief J. E. Ukueku who under the auspices of NPC won a seat to the House of Representatives became a member of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in the Nigerian Parliament. Chief Okilo and former President, late Alhaji Shehu Shagari became parliamentary secretaries to the Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
It must also be remembered that in 1968 when Brigadier-General S. O. Ogbemudia was the Military Governor of Midwest State and I was the Commissioner of Education, we had a good inter-state co-operation with the North.
We sent over 200 primary school teachers to the North Western State which now comprised Sokoto, Niger, Kebbi and Zamfara States under the administration of Commissioner of Police, Mr. Usman Faruk where they taught for over two years. Former President, late Alhaji Shagari was the Commissioner of Education in the North Western State.
We also sent over 250 teachers to Kano State which is now made up of Kano and Jigawa states where they were absorbed into the Kano State service by the then Governor, Audu Bako and most of them were integrated with the local population. Alhaji Muktar Sariki Bai now the District Head of Dambata was the Commissioner for Education, Kano State.
We also, upon the request by North Central State Military Governor, Brigadier Abba Kyari, sent over 25 science teachers to the North Central State which is now made up of Kaduna and Katsina states. Almost the same number of Secondary School Teachers was sent to North Eastern State which is now Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe states under the administration of Brigadier Musa Usman.
We had the same relationship with Benue-Plateau where Police Commissioner J. D. Gomwalk was the Military Governor of Benue-Plateau State. We established the first branch of New Nigeria Bank in 1973 outside the Midwest State.
It must be equally remembered, that Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, under the Vice Chancellorship of Prof. Ishaya Audu and his Deputy, Prof. Iya Abubakar who later became a member of the first Governing Council of the University of Benin, assisted us with the establishment of the Midwest Institute of Technology (MIT) now University of Benin by accommodating the foundation science students into the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) for two academic years before they returned to their original institute in Benin City when the facilities became available.
Unfortunately, the educational development that took place in the North at that time, is no longer pursued with the usual enthusiasm when the civilian governments, took over from the military governments. They have not done much towards the eradication of the Almajiri system which the deposed Emir of Kano emphasized on.
In the same vein, I can say positively, for the past number of years of the existence of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the South-South leadership has been invited on several occasions to meetings of ACF to discuss matters of mutual interest at the Arewa House, Kaduna. The South-South Peoples’ Conference (SSOPEC) was headed by our late leader HRH Harold Dappa-Biriye and I was his Deputy and the relationship continued after his death.
As I have always maintained, people like you and I have been specially blessed by God to have a delayed time in the departure lounge with boarding passes in our hands. This year I turn 93 years of age, and I know that you will also be joining us in that club of most senior citizens in their 90s. As I trust that you will keep praying for this country, I also want to encourage that old men like you and I from both the bureaucratic class and political front, should be able to meet from time-to-time to share ideas and advise in a more dispassionate manner, our successors in public service, both at the Federal and State levels.