Nigeria lost yet another illustrious son last week with the death of Alhaji Lawal Kaita, former Governor of old Kaduna State. He died on January 2, 2018 at a private hospital in Abuja at the age of 85. He attained a career peak when he was elected Governor of old Kaduna State [which included present day Katsina State] in 1983 on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. He had earlier contested for the same post in the 1979 elections but he lost to the PRP candidate, Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa. Lawal Kaita’s rule was truncated after only three months when the military overthrew the Second Republic in December 1983.
A member of the Katsina royal family, Lawal Kaita was born on October 4, 1932. He attended Barewa College, Zaria between 1946 and 1950 and was at the London School of Economics in 1971-72. After returning to Nigeria, Kaita joined the Kaduna State civil service and rose to become a permanent secretary, Ministry of Works in 1977. His early political career started as a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1977-78. He later became the Presidential Liaison Officer [PLO] for Kano State in 1980-83.
Alhaji Lawal Kaita was an active advocate for the creation of Katsina State out of Kaduna State until the campaign succeeded in 1987. In the 1990s he was a chieftain of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] and was later chairman of the Peoples Democratic Movement [PDM] of General Shehu Musa Yar’adua. He was a member of the G-33 group that called for a return to democracy during the Abacha regime and was a founding member of PDP in 1998. A close confidant of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Kaita left PDP for the Action Congress [AC] in 2006 but returned to PDP in August 2010. He also joined APC when it was founded in 2013.
President Muhammadu Buhari who condoled with the family, the government and people of Katsina and Kaduna states on the death of the former governor described the deceased as “a complete gentleman who served his people and the nation with total commitment and devotion.” Nigeria has lost a distinguished leader, Buhari said. Many other distinguished Nigerians also paid homage to the memory of Alhaji Lawal Kaita and showered encomiums on him after his departure.
In his condolence message, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State described Alhaji Lawal Kaita as a patriotic son who had contributed immensely to the development of contemporary politics in Nigeria. He also described him as one of the most generous and refined politicians the nation has ever produced, adding that politics will never be the same without Kaita’s jocular banter. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar also described Alhaji Lawal Kaita as “a fearless democrat whose immense contribution to Nigeria’s democratic struggles would be etched in brass.” The former Vice President said Kaita, who was his political associate, was a man of remarkable virtues who inspired whoever interacted with him. Kaita was never afraid to speak his mind in pursuit of his principles, including his insistence that political parties must respect internal democracy in order to be credible, Atiku said.
On its part, the governing All Progressives Congress [APC] described Lawal Kaita as “a courageous and principled leader who stood firm and fearlessly canvassed causes he believed in.” It recalled “his outstanding tenure and service as member of the 1994-1995 Constitutional Conference; leader of Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) which largely metamorphosed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when the fourth republic was birthed and one of the founding members of the Action Congress (AC) in 2006. Indeed, the country has lost one of its first-rate and influential politicians.”
His funeral at the Danmarina cemetery in Katsina was attended by thousands of people from all walks of life. He was survived by a wife, eight children and many grandchildren. May Allah grant him eternal rest and grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss.