By Dr. Usman Wada Nas
Wada Nas was a household name in Nigeria when he was alive. He lived a life championing social justice no matter who was involved. Wada Nas, a father, grandfather, a politician of high repute, a principled commentator was fearless, eloquent and indomitable. That is why some called him Sarkin Yakin Talakawa. While to his critics he was the controversial Wada Nas, Wada Nasty, Wada Noise, Wada Nonsense or Wada NADECO. In his personal life he lived a modest and humble life and his real mission in life, was to contribute in one way or the other to the entrenchment social justice and equity in the of society and at all levels.
Wada Nas was born in 1938 in Nasarawa Quarters, Funtua Local Government, Katsina State to Malam Ibrahim and Amina. He was the last in a family of 12. He earned the name Wada by his aunty Asibi on his naming ceremony. The name was derived from WADATA in Hausa, meaning abundance. This was so because on the day of his naming ceremony there were four rams all for his naming ceremony. One was booked by his father, two from Wazirin Katsina and one from the Emir of Katsina.
Wada Nas lost his father at the age of two and his mother at the age of six. He was, therefore, brought up as an orphan by his elder brother the late Alhaji Garba Nasarawa.
He began with the Islamic education (Makarantar Allo) but later enrolled into elementary school Funtua (1945-1949) where his name Wada Nasarawa was shortened to Wada Nas. He secured admission into Katsina Middle School in 1950 together with Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the late Alhaji Bala Abdullahi Funtua and the late Alhaji Ya’u Nasarawa but was denied admission to Katsina Middle School due to some reasons and was offered admission to Maru Middle School as replacement. He rejected it because in Maru, students were taught mostly in Hausa language while in Katsina they were taught in English. He, therefore, preferred to wait for a year after which he got admission into Katsina Middle School (1952-1954) and subsequently to Katsina Teachers College (1955).
It was at Katsina Teachers College that he developed interest in politics which prompted him to write a letter to Malam Aminu Kano, the leader of Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), indicating his interest to join his party. Malam Aminu replied him that he should first finish his studies before venturing into politics. This letter was kept by Wada Nas and he was always proud of it.
In 1958, upon graduation from Katsina Teachers College, he was posted to Dutsinma in Katsina state as a school teacher. He joined NEPU and went to Dutsinma as a NEPU member. At that time it was like a taboo to join NEPU or any other political party apart from the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) which was seen as being promoted by aristocrats in Northern Nigeria. So his NEPU activities didn’t go down well with the traditional institution and those in the authority. It was believed that from the District Head down to the Village Head and Ward Head all belonged to the NPC, so the District Head then saw him as a threat. This led to all forms of humiliations and harassments but that didn’t deter him from fighting for what he believed in, which was to liberate the masses from the tyranny of traditional institution. The District Head was very uncomfortable with Wada Nas and his activities and therefore requested the Native Authority to transfer him to somewhere else. So the Native Authority, after due consultation, decided to transfer him to Kaita where the District Head happened to be the son of the then Emir of Katsina. The District Head was considered to be tough and can curtail the excesses of Wada Nas and his NEPU ideology.
After this encounter, a public announcement was made to the effect that anyone seen and found dealing with Wada Nas in any respect howsoever and whatsoever, would have himself to blame. So no one was to associate with him in whatever way. Thus, traders were barred from selling their goods to him, he was not to join any public transport or hire bicycle for any travel. The short of it was that no one was to communicate with him including the school children after school hours. And during school hours he could not send a pupil to buy anything for him, and even if he sends one, nobody would sell it to him once it was known that he was acting on behalf of Nas. He was forced into seclusion with no one to associate with, he was made a prisoner of sort without staying in a prison yard. Indeed a prisoner could have been better in the sense that he communicates with his fellow inmates. This was a grim situation enforced on him by the traditional institution only on account of his political belief. If it was considered from the angle of feeding himself one would appreciate better how horrible the situation was. One may wonder how he managed to feed himself. In the beginning, the option was for him to trek to the nearest town, Katsina which was about 16 kilometers away to purchase his needs. Overtime, however, some residents of Kaita began to ask question what crime had the school teacher committed to warrant the hostility? And what was this NEPU all about? Some began coming to him in the darkest hours of the night, asking about NEPU, while some brought him food items and other essentials, others secretly undertook some errands on his behalf. NEPU began gaining ground from underground. The number of those coming kept on increasing night by night. He continued to educate and enlighten the masses about their rights and how to say no to the tyranny and oppression by the ruling class. This was how NEPU was established in Kaita town and environs. As a result of his efforts in building NEPU, Wada Nas was made the publicity secretary of NEPU in Katsina province.
Wada Nas was transferred to Kankara and as the 1959 general elections were approaching, the late Malam Aminu Kano, who was the then leader of NEPU and one who gave it fearless, purposeful and dynamic leadership and philosophical direction, told Wada Nas that the party had resolved to field him as its candidate in the Funtua Federal Constituency. But Wada Nas advised that he be fielded as candidate in Kankara/Kogo constituency rather than Funtua, his place of origin. Malam Aminu Kano wondered why and demanded explanation upon which Wada Nas explained: “In Kankara/Kogo there was crack in the wall, because each of the two district heads in the area want to be fielded but the NPC was not prepared for a backlash, so neither of them was prepared to support any other candidate apart from himself. This, therefore, meant they would not interfere in the election. After rejecting all the two district heads, the NPC settled for the then councilor for education Alhaji Hassan Rafindadi, who was my boss. I then calculated that having been all rejected, neither was ready to support a candidate that was brought from somewhere and enforced on them, nor would the district head of Kankara support a candidate by his rival the district head of Kogo or the other way round. The greatest probability then, in my estimation, was that both will remain neutral and this was exactly what happened. It was not therefore a problem for me to penetrate into the house through the cracked back wall caused by their rejection and consequent neutrality. I won the election even though the NPC tried all they could to prevent the then resident electoral officer (who was a white woman) from announcing the result but she went ahead to declare Wada Nas as the elected representative. My victory therefore, adequately demonstrated that without the base of traditional institution especially under the emirate system, NPC wouldn’t have grown in stature the way it did”.
The year 1959 was very important and dear to NEPU members because it was in that year that they first won an election to the Federal House, NEPU had eight representatives in the House; Malam Aminu Kano from Kano, Yarima Balla from Adamawa Province, Isma’ila Bichi from Jos Central, Muhammadu Alangade from Ikara, Yusha’u Muhammad from Kubau/Soba, Muhammadu Nalado from Gusau/Tsafe, Ali NaKura from Kauran Namoda and Wada Nas from Kankara/Kogo. Wada Nas was in the House from 1959-1964 and he was the youngest member in the Federal House of Representatives of the First Republic.
After the 1966 coup, he went back to Funtua and ventured into farming. He later in 1968 became an Account Officer of Northern State Marketing Board in Zaria.
During the Second Republic (1978) he joined National Party of Nigeria (NPN) where he became councilor for health for Funtua Local Government, and then state party secretary (NPN) old Kaduna State (1981-1983). He was also a member of the Board of University Teaching Hospital Ibadan (1982-1983). Wada Nas went back to farm after the 1983 coup and continued his farming activities.
During the Third Republic (1991) he joined National Republican Convention (NRC) and became the Katsina State chairman of the party. He was instrumental to the victory of Alhaji Sa’idu Barda, the first Executive Governor of Katsina state under NRC (1992) who defeated the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua (former president). He was also at the time a director on the Board of Universal Bank Kaduna.
After the 1993 coup which brought Gen. Abacha to power, Wada Nas was appointed as the Minister of State for Education. That was the beginning of his relationship with the late General Sani Abacha, which he maintained up till his last breath. Gen. Abacha later appointed him as Minister of Special Duties and later the Special Adviser on Special Duties, a post he held till the death of Gen. Abacha in 1998.
In 1998, when the ban on politics was lifted Wada Nas decided to quit politics and became a public commentator, critic and a columnist especially in the Weekly Trust Newspaper.
Wada Nas was a man with extra-ordinary determination. His name will go down in history as a man who is concerned with moral and structural development of the North and who dedicated his life to this course.
May his gentle soul rest in peace, Amin
Dr Usman Wada Nas is a Doctor at Dala Orthopeadic Hospital, Kano.