Update on Nigerian Activists Lose, Mourn Hassana Garba
The sudden death of the distinguished activist, Hassana Garba in Minna December 28th, 2016 brought about an attempt to compile a list of others who went before her in the past few decades. That story of Hassana’s death was published in this paper along with that list December 28th as “Nigerian Activists Lose, Mourn Hassana Garba”. It has now been found that the compilation left out a number of names. This short report is to fill in such names as well as to bring up the case of Dr Sanusi Abubakar who died on December 31st, 2016 in Abuja.
Among the omissions from the earlier list is Ado Hamidu who served as Secretary-General of NANS in the Hilkiah Bubajoda Mafindi presidency. He studied Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Their Exco of NANS handed over to the Exco headed by Emma Ezeazu when the Secretariat of NANS moved from ABU, Zaria to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Also missing in that compilation is Jonas Awodi, Ado Hamidu’s successor as Secretary-General. Awodi was expelled from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria along with Abdulrahman Black, Issa Aremu and others after the ‘Rice’ riot of 1981. He gained admission to UNN where he completed his degree programme only to die a day or so after his wedding, probably from exhaustion. Also late is Mahmoud Nasiru Yakasai, a one-time NANS Vice President and former activist from ABU, Zaria but about whom not much else was provided.
Moving out from the strictly student activist circle, two deaths sent shock waves around the activist community in 2015 and 2016. The first was that of Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf in September 2015 and then Rufai Ibrahim who died on April 2nd, 2016. Both were united by religion, journalism, the Kano based Triumph Publishing Company and multiple activist engagement. While Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, the first woman to edit The Sunday Triumph, the New Nigerian as well as Citizen consecutively branched out into gendered advocacy and developmental oversight, Rufai consolidated in journalism by joining others to found Abuja based People’s Daily from where he died. He had been a Leader writer in Daily Times before becoming the pioneer editor of Sunday Triumph in the hey days of ‘changi dole’ that signposted the ‘PRP Revolution’ in the Second Republic. There was brief sojourn as editor of The Guardian on Sunday in 1984 where he wrote the open letter to detainee Balarabe Musa which landed himself in detention under the regime of Muhammadu Buhari in late 1984.
Like Hajiya Bilkisu who combined journalism with civil society activism, Rufai branched out into partisan politics briefly twice, contesting for the House of Representatives under the defunct Social Democratic Party in the early 1990s and for the Nasarawa South Senatorial District under the PDP in 2007. Even without being a money bag, Rufai was able to excite his audience by calling North Central Nigeria ‘a zone of depression’ due to absolute absence of any industrial activities and in response to which he had an appropriate ‘industrialisation strategy’. According to General Obasanjo, the best candidate never necessarily wins the election. So, Rufai did not win that election.
Three days after Hassana Garba died in Minna, another tall tree fell in the forest in Abuja. He is Sanusi Abubakar, an economist formerly with the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; a member of the Bala Brought Up, (BBU) squad which metamorphosed into the now defunct Bala Mohammed Memorial Committee, (BMMC) and a later day columnist with Daily Trust. The death of Sanusi will be felt because he became the only member of that squad with a voice redolent of their courage to say their mind even on issues others would consider too sensitive to write about. As early as 1987, Bala Usman who had clearly emerged their leader had published The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria. During the OIC ‘debate’, that squad maintained what their critics called a secularist position. They did not just take positions, they wrote and published such positions. As such, they were endlessly drawn into hot debates with other academic colleagues who contested their claims. Sometimes, such debates degenerated. Although they were not in the same ideological camp with Dr Mahmud Modibbo Tukur who wrote “Example of a Just Solution of the National Question: The Union of Socialist Republics”, they were the first set of activist intellectuals to confront the national question at the level of practice. They made their mistakes but they added value to that difficult terrain where issues of ethnicity, religion, regionalism, gender and identity politics broadly can be difficult to handle for radical activists. The tragedy is not that they made mistakes just as radicals, socialists and even communists everywhere would admit. The tragedy is that no member of that squad sat down to document lessons of their encounters. Yet, Professor Abubakar Siddique Mohammed is about their only member still academically active.
In the case of the late Sanusi, he remained a solid intellectual of the Jigawa Talakawa Summit in 2008, giving it a superb framing in a back page column that authenticated it further. He always added value to what was on the ground. He had the advantage of data.