By Dr Nuruddeen Muhammad
Exactly 68 years ago on this day, (08/08/1950) eight young men (as they then were) met somewhere in Sabon Gari area of Kano city and changed the political landscape of the then Northern region and today’s Nigeria forever. They were the NEPU 8 and what they founded was the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). Politics has never been the same again, not only in the region but the country as a whole.
Sometimes, one looks back and reflects at how such a small crowd of eight that were so young could come up with so much clarity to make such a profound political move and mobilise for action. There are assumptions in their declaration that, from the benefit of hindsight, could now be considered flawed but, overall, their construction of the problems of northern Nigeria still stands and remains valid.
Had they or the movement survived till date, they might have been forced to either review or update their key standpoint about the class antagonism between the Talakawas and the exploitative establishment or bourgeoisie, if you like, meaning the Native Authority, (NA) and the colonial overloads which they constructed as strictly vertical and top bottom.
The concept of freedom they presented to the Talakawa was absolute, finite and an end in itself. It was accordingly demanded from the establishment without any corresponding responsibility to the State or even self. Talaka was the absolute victim. This ‘victimhood’ for example, informed the ill informed attack on taxation that was to eventually and erroneously be abolished instead of reformed.
Today, partly due to their activities, but also in spite of it, the Talakawa have gained considerable political rights and are nominally free. However, because of the original misconception of the freedom, the oppression of the Talakawa is now democratized and exists at both the horizontal, vertical and self levels. And the Talaka him or herself self would need a second redemption from himself to complete the emancipation/redemption agenda. There is no better tribute after almost 70yrs than to mobilize for another NEPU 8, or ten or even a thousand and more who shall redefine, refine and refocus the original philosophy. Presently, our new oppressors are more of the descendents of the liberated Talakawas than the ‘compact and hereditary rulers in the native authorities’ as th NEPU 8 had reasoned.
As it exists, most of the Emirs (who are the heirs of the traditional establishment in northern Nigeria) are not only very progressive and forward looking but also radical agents of change. About four of the five Emirs in Jigawa, for example, and the Emir of Kano (the then NEPU province) could have been mistaken for NEPU spokespersons if they were to exist and advance their views 70yrs ago. In essence, NEPU can still and should exist as a socio-political philosophy for personal and societal advancement around the core values of human rights and dignity, economic freedom and inclusion, free, compulsory and qualitative education, gender equity and child’s right without necessarily the acrimonious class antagonism that characterised it 68yrs ago.
Where and who are the new NEPU 8?