In a week-long elaborate ceremony, the statehood of Kano was celebrated last week. The fallout of a military coup that toppled General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi culminated in ending unitary system of government and creation of 12 states, including Kano, on May 27, 1967 by General Yakubu Gowon.
But beyond the pomp and pageantry in Kano, the depigmentation of the Government House themes from red to green and erection of an imposing monument at the State Road Roundabout, there are some matters arising from an award ceremony in honour of those who contributed to development of the state or made the state proud in the last 50 years.
In the first place, the criteria of selecting the awardees were flawed, the categorisation vague and the sorting haphazard in such a way that some notable personalities were left out.
As I went through the list of the 82 awardees, the name of Alhaji Sani Marshal was missing. This is a man who contributed to the industrialisation of Kano by establishing Kaura Biscuit and Macaroni in the 70s, supplying his products all over the country and beyond. It is believed that no individual built the number of schools and mosques Sani Marshal built in Kano and in terms of philanthropy, Sani Marshal was Kano’s version of Warren Buffett.
I wept inwardly when I realized that late Muhammadu Adamu Dankabo was not part of the awardees despite his uncommon philanthropy and putting Kano on a global map with Kabo Air.
As I perused further, Alhaji Nababa Badamasi, the owner of Gaskiya Textile, Kano was also missing in the list. Commissioned in 1984 by the then Military Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Bahari in company of some African leaders, Gaskiya textile was the largest textile company in West Africa at the time. Within five years, Nababa Badamasi, who never acquired Western education, built an industrial empire with world-class machines and standard organizational structure the nation was proud of. Earlier in 1972, Nababa Badamasi had established Moon Confectionary, first indigenous confectionary in Kano. But Nababa Badamasi was not deemed meritorious for the award.
The list also left out foremost grain and cotton dealer and Licenced Buying Agent (LBA) of the days of yore, Alhaji Garban Bichi, just as famous merchant Abdullah Yakudima of similar standing was considered unmeritorious.
Serious merchants and industrialists from the expatriate community like Ibrahim el-Tayeb el-Rayah, Saul Raccah, George Ferris, Habeeb Jaafar, Minaise Brothers, George Akle, Hassan Boukharoum, Suhel Akar, etc were missing in the list, while hoteliers like Tahir Fadlallah made it to the list. Haba jama’a!
Registered in the 30s, the Akle Brothers own the longest-running trading company, Kan Doki, in Kano.
In its tribute to late Ibrahim el-Tayeb el-Rayah, the UK Guardian wrote: “He graduated from the Gordon Memorial college in Khartoum in 1943 and then moved to Kano, Nigeria, with an uncle. In 1960 he set up Nicco Sweets, the first confectionery factory in Nigeria, and opened many stores in Lagos. He was also director of a leather works company in Kano and established the El Tayeb Trading Company to export hibiscus flowers. From the 1970s, Ibrahim spent six months a year in London, where he invested in property and opened an office to buy raw materials for his confectionery factory and trade in commodities such as sugar and coffee. In Kano, he was also active in the promotion of Islamic education. In 1990 he founded and supported the Institute for the In-Service Training of Arabic Teachers there. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate from Khartoum University. In 2006 he received the Republic of Nigeria high award.”
While Sheikh Aminuddeen Abubakar, Sheikh Shehu Maihula, Yusuf Makwarari were rightly recognised, the late Sheikh Isa Waziri’s name was missing. As someone whose televised preaching became synonymous with Ramadan and contributed immensely to Islamic scholarship in Kano, his name should make the list.
From the entertainment arena, no musician/praise poet made the list. Nobody remembers Garba Leo, Hamisu Sarkin Kida, Dabalo, Garba Super, Sarkin Kotso Abdulrahman, Magajin Banga Makaho, Uwaliya mai Amada, Uwani Zakirai, Magajiya Dambatta, Zulai Gagarawa, Hauwa Gwaram, despite singing themselves to prominence and making Kano proud.
Writers and poets like Ali Akilu, Magaji Dambatta, Halliru Gwarzo (first Hausa novelist), Malam Lawan Maitutare, Shekara Sa’adu, Rahma Abdulmajid, etc were a left out of the list. Hassana Sufi, a female scholar and educationist, whose works were recognized and catalogued by the Library of Congress, US was also not recognised by Kano State.
Even outside the realm of art, Magaji Dambatta should make the list, being one of the eight founding members of NEPU – the first political party in Northern Nigeria, pioneer investigative journalist in Kano, chief Information officer of Northern Nigeria, the first Permanent Secretary in the state ministry of Education, former Counsellor for Information at Nigeria’s High Commission in London and later Nigerian Embassy in Washington, etcetera etcetra.
I also wondered why Alhaji Haruna Kassim, a philanthropist, pioneer pilgrims agent in Nigeria and one of the three founders of West African Pilgrims Association (WAPA) in 1948 was not recognised by state government.
But where are prominent journalists like Bello Dandago, Adamu Salihu and Halilu Getso in the list? Where is Alhaji Mudi Nagoda, the man who pioneered kia-kia bus transport service in Kano? Has anyone seen Manzo Arzai and Gwani dan Zarga of unique Qur’anic rendition fame? Why also was Ibrahim Mijinyawa, the owner of Sahad Stores – largest supermarket chain in Northern Nigeria today – was not recognised? Why was Malam Yahuza, the founder of Yahuza Suya, not honoured for his business acumen in making his product a national brand?
And for reason best known to the state government, four commissioners of first military governor of the state, Audu Bako, were selected while the rest, including the first substantive Secretary to the State Government, Abdulrahman Howeidy, were left out. No deputy governor was given the award, but some few Chief Judges, including the current one, were recognised.
While the recognition of the first Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Abubakar Karaye, as one of the awardees was justifiable, I still can’t fathom why my good friend, the current Speaker, Kabiru Alhassan Rurum was singled out for the honour from the rest – Farouk Iya, Alhassan Abubakar Rano, Abdullahi Gwarmai, Ya’u ‘Yanshana, Balarabe Saidu Gani, Abdulaziz Gafasa, Yusuf Falgore, Gambo Sallau and Isyaku Ali Danja.
Heroism and fame should not go unrecognised as recognition inspires the young generation to toe the path of greatness. I hope the state government will create another avenue to honour these unsung heroes and heroines of Kano.