Yusuf Maitama Sule was fortunate to have been in active politics and subsequently in government at a youthful age, and so was one of those few Nigerians who have seen it all.
He witnessed the struggles that saw Nigeria’s independence just as he saw the events that characterized Nigeria’s post-independence period and what followed thereafter. Thus Danmasani was an encyclopedia of a sort who, to put it simply, knew Nigeria’s history in virtually every respect.
At different fora and discussions, he told of how the late Awolowo, Balewa, Zik, Sardauna and several other pioneer nationalists struggled for independence. He also had mentioned of how, after attaining the independence, these gentlemen ran the affairs of government with distinct patriotism and unusual commitment.
Danmasani was at several times a member of the Legislative Assembly in Lagos, twice a minister of the federal republic, Nigeria’s representative at the United Nations and Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission.
Few years ago, in a personality program on Freedom Radio, Kano, Maitama Sule recalled how he defeated Malam Aminu Kano in a race to the Legislative Assembly. And that marked the beginning of a national career that was to catapult him to as far as international prominence.
Thereafter, providence smiled on him and made him a minister in the Balewa administration. At virtually twenty nine years, he was the youngest minister in the Balewa administration. Danmasani acknowledged this in a Foreword to the biography of the late Musa Daggash written by now Prof. Yakubu Mukhtar of the University of Maiduguri. “It pleased God to place me as the youngest minister in the Tafawa administration” he begun the Foreword with humility.
Danmasani had been minister till the fall of the Balewa administration, which saw the abrupt end of the First Republic. He witnessed the bloody coup that saw the demise of the late Balewa, Sardauna and many others, and eventually led to the July 1966 counter coup and the Nigerian Civil War. With the January 1966 military intervention, politicians disappeared only to resurface ahead of the 1979 return to civil rule. Within that period, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, who usurped power from General Yakubu Gowon using the barrel of the gun in 1975, appointed Yusuf Maitama Sule as the Commissioner of the newly constituted Public Complaints Commission in 1976. With that appointment, Danmasani became the nation’s first ombudsman. And when the political drum of 1979 was beaten, Danmasani contested the presidential ticket of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) but lost to former president Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari.
By way of political consolation, Shagari sent Maitama to the United Nations as Nigeria’s permanent representative. And at the UN, he made the nation proud when Danmasani successfully led the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid to record tremendous success in South Africa. Danmasani’s last call to national duty was in 1983 when then President Shagari appointed him minister of National Guidance. After succeeding in a re-election bid, Shehu Shagari thought of the need to establish a ministry which would put in efforts at ethical reorientation of the Nigerian citizenry. He picked Danmasani to do the job. Perhaps the decision was partly because of the latter’s earlier experience at the Public Complaints Commission. However, because of another military intervention that eventually interrupted Nigeria’s second attempt at democracy, the import of such initiative couldn’t be realised.
After about thirty years of national duty, Danmasani retired to become a community leader. He became a father and mentor to many. He became an inspiration to virtually everyone in the polity. But above all, he became a friend who almost everyone relied on for advice and counsel. His oratorical prowess no doubt helped him to a great extent in communicating effectively with the people.
Danmasani spent the last part of his life preaching the gospel of good governance, peace, unity and love. On several occasions, he advised and tasked our political and community leaders to act like the herdsman who sacrifices his everything to feed and look after his cattle. He prayed that God gives “this country leaders not rulers, leaders with the fear of God.”
Mr Jarmajo is on Twitter: @mukhtarjarmajo