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End Of An Era; A Tribute To Sarkin Yakin Lakwaja, An Elder statesman and Political Icon

End Of An Era; A Tribute To Sarkin Yakin Lakwaja, An Elder statesman and Political Icon

By Musa Tanimu Nasidi

Late Alhaji Muhammad karaworo Ahmed,the Sarkin Yakin Lakwaja,was born to the family of late Malam Ibrahim Manko  and Malama Hassana Ibrahim Manko, daughter of the one the pioneer and recognise Islamic clerics and  Chief Imam of Lokoja, Malam Ibrahim Manko, in April 1924  in Lokoja, former Kabba province and now Kogi State.

Young Ahmed,  whose grandfather was a chief Imam, studied Islamic education under the late Malam Sule, the son of Malam Yaro,in  Unguwar Hamza quarters, Lokoja, before he was  enrolled in the first primary school in Northern  Region, Church Missionary Society (CMS), now called Holy trinity school, Lokoja. After the completion of his First leaving certificate, he proceeded to the Kano Holy Trinity School, now known as Danwaire Secondary School, in Kano.

In his quest to further his education, Ahmed applied for overseas course in London, where he gained admission and obtained a diploma certificate on Personnel Management in June 1964. In 1980, Muhammed Karaworo Ahmed, gained admission in one of America’s prestigious university then,  Century University,in Los Angeles,USA, where he obtained  Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1986.

After his graduation, Ahmed started his working career with
the defunct Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN),NEPA  at different capacities, while at the same time he joined politics and raised to the position of the National administration secretary of the then major opposition party in the defunct Northern Region, Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU).

Late Sarkin Yakin Lakwaja, was  the founding father of  Muslim Pilgrim Welfare Association of Nigeria, known today as National Hajj Commission (NHC)

The deceased traveled widely, in an interview with daily Trust newspapers  two years ago, he explained that  after the formation of MPWAN, he visited many  countries, specifically for the propagation of islam (Da’awa). I
In 2003 the then president Obasanjo awarded him with national honour of Member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR)

As National administration secretary of NEPU, A. K Ahmed worked closely with the national leader of the party,late Malam Aminu Kano.

On his relationship with the iconic politician,Ahmed has this to say:”Malam Aminu Kano was a complete gentleman, generous and hardworking politician who believed in fighting for the sake of the common man. No doubt, his relatives lost him, but to be honest with you, I personally believed that no one felt the pain of his death the way I did. Aminu Kano taught me so many things in life that are not obtainable, even in the universities. He was in constant contact with virtually all the African nationalists. He taught me the history of other nations’ struggles for liberation. He taught me a lot of things.

On political intimidation, Challenges and harassment faced by members of his party in the hands of the ruling NPC, Constabulary police and  ruling class.

Sarkin Yaki explained thus:”
The challenges faced by NEPU members in the history of Nigerian politics are not hidden. However, I can personally tell you that one of the challenges we faced was that of getting a wives to marry. Whenever a NEPU member wanted to take a wife, the process was halted. For instance, Malam Aminu Kano was denied marriage more than 20 times because of his NEPU ideology.

Even when I finally made a decision to marry, the NEPU stigmatisation worked against me. It may interest you to note that my first marriage was like a scene from a movie. It all started after my picture appeared on a front page of a newspaper during the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) by-election in Enugu where we went to support Nnamdi Azikiwe. It was on the pages of the newspaper that a good friend of mine, Dahiru Haruna Momoh from Auchi knew that I was in Enugu. The picture showed me dressed like an Igbo man, and my friend was asked by a lady if truly I was a Hausa man. From there, he figured out that the lady had interest in me and he asked her. She didn’t say anything but asked if it was possible for us to meet. Unknown to my friend, the lady sent an airmail card to me. So when I left Enugu I stopped at Auchi and searched for the lady. When I went to the lady’s house, I was told that she was in school. So, I proceeded to the school, which was not far from the village. When she saw me, she immediately left the school compound for their house and I followed her home. I was introduced to her family and I told them that I had come to take her as my wife. I was also made to perform all the tradition rites required to formalise our marriage after making them understand that I was a Muslim. From there, I took her to Okene and introduced her to my relatives as my wife and another wedding celebration was performed. She was given the name Fatima. After that, I took my wife back to Kano. She was my first wife and we had nine children. I married second wife an Egyptian woman from Egypt. What happened was that I travelled to Cairo and an Egyptian, Fahad Ghalal, was assigned to be my guide. When we met, I greeted him in Arabic, and because of that he thought I was good in Arabic, therefore, he continued speaking to me in Arabic until I told him that I could not speak Arabic fluently. When one of the Egyptian ministers came to me the following day, I told him what happened between me and my guide the previous day and he asked if I wanted to learn the language, to which I replied yes. The minister, therefore, offered me three options. He said I should go to school to learn the language, hire someone to teach me, or I should marry an Egyptian girl to learn the language through her. That was how I got married to my Egyptian wife. I became very close to her people because they loved the way I spoke English”. He emphasized further that one of the unforgettable lessons he learnt from the NEPU leader was the ability to adhere to due process: ” Malam taught me not to take or give bribe on issues that need adherence to due process. It wasn’t easy for all of us then, yet we took it upon ourselves, and finally, we succeeded. That is why I can’t give bribe to get something done if people were paid to do that same thing. I can remember when I was selected from the NEPU, Bashir Birnin Kudu from the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and another lady from the Action Group (AG) to visit the US on a political excursion. Malam Aminu Kano gave me two pounds to settle my family before travelling, but what I needed for the trip was about 200pounds. He also directed me to meet someone in Lagos to get me all the necessary assistance I needed. My preparation for the trip was successful and we all went to US without much ado. Aminu Kano’s foresight on issues was one of the qualities that endeared him to many people. Various things he predicted came to pass. I can remember one morning when the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero drove on speed through our office and Malam asked who he was. We told him it was the Prince Ado Middle (that was his name then). Malam asked me to deliver a message to him, that he should please stop over-speeding because he was going to be an emir. And that was what happened. I and the late Ado Bayero were very close before he became the Emir of Kano and all through his reign. I pray for his gentle soul to rest in peace, Amin.

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Excerpt from the interview with Daily Trust  Sun, 22 April 2018 Edition:

What motivated you into writing the book, Chronicle of NEPU/PRP?

The idea was conceived many years ago. If I may recall vividly, it was on my visit to America when I was asked a lot of questions about my nation’s political happenings. That was when I resolved to put to paper, the history of our struggle. It took me nine years to write the book, but it was published sometime last year. It is a book on the history of the political struggles involving one of Nigeria’s most principled statesmen, Malam Aminu Kano and his leadership acumen in the NEPU and the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). It traces the history of the parties from 1940s through 1970s and first half of 1980s. It explains history, membership, trials and tribulations, as well as vision and legacies of the NEPU and PRP in the context of Nigeria’s political development processes.

I started by visiting Malam Aminu to tell him about my plan, which he gave his consent to. I did some few pages before his death and I later suspended the book during the Maitatsine crisis. The book was published in Zaria and has the blessings of people like Professor Dandatti Abdulkadir, Professor Jega and a host of others. I had gone to all the provinces in the North during my information gathering on the book.

How did you get into politics?

I got to know politics from the activities of a party called the NCNC. There was a very important newspaper called the West African Pilot, which usually published activities of the party. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the leader of NCNC, was the editor of the newspaper. They had branches in Lagos and Onitsha. The white men really despised the contents of that newspaper. Whenever we wanted to scold our teachers, most of whom were white men, we would just buy a copy of the West African Pilot and take it to school. Our teachers would say, “Be careful with these boys that read this newspaper because they will eventually become nationalists and send us out of their country.’’ That was how we began to learn politics.

Can you recall some of your friends in politics?

Some of my colleagues were professionals – Adam Beki,  Audu Beki, Amiwero, Ibrahim; a man from Niger Republic, and Muhammadu Abacha, the elder brother to the late Sani Abacha. These are some I can recall. Others were Igbo and Yoruba from the South. As I said earlier, I joined politics as a result of reading articles in the newspapers written by Nnamdi Azikwe, Tafawa Balewa, Aminu Kano and a host of others. One day, after I joined politics, Malam Aminu Kano told me that I should not respect someone just by virtue of his wealth or education. He said I should try to be educated to also earn respect, as well as pray to God to be wealthy. He said the rich, poor, educated and uneducated were human beings who all answer the call of nature. They all have same physical features. So you shouldn’t allow someone to depress you just like that; we all have human dignity.

Back to how I joined politics. One day, I read about what Malam Aminu said in a rally. I decided to dig more about this ideology. I was told that Abba Maikwaru Fagge was the leader of the political party in Kano. So, I visited his residence in Fagge, dressed in English wears, with an intention to make an inquiry about the political party. When I got to the house, the people I met were surprised when they saw a stranger, apparently because of what I was putting on. They asked who I was and I told them. They said, “Okay, he is one of us.’’ They asked me to have a seat. I met the late Magaji Dambatta and his brother Mustapha in the house. So I decided to sit together with Mustapha because he was my mate. Then one day, Malam Umar Maiturare met me and told me about a planned rally to be held at Fagge. He said I should try to attend because many big men of the party would be there to address us and I would hear whatever I wanted to know concerning the party’s ideology.

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When I closed from work I went straight to Fagge and met so many people already gathered at the scene, both men and women, young and old.  When I saw Mustapha, I met him to let him know that I attended. At that time, Ali Kote was addressing the gathering. They all talked about the colonial masters, politics and the fact that one should not allow another person to take undue advantage of one.  I became so convinced that I wanted to join the political party. I asked Maiturare whether they had a membership card. He said yes and that it was sold at 5k. I gave him my money and name. They issued me a membership card and I asked where they normally held meetings. He said it was in Fagge, but they were planning to extend it to Sabon Gari and Kofar Wambai.

I attended my first meeting at Kofar Wambai. Later, I was appointed press secretary of the NEPU in Kano. I wrote a lot in the newspapers. When we attended the Bida meeting, I was appointed a member of the National Committee. In 1961, when we met in Zaria, I became the national administrative secretary of the party. I worked closely with Malam Aminu Kano by virtue of my office. Others like Tanko Yakasai and Audu Kano were posted to different parts of the country.

How would you compare today’s politics and that of your time?

It is apparent that nowadays we do not practise politics. What is obtainable now is money politics. The way and manner present day politics is being played is unacceptable to people like us. Imagine how credible people’s reputations are being soiled on radio programmes, all in the name of politics. That is why I decided to keep away from present day political activities.

How would you describe the period you were growing up?

We were born during the colonial era. At that time, our parents abhorred telling the colonial masters the true number of their children, especially the male children because of the fear that they would be enlisted in the army to fight for the British. Even going to school was very difficult because if you were a boy and you attained the age, they would ask you to join the army. So our parents used to hide us from the white men. But those that were not Hausa by tribe and those from the Middle Belt joined the army. That is why you see many people from the Middle Belt in the Nigerian Army.

Due to the misperception that when one attended western education schools one would not enter paradise, our people found it really repugnant to enrol their children into western schools. That is why northerners were seen as illiterates. Nevertheless, there were a lot of northerners who got to the highest levels in the civil service in Nigeria. Our major advantage, as I said earlier, was our population and vast area of land. We have all the human and natural resources in the North.

Beside political activities, you also worked in various places, including a private company, Arab Brothers. Can you share your experience as a salary earner?

At Arab Brothers we sold cars and their spare parts. One of our major customers was Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. Also, in 1962/63, during the regime of Tafawa Balewa, five of us from the North were taken to Lagos for an interview to work in the Electricity Company of Nigeria (ECN). Some engineers from Canada trained us on how to do the work. We were taken to Kainji after they marked the Kainj-Yawuri-Toto-Jega-Birnin Kebbi, up to Dosso in Niger Republic. It was initially 132kva, then the government decided to upgrade it to 330kva; that was added 50m away along the 132kva.

What is the difference between the ECN and National Electric Power Authority (NEPA)?

The difference is that the ECN was managed mostly by white men while NEPA came in after we had done all the needful, and there were a lot of people involved. At the ECN we were not many, and whatever we wanted to do we took permission from the white men, or they sent to us what they wanted us to do.

You were instrumental to the formation of the Pilgrims Welfare Board in Nigeria; how did the struggle start?

There was a time I visited Egypt, and close to where I resided there was a mosque. One day, I heard the imam talk about hajj, its features and characteristics. I then decided that when I returned to Nigeria I would form a group that would be counselling intending pilgrims on how to perform hajj. That was exactly what happened. After we formed the group, other members of the team decided that I should perform hajj so that we could have a better informed enlightenment campaign about the annual pilgrimage. The group was formed in 1965 and in 1966 I was sponsored to go to hajj by Inuwa Tangaza.

We started our campaign, going from one place to another, meeting with intending pilgrims to educate them on how to perform hajj. Then it was realised that this method was exhausting. Then some people suggested that we should have a camp where pilgrims would gather to receive lectures. We met the then Governor Audu Bako to introduce our association to him and seek his support for our activities. He offered to give us a land where we could build our camp for pilgrims. We thought that would be too much on our head, so the late Halliru Binji suggested that we should use the School for Arabic Studies (SAS) for lectures. We wrote a letter to the SAS, but our request was turned down, so we decided to use the newly built hajj camp at the time.

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Audu Bako appointed me as a board member of the Kano Pilgrims Board. Raji Abdallah, a man from Kaduna, was the secretary of the board. I suggested that the board should not collect money in cash from intending pilgrims. If they had a bank in their district, the intending pilgrims should pay through the banks, and if there were no banks they should come to Kano to pay and bring evidence of payment to the board. That was how it started in Kano. Then about 22 of our members were selected for the hajj operation to take care of the welfare of the pilgrims. As a preparation ahead of time, I went to umra that year, during which I drew a map on where pilgrims from each state would camp. On return to Nigeria, they said my map was for the Federal Government to implement, not Kano State.

But in Saudi Arabia, because I was always in my group’s uniform, they presumed I was representing the whole country. So whenever there was any issue or trouble, they would contact me. I had a flag which our pilgrims used as guide. Other states became interested in what we were doing, so every year they would offer one or two tickets to go with their pilgrims. That was how we got branches in other states. Later, the Yoruba from the West said they wanted to join us as well because they were impressed by our activities.

I wrote a book titled, Hajj Simplified, in Hausa and later translated it into Yoruba and English languages. The book simplified work for pilgrims. Even in Saudi Arabia, we advised them to write names of their streets and roads in English, just below the Arabic inscriptions that many of our people could not read. We did same concerning the number plates of their vehicles. Up till today they are using that.

You made an attempt to organise a trip to the Holy Land by road; why did it fail?

It started after I received a letter from the people of Lagos, demanding that I should go round the North to get people that were interested in going to hajj by sea. We got about 40 pilgrims who indicated interest in the North. Most of them were from the old Gongola. When it was time to leave for Mecca, they asked me to join the voyage. But due to my schedule I couldn’t go with them, so I asked Bamanga Tukur, who was the general manager of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) at the time to allow my nephew, Musa, who worked with him, to represent me. They departed from Apapa port and sailed for about 12 days to Jeddah. That was in 1984/85. When they arrived, my nephew called to inform me, but he left the rest of the story until he returned. After they returned, he met me in Kano and told me all their good experiences and the challenges they faced. He said he noticed that the National Pilgrims Board was not happy with the hajj by sea arrangement. That was how it ended. From their experience it became clear that it would have been cheaper for Nigerians to go to hajj by sea.

There was a time the government announced that due to the value of the naira against foreign currencies, the daily travelling allowance to be given to pilgrims would not be more than N500. I called a press conference and addressed newsmen, saying that no matter how the naira was devaluated and under whatever regime, Nigerians would still perform hajj because it’s a divine call, not government’s agenda. Because of this, I was arrested on account of slander against the government. But later, I was released when I tendered the evidence of what I told journalists at the press conference.

My attempt to lead other intending pilgrims to hajj by road was not successful because it is not as easy as it seems. Hajj operation has to do with specific timing. It is difficult for many reasons. For instance, one has to pass through several countries with different rules and policies governing them. Secondly, hajj by road is usually done using cars, and these cars can develop faults, which may take time to repair, and that can delay pilgrims from reaching their destination in time. As I said earlier, it has to do with time, and if one misses a critical aspect of the hajj, certainly he misses it completely.

Late Sarkin Yakin Lakwaja, Alhaji Muhammed Karaworo Ahmed, an Elder statesman passed away at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH, Kano,  after protracted illness on Saturday, 26th of November 2022 at the age of 97.

A recipient of the national honour of Member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, MFR, the deceased left behind 1 wive,37 children and many grandchildren. Among who is Barr. Naseer Ahmad Dan darman Lakwaja,CEO, Grand  Durban Hotel Kano and many grandchildren. He has since been buried in Kano according to Islamic rites.

May his soul rest in janatul-firdaus,grand the families,Lokoja and Kano Emirates councils fortitude to bear the irreplaceable lost ameen.

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Aminu Ado Bayero ,Emir of Kano and his brother,( Emir of Bichi during the funeral prayers at Kofar Kudu Kano
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Musa Tanimu Nasidi
the authorMusa Tanimu Nasidi
Editor-In-Chief