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Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule (1st October, 1929 – 2nd July, 2017)

Maitama Sule was a Nigeria elder statesman, politician, teacher and a historian, a philosopher, literary genius and the Dan Masanin Kano. He was the Chief Whip of the Federal House of Representative in Nigeria from 1955 – 1956. Maitama led Nigerian delegates in 1960 to the Conference of Independent African States. He was a Federal Commissioner, an Ambassador to the United Nations and a contender for the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) presidential ticket.

Yusuf Maitama Sule was born 1st of October, 1929 a day that later became the day Nigeria celebrate her independent from the British. He was born in Yola quarters in Kano city, Kano state, Nigeria. Sule was the third child in his family following his sisters Rabi and Maimuna.

His father, Abba Sule Danmuri was the servant of the of the then powerful Kano Kingmaker, Madaki Mahmudu who made Yusuf’s father his caretaker in charge of feeding and caring for his horses. Yusuf’s mother who died while he was 4 years old is a comedian, entertainer and a never boring personality to be with.

With the help of his father’s master, Madaki Mahmudu, Sule was enrolled at Shahuci Elementary School in 1937, just after two years into his elementary education, Madaki died in the 1939. This tragedy affected Yusuf’s education as the responsibility of his schooling now rest on his father, Abba Sule.

Abba faced difficult time after the death of his master; he sold all his belongings part of which includes his clothes to take care of his children. Sometimes they rely on empty stomach for dinner, on days they managed to eat it may be a roasted cassava. He later went to Middle School Kano which also comes with his own challenges.

But with perseverance and courage Sule was able to continue his education and by 1943, he got admitted to Kaduna College (Barewa College) and by 1948 at age 13 he was done with education at that level.

He starts teaching at his former school, Kano Middle School in 1948 and played a big role on social mobilization, touring villages with Emir Muhammadu Sanusi I (reign from 1953 – 1963) throughout the emirate in health, literacy and tax campaign.

Emir Muhammadu Sanusi I turban Maitama Sule as the Dan Masanin Kano (The Chief Custodian of history of Kano and Kano Hausas), he joined politics at a very young age less than 20 years, he was elected in 1955 as a member of House of Representatives and was made the house Chief Whip.

At age 29 in 1959, Yusuf became the minister of power and mines. In that position he supervised the oil industry which was under his portfolio as at when Nigeria discovers crude oil in 1956.

As a minister, he signed deals and contract with Shell for oil prospecting and exploitation in Nigeria. Maitama saw to the establishment of the Nigeria oil company, nominating Nigerian businessmen on the Nigeria/Shell joint board. Among his nominees were Louis Ojukwu, a prominent businessman and father of Emeka Ojukwu, as well as the maternal grandfather of Aliko Dangote, Sanusi Dantata.

For the love he has for him, Sir Tafawa Balewa, nominated Maitama to stand in for him in a ball dance with visiting Queen Elizabeth II. This idea was oppose by the finance minister, Festus Okotie-Eboh as disrespect to the queen. Sule felt disappointed, he relished this story and had his pictures in bow tie bought for the purpose to show for it.

In 1960, he led the Nigeria delegation to the Conference of Independent African states. He later became the federal commissioner of public complaints in 1976, a position created for settling public disputes and complains.

By the time ban was lifted for Nigerians to start participating in politics in 1978, Maitama joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

In preparation for the 1979 presidential election, the NPN zoned its presidential ticket to the northern part of Nigeria. Maitama Sule alongside five others in Sheu Shagari, Adamu Ciroma, J.S. Tarka, Olusola Saraki and Iya Abubakar contested for the presidential ticket of the party at the primary level. Sule came second in the race which was about to go for a second round  before he conceded to Shehu Shagari, he alongside Adamu Ciroma who came third unite behind the party that later produced president Shehu Shagari as Nigeria democratically elected president in 1979.

In September 1979, President Shehu Shagari appointed Maitama Sule as Nigeria Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He became the Chairman of the United Nations special Committee against Apartheid.

As the Chairman of this special committee, he used his power of oratory, diplomacy and persuasiveness to initiate the process of isolating the white minority regime in South Africa and ultimately dismantling of the racist apartheid system.

After the re-election of President Shehu Shagari in 1983, Mataima was nominated and subsequently appointed as the Minister of National Guidance. His duty was to be in charge of the ethical revolution of the government, he spent little time in this position as the military Coup d’etat of December 31st 1983 put a stop to President Shehu Shagari second time regime.

For over 30 years before he died, his main theme at public speech he delivered was to admonish about the unity of Nigeria and the black race as a whole. He was never tired of telling everyone about the sterling qualities of Nigeria founding fathers. He spoke glowingly about Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Yusuf Maitama Sule won the outstanding National Leadership Service Award in 2012, at the Nigerian Media Merit Award (NMMA). This award was also won by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Anthony Enahoro.

Maitama Sule died in the early hour of July 2nd, 2017 at a private hospital in Cairo, Egypt. He died of pneumonia and chest infection. He was survived by wife and nine children, he was age 87 when he died

“Everyone has a gift from God. The Northerners are endowed by God with leadership qualities. The Yoruba man knows how to earn a living and has diplomatic qualities. The Igbo man is gifted in trade, commerce and technological innovation. God so created us equally with purpose and different gifts.” Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule.

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