Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Elder statesman and Second Republic politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, has offered fresh insight into the struggle for the independence of Northern Nigeria from British colonialism and the tyranny of indigenous traditional institutions in the region.
Yakasai, in a special message to mark the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Northern Elements Peoples Union (NEPU), recalled that the party was the first and only political party in the Nigeria formed solely to fight the oppression of the common man by the ruling class as well as to work for the unity, freedom and independence of the country.
Yakasai, who was the party’s National Publicity Secretary at that time, said that: ‘It was in the cause of championing that commitment to liberate the oppressed and promote unity of the people of Nigeria that NEPU entered into alliance with National Council of Nigeria and Camerouns (NCNC), led by the doyen of Nigerian nationalism and first president of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.’
He explained that: ‘The ultimate objective of the NEPU/NCNC alliance was for the two parties to eventually merge into a formidable party that will belong to all Nigerians regardless of their ethnic, sectional or religious background
‘It was the fear of that eventuality that made the British colonial rulers of Nigeria at that time to incite traditional institutions and reactionary elements in Northern Nigeria to subject NEPU and its members to unprecedented harassment, wide spread intimidation of arrests, imprisonment and persecution with the sole aim of scaring the educated elements in Northern Nigeria to distance themselves from coming out to support the struggle of the party,’ he stated
‘That situation led to the paucity of intellectuals among the leading cadres of the party in large numbers,’ Yakasai said.
‘The situation also led to the stagnation of progress of the NEPU in its its struggle for the emancipation of the downtrodden in the North thereby hampering the efforts of forging national unity and success of progressive politics in our national development efforts.
‘The outcome was the perpetuation of ignorance and lack of enlightenment in the area which constitutes serious draw back of Nigeria’s march to progress and national development.’
He said that, in spite of that, all hopes were not lost as the emergence of NEPU engineered the sprouting of many opposition parties in the North at that time resulting in the emergence of political parties opposed to colonial rule such as Borno Youth Movement (BYM), Ibira Progressive Union (IPU), Middle Belt Peoples Party (MBPP), Ilorin Talaka Parapo (ITP), Katagum People’s Party (KPP) Habe Tribal Union (HTU) and many others during the period under reference.
‘The formation of which resulted in widening the scope of revolt against colonial and feudal domination in Northern Nigeria and enhanced the resilience of the peoples’ resolve to liberate themselves from domination.
‘I salute the uncommon courage and fortitude displayed by the political activists in Northern Nigeria in fighting the combined forces of British colonialism and imperialism in collaboration with indigenous reactionary forces in the region in particular and the country in general both fallen and those still alive,’ he declared.