Daily Trust (Abuja)

28 February 2013

Nigeria: Mudi Sipikin - the Poet Goes Silent

opinion

He was a talented poet, who deployed political poetry to stir political consciousness and action among his audiences in the days of independence struggle, and the quest for social justice in the post-independence era. He used his gift of poetry to mobilise support for NEPU, which he co-founded. He gained fame, respect and national recognition for his efforts.

Not many knew that he was also a businessman: he told me in a research interview for the autobiography of his NEPU-era political soul-mate, Malam Magaji Dambatta, that he imported and sold sewing machines from India; he also brought in bicycles and traded in textiles.

Malam Mudi Sipikin, father of 23, died after protracted illness on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at the Abdullahi Wase Specialist hospital, Kano, aged over 80 and was buried the following morning. He left two wives behind, Hajiya Talatu and Hajiya Bilkisu. His death has created a big vacuum in the vibrant Kano Society, which he contributed in shaping. He was among a crop of people of great quality who took part in giving Kano its distinctiveness in many fields: a genuine melting port, political sophistication, aggressive commerce, industrial dexterity and excellence in Islamic learning, which combined to make Kano an important player in the affairs of the Nigerian polity.

There are more qualified friends, contemporaries and associates of Malam Mudi Sipikin who can give deeper insights into the life of that gentleman whose poetry accentuated the contradictions and harmony that co-exist in the character of Nigeria. They will surely do that after coming to terms with his final departure on a journey without return; and assimilating the reality that he is no longer available to sing a new song, or vocalize another punchy poem, for the benefit of our country. But it is consoling that his numerous poems are classic. They will remain relevant, worthy of analysis by scholars of Hausa political verse.

He deployed poetry to challenge the injustice of colonialism and contributed in demolishing it. He correctly believed that independence from Britain would end British exploitation of our resources and bring dignity, peace and freedom to Nigerians. He was for democracy and against inherited ruler ship that was a common feature of much of Northern Nigeria

He was so effective as a mass mobiliser that he gained recognition that paved way for his participation in one of the 1950s series of London Constitutional Conferences, not on the ticket of NEPU, but that of the defunct Action Group (AG). Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, in a great show of pan-Nigerian solidarity, gave him one of the seats allocated to the AG delegates in recognition and appreciation of the prowess of his songs in mobilising Nigerians to engage in mass anti-colonial activities.

When I asked him why Chief Awolowo gave him that seat, he said that it was because the Nigerian leaders who were in the forefront of the struggle for independence put Nigeria first in their activities: all tribes and regions united for the purpose of freeing the fatherland from the grip of the British colonialism.

He also narrated in the interview that while in London for the Constitutional Conference, the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Dikko and some other senior members of the delegations, gave him substantial parts of their allowances to invest in business on returning to Nigeria. They saw him as an excellent young man who was contributing to the cause of the fatherland. The kindness of the emir in particular was despite Malam Mudi's brand of politics which advocated the reformation, if not outright abrogation, of the traditional system of administration, which the Emir symbolised.

After the termination of the First Republic and the incursions of men of steel into governance and their long stay on it, Malam Mudi Sipikin remained politically relevant, if not active. Whenever the military announce democratization, his house would become a port of call for politicians seeking endorsement, skills acquisition in political tactics, strategic contacts and linkages to his vast network of political associates and followers from the days of NEPU that survived the many changes in the nation's political landscape.

In addition to his political associates, he is survived by a lot of famous, life-long friends: Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Danmasanin Kano; Alhaji Aminu Dantata; Malam Tanko Yakasai, Malam Magaji Dambatta and Alhaji Sani Abbas fall into this category. He was close to the iconic Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero.

The thousands of students who passed through two secondary schools in Kano state and one other in Jigawa state, namely Government Secondary School Bagauda, Government Secondary School, Gaya and Government Secondary School, Lautai, may not know that he was one of the brains behind establishing the schools as private entities. He was part of the patriotic group that did the background work for establishing the three schools to advance education in the old Kano State, alongside Malam Aminu Kano and Alhaji Aminu Alhassan Dantata, among others.

He was one of the three key promoters of Bagauda Textile Mills in Kano. He did that together with Alhaji Nababa Badamasi and Malam Isyaku Rabiu. Their purpose was to contribute in industrialising Kano, to create jobs and wealth. It was also a part of the emancipation effort for which he became a true son and father of his country, Nigeria. Is it contradictory to be a son and a father of the mother at once? The lives of people of substance or "calibre and caterpillar", like Malam Mudi Sipikin, as K. O. Mbadiwe would have put it colourfully, always have such ironies.

Dambatta wrote from Abuja.

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