Vol. XXVIII. ISSUE 1. Winter 2021. A Tribute to Yima Sen, Salihu Bappa, and Balarabe Musa: Nigerian Scholar Activists and Political Change Makers
Vol. XXVIII. Issue 1. (Winter 2021)
Tributes to Yima Sen, Salihu Bappa and Balarabe Musa:
Nigerian Scholar Activists and Political Change Makers
Table of Contents
Editorial: Salihu M. Lukman
Jibrin Ibrahim: Yima Sen and Radical Politics in Nigeria
Z. Ya’u : Yima Sen as a Revolutionary Future
Ifeyinwa Iweriebor: Salihu Bappa and Women in Nigeria (WIN)
Adagbo Onoja: Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Loses Dr. Salihu Bappa
Salihu Moh. Lukman: Charismatic Leadership and Struggle for a New Nigeria:
Tribute to Mallam Balarabe Musa
The Nigerian activist political community lost three illustrious members between October and November 2020. First was Dr. Yima Sen of the Department of Mass Communication who died on October 6, 2020. Second was Dr. Salihu Bappa, a lecturer in the Department of English, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria who died on October 30, 2020. The third person was Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, a former Governor of Kaduna State during the 2nd Republic who died on November 11, 2020.Dr. Salihu Bappa was 65 years old, Dr. Yima Sen was 69 and Alh. Balarabe Musa was 84 years. These were prominent left activists who were active participants in Nigeria’s struggles for democracy. Dr. Yima and Alh. Balarabe were active participants in the politics of the Second Republic between October 1979 and December 1983. Alh. Balarabe Musa was a founding member of the Peoples Redemption Party who became the Governor of old Kaduna State (present Kaduna and Katsina states) with a hostile State Assembly that was dominated by the opposition National Party of Nigeria. Alh. Balarabe governed the state for about 18 months without commissioners. He assembled team of radical scholars, led by the late radical Marxist historian, Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman of the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and ran the affairs of the state government. He was impeached in June 1981. His politics remained a source of inspiration for all Nigerians committed to the struggle for social change. The tribute contained in this edition – “Charismatic Leadership and Struggle for New Nigeria,” highlighted some of the salient issues that make the political life of Alh. Balarabe Musa a source of inspiration for all those committed to the struggle for social change in Nigeria.
Dr. Yima Sen, unlike Alh. Balarabe Musa was more pragmatic in politics. He started his political journey in the conservative National Party of Nigeria as a Special Adviser to late Dr. Aper Aku, Second Republic Governor of old Benue State, comprising present day Benue States and parts of Nasarawa and Kogi States. Being a young radical, Dr. Yima Sen wasn’t discouraged by ideological differences. He rose to become Special Assistant to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Second Republic President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, also from the National Party of Nigeria. He successfully served, and following the overthrow the Second Republic he went into academic work and later development work. The tribute “Yima Sen and Radical Politics in Nigeria,” highlighted Dr. Yima Sen’s political journey and his contributions to democratic struggles in Nigeria.
Unlike Dr. Yima Sen and Alh. Balarabe Musa, Dr. Salihu Bappa was not an active participant in partisan politics. He was however a Marxist radical scholar who combined theory with praxis in very distinctive ways. He was part of a generation of Marxist scholars in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria who were actively committed to the struggle for social change in Nigeria. Dr. Salihu Bappa played critical roles in facilitating most of the organised activities that defined the radical orientation of Ahmadu Bello University. He was a disciplined member and leader of many voluntary organisations, including Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the feminist group Women in Nigeria (WIN). He was a member of the left group Socialist Congress of Nigeria (SCON). The tribute “Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Loses Dr. Salihu Bappa” presented some his contributions in Nigeria’s struggle for democracy and social change.
The Nigerian community of radical activists lost three illustrious members who in every respect were change makers. These three changes makers made their contributions, and put their imprints in the record of Nigeria’s struggle for democracy and social change. The lessons they all leave behind re-echo the popular adage – Don’t Agonise, Organise!
Salihu M. Lukman
Yima Sen and Radical Politics in Nigeria
Keynote Statement at the Memorial Event for Dr. Yima Sen
Prof Jibrin Ibrahim
Centre for Democracy and Development
We are gathered to celebrate the life of Yima Sen, a great comrade, friend, elder and compatriot. Yima was an elegant person, always soft spoken, polite, open to dialogue and always ready for a debate. He was also always firm and clear in his progressive beliefs, ideologically clear, deeply cultured in Marxist theory and always ready to engage not just in theoretical postulations but grounding evolving struggles in theory and practice that serve to elucidate the best pathway to progress. It is this life-long engagement in theory and practice, in seeking deeper understanding of on-going struggles and in active commitment to organizing both at the level of cadres, leadership well-versed in theory, and grassroots organisations that I believe his life and work deserves the recognition we are gathered to provide today.
Comrade Yima Sen lived a life that was totally committed to leaving society better than he found it. He was a humanist in the sense that he deeply believed in improving the conditions of the lives and livelihoods of all members of the community. He was a nationalist who was committed to making Nigeria a great country by seeking to unleash its potential for greatness. He was an internationalist who believed that global forces for good and evil cohabited the Globe and we should always seek to advance global forces for progress worldwide. Yima Sen had his O-Levels at Bristol College Gboko and his A-Levels at Boys High School Gindiri before proceeding to the University of Lagos for his first degree. He had his graduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC) Los Angeles, (MA) and PhD at the University of Amsterdam specializing in mass communications, ending his career as a Professor of Communication at Baze University Abuja.
Yima Sen was not a closet Marxist with disdain for what some might call bourgeois politics. He believed that every political opportunity should be taken and gateways to advance the progressive agenda seized. Essentially, political praxis for him meant taking every path that could lead to progress but resisting incorporation into the world of bourgeois politics in which power is the only thing that matters rather than the good that power could be used for. He had the opportunity to access power early in life and could have chosen the path of retrograde bourgeois politics centred on primitive accumulation and a life of self-aggrandizement. He was one of the youngest officials who served as Special Assistant to the President in the Second Republic, Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Subsequently, he was also a presidential adviser during the Obasanjo Presidency, working with then Vice President Atiku Abubakar. At the international level, he had served at the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, in Lagos and Nairobi. For him, these opportunities were occasions to push the progressive agenda at the policy level in his lifelong struggle to leave the world as a better place than he found it.
For Yima Sen, what matters is enlightened citizenship because it defines the constitutive elements of the democratic state and spells out the relationship between state power and the masses. For him, the progressive intellectual must seek to provide substance to the relationship between the State and the citizen beyond what is offered by the bourgeois State, which is formal citizenship without much content. He strongly believed citizenship should mean not only the erosion of the arbitrary use (misuse) of state power but also the movement away from what has been called "pro-forma democracy", in which "formal citizens" are directed by bourgeois parties to limit democracy to the ritual of elections every four or five years while the form of rule remains authoritarian and anti-people. His belief was always the imperative of providing content to citizenship so that the mass of the people can impose their agenda on the ruling class. It was for this reason that he was always focused on grassroots politics. For him, the construction of citizenship is an important task which requires the continuous struggle against the privileges certain classes and groups enjoy because of their control of resources and/or power.
Last year, Yima and I were engaged in a project to engage young persons from Kano, Kaduna, Benue, and Plateau on the farmer-herder crisis that had created so much violence. He was concerned that young people were being sucked into conspiracy theories whose purpose was to retain them at the level of self-destructive activism and challenged them to always seek for facts rather than simply acting on assumptions. He stressed the importance of self-defence but drew their attention to ulterior motives of politicians who have been active in propagating fake news to serve their immediate political objectives of manipulating them into killing each other rather than collectively understanding whose real interests are being served. At every point in his political career, Comrade Yima Sen has always stood by the mantra of taking peoples’ rights seriously. He did that at three levels.
Yima was opposed to oppression at all levels. As someone grounded in radical politics, he was totally opposed to the monopoly and misuse of power by a minority over a majority. He believed for example that those called the minority in Nigerian politics are demographically the manipulated minority and his engagement in the Middle Belt Forum and the Northern Elders Forum was based on this position. It was also for this reason that he placed premium importance on engaging with and identifying with his Tiv heritage. He believed that the authoritarian State has existed to create conditions for minorities to monopolize power and at all times, citizens must engage in resolute struggles to monitor and push back the frontiers of authoritarianism.
Throughout his life, Yima as a radical intellectual and activist stood up against exploitation, understood as unequal exchange in relations of production and in the market and monopoly of resources. His life was the struggle for a more equitable distribution of socially created wealth, that is, socialism. He was deeply engaged in various attempts to establish socialist platforms that would create a Nigeria where the exploitation of the masses would not be the main purpose of governance.
Yima Sen was also resolutely opposed to all forms of discrimination - unequal rights and treatment on the basis of an incident of birth such as gender, religion, caste, language or ethnic group. He was for example a founding member of Women in Nigeria and fought against all forms of gender discrimination.
Yima Sen’s vision of the political life of a progressive was to always advocate for the deepening of rights - the liberty of the person, freedom of speech, thought, movement, assembly, association, and faith, that is, the maintenance of human rights and the rule of law and the empowerment of women, youth, peasants, ethnic and religious minorities, and other subordinate groups.
To always defend political rights - the right to participate in political activity, voting and competition for political office. These rights, he believed, are enhanced by the pluralism of political organisations, political parties, mass media, trades unions and professional organisations.
Finally, to always advocate for social and economic rights, in particular, the right to economic welfare and security (health, education, living wage etc) - this must include the prevention of the monopoly of public resources by any minority.
As we celebrate the life of this great radical and progressive, we must strive to emphasise that some people live a life of service to the community rather than self-service. Today, we live in a society where the focus of life is personal wealth at terrible cost to the larger community. Yima’s life tells us that a different approach is possible and is indeed preferable. My wish is for us to take this message to the younger generation. It is worthy to live a life of service to the community. The community is here understood in all its ramifications – the local community, the zone, the region, and the Nation. If we can be all these, we must also complete it by being Pan Africanists committed to a more equal world that operates without discrimination, oppression, and exploitation.
Memory of Yima Sen As a Revolutionary Future
Executive Director Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD),
Memorials like this are important because they allow us to reflect and think about the future. Memory itself is an important resource. But often we tend to miss its significance. While paradoxically, it is about the past being recalled in the present, its uses actually lie in the future. It is within this context that I want to situate our dear departed comrade, Yima Sen. In doing so, I would like to apologize to his family, both immediate and broader, for I would like to appropriate him for us. The ‘us’ here is a group of highly patriotic, “detribalized” Nigerians who dare to dream of an alternative, better Nigeria where justice would flourish. They dream of Nigeria as a peaceful country where exploitation of man by man would be history. And they see Nigeria as a country capable of harnessing its endowment, both natural and human, to meet the needs of every citizen, irrespective of sex, tongue, faith, or territorial placement. Yima Sen not only embodied the best of these ideas but also lived all his life struggling to see to the actualization of this vision.
When I first met Yima, I did not know his religion or ethnic identity. I did not even know from which part of the country he came. I was not interested in those because, in him, I saw a trusted soul mate, someone whose ideas and mine matched and we had our eyes on the same direction. He was just Comrade Yima. My first knowing of Yima was on a platform for justice, to end apartheid in Southern Africa. He was not our age, having been born a little earlier than many of us who eventually became his friends, but we were shaped by the same generation of ideas. We had graduated from the university and reflecting on our activism on campus as champions for the struggle against apartheid, we thought we should continue until it was completely dismantled. So, we formed the Nigeria-ANC Friendship and Cultural Association (NAFCA). At the time, Yima was working in Lagos and he became a key figure in the movement, arguing that injustice in any part of the world was injustice to Nigeria.
About the same time, a radical feminist movement had resulted from a conference organized at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria by Women in Nigeria. Taking the name of the theme of the conference, that platform became known as Women in Nigeria, (WIN). WIN posed fundamental questions about oppression and liberation of women in the country. The obviousness of its central thesis was a Marxian credo of class oppression conterminous with gender oppression, resulting in the double oppression statement that women suffer, first as members of subordinate classes and second as members of subordinated gender. For WIN and its members, therefore, ending class oppression would not automatically end gender oppression. As such, a simultaneous struggle against both gender and class oppression was needed. It, therefore, thought to mobilize the collective agency of both women and men against patriarchy. This was why WIN was both unique and experimental: a feminist organization that had both male and female as members and both genders were eligible to play leadership role. Yima and Lona, his wife, were both members and played critical role in the movement which saw their house in Lagos as sort of secretariat for the organization. WIN was not an easy conversation, given that it carried along a tension between these who saw class agency as primary and those who saw gender as the most urgent task. In the end, the organization ran into a major ideological crisis. But Yima remained faithful to the principles of the organization and continued to be an exemplary feminist to the very last.
The mid 1980s were heady years. They were defined by a collective search for direction and meaning for the country, Nigeria, following the failure of the Second Republic - accompanied by two military coups. The government of Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), had, against all popular opposition, imposed the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) cooked by the IMF and the World Bank, which only served to destabilize the country. Millions of people lost their jobs, social services such as education and health suffered massive underfunding. The country’s currency was subjected to a free fall. The result was de-industrialization and contraction of the economy, increased impoverishment of the population and high unemployment. These generated protests especially led by students across the country who came to be known as the anti -SAP protesters. The authoritarian regime responded with crackdown and massive arrest and detention of student leaders and labor activists as well as other measures to destabilize unions. While the government was, to a large extent, successful in crushing traditional mass movements such as the student and the labour movements, there arose a new form of organization, first using the instrumentality and language of human rights but focused on democracy and national liberation, resulting in the formation of pro-democracy movements like the National Front and eventually the Campaign for Democracy (CD). The CD was like the absorption of all the energies in both NAFCA and WIN as well as the remnants of the student movement plus the left-wing constellation in the academia. Yima was a central figure in this history and the struggles that unfolded. The central demand of the Campaign for Democracy was to end military rule and therefore it also campaigned against the military planned and controlled political transition programme which seemed to be interminable, as IBB kept extending the handing over date, internally subverting his own process.
IBB had no option but to finally allow elections to hold - only to cancel the result of the election at the last moment, refusing to allow the winner of the Presidential election to assume his mandate. This led to pro-democracy protests, led initially by CD and trade unions, to be joined later by NADECO, which was a coalition of politicians who felt shortchanged by the military. The insertion of the CD into a struggle to reclaim the mandate of an election against which it had called for a boycott, and the complication of the struggle by its apparent regionalization, led to a tension in the pro-democracy movement, and subsequently to a split. While the split was largely fueled by ideological disagreements, the immediate cause was the decision by the Beko-led leadership of CD to get involved with the military coup of Abacha. Superficially, a coalition of activists from the South West favoured collaboration with the Abacha military regime, while the other, largely of activists from outside the region, felt that any accommodation with the military would undermine the very foundational demand of the movement, that is, to end military rule. This split led to the formation of the Democratic Alternative (DA) for which Yima emerged as one of its leaders. The DA had a dual character, as a movement and a political party and therefore it needed a front to carry out the popular struggles, while the party needed to concentrate on the principal question of getting power. This was how the United Action for Democracy (UAD) was formed. Again, Yima was part of this.
While Ibrahim Babangida was able to destabilize traditional mass movements, Abacha was largely successful in destabilizing the radical pro-democracy movement. From the late 1990s, our movement began to disorganize and break into ineffectual factions. Confusion set in and stories of betrayals became the order of the day. Some opted to find a space in the corrupt system we all had committed to fight. Some went to align behind their ethnic and religious lords, becoming in the process, either cranky ethnic chauvinists or bigoted religious lunatics. When some of us became either confused or turned to their inner cocoons of ethnicity and religiosity, Yima Sen remained solid. He did not become demoralized by the constant tales of betrayal. Instead, he was spurred to continue to use his energy, intellect, and commitment to a course that he believed was right.
By the time we transited to civil rule in 1999, we had a movement that was caught unprepared for electoral democracy. As a movement, we had many bruises all over us. Our main platform, the Socialist Congress (SCON) was in crisis by itself. The fronts had fractured. Above all, we had no consensus on how to relate to electoral politics. Some thought it was best to join the mainstream bourgeois parties and influence development from within them, and eventually some did. Others sought joining the burgeoning civil society advocacy to get reforms, and again a number did that. Some thought that we should monitor the transition, and later the election so that we would help to create a better election environment. Still others sought solace in isolation. A minority remembered we had a political party in the DA which had been dually registered and available to contest elections. Their electoral experience was a dismal failure. In the end, we lost the party and almost lost the core organization in the confusion. Yima was part of these debates but his sights remined fixed far into the horizon, never losing hope, believing that in the end we would be able to overcome.
One of the paradoxes that often get confusing to people is the juxtaposition of peace and revolution, which is seen as bloody and antithetical to peace. Yima was both a revolutionary and a peace maker. There is no contradiction in this: you cannot have peace without social justice, and revolution is about establishing social justice without which there can be no peace. In this sense, peace and revolution are two different sides of one coin. You need a revolution in order to make a lasting peace. Since the return to civil rule in 1990, and the increasing spate of ethno-communal conflicts, Yima has been part of many platforms searching for peace in the country. I remember one of the collaborations we had toward the end of the last year. We brought youth from Benue, Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, and a few other places to Abuja for three days, working with them on understanding how fake news and hate speech have catalyzed many conflicts. Yima gave one of the most striking narratives that transformed the perceptions of many of the participants of the conflicts that they had thought they knew better.
Yima spoke to Nigerians about our collective vision. He showed us how we could struggle to attain the vision he had dreamt about. He dared us to walk along the path he imagined in attaining this vision. Yima is thus a promise for Nigeria and Nigerians, a promise that is a resource for our struggle to build a better society and country. He is no longer with us, but he has left behind a legacy that will shape the tomorrow of Nigeria and Nigerians - the future that we all wish for. We can only do justice to his memory if we keep this hope alive and continue to struggle for a better Nigeria.
We are happy to celebrate Yima (yes, we cannot but celebrate him because his journey on this earth was a gift to humanity) - because he struggled with us, spoke with us and lived an exemplary life that we are proud of. But we can only do justice to the memory of Yima and make that memory the resource of tomorrow, if we interrogate our dwindling strength, lack of coherence and clarity of our ideas. What is it that has made many of us lose faith in the change that we have spent decades working for? Is it that we have become impatient that the change is not fast coming? Is it that the passage of time has seen us lose clarity on our ideas? Is it that age has meant that we are incapable of sustaining our passion for change and deploying our human agency for change?
Whichever it is, we need to rethink how to get back to our trajectory. Things have moved from bad to worse in the country. We have harvested a civilian rule, but we have harvested the worse of its most unaccountable form. More than ever before, the question that always defined Yima, that is justice, is even much more urgent now. We cannot get justice with an unaccountable government and we cannot get an accountable government in the context in which class interest is the determining factor in what a government does or does not.
I would like to conclude by acknowledging one resource that Yima Sen has bequeathed for us. This is his love and commitment to ideas as building blocks of society. Having ideas is potential power - power not in the sense of an institutional repository of control but in a much more transformative sense, since power itself, that ability to transform society, is constituted by ideas. We have ideas; therefore, we have power to transform Nigeria to the ideals we imagine. That requires the deliberate, tactical, and strategic deployment of that power, which is the ideas we all have been articulating. Rest in peace Comrade Yima, Sleep well!
November 11, 2020
Salihu Bappa and Women in Nigeria (WIN)
A Founding Member of Women in Nigeria (WIN)
Founding Kwara State Coordinator, WIN (1982 - 84)
National Publicity Secretary, WIN (1984 to 1986)
It was the eighties. The generation of children who had watched their parents celebrate Nigeria’s independence had grown up witnessing the deterioration of civilian rule and its descent into primal petty nationalism. They had witnessed and had been impacted by military coups, counter coups, and rule. They had witnessed, been disrupted, lost loved ones, had died, and survived a civil war. They had pursued their education, or had resumed an interrupted education, participated in the fledgling nation-building attempt of the national youth corps, and had joined the ranks of the working and professional classes. Many dived into the flush of the oil boom with the acquisition of cars, electronics and see - through lace garments. They held their heads high over Nigeria’s leadership role in the continuous African decolonization struggles of the seventies and vociferously held forth over the merits and demerits of the cultural extravaganza of FESTAC, the Festival of Arts & Culture. Many married, become parents themselves and were living out their lives in the fractious contradictions of a neocolonial economy.
They had watched and even engaged in the preparations to return to civilian administration. They watched with some trepidation as the ethnic centrifugal contestation resurged with the resumption of civilian party politics, to some extent counterbalanced by the centripetal forces of nation building ideologies which in themselves were also contentious. Issues of education (free versus quality and somewhere in-between), housing, transportation, health, minimum wage, and gender were vigorously debated.
Gender, gender, gender! Gender had been part of the national discourse from time immemorial. Queen Idia had been a renowned warrior. Queen Amina and her sister, Queen Zaria had been heads of their father’s war councils long before they had become queens. Women sat on men to reprimand them, prior to the colonial presence. As part of the anti-colonial struggles, there had been the Abeokuta Women’s Revolt and the Aba Women’s War. Round the country, market women supported anti-colonial activists and politicians. Women agitated for school curricula equality for girls’ schools, as opposed to gender - specific curricula that emphasized domestic science and secretarial training.
Just before independence, there had been efforts to coordinate women’s activities and present a national front. This is how the umbrella organization – the National Council of Women’s Societies – such a lady-like genteel term reflecting its stated nurturant and social welfarist perspective – (NCWS) came to be. During the civil war, women engaged in the “Attack Trade” behind enemy lines to survive and provide for their families. In communities like Issele-Uku (Delta State) the Omu (queen) ruled, while the Obi (king) was kept away for protection.
In the post-civil –war period, women in the civil service brought pressure to bear on the military to guarantee jobs for pregnant women, grant paid maternity leave and allowances for leave and housing. Significantly, the three women on the 1978 Constituent Assembly were able to convince their 500 odd male colleagues that the 1979 Constitution should grant women constitutional equality. The right to vote, earlier granted to women in some parts of the country, was extended to all women everywhere in the polity, and the new civilian government featured two female cabinet ministers. One of the “progressive” states appointed its first female secretary to the government - who also happened to be a daughter of one of the preeminent Obas (kings) of the region - and the first female permanent secretaries emerged through the ranks of the Federal Government.
On the international front, the United Nations launched the Decade of Women to foster interest in women’s issues and concerns, encouraging Governments to support the emergence of professional groups such as the National Association of Media Women (NAMW).
Yet, all was not quite well with gender. Class divisions sharpened as it became clear that too many had been excluded from the oil boom largesse. Natural disasters such as floods and fires highlighted the inadequacies of housing, and petroleum and environmental pollution disrupted agricultural activities, contaminated water supplies and caused health problems. Cash crops depleted land available for food crops, which women were mostly responsible for, and which together with massive importation of food – fueled soaring food prices.
A million kids competed for 20,000 slots in federal colleges. Boys in some states abandoned school to be traders and farmers. Hundreds of other kids resorted to armed robbery. One of the first acts of the female secretary to the government of the “progressive” state, was to take away the housing allowances for women, which the state had inherited from military rule. Market women were constantly harassed. The labor unions were threatening strikes and the Second Lady of the Federation in an address to the NCWS on Workers Day, May 1st, 1982, called on women to tell their men not to strike. Screech and rewind - she said Waaaaat?! Were women not workers? Were they not the farmers, traders, factory, fast food, and government workers bearing the brunt of the economic crises? But this was the conventional view being peddled, that women were only homemakers and perpetual peacemakers. It also exposed the class divisions among women and represented an attempt by the authorities to use women’s platforms as government megaphones and strip away women’s traditional rights to express autonomous views about national matters; agitate and protest as they see fit.
Coincidentally, during this period, preparations for a conference at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, were being made. According to its conveners: “The initiative arose from an on-going, somewhat acrimonious, debate among colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.” One side contended that the oppression of women was part of general class oppression and would disappear with the end of class oppression. Others had argued that it was independent and had to be addressed on its own merits.
Held from May 27 to May 28, 1982, the conference, “Women In Nigeria Today,” attracted a variety of participants – the children who had watched their parents celebrate Nigeria’s independence, and some sisters and brothers of other mothers across the seas. Now they were academics. from a variety of disciplines, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, history, law, literature, and medicine; media practitioners, teachers, labor leaders, religious leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), law enforcement, medical personnel – a motley crew indeed, but in all seriousness, a veritable cross-section of the Nigerian intelligentsia from the North, East, West and South of the country – truly a national phenomenon. Well-researched and fact-based papers were presented eliciting heady, exhilarating, vigorous, vociferous, contentious contestation between the rightists and the leftists; feminists and womanists; theoreticians and practitioners; traditionalists, Marxists, socialists, social democrats, radicals, liberals, reactionaries, and everyone else in between. At the end, it was decided to form an organization that addressed the double oppression of women- both as women and as members of the laboring classes. The organization took its name, Women in Nigeria (WIN) from the conference.
WIN was considered fresh, novel and a brave radical alternative to the prevailing conservative female leadership. It also represented a reassertion of Nigerian women’s practice and tradition of commentary, petitioning, pressurizing and protest. Indeed, for the next decade, Nigerians either braced themselves for, or embraced the searing, incisive rhetoric of WIN communiqués advocating for women and the disadvantaged in the various socio-economic, legal, and political battles, through the length and breadth of the country. It was a women’s organization, BUT was going to accept male members, because it recognized that the gender struggle was all encompassing.
Who were the kinds of men who would join and why? These were men who were for one, truly confident about their maleness, aware that they were part of a privileged societal group but felt uneasy about the inherent inequities they had observed. They could have formed a men’s wing, like so many auxiliary women’s wings of male - dominated associations that played supportive roles. But they wanted to play active roles - be in the trenches as it were. Why? Well, basically, they wanted to join because they were thinking about their mothers, their sisters, and their daughters. Some had seen their mothers struggle to raise them under difficult situations they may not have fully understood. Some saw how disadvantaged their mothers became with widowhood. Many had watched how their sisters had been yanked from school or had been deprived of the opportunity to go to school, because their families had been too poor to afford both the sons and daughters going to school, and had privileged the sons. Some had witnessed their sisters married off and the generated dowry being used to pay their (the brothers’) school fees. Others had had sisters who did not receive offers of marriage because the cultures required too high a dowry. They knew of sisters who had been married off at such young ages that their bodies were not able to handle the natural physicality of intercourse and childbearing and had been subject to mutilations and concomitant health problems Several wondered about the fate of their daughters. There was growing awareness that the traditional practices of genital surgery on girls and women had severe negative outcomes. Should they as fathers break with those traditions? To what level should they educate their daughters? Some reflected about their wives and how to conduct their marriages on an equitable manner. What blueprint could be a guide? Where indeed did the “Woman Question,” lie within the entire matrix of social development and self? There were a lot of imponderables, and perhaps WIN could help provide some answers to the toll of patriarchy that women bore.
Dr. Salihu Bappa was one such man. Born in Plateau State, he was introduced to the multicultural linguistic experience of people from minority groups - a home language that was different from a dominant lingua-franca, upon which was superimposed the European colonial language of English as the nation’s official language. Completing his first degree in Western Nigeria – the University of Ibadan would have cemented his foundation as a pan – Nigerian. Indeed, he has been described by colleagues as having “no ethnic chauvinism in his bones.”
A student of drama, Bappa acted in the National Television Authority (NTA) series, “Cockcrow at Dawn,” which undergirded the government’s call to the middle classes to engage in agriculture, but also showcased the class divisions and contradictions in rural communities. He contributed to “Magana Jari Ce,” a collection of Hausa stories produced in English. He subsequently became a professor of English and Theater Arts at ABU. Credited with being a “prominent academic and scholar.” He is regarded as having contributed to the “radical” scholarly reputation of the university. He promoted and engaged in community and traditional theater in Bomo, a village neighboring the college, a clear testimony to his perspectives on class and society. Specializing in Performance, his published several works, that include an essay titled, “The Maska Project: Drama Work for Adult Educators” ; “Community Theater in Nigeria: Evolution, Development and Future” ; “The Culture Industry in Ghana” ; and “Baba Zak” . On the national scene, he was a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and served for many years as a judge for its award of literary prizes, up to 2017.
Salihu Bappa was one of the participants in that first WIN conference. He served as a rapporteur for one of the sessions and was a member of the editorial committee that published the organization’s first book, “Women in Nigeria Today,” published by Zed Books Ltd., in 1985. He was one of those who helped to craft the resolution that birthed WIN. His feminist inclinations endured in his work and career. For instance, in his 1990 docudrama, “Baba Zak,” he articulated the perspective of a major character who was a young girl who had been given in marriage to a middle-aged widower but had ideas of her own. Similarly, in producing a play, “Death and the King’s Grey Hair,” as recently as 2015 – thirty-three years after the formation of WIN - he offered what the playwright, Denja Abdullahi called, “A feminist re-interpretation.”
Friends and colleagues describe him as sensitive, caring, jovial and reliable. They found him to be supportive, gracious, and loyal and recount legendary tales of his humanity. He, according to them, had boundless energy and “was always in a hurry.” Cosmopolitan and well-travelled, he was in Stockholm, Sweden with Wole Soyinka when the latter received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. He did marry and have children. A fighter to the end, he combated ill health for four years, finally passing away in October 2020 a few months after his retirement. His colleagues in theater mourn that, “Theater scholarship in Nigeria has lost a rare gem and a living theater library in Malam Salihu Bappa.” We in WIN mourn the loss of a rare and enduring comrade, a soldier in the trenches of the struggle for gender and social equality. Like everyone else, we wish him peaceful repose in the great beyond.
* Ifeyinwa Iweriebor is a pioneer member of Women in Nigeria (WIN). She was the founding Kwara State Coordinator (1982 - 84) and served as the National Publicity Secretary from 1984 to 1986. She was a WIN delegate to the 1985 UN Decade for Women Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya and also presented the WIN paper at the 1989 Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODISERA) Conference in Kampala, Uganda. She has contributed to several WIN publications. Iweriebor is a journalist, writer, public relations practitioner, early childhood educator and college professor.
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Loses Dr. Salihu Bappa
Lecturer, Political Science
Two weeks after the burial of Dr. Yima Sen, another male member of the defunct Women in Nigeria, (WIN) dead. He is Dr. Salihu Bappa of the Department of English at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was buried on Saturday, October 31st, 2020 in Zaria, Nigeria.His is the passage of one of the academics who gave Theatre Arts at Ahmadu Bello University its radical flavour. A product of the University of Ibadan, and a student of Wole Soyinka, Dr. Bappa was, in fact, with the Nobel Laureate in Stockholm, Sweden when Soyinka collected his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. Before he gained admission to the then Jos Campus of the University of Ibadan, and his subsequent transfer to heartland Ibadan, he attended Gindiri Boys High School, Jos. This was along with Tanimu Abubakar, one of the most solid remaining literary theorists in contemporary Nigeria. Dr Bappa did his graduate studies in the sub- Department of Drama at ABU, Zaria, where he entered academia and remained for the rest of his life.
Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, his contemporary in those years in Zaria, told us how seriously Dr. Bappa took propagating popular theatre, especially in the small peasant settlement called Bomo near Samaru Campus of ABU, Zaria. Bomo was the ground for operationalising Hausa traditional theatre packaged under the framework of “Kallonkowa” within the larger idea of community theatre which has been part and parcel of the Theatre Arts academic programme in Zaria. Prof Tanimu Abubakar, Prof Ahmed Babajo and Prof Umar Buratai who were late Bappa’s colleagues in the Department of English, ABU, Zaria added, among others, how he acted in both ‘Cockcrow at Dawn’ as well as in ‘Magana Jari Ce’, the collection of stories in Hausa which the NTA produced.
The three academic colleagues disclosed how Dr. Bappa’s specialisation was in performance. It is not surprising that the academic essay that came up against his name in a quick search is an essay titled “The Maska Project: drama work for Adult Educators”. He was a judge of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA) Literary Prizes as late as 2017. In the schisms which characterised the Ahmadu Bello University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, (FASS) in the 1980s, he was in the Zaria Group which was ideologically opposed to the PRP ideologues led by the late Dr. Bala Usman. The now defunct Zaria Group did not think the People’s Redemption Party, (PRP) or the politics of the Bala Brought Ups, (BBU) followed correct theoretical cum doctrinal lines and that it was bound to be consumed by the contradictions of such approach to politics. But that was in the early 1980s before the coup against the Shagari regime in 1983.
As a person, he is generally described as a gracious soul. Again, Prof Jibrin Ibrahim was spot on in describing him as very jovial, extremely active, and always in a hurry. The dramatist in him could never be missed. Dr. Bappa retired from the services of the university about six months before his passing, but remained in Zaria. His last four years were a health challenge, the story of which must be told. A heart or heart related ailment troubled him. He had been to Egypt, Dubai and India for medical attention. In all these places, doctors declined to carry out any operation on him because they thought he would not survive it. It was a U. S based Nigerian Professor of Medicine who had established a medical facility in Southwestern Nigeria that eventually carried out the operation.
Authoritative sources close to the process said he was told point blank that he had just 10% chance of surviving the operation. On the other hand, he had no more than three days to live if he chose not to undergo the operation. He chose to undergo the operation. Miraculously, he survived it, and it was successful, although he was told he was unlikely to live longer than four years thereafter. That is almost exactly what has happened.
In other words, Dr. Bappa is a message to Nigerians in many respects. Firstly, originating from Jos, educated in Ibadan and a student of our own W. S. (Europe has her own W. S in William Shakespeare while Africa has its own W.S in Wole Soyinka), Bappa taught and lived in Zaria. Secondly, one of the most active and restless souls in his adult life, came to confront the sort of medical challenges he confronted in the evening of his life. That draws attention to the mystery of life. Thirdly, he is a message about how Nigerians would not need to embark on medical tourism, if we could be less careless as a nation in putting our house in order.
First published by Intervention. October 30, 2020
Charismatic Leadership and the Struggle for a New
Nigeria: Tribute to Mallam Balarabe Musa
Salihu M. Lukman
Progressive Governors Forum
Sometime in December 1984, Mallam Rufai Ibrahim, of blessed memory, a veteran
journalist, a committed Marxist, one of the intellectual backbones of the Peoples
Redemption Party (PRP), wrote an open letter to Mallam Balarabe Musa, after close
to a year - long detention, following the military coup of December 31, 1983, together
with a whole generation of Second Republic politicians. The open letter earned
Mallam Rufai a detention ticket to join Mallam Balarabe and other political detainees
across the country, largely because of the clarity of message in the letter in terms of
communicating many of our failures as a nation, but also significantly the failings of
acclaimed revolutionaries. Part of the message sent to Mallam Balarabe by Mallam
Rufai stated that:
“as a long standing and prominent member of the left yourself, you are
already very familiar with the problems the Nigerian left was facing up to the demise
of the Second Republic. Unorganised, lacking own medium through which it could
make itself heard, crippled by the opportunism of some of its members, under-
funded and too obsessed with bourgeoisie morality to take some necessary steps to
improve its financial position, the left didn’t make as much impact as it ought to have
made even in the Second Republic.”
Mallam Rufai died April 16, 2016.
At the time the death of Mallam Balarabe was being announced on the morning of
Wednesday, November 11, 2020, a tribute session was taking place in honour of
Prof. Yima Sen, another Marxist scholar and activist. Less than two weeks before,
there was another loss - Dr. Salihu Bappa of English Department, Ahmadu Bello
University. It is as if the traffic moving left activists and radical politicians out of this
world is assuming supersonic speed.
I have had the privilege of being closely associated with both Prof. Sen and Mallam Bappa. In fact, it is a
rare privilege of being a mentee to both of them. I served as the pioneer Deputy General Secretary of
Campaign for Democracy (CD) in 1991 when Prof. Sen was General Secretary, and
later in 1992. He was succeeded by late Chima Ubani. Dr. Bappa was ideological
leader in ABU who touched the life of almost every radical student in very
fundamental ways. As President of the National Association of Nigerian Students
(NANS) between June 1988 and January 1990, several times he had to organise to
smuggle me out of ABU to prevent security operatives from arresting me. These were
very harsh challenging periods, which could hardly be described with reference to our
present realities. Part of the tragedy of our current reality is that debates about creating a new order
have disappeared and in its place we talk of change with hardly much substance.
Notions of sacrifice are more like tales by moonlight. Ideological struggles for justice
in society, economy and politics are at best academic exercises, if at all. Even then,
with our educational institutions in permanent crisis, academic exercises have been
exported out of Nigeria. Compounded by the lack of knowledge - driven organisations,
activism has been reduced to the level of show business with the title ‘Comrade’
being perhaps about the only marker. Opportunism is all over the place. The
consequence is that if the left did not make as much impact in the Second Republic
when they at least controlled two state governments, now it is impossible to qualify
the status of whatever remained of the left.
It is really worrisome how so much has changed during our short life span. Reading
the letter of Mallam Rufai to Mallam Balarabe, there was constant reference to
literature and books in recognition of Mallam Balarabe’s disposition for reading. It
was a strong reminder that everyone who makes any claim to belonging to the Left,
ideologically, should have some minimum values, which must include hunger for
knowledge, the courage to speak out selflessly without fear of repercussion and
being able to live within one’s income. These are issues that distinguish in varying
ways a whole generation of left leaders in this country.
These are qualities of charismatic leadership that was associated with most leaders
of the left, especially people like Mallam Balarabe, Dr. Bala Usman, Dr. Mahmud
Moddibo Tukur, Prof. Eskor Toyo, Dr. Festus Iyayi, Prof. Toyo Olorode, Dr. Dipo
Fashina, Prof. Claude Ake, Comrade Dapo Fatagun, Comrade Wahab Goodluck and
many others. As aspiring left scholars and intellectuals in the Nigerian student
movement of the 1980s, we were privileged to experience first-hand the inspiring
credentials of these illustrious Nigerians. At the time, it was not difficult to understand
the exact explanation of the definition of charisma “the gift of grace” as provided by
the German sociologist, jurist and political economist, Max Weber, being ‘certain
quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is considered extra-ordinary
and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically
exceptional powers or quality.’ All we had to do was to look in the direction of our
leaders. Although, many leaders who are opposed to the left ideology also have those
charismatic leadership qualities, what was very distinguishing for leaders of the left is
the capacity to be versatile with respect to application of knowledge to contemporary
challenges of society, economy, and politics. Such versatility created a big challenge
for many of us at the time such that we had to be able to think on our feet to be able
to approach many of these leaders. Even then, almost every encounter ended with a
new reference to literature. This was the experience with all our left teachers. If by
any stretch of luck, one became acquainted with lecturers who were left scholars, the
dynamic was basically that of a cell leader with a member, which would be about
discussion, or debating applications of ideological issues to society, economy and
I will not in any way claim to be close to Mallam Balarabe but I was very close to
many of his associates, including Mallam Rufai Ibrahim before his death. I first met
Mallam Balarabe in 1983 in the buildup to the 1983 general elections. I
was together with two friends, Mohammed Bello Shehu and Falalu Umaru Madaki. I
may not be able to remember the details of our discussions in his small library room
in his modest house in Kaduna where he stayed throughout his 18-months tenure as
Governor of old Kaduna State, combining current Kaduna and Katsina States. What I
can recall was that he was very relaxed talking to us, taking his time to tell us
the challenges of politics bordering on how some leaders easily renege from
providing selfless services on account of vested interests.
To the younger generation of Nigerians, Mallam Balarabe may be the best example of
what a leader should not be. But if anybody is interested in identifying a good
example of a charismatic leader, Mallam Balarabe is that person. For eighteen months, he
managed the old Kaduna state government with a very hostile state assembly, who
refused to approve his list of Commissioners. He was able to run the government
with a team of committed intellectuals led by Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman, supported by
young, intelligent scholars and professionals of the time such as late Dr. Saad
Usman, Mr. Richard Umaru, Mallam Lawal Batagarawa, Mallam Lamis Ibrahim
Katsina, Mr. Tom Mataimaki Maiyashi, Mallam Balarabe Abbas Lawal, among many
others. Being a very knowledgeable and creative leader, he was able to steer the
affairs of the state such that his industrial blueprint for Kaduna state remained about
the most ambitious industrial plan embarked by any government since the Second
Part of what needs to be acknowledged is that some of the industrial initiatives
actually, took off and had every indication of success until the government of
Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi decided to privatise some of them. They include
Zarinject, a syringe manufacturing company based in Zaria, which was growing with
the prospect of serving the West Africa market but got privatised and eventually shut
down around 2003. Somehow, based on industrial initiatives of governments,
arguably, until the coming of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai in 2015, the last Governor of
Kaduna State was Mallam Balarabe Musa. At least, we can now identify initiatives
such as Ollam, among some of the few industrial initiatives of the Mallam Nasir El-
Mallam Balarabe’s knowledge, scholarship, politics, and leadership was very rich. He
was a successful chartered accountant, farmer, politician and one-time publisher of
the Analyst– an ideological monthly magazine. He worked with a team of sharp and
successful left intellectuals as a block of socialist collectives. A member of the team,
Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, later emerged as the Senate President of the defunct Third
Republic. With all these credentials, unfortunately, he is being wrongly described as
a poor man. If my memory is correct, Mallam Balarabe never, throughout his life,
accepted the label of being poor. He was once reported during the Second Republic to
have described himself as a rich farmer. That he lived a frugal and humble life
does not mean he was poor. He was a productive leader in every sense of it as he was
able to create value on account of which he was able to earn a living. Being a
productive person with the conservative orientation of challenging everyone around
him to be equally productive, he was not able to accommodate the flamboyant
characteristics of Fourth Republic politics, which was why his electoral impact was
far from what it was during the Second Republic. His virtue in politics was everything
associated with the Weberian charismatic qualification based on ‘devotion to the
exceptional sanctity, heroism, or exemplary character of an individual person, and of
the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him.’
Above all, he earned for himself a ‘personal trust’ based on which he repeatedly
demonstrated charismatic powers and his followers maintained their belief in him.
It is easy at this moment for everyone to glorify him. But the very important question,
which all of us with claims to some values that are associated with, or close to
Mallam Balarabe must ask is, why are we unable to emulate him? Even those who
are in PRP today, how close are they to the values of Mallam Balarabe? Without
being personal, it is important that as political actors, who respect Mallam Balarabe,
we ask ourselves the question, are we in politics to serve, or are we in politics to be
served? Given that part of the political impact of Mallam Balarabe and his party,
PRP, is that they have representatives in the National Assembly, how different are
these members from those of us that are in other political parties? How
knowledgeable are these PRP representatives?
The reality of today’s politics is quite disturbing. Like Mallam Balarabe once
remarked during his many battles in the Second Republic, ‘we live in times of great
danger’. This was a remark made as far back as 1980 but even more valid today.
This is because our politics today is contemptuous of any knowledge. The first
orientation, any politician contesting election get is that knowledge and its application
will never win elections. If you want to win elections, you must blindfold yourself and
submit to total control by mainstream politicians who are very skillful in the art of
manipulation, especially when it comes to election financing. As it is, any criticism
that seek to untie this control is considered subversive. As politicians desirous of
producing a new order, which should be knowledge-based, why should we play
politics very submissively. Why did we have to go to school, to acquire all the so-
called knowledge we have, only to end up as proxies? What values do we really want
to pass on to the coming generation.
This is where those of us who are in anyway associated with the ideological left,
need to do some soul searching. The kind of courage we used to have in terms of
capacity to engage our leaders by being honest and selfless has waned. This is
largely because in different ways, we have compromised ourselves. The same
leaders we referred to as thieves and all manner of negative descriptions are the
source of our livelihood. If anything, these very leaders are far more honest given
that they don’t make the kind claims of being selfless as many of us do. Many of us
are liable to charges of diversion of public resources but audaciously accuse our
political leaders in a manner that suggest we are innocent. From our political leaders
to ordinary people on the street, any discerning mind can see through us and
logically recognise the fraud in our claims. This is the basis of our moral deficit,
which is why when we accuse our leaders of lack of accountability, transparency and
fraud, it bounces back at us because as much as our leaders may have questions
to answer, this also reflects our reality.
We end up instead frustrating ourselves with all the anger this produces. Instead of
debate, we descend lower and become abusive. As opposed to engaging our
leaders, we become sycophantic when it suits us, but when it does not, we fight
them. In all cases, creating a new order or change may hardly be a reference point.
Yet, we talk of being revolutionaries. However, one reflects on this challenge, the
unavoidable conclusion is that we have lost our bearing. How many of us have had?
the privilege of serving as elected representatives or political appointees at different
levels? What impact have we made and how different have we projected ourselves
from other politicians? How courageous are we to raise questions that challenge
ourselves and our leaders?
Some of my personal experiences, especially following the crisis of leadership in
APC, which led to the dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC,
suggest that on account of being so-called Comrades one should not contest issues
with leaders who once claimed to be Comrades. This is not the value that produced us.
At this point, one can confidently make the point that Mallam Balarabe’s politics is
my source of inspiration. As a politician that was loyal to Mallam Aminu Kano, he
never shied away from expressing his disagreement. Together with late Alhaji
Abubakar Rimi, he broke away from Mallam Aminu Kano based on principles. And
later in 1983, on account of disagreement with Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, again on
account of principles, he broke away. The details of Mallam Balarabe’s struggle in
PRP are well documented. Part of our unfortunate calamity is that our journalist are
no longer as thorough as people like Mr. Richard Umaru, late Rufai Ibrahim, late
Ujudud Sheriff, Edwin Madunagu, and many others. There are many of the old
schooled journalists who are part of the left such as Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Mr.
Kayode Komolafe, Mr. Owei Lakemfa and many others but perhaps nuances of our
contemporary politics mellow them in a way that make them to be less incisive in
terms of critical journalism. What is our perspective in terms of the new society we want to
build? How deep is our knowledge and how are we able to apply our knowledge in
politics? This is where Mallam Balarabe Musa lived ahead of his time. We can, for
whatever reasons fail to emulate him. But the reality is that he is the best
embodiment of charismatic leadership whose followers maintained a belief in him till
his death. It is a blessing, which no amount of money can buy. Mallam Balarabe
must have died a contented person even as he must have been grossly disappointed
at the turn of events in the country and the world. May Allah (SWT) reward his services
to Nigeria and humanity and forgive all his shortcomings.
This article does not represent the view of any APC Governor or The Progressive Governors Forum.