Alhaji Dipcharima Zanna Bukar Suloma was born in 1917 in Dipcharima village in the Borno Province of northern Nigeria. Dipcharima attended the Maiduguri Middle School and later trained as a teacher at the Katsina Higher Training College, the former Northern Nigeria’s highest institution of learning at the time. He began his teaching in 1938, working at various schools until 1946 when he embarked on a political career.
He first joined the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) being led by Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe, GCFR (16 November 1904 – 11 May 1996) and was in the party’s delegation to Britain in 1947. He left the NCNC to become a manager for John Holt. Dipcharima reentered politics in 1954, this time as a member of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) on whose platform he was elected to the Borno Native Authority. An extremely popular politician, Dipcharima soon rose to become president of the Borno Province branch of the NPC and head of the Yerwa District in 1956, taking the traditional title of Zana.
He won a seat in the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos in 1954 and was Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Transport. In 1957, he became Minister of State without Portfolio and later Minister of Commerce and Industry, before taking the portfolio of Transport in 1964. Dipcharima was holding this office when the federal civilian government was overthrown in the military coup of 15 January 1966; he made the headlines when, in the absence of the abducted Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (December 1912 – 15 January 1966), he presided over the Cabinet that handed power to General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (3 March 1924 – 29. Dipcharima died in an air accident in 1969.
There are other prominent Kanuris who equally flew the flag for the Kanuris. They include Air Marshall Al-Amin Daggash, Alhaji Kam Salem, Engineer Bunu Sheriff, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, Major General Abba Kyari (rtd.), Alhaji Abba Habeeb, Alhaji Mohammed Goni, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Lt-Colonel Abogo Largema, Hajiya Ammuna Ali, Alhaji Goni Aji, Dr. Baba-kura Kaigama, Dr. Buka Shaib, Professor Nuhu Alkali, General Sani Abacha. Even in Niger Republic, the former Prime Minister of that country Mamane Oumarou and the former President of Niger, Tandja Mamadou are both Kanuris.
We also have Major General Mohammed Shuwa (1 September 1939-2 November 2012), Professor Mujammed Mala Daura, Professor Babagana Umaru Zulum, Amina Dawaram (Singer), Alhaji Modu Gobama, Alhaji Yusuf Saida (Chemist) Alhaji Garba Daya, Alhaji Umar Ali Adamkolo, Alhaji Ahmadu Ngariya, Alhaji Bukar Koo Muhammad, Alhaji Zannah Ali Yirima, Alhaji Baba Shehu Abubakar Garbai, Galadima Mai Duboma, Alhaji Shuwa Mamman, Dr. Gona Abdullahi, Ambassador Baba Ahmad Jidah, Alhaji Muhammad Aliyu, Sheikh Abubakar El Miskin, Professor Muhammad Waziri, Mohammed Shettima Kubari, Alhaji Imam Ahmad, Shehu Umar Ibn Muhammad, late Shehu Sunda Kyanmi, Alhaji Ibrahim Maina Damcida, Abba Ali Monguno, Bunu Ngamdu, Buba Ahmad Talib, Bukar Bolori, Ambassador Abba Ahmed Zoro, Mustapha P. Jango, Alhaji Bukarr Kuya Monguno, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, Sheihk Awad, Alhaji Modu Tela, Asheik Jarma, Maina Maaji Lawan, Alhaji Mala Kachalla, Alhaji Abba Kyari, late Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Ibrahim Talba, Alhaji Buba Galadima, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Liman Ciroma, General Alkali Idris, Garuba Talba Adamu, Adamu Waziri, and many too numerous to mention.
The Kanuris are mostly found in Chad, Cameroun, Niger Republic and in Yobe and Borno states.
After the Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos and Fulanis, the Kanuris, in terms of population are in the same bracket with the Ibibios, Tivs, Ijaws and Igalas. The greatest gift God gave to the Kanuris is Lake Chad. Their wish and prayers over the years is that oil be found in Lake Chad. Unfortunately, Lake Chad once a source of livelihood for over thirty million has shrunk by ninety percent since the 1960s.
Lake Chad is shrinking while the population is exploding, hence part of the emergence of Boko Haram today.
The Kanuris are extremely proud of their heritage like the Binis. Some of them are tall with tribal marks. They are warriors. They constituted the El Kanemi Empire and that empire was comparable with the Bini Kingdom, the Oyo Empire, the Ashanti Empire, Mali empire, Songhai empire and the Sokoto kingdom. In the past the El Kanemi Empire produced outstanding leaders like Gwoni Muktar, Muhammed el Amin el Kanemi, Mai Dunma, Mai Ibrahim, Abul Bukar and Shehu Umar.
The El Kanemi Empire fell because of internal rivalry in 1893. In that year, Rabeh with a well-trained and disciplined force invaded Bornu. Ealier, as the Mahdist state expanded along the Nile, he had marched west and defeated the state of Wadai—- Bornu’s great rival—for the control of the Lake Chad region. Then in 1893, Bornu an easy prey to Rabeh as the Bornu army fled before his rifle-armed troops. The Bornu capital Kukawa was ravaged and burnt down.
Rabeh established a new capital at Dikwa and took over the government of the kingdom. He left local rulers in charge of their various districts but they were made subordinate to his own officers. He carried out some reform of the public treasury, erected good buildings and stocked large quantities of food for future campaigns.
Rabeh’s rule was however short-lived. His reign fell within the period when the European scramble for and partition of Africa was at its climax. Rabeh’s main preoccupation therefore was to organize united resistance against European penetration. But his appeal for a joint jihad against European advance received no response either from the Sokoto caliphate which he had alienated by co-operating with a pretender to the Sokoto Sultanate or from Wadai which he had antagonized by his seizure of Baghirmi.
Thus, in 1900, Rabeh was defeated and killed by the French who were scrambling with the British and the Germans for the part of Africa. The ancient Bornu Kingdom was eventually partitioned between Britain, France and Germany, and today parts of it are found in the modern states of Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Nigeria but the Bornu kingdom survived to be part of Northern Nigeria.
On May 27, 1967, General Yakubu Gowon (87) created North Eastern state along with Kano, Mid West, Lagos, Kaduna, Kwara, Cross River, Rivers, Benue/Plateau, East Central, Kaduna, Western and North Western state.
The creation of North Eastern state by General Yakubu Gowon GCFR in 1967 was the greatest human gift given to the Kanuris. With that action, the Kanuris were able to cut off complete reliance on Kaduna. The Kanuris had an advantage here. The federal Permanent Secretary who headed the committee on creation of states by General Gowon was a Kanuri—Ibrahim Maina Damcida (May 15, 1933- June 12, 2012). Alhaji Damcida was born on the 15 May 1933, in Biu, Borno state. He had his education at the Westminster College, London, UK, 1954-1956;North-Western Polytechnic, London, UK, 1956-1958;Economic Development Institute of the World Bank, Washington DC, USA, 1965; trainee Manager, John Holt, 1951-1953, accountant, Ministry of Trade and Industries, former Northern Region, 1959-1961, deputy Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industries, 1962-1965, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Trade, 1966-1971, Ministry of Defence, 1971-1975.
General Gowon, GCFR, appointed Brigadier Musa Usman(1940-1991), son of a Kanuri soldier, Usman Karagiwa, who fought in the Burma war and whose mother was Igala as governor of the new state. Brigadier Usman who served as Governor between 1967 and 1975 later handed over to Colonel Muhammadu Buhari GCFR in 1975.
When General Gowon GCFR, created the north eastern state, he did not name Maiduguri as the capital of the state; he gave that assignment to Brigadier Musa Usman.
At that time, the state comprised of four provisional headquarters namely Bauchi, Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola. Upon his arrival to the state, Brigadier Usman then set up a committee to find a suitable capital for the new state.
At a subsequent meeting of the indigenes of the State the position was fully explained. It was then decided that there was no alternative but that one of the existing provincial headquarters must be selected as the State’s permanent capital. Having regard to the basic necessities that are required in any capital of a state the committee unanimously agreed on the following criteria for selecting one of the four provincial headquarters to be the state capital:- Maximum availability of housing facilities; Maximum availability of communication, i.e., roads, rail, airport and telecommunication; and Maximum availability of water and electricity supply.
The committee then advised the Military Governor to appoint a body of experts to carry on with the exercise of selecting a state capital using the above criteria as their terms of reference.
The Military Governor accepted the above advice and, in order to achieve maximum fairness and neutrality, appointed the following experts all of whom are non-indigenes of the state:- Mr F. Fraser of the United Africa Company (Chairman);Mallam M. T. Usman, Chief Civil Engineer, Ministry of Works, Kaduna (Member);
(iii) Dr M. Shamsuddin of the World Health Organisation (Member).
The committee was served by Mallam Yahaya Abubakar of the Ministry of Education, Kaduna as Secretary. Mallam Yahaya Abubakar later became Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Lagos.
In addition to the criteria as terms of reference the experts felt that it was necessary, for the purpose of completeness, to include issues of health and commercial and industrial considerations in the exercise.
In the course of carrying out their assignment the experts studied documents for facts and figures and visited all the four provincial headquarters, namely, Bauchi, Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola. After carefully considering the facts and figures the experts came to the conclusion that Maiduguri was the best suited for state capital and recommended accordingly.
At an early stage of the exercise one of these ad hoc committees recommended that a central and virgin place, like Dadin Kowa or Buni, should be the site for the state capital. This was because for sectional reasons the committee failed to agree on any of the provincial headquarters. The Military Governor considered this recommendation and, after discussion with the authorities concerned including those of the Federal Military Government, found that it was impossible to implement. On the question of finance alone he was made to understand that it would take many years before the North-Eastern State could afford
the money with which to build such a capital.
On 18th March, 1968, Brigadier Usman accepted the experts’ recommendation and selected Maiduguri as the permanent capital of the State.
The Kanuris no doubt fought hard to make sure Maiduguri was the state capital. Top Kanuris that fought hard to make Maiduguri the state capital include Kashim Ibrahim, a famous business man, Alhaji Mai Deribe, who died on March 13, 2002 and Alhaji Musa Daggash, a top civil servant at that time. He used all his contacts in government to make sure Maiduguri was made the state capital.
Alhaji Musa Daggash attended Higher College, Katsina, 1934-1938, University of Oxford, England, 1950-1951, University of Manchester, England, 1960-1961; joined Department of Forestry, 1938-1959, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Mines and Power, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Defence, retired, 1969, later chairman Defence Industries Corporation, General Manager, Chad Basin Development Authority, member, Constituent Assembly, 1977-1978, and Commissioner, Local Government Service Board, Borno State, 1978. Alhaji Daggash was a detribalised Nigerian; his best friend was Chief Amusa Matthew Tiamiyu, a top civil servant from Iperu in Ogun state.
Borno state became a state out of North East on February 3, 1976 following the directive of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (8 November 1938 – 13 February 1976), ten days before he was assassinated. He created Borno, Bauchi and Gongola out of North Eastern state.
Borno State has been inhabited for years by various ethnic groups, including the Dghwede, Glavda, Guduf, Laamang, Mafa and Mandara in the central region; the Afade, Yedina (Buduma), and Kanembu in the extreme northeast; the Waja in the extreme south; and the Kyibaku, Kamwe, Kilba, Margi groups and Babur in the south while the Kanuri and Shuwa Arabs live throughout the state’s north and centre.
On September 20, 1978, General Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR lifted the ban on political activities. Less than twenty-four hours after, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (6 March 1909- 9 May 1987) launched his Unity Party Of Nigeria, whose cardinal Programme was free education at all level, etc.
A new party was however formed on September 22, 1978. Called the Nigerian People’s Party, it is a fusion of three groups. The groups are the National Union Council, Club 19 and the Council for National Unity and Progress. Although the party has not picked a leader, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim read a written statement to reporters at the launching ceremony at 8, Ojuelegba Street, Surulere- the party’s offices. “We of the Nigerian People’s Party offer our services to this country in the firm belief that programme will fulfil the hopes and aspirations of our people”.
Alhaji Ibrahim listed the aims and objectives of the party as to promote and sustain the unity of Nigeria and uphold her territorial integrity, to work for the integration and equality of the peoples of Nigeria without regard to ethnic affiliation, religion or sex, to work for equal opportunity for all Nigerians to participate in every aspect of national life and to promote political, social and economic equality of all sections of Nigeria, to work for full employment of Nigeria’s manpower and natural resources with a view to building a self-reliant economy, to promote the just and equitable distribution of the fruits of economic development among persons and states of Nigeria, to work towards free and high quality education at all levels and to work for a secular state which upholds democracy, the rule of law and freedom of worship.
The party believes that ultimate power belongs to the people and in respect for the sanctity of human life. It also believes that every state in the Federation” shall enjoy the same and enjoy the same and equal status and opportunity as well as in the principle of creation of more states in the country. He announced that the party “is open to every Nigeria citizen” and added that “this is a momentous opportunity to usher in a new era of hope, stability and progress.”
The written statement distributed at the launching ceremony by Chief Mo Obiekwe, my friend, had 42 names and their states of origin. The names listed included Mr Solomon Lar-Plateau, Mr. Matthew Tawo Mbu-Cross River, Chief J. Edewor-Bendel, Alhaji Yusufu Dan Tsoho-Kaduna, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya- Lagos, Dr. Obi Wali-Rivers and Mr Joe Asogwa-Anambra. Others include Alhaji Ado Ibrahim-Kano, Dr Ben Nzeribe-Imo, Alhaji Megida Lawal-Kwara, Chief Theophilus Benson-Lagos, Chief Basil Okwu-Anambra, Mr Paul Unongo-Benue, Dr. Omo Omoruyi- Bendel, Chief Kolawole Balogun-Oyo, Mr Sam Mbakwe-Imo, Chief Olu Akinfosile-Ondo, Chief Samuel Onitiri-Lagos and Alhaji Jafaru Mango-Borno.
A few days later the NPP broke up. The breakup was not caused by political ideology but by Presidential ambition. The Zikists in the NPP especially Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief Olu Akifosile, Chief Raphael Ben Keshi Okafor alias Nwanmadu and others wanted Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe to be the Presidential candidate of the party.
On the other hand, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, having invested so much in the party, wanted the Presidential ticket of the party. In the end, he opted out and formed his own party, the Great Nigeria People’s Party, GNPP.
Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim played the card of regionalism and concentrated his efforts on Gongola and Borno state. He had followership in the Cross River state thanks to Chief Matthew Tawo Mbu (20 November 1929-6 February 2012) from Okundi in Cross River state.
Chief Obiekwe told me later that they wanted Dr. Azikiwe to be the Presidential candidate so as to secure the Igbo votes for Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo (82) to be the governor of Anambra state and Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe (1929-2004) from Avutu, Etiti to be governor in Imo state.
In the 1979 general election, the GNPP had eight senators—Alhaji Idrisa Kadi, Mr Bukar Sanda, Mr Jafaru Manga and Mr Umaru Lawan Barma (Borno), Mr George Daniel and Prince Joseph Ansa (Cross River), Pastor Luka Zanyasing, Mr Bitrus B. Kajal and Alhaji Mahmud Waziri (Gongola state).
In the House of Representatives election, the GNPP had forty-four seats, twenty-two in Borno, one in Bauchi, eight in Gongola, four in Cross River, one in Kaduna, one in Kwara and six in Sokoto.
In the Presidential election, Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri scored 1,686,489 votes out of a total of 16, 846,633 votes. Those elected on the platform of GNPP for the House of Representatives were Alhaji Abba Ali (Bama), M. Bulama Ali (Fune), Ibrahim M. Ali(Maiduguri), Alhaji Gambo(Gujba), Omar Bukar (Ngala East), Alhaji Muhammadu Dagari (Nguru Central), Alhaji Kachalla Damaturu (Damaturu), M. Barde Gadaka (Fika South), , Alhaji Jidda Haruna (Munguno), Mohammed Zanna Waziri Juggal(Dambo’a), Alhaji Sanda Konduga(Konduga), Tijani Lawan(Ngala West), Umar Lawan (Miaduguri), Bukar Limambe (Kukawa North-West), Maina Ma’aji (Kukawa South-East), Audu Mbicho(Gwoza), M. Bukar Mele(Matchina), Paul K.D. Mshelia (Biu South), Hamza M. Nganjiwa (Biu North), Lawal Omar (Kaga), A.A. Suleiman(Bade), Alhaji Idrissa Madi Tikau(Fika North), Agwana Apagu Waba(Askira Uba) and Kolo Lawan Yusuf(Geidam North).
In the Presidential election held on June 12, 1993, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingigbe (77), a Kanuri, my former boss, was elected as the running mate of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola GCFR (24 August 1937- 7 July 1998) and the duo were believed to have won that election.
I have personally worked with many Kanuris in the central government including Dr. Buka Usman, Dr Kaigama, who were both Permanent Secretaries in the central government at that time. There are other notable Kanuris whom I have not captured in this piece and who have rendered notable services to this country.
General Sani Abacha GCFR (20 September 1943- 8 June 1998) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa (20 June 1947- 3 January 2022) are both Kanuris. General Sani Abacha ruled Nigeria from 17 November, 1993- 8 June 1998) while Alhaji Tofa was the Presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Alhaji Bashir Tofa’s running mate was Dr. Sylvester Uzor Ugoh from Umuokrika, Imo State. He was born on April 20, 1931, in Umuokrika, Imo State. He had his education at the Family College, Abak, 1947-1951, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA, 1955-1959, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 1959-1961, 1963-1964; Lecturer, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1961-1966, deputy Director, Economic Development Institute, University of Nigeria, 1966-1972, executive Director, SKOUP and Company( Management Consultants), 1973, member, Constituent Assembly, 1977-1978, Minister of Science and Technology, 1979-1982.
In retrospect, it was in June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, that the spotlight was more on the Kanuris than at any period. Both the Presidential Candidate of the NRC, Alhaji Tofa and the running mate of the SDP, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingigbe were both Kanuris. Incidentally, thirty years after the annulment of that election, another Presidential election will, hopefully, hold next February, with a Kanuri as running mate again.