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Uba Sani: Beyond the June 12 symbolism

Lawyers, university dons, journalists, organised labour and students’ unions coalesced in the trenches for a common goal. Largely, this rainbow coalition and others sought to enthrone democracy in the ‘80s. However, as a stop-gap measure, they wanted guaranteed basic rights and freedoms. Severally, the activists had clashed with the military and in most cases, incarcerations followed without trials. Sometimes, fatalities were recorded but undaunted, the comrades dug in, returning fire for fire, using the courts, newspapers and various campuses as their ‘weapons’.

Indeed, the human rights community, like every organization, has been transformed in the last 37 years. Specifically, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, convened the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in 1987, along with Ms Ayo Obe, a seasoned lawyer and Richard Akinnola, a veteran journalist and a host of others. However, CLO was less radical, narrowly defined and limited to human rights abuses and infringements. With time, the Campaign for Democracy (CD), a broader coalition, emerged to fill this vacuum.

At that time, Mr Femi Falana, a learned silk, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, a medic-turned-activist and Malam Kabiru Yusuf, a principled journalist, as well as Mr Dan Agbese, a thoroughbred newspaperman, were ranking members of the movement. Significantly, Dr Ransome-Kuti and Comrade Uba Sani, as a Young Turk, were Chairman and Vice-Chairman (North) respectively. In no time, the latter became a household name, having learnt the nuts and bolts of activism.

The CD, in political ferment, split into groups and in 1994, after the Ibadan convention, the Democratic Alternative(DA) was formed at Benin City. Likewise, Chief Fawehinmi and Comrade Uba Sani, on April 28, 1998, formed the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), a coalition of pro-democracy groups. JACON, led by Fawehinmi, had Uba Sani as National Vice Chairman and other formidable activists joined in. The coalition, in its mission statement, wanted General Sani Abacha, the then Head of State, to hand over to Chief M.K.O Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12 presidential election.

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Collectively, the pro-democracy movements, students’ groups, organised labour and Market Women’s Associations, including activist lawyers and journalists, stampeded the military out of the political scene in 1999. Regardless, Uba Sani followed Fawehinmi like a shadow, honing his skills, burnishing and sharpening them along the way. Likewise, over the years, he has remained close to his primary constituency, whether as Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Political Adviser or Senator of the Federal Republic.

Last month, he held a double celebration, on May 12, for Chief Fawehinmi and Alhaji Balarabe Musa, two of the most incorruptible, detribalized and public-spirited Nigerians of all time. The duo, for over three decades, had fought for social justice, the emancipation of the common man and politics of principles. The date, according to records, was Fawehinmi’s birthday and Senator Uba Sani, the Kaduna State Governor, seized the opportunity to immortalize Balarabe, his predecessor and father figure in the struggle. Similarly, Governor Uba Sani marked June 12, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, by visiting Kaduna prison, with Femi Falana in tow, and releasing 110 convicts.

Significantly, Senator Uba Sani’s gesture is beyond populism but an ingrained pro-poor empathy, wired in his DNA, forged by years at the barricades and immersed in the politics of emancipation. Last year, barely two months in office, he signed the first Executive Order on Financial Inclusion on July 15. The order, according to him, aims to address the financial exclusion of about 2.1 million poor people, including vulnerable indigent citizens in rural areas.

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Last March, N3.4 billion worth of rice and maize were given out and approximately, 200,000 households and 1,000,000 persons benefitted in the palliatives distribution. In addition, grants have been released to 7,500 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), ranging between N100,000 and N1 million, depending on the size of the enterprise. Also, N4.2 billion have been distributed as cash grants, including bags of fertilizer and farm inputs, to smallholder farmers in Kaduna state. Also, MSMESs, persons with disabilities, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), orphans, market women, and youths benefited from the largesse. Besides, a N500 million revolving loan scheme has been instituted for civil servants.

On June 12, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an activist to the hilt, mentioned Senator Uba Sani in the shortlist of Heroes of June 12, in his address to the nation. Truly, the governor of Kaduna State, for over three decades, has walked his talk as a pro-democracy activist. Invariably, this is the fulcrum of his pro-poor policies and programmes as the occupant of Sir Kashim Ibrahim House.



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