Nigerian leaders extol the nationalistic contributions of Umaru Dikko, a charismatic Second Republic politician, who succumbs to the cold hands of death at a London hospital. He was 78years old
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 14, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was thrown into mourning on Tuesday, July 1, following the death of Umaru Dikko, chairman of the party’s disciplinary committee and transport minister in the Second Republic. Dikko, who died in a London hospital, was 78 years old. Lamido Dikko, his younger brother, who confirmed the death, said the late politician had been battling with ill health since last year. He disclosed that his remains would arrive the country on Wednesday, July 3, for burial. Ever since his death was announced, many prominent Nigerians have been paying tribute to the man who showed his mettle as an astute politician in the Second Republic.
In his tribute, President Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement on Wednesday, July 2, issued by Reuben Abati, his special adviser on media and publicity, that the renowned politician contributed immensely to the nurturing and strengthening of democracy in spite of his advanced age. “President Jonathan firmly believes that Alhaji Umaru Dikko’s significant contributions, especially his life-long advocacy for stronger political parties, greater discipline within political parties and the supremacy of political parties, have assured him of a place in the annals of Nigeria’s political development. He prays that God Almighty will receive Alhaji Umaru Dikko’s soul and grant him eternal rest,” the statement said.
In the same vein, General Yakubu Gowon, former head of state, described the death of Dikko as a great loss to the nation. While reacting to Dikko’s death in an interview with reporters in Kaduna on Tuesday, Gowon said he had known the deceased since their secondary school days in 1950, describing him as a good person. “He was a very effective minister and not what newspapers made him out to be, and I am sorry about what happened to him when they tried to forcibly return him to Nigeria from London. But thank God that that exercise was foiled, and he returned to retain his position,” Gowon said.
On his part, Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, would like to remember the late politician as a courageous advocate of the rule of law, constitutionality and democracy. In a condolence statement issued by his media office in Abuja, Abubakar said, despite the public hostility to the late politician, Dikko had remained a fierce opponent of unconstitutional seizure of power by soldiers. He recalled that Dikko was the loudest critic of military rule, a role for which he said the former minister was singled out for special punishment because he was a vocal critic of the new military rulers of December 1983.
The Northern Delegates’ Forum at the ongoing national conference said it received the news of the death of Dikko with a heavy heart. In a statement, Anthony Sani, spokesman of the forum, recalled that Dikko was a man who made a conscious effort to make his desires for the nation possible. He said many Nigerians would miss him in spite of the fact that some other Nigerians did not share his views on issues of national importance. “May God provide the fortitude to endure this irreparable loss precisely because death is an inevitable end and would come when it would come,” the forum said.
On its part, the Northern State Governors’ Forum, NSGF, said the death of Dikko was a further depletion in the ranks of northern states’ leaders, which therefore, called for sober reflection and a time for the region and the nation to remain committed to building a leadership inspired by service. Babangida Aliyu, chairman of the forum and governor of Niger State, said in a statement issued by Israel Ebije, his press secretary, that the growing number of prominent Nigerians dying only suggests that the younger generation must step into the shoes of the departed leaders. Aliyu said the nation would sorely miss the late Dikko especially for his wealth of experience as a politician and which would have been a veritable resource for national discourse now that the country is passing through difficult times. “This is, indeed, another sad episode to the already challenging times Nigeria is passing through as a country. The death of Umaru Dikko and a few other prominent Nigerians in less than two months, is a reminder that the present generation of Nigerians must grow up mentally and morally with a collective objective towards a common developmental destination,” he said.
Bukola Saraki, a serving senator and former governor of Kwara State, in a condolence message issued in Ilorin on Tuesday, July 1, said in part: “I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of a renowned politician and elder statesman, Mr. Umaru Dikko. Umaru Dikko’s years of service and dedication to his father land will be remembered for years to come. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and well-wishers.”
The late Dikko was one of the key actors of the Shehu Shagari administration between 1979 and 1983. He was the minister of transport and chairman, Presidential Task Force on Rice. As the chairman of the task force, he raised eyebrows when he said Nigerians were not eating from dustbins following criticisms of the harsh economic policies of the Shagari administration.
Dikko would also be remembered for the failed attempt by the military administration of General Muhammadu Buhari to smuggle him back to Nigeria from Stansted Airport, London, in a crate to face corruption charges. Dikko and some other politicians had fled the country following the overthrow of the Shagari-led civilian government by the military. The botched attempt to kidnap Dikko on July 5, 1984, led to a major diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, which culminated in the expulsion, from Britain, of two members of the Nigerian High Commission in London, including the High Commissioner.
His journey to public life started in 1967, when he was appointed commissioner in the defunct North Central State of Nigeria. He was also secretary of a committee set up by the late General Hassan Katsina to unite northerners after the 1966 coup. At the inception of the Second Republic in 1979, Dikko was appointed the presidential campaign manager of Shagari, the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. Dikko was a lawyer born in Wamba, Kaduna State. He is survived by two wives, 11 children and many grandchildren.