The labor of our past heroes… (II) – By: .
Following the Revolutionary Conference and Rally, held at Glover Memorial Hall, Ebute-Metta, Lagos, Habibu Raji Abdallah was arrested and brought to trial, along with his compatriots; who were all very determined to fight the colonialists, towards the attainment of political independence for Nigeria. Thereupon, Habibu Raji Abdallah, delivered a famous revolutionary speech at the High Court in Lagos, where he was arraigned on November 7, 1948, thus:-
“It is an important day indeed. The most important, perhaps in the history of our country. I call it the most important because today is when we have to decide whether we should be free or remain hereditary slaves, who do not know that they must be free?
“I hate the Union Jack with all my heart. Because except in Britain, wherever it goes; far from uniting, it divides the people. I have nothing against King George VI of England. But I hate the Crown of Great Britain with all my heart. Because to me and my countrymen it is a symbol of oppression, a symbol of persecution, and in short, a material manifestation of iniquity. We have We are past the age of petition. We are past the age of resolution. We are past the age of diplomacy. This is the age of action. Simple, brutal and positive action. So here I am. tonight to call a spade a spade, an ax an ax and a machete a machete.
Today, I, Habibu Raji Abdallah, by the grace of God, General Chairman of the Zik Movement and Field Secretary of NCNC, hereby declare myself a free and independent citizen of Nigeria – “I owe allegiance to no foreign government, and in the absence of any ‘government of the people by the people and for the people of Nigeria’; I am now not bound to obey any law, other than Nigerian indigenous laws, customs and international laws. Therefore, I will no longer pay tax to this government. Because if you pay, they will use that money to perpetuate their dominance over you.
In the end, Habibu and his compatriots, Anthony Enahoro, Fred Anyiam, Smart Obike Ebbi (“Marshall Kebby”) and Osita Agwuna, were arrested, tried and sentenced to two years in prison for sedition. During his sentencing, he reacted in mitigation to the presiding judge, Judge Gregg, thus:- “If you sincerely believe that it is a crime to fight for freedom, then by all means sentence me to death. If I were to be released today, I cannot give the assurance of muzzling my tongue. As for me, my conscience being clear, I will content myself with leaving the final verdict to God and his unfathomable river of time. So keep satisfying the pleasure of those who put you here. I will leave the final verdict to God.
Prior to his trial and sentencing, Habibu Raji Abdallah, who was a senior wireless monitor in Posts and Telecommunications (P&T), had been dismissed from the civil service for attending a political meeting, contrary to the government’s general order. On August 8, 1947, he had attended a conference of the zikist movement and delivered a speech entitled – “Zikism: as a northerner sees it”. Subsequently, he received an official request on January 17, 1948, to explain why he should not be disciplined for attending the meeting. He had 7 days to respond. But he bravely submitted his response within 24 hours as follows:-“I asked permission neither of the Secretary of State nor of the Governor before attending the rally and delivering this memorable speech, for by the passing of the Emancipation Act in 1833 no man was to become slave within the British Empire.” If I had contravened the provision of the General Order (40B), then I contend that the Order is a direct violation of the ideal which the British Empire stood for; and its continued existence is a breach of faith with thousands of my fellow Africans, who died in the last war for this Empire and its ideals.Therefore, I believe in the righteousness of my cause and make no apologies.
As a result, Raji Abdallah was summarily dismissed without any retirement compensation. Subsequently, he became the general president of the zikist movement. At this point, it became apparent to the colonial government that unless drastic action was taken, the situation would spin out of control. Then, on April 12, 1950, the British authorities issued a decree outright banning the Zik movement.
Some “first generation” freedom fighters and nationalists, who boldly dared the colonialists during the bitter struggle in southern Nigeria, were James Johnson, JK Randle, Sapara Williams, John Payne Jackson, Felix Oladipo Solanke, Mojolaoluwa Agbebi, Stella Jane Thomas, Orisadipe Obasa, Oyinkan Abayomi, Charlotte Obasa, MCK Ajuluchukwu, Kola Balogun, Ernest Ikoli, Eni Njoku, Louis Ojukwu, Adelakun Howells, Margaret Ekpo, Eyo Ita, Okoi Arikpo, Jaja Wachukwu, Karimu Kotun, Alvan Ikoku, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Ebun Adesioye, Michael among others.
Ibrahim Imam, Yusuf Hadejia, Babba Dan’agundi, Bello Ijumu, Abba Maikwaru, Abdulrahman Bida, Aminu Kano, Maitama Sule, Tanko Yakasai, JS Tarka, Isaac Kpum, Gambo Sawaba, MD Yusuf, Magaji Dambatta, Abba Habib, Ali Konte, Yusuf Dantsoho, Abubakar Zukogi, Abdulrahman Howeidy, Mudi Sipikin, Dalha Dankasa Tela, Lawan Dambazau, Mustapha Dambatta, Hamisu Hitla, Sabo Bakin Zuwo, Ibrahim Heebah, Shehu Dantata, Uba Na-Alkassim, Bashari Gezawa, Sani Darma, Shehu Satatima, Baballiya Manaja, Garba Bida, Abubakar Tambuwal, Girinya Lokoja, Sa’adu Jega, Moses Rwang, Jonah Assadugu among others.
To help their cause, a resistant freedom-fighting organization called Positive Action Wing (PAW) was formed under the umbrella of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) in Kano, as a platform for mobilizing mass and joint action. The structure and strategic operations of this group were very similar to those of the “Mau-Mau”, which was the Kenyan freedom fighter organization that fought hard for the independence of Kenya.
Unfortunately, many unpatriotic, selfish, and visionless individuals now dominate and entrench themselves in various leadership positions; they massively plunder our “common wealth”; destroy the structures, legacies and sanctity of the Nigerian government, as well as society; they heartlessly thwart the hard work of our past heroes; and making living conditions unbearable for citizens.
To convey the essence and depth of stanza 5 of the Nigerian National Anthem, which inspired this article, I hereby wish to use this medium to passionately appeal to the Federal Government, as well as all respective State Governments, to immortalize “Nigeria’s Unsung Heroes”; which have not been duly recognized by the government until today. Social role models and patriots must be nurtured and celebrated as they should be, if Nigeria is to achieve impactful socio-political change, sustainable development and progress.
Comrade Ganiyu Abdullahi is a young veteran activist and a concerned patriot