Tanko Yakasai

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Tanko Yakasai (1926) is a Nigerian politician and activist from Kano State who was national publicity secretary of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) in the first republic and later served as a presidential assistant during the second republic.


Early life

Yakasai was born Salihu Abubakar in Kofar Matta quarters of Kano city. His father's name was Abubakar and was from Chambaland and his mother was Hauwa of Fulani descent from Taraba State. He was named Tanko because he was preceded by female siblings. At a young age, he was raised by his mother's friend and a neighbor of hers, Yaya Boyi.

Yakasai attended a famous Quranic school at Gidan Sarkin Gini in Yakasai, Kano and Shahuci Elementary School, Kano. However, he left Shahuci to return to another Quaranic school in Hardawa but later on took evening classes at Shahuci. To make ends meet, he learned the art of tailoring and writing Islamic verses for sale. From 1944 to 1952, he acted as the tailor for the Kano Middle School.

As a youth, he was a member of a few associations including the kano Youth Association.

Early political career

During the independence period, Yakasai was a member of the Northern Elements Progressive Union.

His first foray into politics started in 1949 when as a member of the Kano Youth Association which had joined Jam'Iyyar Mutanen Arewa, then a cultural association, he attended the latter's congress. However, an early reluctance by some member of Jam'Iyyar Mutanen Arewa to declare the association a political party led to a group of its members to form the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), the name was inspired by the previous Northern Elements Progressive Association. The new party then began to court members of the kano Youth Association. Yakasai attended NEPU's convention in 1951 and in a few months was registered by a friend and he became a card carrying member of the party.

His first electoral contest was a ward primary in Yakasai for which he lost, however, in 1952, he was elected treasurer of the Kano branch of NEPU. As a member of NEPU, he incurred the wrath of a youth gang in Kano which was working for members of the NPC, the gang sent threats to him in order to coarse him into joining NPC. To counterbalance the gang's impact and its use of terror in driving potential card carrying members of NEPU, the party decided to form a youth wing of its own called Positive Action Wing with Yakasai as its secretary. The wing was involved in mobilization of the citizenry to join the party. Yakasai during the period was also invovled in setting up branches in various locales across the Northern region including at Funtua and Hadejia.

In 1953, he was a witness to a rally organized by the NPC against the visit of Action Group leader Samuel Akintola, though Akintola did not show up, the rally proceeded and grew in numbers adding up various youths who later went on a rampage attacking predominantly Igbo stalls.

Around 1953/1954, Yakasai was made the Hausa editor of the Comet to replace Mustapha Dambatta brother of Magaji Dambatta. In 1956, he lost a regional election to Haruna Kashim, a businessman in Kano. In 1960, he became the deputy national president of the Nigerian Youth Congress, an outgrowth of a youth association within the NCNC and NEPU and with a leftist political bent. The congress later metamorphosized to become the Socialist Workers and Farmers Party.

Yakasai was also a member of the kano State Movement which among other things came to support the deposed Emir of Kan, Muhammadu Sanusi, once considered a foe of NEPU.

Later career

After the end of the first republic in 1966, Yakasai supported himself by working in the haulage business and briefly working for Agip oil.

He was a member of the Northern Consultative Forum set up by Hassan Katsina and comprised of leading politicians from the now defunct first republic parties in the North. The committee advised the governor on political matters. In 1967, he was nominated as a commissioner for Justice in the cabinet of Audo Bako, the newly appointed governor for kano State. However, opposition to his appointment to the Justice portfolio grew as he was a member of NEPU, a political party whose members suffered political persecution and the fear that Yakasai would retaliate against members of the bench. He was subsequently given the information portfolio. He became the Kano State commissioner for Finance in 1972 and was embroiled in conflict emanating from one of Audu Bako's major project, the Tiga Dam. The dam was supported by Bako but was removed from the development plan. The governor then decided to fund the dam to the tune of 6 million from funds allocated to other projects. However, with the project at an advanced state and funding exhausted, the state had to depend on the federal government for support with Yakasai, a member of the team designed to seek the support of the government to continue with the projects's funding.

During the second republic, he was the special assistant to the president (National Assembly Liaison) and in the beginning of the latest political dispensation, he was affiliated with the All Nigeria Peoples Party and the Peoples Salvation Party. He recently served as a member of the elder council of the Northern Union and member of the board of trustees of the Aminu Kano Foundation.